When I was a kid if your teacher wanted to speak to parents there were two choices.
The dreaded parent-teacher conference or pin a note to your shirt.
Both simple, but effective.
The conference was the most stressful.
Not for the teacher or my parents, but for me (I get it… I’m not working up to my potential).
The note pinned to the chest wasn’t as bad. In fact, there was at least a 50/50 chance it contained good news (class party, holiday program, possibly the teacher’s impending retirement).
The note did have a slight downside. It was a golden opportunity for the teacher to stab you in the name of good communication.
This didn’t seem fair to me, but it was hard to argue when I had tears in my eyes and blood on my shirt (or vice versa).
Somewhere along the way, these tried and true methods weren’t good enough.
Teachers started using the telephone (back when phones were attached to the wall).
Nothing ruins dinner (or supper) like a phone call from your teacher.
Actually, that’s not true. Nothing ruins dinner (or supper) like a spanking after a phone call from your teacher (I wouldn’t personally know, but there might have been a yardstick involved).
As times have changed, so have the communication methods of teachers and schools.
In the last ten years email has been the tool of choice.
School districts also begun to use parent notification services to contact hundreds or even thousands of people at one time (examples are Alert Now, School Reach, and School Messenger).
A well-run school has always prided itself on keeping open lines of communication with its parents and stakeholders.
Now, that’s all changed.
There is still communication, but the school no longer controls it.
A year ago, I thought Twitter was going to be how information would be passed along.
Now, I’m not so sure.
I think it may be Facebook (but this theory is only good for about 3 seconds… which is how long it will take for some punk kid to invent something better than Facebook).
In the last month I’ve been amazed how quickly news is shared on Facebook.
An incident (good or bad) can happen at school and the Facebook world knows about it before the school can contact parents.
It used to be when you called a family their response was “Thanks for letting us know.”
Now it’s “Yeah, we saw that on Facebook 20 minutes ago.”
This is going to present a whole new set of challenges to school districts.
We are no longer controlling our message/news to our communities.
Our communities are controlling it.
I’m not sure where this new type of communication will lead schools, but I know where I’m going.
At least until something better comes along.
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