ARGH!

Subtitle: I don’t understand why more schools don’t use social media.

Mornings have never been my favorite time of day. As of late, of course, they have become more problematic.

But I thought — I thought — I was doing okay this morning.

Granted, I didn’t wake up until 7 a.m., but I’m making up hours as I go along at work anyway. So I figured I’d just suck it up, and even drop the kids off at their respective schools.

It is Flora’s last day of preschool at St. J’s. I actually managed to put a barrette in her hair to keep it out of her face, so I felt on top of things.

Not so much.

Now I am not the most attentive of mothers, and by that I don’t mean I ignore my children. I just… I don’t have baby books; I don’t have scrapbooks (although I have lots of scrap); I don’t save every single piece of art and school work that they have ever done (probably one out of every, oh, 15-20?). I try to be good about taking lots of pictures and video, but mileage varies.

But when it comes to school stuff? I downright suck.

On the plus side, I seldom (never say never) forget to send my children to school without food. I pack pretty healthy lunches of stuff they like; Flora gets a snack and a drink box for preschool three days a week. When it’s their birthdays, I send in cookies (usually of the Eat’n Park variety; a baker I am not).

I am pretty good about permission slips for field trips Flora’s class goes on. I even usually take a day off to accompany her to the pumpkin patch around Halloween. (A field trip I will be going on for two more years, as Kate moves through St. J’s pre-k program.)

However, I am terrible about things like show and tell. Out of 10 months, I may remember to send something with Flora half of those. (Thank goodness they only have it once a month.) I completely spaced on school pictures this year (Dan saved our bacon there). And when stuff like baby photos are requested for the end-of-the-year DVD, you can bet I’ll forget about it.

To top things off, I dropped Flora off this morning at 8:10 a.m.

She didn’t have to be a school until 9.

I did not have a clue.

And do you know why?

Because I do not read paper.

I just don’t.

Flora comes home three times a week with her backpack filled with paper. Drawings she’s made, letter papers, school “work”, and, yes, class newsletters, calendars, permission slips, and so on.

I glance at most of this, tack the monthly calendar on the bulletin board, decide if I’m going to hang anything on the ‘fridge, and throw out everything else.

I am an connected mommy, a social media mommy. I read emails; I read tweets; I have a blog.

Schools would serve parents like me much, much better if they had active blogs, Twitter and/or whatever-is-replacing-Ning accounts (Facebook is too big for private K-8 schools, I think), and used emails.

Am I alone? Am I alone in having schools that don’t do this?

I understand that resources is an issue — probably THE issue. I’d be running my daughter’s school’s social media program… if they could pay me. Alas, they cannot (they almost closed this year, as a matter of fact), and I’m simply not in a position to quit my job and volunteer to do it.

I consulted (for free) with the volunteer who does run their marketing “department”. We actually — she, rather — did set up a Ning account for the school looking toward boosting enrollment and fundraising activities. We also talked about changes to the schools’ Web site to make it more interactive, and even about blog possibilities the school should explore (providing they stay open).

She was told to pull the Ning site down — which is a whole ‘nother post.

My point is: I don’t read paper, but I would read emails or Tweets. Given the proper time and incentive, I would even pursue that more with the school, because I am sure I am not the only one. (Well, I was the only parent there before 9 a.m. this morning, and that may have as much to do with the fact that I don’t usually do the morning drop-off, so it’s something my husband may have been told, and failed to pass the info along.)

What do you think? Should even small schools actively pursue engaging parents through social media? (I say, resoundingly, yes.) If cost is an issue, how should schools address that? Should I talk more to schools in my area about budgeting for it and/or how to use their current resources (i.e. office administrators, teachers to blog, etc.)?

Or should I start reading paper?

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16 thoughts on “ARGH!

  1. Holy cow do I agree. I suck at paper reading also. I can tell you from the perspective of a former teacher and now an administrator working directly with schools that you’re dead on assuming it’s time that’s lacking. Time for teacher training, time for supervisory buy-in, time for planning and time for implementation. So I sympathize with both sides, but as a mom, I am counting the days til Avi’s school is as plugged in as we are as a family.

    • That is so true. The mom I met with was, at the time, (unfortunately) unemployed, so she was biding her time as a SAHM and voluteering up at the school. Not to say she had all the time in the world at her disposal (having been a SAHM myself, I know that’s not true), but she sure had more than me, even if it was 5 hours more. Another good point.

  2. I would love to say yes- I hate the mountain of paper I get from each kid. I toss everything, too, and forget important dates, miss meetings, etc…however, I’d say it boils down to a safety safety and money- they can’t assume that every family has the money to have a computer in their home, internet access, etc.

