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8 Questions for a Teacher: Engagement Edition

Lauren Gilchrist
Lauren Gilchrist - Content Specialist and Former 6th Grader

Having experienced Family and Student Access from the student perspective, I was curious to hear more from the other side of the fence. I reached out to my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Paula Marciniak, to get her thoughts on parent communication. Here are some of the highlights of our conversation...


Lauren: Hi, Mrs. Marciniak. Thank you for volunteering to be put to the test. I promise not to ask any hard questions!

As someone who is in Skyward every day, what are some of the features that you use most frequently to enhance your communication with parents? 

Mrs. Marciniak: I love the message center to inform parents of upcoming events like a presentation that might be going on. It’s easy to just type one email and it mass emails all those parents. I love that, definitely.
I also like the fact that you can put the codes in Skyward: if there is an assignment, if it’s not something the child has been successful with, if it hasn’t been handed in or is late work, those types of things.
I like the information you can print out. You can print late and missing homework. You can also go into Skyward and print off a list of how students have done on assignments per quarter. It shows points possible and points earned. You can print that off and show it to parents. It shows test and homework scores and participation. Those are the big options that I really, really enjoy as a teacher.

Fortunately, I was never missing any homework in your class! At the start of the year, how do you first contact students and their families?

At school, we do an open house all week. We do that in the evenings. Also, because I’m a sixth grade teacher and we are a middle school, we do a sixth grade parent night and talk about the atmosphere of the school and some of the ways we communicate. That’s a unique thing that we [as sixth grade teachers] do because we are the first grade that the child comes into at the new school. That’s a special invitation for parents to come in, probably a day or two before school starts. The students and parents also drop off the kids’ materials. That coincides with this meeting.

How many years have you been teaching, and how has communication with parents changed during your time in the classroom?

This is my 38th year.      

I think parents have a better handle on how their child is doing in school today based on the fact that we have the availability of online grading. I think parents are more informed more quickly since we have the internet, access to email and that sort of thing.

What are some important topics you talk to parents about throughout the school year?

A lot of it is grades. They will look on Skyward, checking grades, then they will wonder about why something is or what happened. That’s basically it. Once in a while, I will get a concern through regular email about how parents can help their children if they are struggling. That’s where we might get into having them go to an after school program or tutoring. That is probably about 90 percent of it. Maybe 8 percent is social issues.

Do you have any regular communications that parents can look forward to on a recurring basis?

We have a news flash that goes home every week. It’s always a mass email to parents. It highlights what happened during the week, what is coming up the next week, and events coming up in the near future. The whole school creates it.

What do you think is the hardest thing to communicate and how do you approach that?

Something that is negative for the child. But one of the nice things with Skyward is the fact that, if it’s something with grades, it’s out there. They should have been seeing it for quite some time. It shouldn’t be a surprise to them. It just shouldn’t be.

Spotlight on Skyward’s Family Access Portal:

Skyward’s Family and Student Access is a one-stop shop for parents, students, and teachers. It improves communication through transparency and accessibility, giving parents and guardians 24/7, secure access to their students’ grades, assignments, behavioral information, and food service reports. It allows students to view their grades, missing assignments, and classroom discussions anytime, anywhere with internet access.
In March 2015, Skyward’s Family Access portal earned the 2015 EdTech Digest Cool Tool Award, the top prize awarded in the Parent/Student Portal Solution category.

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