How it all Began: a Mom on a Mission
When my daughter started preschool, I was thrilled. I couldn’t believe how quickly the time flew by that my daughter was now starting her educational journey. As most first-time parents I didn’t know what to expect and where I stood in this new dynamics.
I remember walking to back-to-school night to meet with other families and teachers, determined to help my daughter make the most of her educational journey.
The problem was, I soon realized that I had absolutely no idea what I was expected to do to effectively support my child or her teacher. Three months in, I was barely keeping up with to-dos, with requests and announcements scattered between email threads, flyers, and occasional in-person exchanges at pick up or drop off. I was receiving a lot of communication, but I didn’t feel connected. I didn’t know my daughter's school friends and didn’t have a real insight into classroom activities.
Finally, despite my demanding schedule and frequent travels, I decided I would volunteer for a multicultural event in Sophia’s class. As I was decorating ukrainian wreath with her classmates, my eyes met hers and I saw an incredible light that I will never forget. Her classmates asked me how did I make these wreaths so well and Sophia responded: “My mom knows everything!”
This was a turning moment for me. I was shocked that it took me so long to see the value of coming to school and participating. Experiencing this special moment I realized how disconnected I was from what was happening at school.
I dived deep into family engagement research, going through mountains of studies, interviews and data. Turns out that attending school events is one of the best ways to show your child that you value education. There is so much more you can do as a parent: proactively setting high expectations, talking about school, creating a proper learning environment at home and ensuring you have a two-way communication with your child’s teacher. When I turned to teachers for support and answers, I wasn’t prepared for what I discovered next.
Working With Teachers to Leap Over Barriers
When I turned to teachers, I expected them to have a wealth of resources and training at their disposal to be able to effectively build relationships with families. What I found was exactly the opposite. Even though teachers and school administrators themselves rank family support as a number one predictor of student success, ahead of their own teaching skill, they also say that parent engagement is an aspect of teaching they feel least capable of succeeding at, both in my conversations and studies. This stark disconnect was simply too bothersome to turn a blind eye to.
So, in October 2015, we launched ClassTag with a handful of classrooms. We had a big vision to put theory and parent engagement practice together to help teachers leap over barriers in parent engagement. This required very collaborative work with almost daily interactions between teachers, parents, parent engagement advisors and our team. What came out is a new generation of a parent teacher communication app that is helping teachers turn parents into partners.
How ClassTag Helps Turn Parents into Partners
As many of our users switch to ClassTag from using flyers, email and phone calls, simplifying and streamlining communication is at the core of our system. With ClassTag, teachers can:
- organize events
- request volunteers
- schedule parent teacher conferences
- send beautiful automated newsletters
- share important announcements and pictures
Having access to different ways of communicating with parents, all in one tool has been a huge time saver for our teachers.
Simplifying baseline communication leaves more time for meaningful engagement. As one of our teachers put it: “more parents are signing up to volunteer and I am more willing to plan fun events because parents are more likely to donate materials and their time.”
Teachers not only find it easier to find volunteers, but tend to receive more positive feedback from parents in general. “Parents feels more connected. They know exactly what their kids are doing each week” – one of our users told me the other day when discussing the app.
We’re actively monitoring success of thousands of schools which now use ClassTag, to discover and share valuable insights with other teachers. This year we have been introducing features one after the other to really change the game in family engagement. Here are the five key elements in our formula.
Five Elements of Successful Parent Teacher Partnerships
- Parent Teacher Relationships
Cultivating strong parent teacher relationship begin with ensuring that baseline communication has been established and parents fulfill their basic commitments, such as attending the conferences. From there, teachers can continue to deepen the bond through pick up/ drop off exchanges, home visits and spontaneous sharing of student’s victories and challenges in a meaningful way.
- Two-way Communication
Getting to the point where parents are empowered to initiate the conversation and share their opinion is a crucial step towards a successful partnership. Teachers can encourage families to interact by sharing pictures of what happens during the day, field trips, competitions – nothing is more motivating than seeing children learning and having fun. Overtime, parents become comfortable with sharing important information and updates affecting their child, including student’s preferences and struggles.
- Support at Home
A connected teacher’s influence extends outside of the classroom. From helping parents encourage a consistent homework routine to running parent workshops that help them understand learning techniques and the curriculum, teachers’ guidance is invaluable when it comes to home-based support.
- Support at School
As we’ve learned through both conversations and research, parents presence is also desperately needed at school. Chaperoning or donating needed materials are the obvious opportunities teachers often turn to. ClassTag takes this a step further with Parents Interests, helping teachers to provide diverse opportunities based on parents’ availability, skills and hobbies, making the experience more fulfilling. Parents should be given opportunities to get involved not only at class level (field trips, chaperones) but also school level (school-wide Halloween party).
- Community Building
From school-wide events to families connecting and interacting, deepening relationships beyond the basic unit of a classroom contributes to a positive and friendly “school climate”. Researchers believe that positive school climate has a significant impact on academics: happy school helps students succeed.
How ClassTag Empowers Teachers
It can be said that ClassTag was born out of dissatisfaction with current communication & involvement opportunities – as seen from a parent’s perspective. That’s why integrating teachers’ feedback has been a crucial element for company’s growth, protecting us from traps of tunnel vision. Overtime, we’ve build close relationships with early adopters and thoroughly investigated what makes our most connected classrooms thrive.
Teachers who took the leap have no doubts that ClassTag works, and the benefits go far beyond saving time or better organization – it’s about becoming more empowered as educators. “I just feel like a more confident teacher”, admitted one of our users. “I am less stressed because I am not emailing constantly or worried about getting drivers or sign up lists” – added another one. And as for me, I definitely feel like a more confident parent – and my daughter’s teacher uses ClassTag, too!
How to Access ClassTag
ClassTag is free for teachers, students, and parents – no tricks. ClassTag can be accessed using any modern browser, and there are iOS and Android apps to match.
Join ClassTag now:
- Web: ClassTag.com
- iTunes App Store: ClassTag App for teachers and parents
- Google Play: ClassTag App for teachers and parents