The first homework assignment I give my middle school students every year is a parent and guardian survey. It is the easiest homework assignment the students have all year, because all they need to do is get someone at home to fill out the form and then bring it back to school later in the week. Little do they know, this form provides invaluable information to me as a teacher. I refer back to the surveys throughout the entire year.
I’m not sure if your district is like mine, but year after year I’ve found the contact information teachers have access to is outdated. I recall my frustration at trying to contact parents using every number listed on PowerSchool only to find all of them were wrong numbers, numbers that didn’t exist, or disconnected numbers. This was hardly a rare occurrence—what was a rare occurrence was when I was actually able to reach a parent. The inability to contact parents was what initially caused me to create and use a parent and guardian survey.
The survey I made has space for the contact information of two parents or guardians. The best times and methods of reaching each person are also listed. Giving these surveys at the beginning of the year ensured I had the most current phone numbers and email addresses. Once I began using the surveys, I rarely had trouble contacting home.
Since making the survey several years ago, I’ve improved it by adding and tweaking questions that aid me in helping my students. In addition to the basic contact information, I also ask parents and guardians a variety of questions about their children. Their answers help me give the students what they need to be successful. A student might need help reading, practice speaking in front of others, or extra math assistance—all of which are helpful to know going into the school year.
I’ll know of any potential obstacles to getting homework completed because I’ll learn things like what activities the students are involved in, what kind of homework help is available, the different languages spoken at home, and whether or not students have Internet access. This information helps me determine what kind of projects I assign in my classroom and what parts of those assignments students will be capable of completing at home.
Through using these surveys, I’ve learned important information I wouldn’t otherwise be aware of. I’ve learned of students’ allergies (something especially important for a science classroom that often conducts experiments with a variety of materials). Hearing or vision issues have also come up; knowing about these helped me make effective seating charts. Some of my students had recent deaths in the family or were in foster care. Just knowing about what my students were going through allowed me to change my lessons or approach certain situations differently. (Genetics can be a sad topic for students who have never met their families, so a family tree project isn’t the best choice.)
Another part of the survey gives parents and guardians opportunities to help the students and the classroom. Many parents and guardians are more than willing to help; they just don’t know what is needed. Thanks to this survey, I learned who wanted to help and what they were willing to do. Many people helped enormously in my classroom by translating information, tutoring students for tests, and donating supplies.
It is important to know about our students so we can do our best to help them. A positive connection with parents and guardians can do wonders in helping students in the classroom. These surveys begin building home connections and allow teachers to reach out for whatever reason during the school year.
If you don’t currently use a parent and guardian survey in your classroom, I strongly suggest implementing one this year. The Parent and Guardian Survey I made and use in my classroom is available in both English and Spanish. Click here for more information.