|Miriam Kass discusses the "hamburger" approach to writing|
paragraphs with her class.
Religiously, every Friday afternoon, for the past five years, 3rd/4th grade teacher Miriam Kass has been emailing a newsletter to the parents of her students. In it she recaps the week, hands out kudos to students on jobs well done, and alerts parents to upcoming projects. Following is an interview with her on why she goes to the trouble:
What prompted you to start the newsletter?
Miriam Kass: Children benefit from parents being able to have good conversations with them about school. But often, when a parent asks, “How was school?” the answer will be nothing more than, “Fine.” I have found that school tends to be one big event for kids, so when they are asked a general question like this, they will give a general answer. I feel that I’m not just teaching a subject, I’m teaching someone’s child, and so those parents are part of the team. My newsletter provides parents with details, empowering them to ask specific questions that might open the door to a real conversation.
How has it been received by parents?
Parents are grateful. Some read the newsletter with their child, which I think is a great way for them to engage with what’s been happening at school. Parents tell me that if it weren’t for the newsletter, they wouldn’t know what’s been going on in class.
How do you manage to get it out on time every week?
I’ve developed a routine: Thursday nights I draft the newsletter. It’s become such a routine that my daughters will remind me if they haven’t seen me working on it. When I come home on Fridays, I read it over, update it as necessary, and send it out.
Isn’t it a lot of work to do it every week?
Of course it is work but I keep it simple: a little summary, a few bullet points, and the link to my class website where parents can find pictures and more information. However, the newsletter has also become my personal archive of my classes, going back five years. It helps me verify where we are at, if we have achieved what we wanted to, or how long a unit took. I tap into old newsletters to help me plan lessons and update units. So while the goal of the newsletter is to benefit parents and students, it is also benefits me as a teacher.