When do you call home, send a note home to report negative concerns? When do you send report cards home? How do you communicate negative concerns? What do people say about your communications?
Communication is essential. It must be timely and accurate. Keeping others informed is critical in maintaining a focus on improvement. Feedback ensures everyone is aware of where we are in our progression as we continue efforts to prioritize mastery of standards and success for all.
Schools are reporting out failing grades, students falling behind, and learning loss due to the disruption in education caused by the global pandemic. As an educator for decades, we have reported failing grades before the pandemic and learning loss. It may not be at the magnitude of the reported levels, but we had negative reports.
A recently published research study in JAMA, the Journal American Medical Association, stated a concerning connection between negative news and child abuse increases. “The study compared reported incidents of child abuse to state child welfare agencies to the days of the week when report cards are sent home. Examination of almost 2,000 cases indicated that on Saturdays following Friday distribution of report cards, reports of child abuse jumped fourfold compared to reported incidents following the release of report cards on other days of the week.”
The study was conducted before the pandemic. Individuals are dealing with more stress now than prior to the pandemic. We can understand, children have experienced traumatic events, and this pandemic has created more. Therefore, we must look at our communications.
We want to communicate, but negative communication can have negative impacts. The answer is in our timing, the approach, and our action steps. We may not avoid all of the adverse reports in our communication, but we can utilize the distribution timing data. We can provide positive action steps, supports, and alternative solutions to prevent possible abuse. One of our responsibilities is to watch for signs of abuse and report. It is also part of being the solution to maintain open communication with families and students. Build relationships to prevent possible abuse, identify warning signs and provide support to those we serve.
Communicate often! Frame your communications to provide the whole picture and seek out the support of families. Aren’t we all trying to do what is best for the children? I learned an important lesson from one of my parents I worked with early in my career. She told me, “We think you all think you are better than us and know-how to be better parents than us. I know we ain’t got much, but we love our kids, and we want what is best and don’t want anyone messing with them. So don’t tell us how to be a parent.” I took that conversation and remembered it! As I lead several different groups, my statements always included, we do not need to tell people how to be parents, extend our hands to support, ears to listen, and our voice to provide possible solutions and resources. Tell parents how much we love their children! Thank them for sharing them with us.
One of the ideas I love to share with others is my philosophy of the whole child in students leading their learning. I was Assistant Principal, and my team created a Home, School, Student contract. We would set goals, monitor progress, and report back according to the plan. We would take a picture of the student working in the classroom and send a good message to the family. Thank you for sharing the Name of the Child with us! Our partnership is paying off! He/She is working hard in the name of the class. Mail it home or email.
Thank you for being the solution daily! Remember, I am not selling anything, so do not be afraid to ask, share or request. I am here to help you as you work with our most excellent resource, children
Reference for this post come from: Bright, M. A., Lynne, S. D., Masyn, K. E., Waldman, M. R., Graber, J., & Alexander, R. (2018). Association of Friday school report card release with Saturday incidence rates of agency-verified physical child abuse. JAMA Pediatrics, 173(2), pp. 176-182. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.4346