Over the past year our principal has made transparency a top priority in my children’s elementary school. For us, transparency looks like: multiple emails throughout the week highlighting the learning taking place on all grade levels, daily tweets by both the principal and classroom teachers, frequent blog posts by teachers and students, and opportunities for frank and honest discussion at PTA meetings. This format has been so successful that it seems the other schools in the district have decided to implement similar tools as well.
As schools shift to implementing more technology and social media, it seems to bring forward reasonable anxieties. Parents are very cautious about the privacy of their children as well as what this new push means in the classroom. Parents question the need for such transparency and have concerns about the possible effects of this new media format.
As a proponent for transparency I would like to layout my argument for not only accepting it, but encouraging it.
My analogy – Transparency at school is like a newspaper; there is so much information available, yet you choose what is most important to you. If you are interested in the weather – proceed to the weather section. If that’s not for you, you might choose to focus on local news, and of course there is world news. You get my point – we sift through information all the time. School transparency is the same concept. Whether it is test scores, curriculum changes, in-class lessons, etc. information is available for parents to see.
As principals and teachers incorporate transparency, there is often a push towards new technology options. Learning programs, apps, and social media sites require a growth period. We need to allow for schools to get comfortable with these new tools and customize them to our needs. Also, districts need to determine and publish guidelines for how and when these new technologies are used. As with any tool, they are only as good as the user. Making technology meaningful and useful is a challenge for all those involved.
It is my firm belief that when schools offer to share information with parents, don’t say no. Never close the door to information about your child. While you may not want that information today, it might not be available tomorrow if you change your mind. Collaborating with administrators and teachers by sharing concerns while maintaining the flow of information is key. Most importantly, it gives us a seat at the table.