Updated: Apr 11, 2019
Poll: Do you remember how stoked we all were back in 2010ish when Google’s “Forms” changed life forever?
Truth be told, Google Forms still change my life all the time because the info we can glean from them quickly and seamlessly helps inform many decisions throughout our building.
Sometimes, we as principals and teachers have hunches about our schools and classrooms, and parent feedback can provide the data to support those hunches. While I’d never tell you your job is to cater to families’ every need and desire, I would tell you our job is to serve them as they partner with us to raise good humans. We need to know how to better do that, and an anonymous survey, whether through Survey Monkey or Google Forms, or whatever platform you use, is a quick and easy way to do that.
Here are 5 Fab Feedback Loops to get from your parents:
1. Parent Teacher Conferences
For many of our students and families, the one time they get to sit down and have the undivided attention of the teacher is parent teacher conference night. Does this evening serve them well? Are they getting the information they desire? Are they long enough (probz not)? Was scheduling easy enough? Did the structure work? When we invite every single family into our building in a 2-day period, it’s essential that we are serving their needs in the process. For example our school hosts two conferences: one is teacher-led in the fall, and we host student-led in the spring. We elicited feedback from parents to get their preferences and how we could improve, and they had great ideas!
2. Curriculum Night/ Back-to-School Night
Ever want to know what parents really care about? Ask! They’ll tell you they don’t understand how math is taught, and that the new grading scale doesn’t make sense to them. Then, you can use that information to better serve them in your events aimed to share curricular information.
Did you make a change to an event, procedure, or tradition? Ask parents what they thought of it! One year, our leadership team decided to merge two events into one (Meet the Teacher & Curriculum Night). Teachers felt it was too rushed, and we tried to cram too much in. After receiving parent feedback, our hunch was right, and families agreed. We went back to separating the event the next year, and it was appreciated by all.
Most schools struggle with parent involvement in some capacity. Maybe you’re not reaching a particular group. Maybe the same 15 parents are the only ones who volunteer. Regardless, ASK your parents how they want to get involved! ASK them what barriers are keeping them from coming to your building and how to remove them.
Pew research reported a year ago that about 77% of Americans own a smartphone. Couple that with the age and demographics of your parent population, and most like, all of your parents have a smartphone. Would they prefer an e-newsletter? Would they prefer blasts and events be posted to facebook where they already spend 35 minutes of their day?
Tips to get feedback more consistently:
Make the surveys anonymous, truly.
No one wants to be put on blast or made to feel like their kiddo is going to be treated differently based on their opinions.
Tell families that the multiple-choice data is used to make generalizations, but the comments help us to make real change they desire. (I also may or may not hit the “required” button on the comments to force it a bit…)
Show them the money!... err, data
After giving a survey, be sure to share the results with parents in an appropriate way. Never give out comments or data that would incriminate a single person on a public platform. Even if it means summarizing the data in the next newsletter, families want to know you took the time to review it. “Thanks, Panther families, for completing our survey on the new chess club! 80% of parents were in favor of it!”
Tell them when you use it
Sometimes, we can’t take immediate action on the data, so be sure to remind parents when you do. For instance, if you survey parents back-to-school night after it’s over but don’t make any changes to it until the following school year, be sure to write in your newsletter, “Based on survey feedback from families in the 18-19 year, we will be offering a THIRD session of curriculum night! Please join us on September 1st…”
What are your best tips for eliciting feedback from families? What are some of your success stories? What are some of your fails, and how did you bounce back from them? Let’s chat in the comments!