I was so surprised during my teaching residency when I saw that my mentor teacher texted with parents of her students. It seemed so informal, so line-blurring, so personal-space-limiting. But she swore by it, and for her it definitely worked. This teacher had some of the healthiest parent-teacher relationships I’ve ever seen, and I credit that largely to her very personal, human, friend-like approach.
I decided before I had my own classroom that at the very least, I would share my cell phone number with the parents of students in my class. I know I know I know that there are three million people who have eight million stories about why giving out your cell phone numbers to parents is such a terrible idea. But I wanted to be approachable, reachable. I wanted my parent-teacher relationships to be as healthy as my mentor teacher’s were. And beyond that, it is so much more convenient to be able to call parents on my own time and from my own space than it is to have to find a quiet moment in the office to make a call.
My cell phone calls quickly morphed into texts. Thinking back, I’m pretty sure it was actually a parent who initiated it. She texted me, I responded. Then later when I needed to pass along a quick message, I texted her and she responded. Texting started with just that one parent, but it spread. Soon, I was communicating more frequently with parents who previously I hadn’t been able to reach.
This summer I’ve moved to Houston, and I’m gearing up to start teaching again at a new school this fall. (More about that in a future post.) Getting ready for the year has led me to spend so much time thinking and wondering about my kids from last year and their families. What have they been up to? How are they feeling about 3rd grade? How’s the new baby brother? My kids and their parents were even showing up in my dreams! Recently, I’ve continued to think to myself, “if only I could say hello.”
And then I realized, why not? Just because I left the school (and the city… and the state…) doesn’t mean that I’ve disappeared off the planet, and it doesn’t mean that I can’t still send some love to those kids. I can’t fix the instability of that school’s neighborhood and teaching staff, but I can prove that when someone moves away, it doesn’t mean that she didn’t really care about you, and it doesn’t mean that she has forgotten about you.
So I picked up my phone, and I texted the families whose numbers I still have. The messages all went something like this, “Hi! I wanted to let you know that I’ve been thinking about you and your family, and I hope you have a great start to the school year. Give J a big hug for me!”
I’ve gotten a couple of responses already. One asked what day school starts, so I checked online and responded again. A couple of families have sent lots of love back. Maybe these texts were just as much for me as they were for them :)