Parent communication is a very important job for art educators. It is our job to educate, inform and communicate with parents about our discipline. Too often, parent communication can be difficult when you are a specialist. The classroom teacher inevitably has more contact with parents. Why do we feel so disconnected with the families of our students? Maybe it’s because we see so many students in one week. Maybe because we don’t see our students every day or perhaps because the parents are not making the effort as much to be involved in the arts education of their students by reaching out to their art teachers. However you look at it, the amount of parent contact and communication can easily be zero to none if neither party is making the extra effort.
Why is it so important to foster parent / teacher relationships?
- It’s the parents who will advocate for you, support your program and the arts.
- Parents will help to make those home connections with the arts that support the teaching and learning going on in the art room.
- Over time, parents will begin to see all of the important learning that is going on in the lives of their students and they will start to enrich that learning at home.
- They will begin to see that an education without the arts would be very dull.
- They will begin to enjoy and remember why they enjoy the arts and help instill this in their kids.
So, how, you might ask, do we accomplish all of these wonderful great things when the reality of most of ours situations looks something like teaching at two or more schools with 500 or more students and contact time that seems to creep lower and lower each year?
The Itty Bitty Papers! One of the most important ways I communicate with parents is very simple, but yet very effective. I call them the “Itty Bitty Papers.” Put very simply, I glue a little piece of paper with a message to the back of the artwork that explains the concept or standard we are studying. It might also contain how the project was assessed or what specific standards were graded during this grading period. It could also talk about the artist we studied or how the concept connects to other disciplines. Anything to prevent parents for looking at the artwork and saying “This is pretty” and quickly dismissing it. I want them to realize – Something really happened while your student was making this! They learned something! They went through and artistic process! If I can open up this window for families even a little bit more, I feel I am doing my job.
Another great thing about putting messages on the back of artwork is it helps the students to remember what they learned. My elementary art teacher did something similar, and knowing I wanted to be an art teacher, I kept all of my elementary artwork. I still have most of these pieces and could remember what I learned and why it was important in my artistic development. Someday all of the little kiddos you teach will pull out a tub of artwork to display at their high school graduation. With your help, they just may have a nice little memory about elementary art because of your message.
To prepare the messages, I simply type out the message I want to convey and copy and paste over and over onto one sheet. Then, I slice them up on the paper cutter and put them in a little basket. Each basket goes on a grade level shelf ready to go on the back of artwork once the project is completed.
Maybe you have seen this idea, thought of this idea or are already doing something like this. They key here is consistency and to have them on as many projects as you can! I use glue sticks to attach the messages because it does not make the art wrinkle up like runny glue does.
If starting this task seems daunting to you, don’t worry. Start small. There are many different ways to accomplish putting message on the back of artwork.
- Have students glue the messages on the back of their own artwork when they finish the project in art class. This is the method I use the most, and my students are very well versed in doing this, although it does take some time.
- Have a volunteer glue messages on the back (works great for the younger grades)
- Make this a station for any students when the finish early-They can sit down with a pile or artwork and glue away.
- Have students glue them to the back of artwork on the day you pass back all of the artwork before you take it home (I call this portfolio day) It keeps hands busy and gets the entire job done in one shot.
In one simple step, that takes a matter of minutes, you can more effectively communicate with parents and make those important connections home! They next goal for me is to create mini-rubrics, self-assessments and reflections to go along with these messages. These glued to the back, I think, would provide an even richer experience for my art students!
I would love to hear more about ways you all communicate more effectively with parents in the art room!