The middle of the year might seem like the peak for your classroom, but you have to make sure things do not go downhill in the second half of the year.
Tips for School & District Administrators

Parents Need Midyear Reminders of Your Policies and Expectations

By Brian Gatens

Midyear can seem like the top of the mountain in your school year.

By now, your class should be flowing smoothly with clear expectations for student behavior, work performance and class procedures. You’ve identified the students having difficulty and are marshaling the appropriate resources to help them out.

But if this time of year is the summit of your classroom, you need to be careful that you don’t trip and fall on the way down to the end of the school year. One way to prevent that is to make an extra midyear effort to reach out to parents and remind them of how things are going.

When things are in a good flow, sometimes the little details and expectations fall to the side, and then things sometimes take a turn for the worse. Sending a midyear reminder to parents is a great way to keep everyone informed and on-track.

Communicating at midyear: the fundamentals

Now’s the time to remind your students and their parents about the best way to contact you. With so many options today — email, phone, text (which I suggest avoiding) and social media — it is important to clearly spell out how you expect families to keep in touch with you.

Also, remind parents how often they can expect to hear from you. As children grow older, teachers grow less inclined to email parents because they’re gradually releasing responsibility for performance to the children. Regardless of what your personal policy is, make sure there’s no chance for parents to be confused about it.

Make your grades policy clear

At the start of the school year, families should have received, read and signed off on your class grading policy and procedures. Send home that same document again, and send an accompanying letter reminding the parents what they can expect from you regarding how grades are established.

Nothing is more corrosive to your credibility than for parents to think that you’re soft or inconsistent on grading. It’s also important for students to know how grades are established and the criteria you use to measure performance.

Set the tone for the rest of the year

As you begin to climb down that mountain, make sure you tell students exactly what’s expected of them for the remainder of the year. When spring returns and summer looms, students will begin to grow more restless, so you really need to get out ahead of this.

Be holistic in your expectations, paying equal and close attention to academics, behavior and class culture. Don’t squander a great start to the school year by letting up on the gas too soon.

Prepare for end-of-year assessments

All schools and most grades have state-required end-of-the-year exams. Start using the second half of the year to prepare parents for the length and scope of the tests, and tell them how they can help support their children at home.

Balance here is essential. Pay enough attention to the tests so that students understand the urgency of performing well, but don’t pay so much that it takes away from the goals and atmosphere of your classroom.

A solid way to prepare for the exam would be to review the expectations and structure of the test with the children, and perhaps take a practice test or two.

Prepare for the next grade level

Your students will be moving up and beyond your classroom at the end of the year. To set a tone for their growth, use the midyear mark to tell parents how you’re using time now to prepare for the next grade level.

You can include curriculum, academic expectations, student work and other areas that will come up the following school year. Always stay positive and encouraging about the academic growth and opportunities in store for the students.

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