June 21, 2022
If I have learned nothing else after 15 years in the classroom, it’s that parent involvement increases student success. When both they and I are committed to a learning and progressing and are on the same page for our plans, the student has a clear path to follow.
For years, sending home interims at the half way point and report cards at the end of term worked well. In this instant day and age, we often want information more frequently. While many school districts have a parent portal, being able to see a grade doesn’t always give a clear picture.
I am always looking for ways to work smarter, not harder, and have only meaningful tasks on my to do list. So, while adding in a weekly parent progress report may seem counterintuitive to that idea, I have found it isn’t.
You see, when a parent gets a weekly email with progress, grades, goals and upcoming things to know, as well as helpful resources if there are struggles, they are able to check in with students in a timely fashion and give that extra support. Which means there is less likelihood of a student falling behind or not knowing what to do or IS do, of grades slipping, or of them telling the parent something that may not be true, whether intentional or due to confusion.
I learned this trick from a fantastic coworker who has done it for years. I resisted for many semesters thinking it was too much work. But it wasn’t. Here’s what I do:
GET EMAIL AT ORIENTATION/FIRST MEETING In my school, since we are virtual, we have a required welcome call. When I was in brick and mortar, we had orientation. In both of these, I gather a parent/guardian/designated adult’s email and best contact number, and whether voice or text is better if I need to reach them. I then add this to a database. In our current system, I have a short comment section I can put the email into, so when I download a spreadsheet of that gradebook system, it is already a column in my report.
CREATE A TEMPLATE LETTER For this step, don’t worry if you don’t know how to use Mail Merge. Microsoft Word has a very helpful Mail Merge Wizard that walks you through each step and guides you through it. It’s so simple, I use it even though I know how to already. I save this as a word document in a folder on my drive where I also save my weekly reports. What should you include in your template letter? Here’s some suggestions based on what I send since my system has these columns and it’s easy to update:
- hello line with short snippets about the week or need to know elements
- a request to reply with questions, concerns, or to let me know they got it (this is so I can check off our required 2 way communication, so you may not need the last bit)
- work due for the week
- current grade
- current progress
- last lesson turned in
- on pace/behind pace/ahead of pace (pace is the semester goal)
- other (information to link in to students that it applies to, but not all–you can add this column in the reports in the next step).
- links to videos and documents that may be helpful for lesson support or planning as well as expectations
- my schedule for the week and for the following week (including holidays)
- my contact information (I use google voice for free so they can call or text me there and I set up do not disturb hours so they can send it whenever and I can respond when I am on the clock–plus it’s free!)
RUN WEEKLY REPORTS Most School grade systems are now in a database style, so have the ability to export the data to Microsoft Excel. Once in excel, you can apply filters to the top column, highlight cells for any students of concern you may need to follow up on during the week beyond a parent progress report, and remove columns you may not need or add in columns you may (this could be for other specifics that apply to some, not others, and may add a few extra minutes to the process, but save you a follow up or extra communication). You’ll need to save this, I usually name it the date I run it and call it progress reports. Then you’ll need to close it to run the mail merge.
RUN MAIL MERGE I send my report out on Monday Mornings (Tuesday if Monday is a holiday) and it takes me only about 10-15 minutes, from running my report to sending all. I open the template, choose the updated report, and run it. I am required to document communications, so I can copy and paste the template very easy into my tracking.
I have found this process can save me hours of calls and follow ups during the week, so it is well worth my time. Happy merging!
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