Two Goals for This Year: Parents and Positives

A MiddleWeb Blog

Summer is over in Alabama! Our school year officially started August 1; however, students won’t return to class until August 8. I have had two months to relax and spend time with my family. I have had the whole summer to recharge my batteries.

I think one reason I love being a teacher is because every year feels like I get a reset. It’s almost as if the slate gets wiped clean over the summery days of June and July. Even if the year before didn’t go exactly the way I wanted it to, come August I get another chance.

It’s important to me to use that chance to learn from my mistakes and improve. Over the summer break I think about the previous school year – what didn’t go right and what I could do better. I use that reflection to help me set my goals for the upcoming year.

This past year I struggled with classroom management and being as positive as I should have been with my math students. When I set my goals for this year, I tried to address those issues. (My school district has goals and expectations that they lay out for us, but I find it fulfilling to set my own as well.)

I have listed my goals below. If you set personal goals for yourself, I would love to hear from you in the comments.

PS: I plan to write about my first week activities, but I want to wait until they have been “student tested,” so that will be my next article!

Goals to reach for in the year ahead

1.) Build good relationships with parents and involve them in the education of their child

For several years, one of my goals was to have a good relationship with each and every student. This year my goal is to focus on building relationships with the parents and caregivers as well. My hope is that building a good relationship with them early on will have a positive impact on student behavior and help me do better with regards to classroom management.

I think a good place to start building relationships with “home” is simple communication. So I am trying to call the parents/caregivers of every one of my students before school starts. I have always intended to do this, but become overwhelmed with all that needs to be done at the beginning of the year.

This year, to get started, I told myself “I’m only going to call 10 parents. I can talk to 10 parents, right?” Breaking it up like that made it seem more doable. The first day I ended up calling 14 parents, but only four were at home. That was enough to get me started. The four I talked with were so appreciative that it motivated me to call more.

At first, I wasn’t really sure what to say. I started out telling them that I was their child’s math teacher and basically introducing myself. After a little practice, I started asking the parents/caregivers if there was anything about their child they wanted me to know.

Parents were so willing to share: one parent told me how their student liked to draw and had a tendency to get distracted, while another parent shared that their child loved to socialize.

It’s so nice to go in to the first day knowing something about my students! Also, if I do run into a situation or problem later in the year, it will be nice to have already started to build a relationship with that parent. I’m not sure that I will be able to talk to every parent before school starts, but I will definitely reach more than if I had not tried at all.

I also want to encourage parents to get involved in their child’s education. There is evidence to support the idea that parental involvement improves student behavior. In fact, according to the NEA (National Education Association), “Students with involved parents or other caregivers earn higher grades and test scores, have better social skills, and show improved behavior.”

Parental engagement requires that parents know about assignments, homework, project deadlines and tests for that class. My district requires teachers to put all that information online (we use a platform called Canvas). However, after looking at my Assignments page recently with fresh eyes, I realized it was not that easy to decipher, so I am revamping it so it is much more user friendly.

Keeping tabs on their children’s grade is another way that parents are involved in their child’s education. So I am going to work as hard as I can to get grades in as quickly as possible. Parents can’t support me and help their children if they don’t know what the situation is.

If I can cultivate a good relationship with parents and caregivers, I know they can be powerful allies, offering insight and advice at times when I really need it. I also know that every relationship takes time and hard work, and I’ve only scratched the surface in what I need to do. But I have all year to work on it!

2.) Focus on the positive

I want to create a positive environment for my students and myself this year. The most beneficial thing I did last year for myself was keeping a journal which consisted solely of writing down one good thing that happened every day.

It worked for me because it was doable—it only took a minute at the end of the day. It made me feel better at the time to write it, but it was even more valuable when I took the time to reread my journal, particularly when I was feeling discouraged. It helped remind me that good things were happening in my classroom. I am making it a goal to continue that practice.

My journal of one good thing has helped me so much I want to help my students to focus on the positive in a similar way. Instead of having them write in a journal daily, in the back of their notebooks they will keep a “Victory List” which is simply a list of personal victories, small and large. This was not my idea; I read about this in an article on MiddleWeb titled “Helping Students Track Their Own Progress” by Barbara Blackburn.

My plan is to have students add to their “Victory List” each week so that they can revisit it and realize that they have been successful in the past and will be in the future. I also plan to use the students’ Victory List when I call home to parents’ and share good news from time to time.

Just two goals this year

That’s it for my list of goals. Typically, I set three goals, but I anticipate my first goal will take a great deal of time, so for this year it’s only two goals.

I’m so excited to spend the year building relationships with my students’ parents and caregivers. I feel certain that the time I am going to spend will pay big dividends for me and my students. I’m also excited to try to make my classroom a truly positive place to be and to help my students stay positive and celebrate all their victories and mine too!

Further reading:

The Parent-Teacher Partnership

20 Tips for Developing Positive Relationships With Parents

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell (@michel1erussel1) is a math teacher at Florence (AL) High School. She began her career as a student teacher in middle school and has taught students from 7th to 12th grade. She currently teaches high school math, including Algebra, Pre-Calculus, AP Statistics, and Algebra 2 with Trigonometry. In her free time, she enjoys reading books about math education and following other math teachers on social media.

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