    • That is an EXCELLENT point. Often times, especially when it comes to Catholic schools, parents are scrimping and saving to send their kids. The value is more in having that Catholic-based value system at the core of what the school is doing, and things like iPhones and high-speed Internet go on the back burner. Well said.

  3. I think you have a valid idea. I have two boys in middle school, and we obsessively are on the school’s website, checking grades, and calendar information, as well as the lunches. I never look at the papers anymore, because my boys are horrible about giving them over to me anyway.
    I think it would be awesome if each teacher could have a link with all the “happenings” so that they could keep parents informed. Granted not every parent is as social media happy as we are, but I am sure a lot of busy parents would agree and appreciate something of that caliber.

  4. I agree wholeheartedly. Our SD has a pretty good email/web presence once you hit middle school, but I missed school pictures this spring with my elementary kid. OMG were they funny, though. Having been raised by someone who ran a small, church-based school (and having spent countless hours volunteering there both while in and out) you would think that an email distribuiton list would not be so time consuming to be prohibitive.

  5. I think what y’all are missing here is the security issue. There are reports of 14 year old girls getting lured on facebook / myspace hookups regularly these days. Predators are out there and some are computer savvy. It would take just one predator to get a child’s personal information and demand for K-8 social media would stop in a second. (Imagine a guy in a blue Chevy calling to a 9-year-old “Hey Cindy, your mom asked me to pick you up from school. She said it’s OK, as a matter of fact she wanted to know if Mrs. Jones gave you your spelling homework…”) I don’t trust my kids’ schools to make them decent food, do you think I would trust that they would hire a competent IT department that would understand the responsibility of guarding their personal information? Especially in a Catholic school. Ask a priest what SHE thinks about social media (oh yeah… that’s right).

    • I’m not forgetting that at all, actually. I think that’s another one of the obstacles because it adds an entire layer of time and resources to a system that is already stretched thin. There would have to be carefully monitored privacy gateways and password protections.

      But email, at least, and some sort of email distribution list should be a possibility.

      And let’s not forget, regardless of what schools do, teens are out there in cyberspace, on Twitter, on Facebook, and parents should be vigilant about policing their kids’ activities. They don’t have to censor their children, and I don’t think social media should be verboten to kids. But they have to learn how to use it appropriately, and parents are a part of that. I think schools can be a part of that, too! Schools shouldn’t post personal info on their students any more than parents do their children. Those records should still remain private, and it can be done.

  6. I communicate with Aidan’s teacher, and behavior specialist, by email. It is wonderful! I emailed her the IEP goals we wanted to include for next year, and she copied and pasted them word for word into his IEP. I was so pleased! Granted, it is not social media, but it is much more effective communication. Plus more secure. And, I have documentation of everything if I ever need it for future reference…even to help my own memory!

    I still get inundated with paper, but we have a communication journal that goes back and forth to school, since Aidan has difficulty telling us what goes on in school every day…they are good about sending home reminders the day before an event, etc. But I throw 95% of the paper in recycling. I have a hard enough time keeping my dining room table unburied!

    • Right. And while there is a difference between social media and email, either would be preferable to getting loads of paper that I don’t read. A better-maintained (i.e. Updated) Web site would be fabulous, too. How difficult would it be for a teacher to collect email addresses at the beginning of each year to communicate with parents? It can’t take more time than typing up memos or “newsletters” to copy can it?

      And for us, it’s the kitchen table, as you’ve witnessed.

  7. Our public elementary school (in a completely bankrupt state) still maintains a website, which is run by the PTA, and also has a yahoo group just for parents. AND, my daughter’s teacher created a yahoo group just for her particular classroom. I get almost everything exclusively on-line. Collecting parents’ email addresses was done the first week of school. Wasn’t difficult.

      • No individual child or personal info is published on the website. Sometimes a parent forgets themselves and mentions personal info on the yahoo group email, but it doesn’t happen often (although this being California, someone usually proposes legislation that will lead to jail time for the blundering parent, kill the local economy, and increase state employee pension funds). It is still the best way to disseminate school and classwork info to the largest audience.

  8. We’re lucky, I think. Our preschool has a blog, a decent web site, a Facebook account, and an e-newsletter. They rock the social media, I must say. And it would seem to be a cheaper alternative for schools since all those things can be done for free (no paper costs, no copying costs, no distribution costs, etc.). Taking the paperless plunge is probably the hardest step, don’t you think?

    • I think the other thing we are running into is that the school wants to control what information is shared and how. And that’s challenging in the age of social media. I mean, god forbid parents should talk to each other!

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