Sunday, September 15, 2013

Changing Mindsets

We had parent-teacher conferences this past week.  We have two weeks of conferences at Hale Kula. The first is held during the first quarter between parents and teachers, and the second one is student-led, and all students select projects or assignments to share with their parents.  Often, these projects are included in individual e-portfolios.  P/T Conferences are well-attended, and usually, we have about 95% participation.

This year, we decided to try an on-line system for parents to sign up for dates and times.  In the past, we had a system which we called an "auction." We sent out notices to parents, and they returned it with their prioritized choices.  On the day of the auction, we all gathered in the cafeteria, we called family names, and teachers met to decide on a date/time for the conference for each child.  This system worked, but we were looking for something more efficient.

We signed up for a free account.  Every classroom had an account and parents were able to go on-line to sign up.  Teachers received emails to indicate which parents had registered so they could follow up.  Teachers were able to manually register any parent who had not signed up, and most parents did attend their child's conference.

I adhere to the philosophy that if we use technology, it should make our work more efficient.  Several teachers shared that they want to go back to the old system because they felt parents were used to the old system.  However, that is certainly not an option I'd like to consider.  We will make adjustments such as sending the notices out earlier or having computers available if parents want to sign up after dropping up or picking up their children. We will ask for feedback and suggestions, but I strongly believe that once we make signing up on-line the norm, it will definitely make the process easier for everyone.

Looking back, I realize how much our staff has grown as far as technology is concerned.  A few years ago, when I asked teachers to send me documents via email, some of them had never done it and had to be taught.  Today, universal screening is done on-line and teachers have instant access to their student data; attendance and report cards are submitted on-line; grade levels have discussions and share ideas via edmodo; classroom teachers regularly update their websites so parents are regularly informed about what is going on in their classrooms; teachers and students are sharing or participating in global projects; and we use Google Apps for Education to share files, collaborate on projects, and communicate with others.

This wouldn't have happened without trust and positive relationship-building.  It is easy to say that things are going satisfactorily so "why change?"  However, as school leaders, we need to be open to change which can make our work more efficient.  This may take encouragement and support for some teachers, but we cannot give up.  There are many more expectations on schools today, and having systems in place which saves time makes sense.

As a school leader, I depend on my staff to keep me updated, and I encourage them to try out new tools or resources and to show how they can be used in the classroom.  This year, our librarian is hosting "Tech Tip Thursday" where teachers are sharing how they use different tech tools.  This never would have happened a few years ago, but today, teachers are eager to share new ideas or new tech tools, and it is so refreshing to see them leading and learning from each other!


  1. Jan,

    I have wanted to try and do something like this the last couple of years. I will definitely take a look at ptcfast as a possible solution for us. Each year I see the amount of time it takes our secretarial staff and teachers to follow up with and schedule times and think there has to be an easier more efficient way for us to do this. At a minimum it would reduce the number of follow-up calls we would need to make. How was the response from your community to the transition? What were some of the hiccups in the process?

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi, Scott,
    I created the schedule and the classrooms on ptcfast, but it really wasn't too difficult once we set up the first schedule. After that, we copied the template and changed the teacher's name, room number, etc.

    There are other systems as well, but I didn't check them out (maybe I should have). About half of the parents didn't sign up, but a number said they had glitches and didn't try again. Those who got in loved it! They said it was so easy and they were able to select a date/time which fit their schedule. Each teacher has a code, though, so the parent needs to sign up separately for each child. On our Facebook page, I asked parents how they liked it, and all those who responded gave the system a positive thumbs-up!