Tuesday, July 29, 2014

It’s All About Relationships

Being a teacher involves much more than teaching. It is not just the art of disseminating knowledge, but rather building relationships. Students learn best when positive relationships are formed between them and their teachers.

Being an online or “virtual” teacher makes those relationships all the more important. Tony Baldasaro, aka @tonybaldasaro, told me once that [three of] the most important things in virtual education are relationships, relationships, relationships. He is spot on. At the beginning of August, a month before school begins, I begin reaching out to my students and their families via phone and email. I want to make connections with my students as soon as possible, but I also want to strengthen and maintain those connections. Remind helps me do this, and do it well, if I may say so myself.

Meeting students and parents “where they are” makes communication seamless and authentic. Using Remind’s safe and convenient messaging service most definitely meets people where they are - which is most likely on their mobile devices. Students and parents may choose to receive text (SMS) messages or push notifications if using the Remind app. They may also choose to receive emails, if that suits them best. (I will tell you, however, that email is approaching the popularity of smoke signals. Yes really.) With my school’s internal email system, students and parents have to log in and GO TO IT, whereas a text or push notification COMES TO THEM. This might seem trivial to those of us who are uber connected, but it’s huge to those who are not.

I introduce Remind to my students and families during my first contact with them. Letting my students know that I wish to be in touch with them as often as possible lets them know I care about them and also about their success in school. Letting parents know that I want to be in touch with them as often as possible helps establish the vital partnership between school and home that is needed to make virtual schooling successful.

In August, I “schedule ahead” reminders for the entire year, which is also a bonus for me when I receive my own messages. I love this feature! As the year goes I send messages with class reminders, meeting reminders, due dates, and sometimes just some “happy thoughts” to let my kiddos know I’m thinking about them. Using the feature that allows one to send a message to just three people at minimum allows me to be more specific when I need to be, like for sending birthday wishes. (I still send snail mail cards, because we all love to get those) Another benefit is that students and parents can now create their own accounts and use the Remind app to keep track of their messages, especially when more than one of their teachers uses it. (No worries as Remind is COPPA-friendly for students under 13.)

I have been using Remind since the day it was available, and I’ve loved watching it evolve into what is has become today. It is by far one of the most important communication tools I use and my most favorite app. I’ve never been accused of “over communicating” with my families but rather have received words of thanks all year long as my students and their families feel very informed, but also very connected. And that’s what it’s all about - being connected.

1 comment:

  1. I have just recently discovered Remind by signing up to be reminded for Twitter chats! It does seem like a fantastic tool and my first thought was that I was going to use this in my classroom. Isn't it funny that e-mail has become "outdated?" I'm not being a hypocrite, I'm totally guilty, because I prefer a text now too. Our society is becoming all about the "chunk." *thanks, that's gonna be my new blog post now!* But I'm glad that you talked about the relationship first. I don't NEED to be reminded to do something for or with someone I don't care about because it won't matter. Building relationship and trust is the first step. Then, find the best tools!