Category Archives: General Practice

The Value of Daily Communication


Every afternoon, I sit down at my computer and compose an email for my students’ families. Although it’s a significant time commitment, it’s a routine that has become a very valuable part of my practice.

One day, eight years ago, part way into my first year as a preschool teacher, I chose to write a list of the morning’s activities on a piece of paper, which I left out for parents to read. The response was immediately positive. I started making lists regularly, and each day parents would crowd around to read about what we had done.

A year or so later, in a new city, at a new school, where my paper lists had been met with equal enthusiasm, I decided to try sending emails instead. Email, of course, has many advantages: It’s more efficient; I can send it after class, instead of being taken away from my students during class; it can’t be hindered by my unsightly handwriting; and most importantly, it’s available for parents to access whenever and wherever, not just when they come to pick up their children.

Gradually, my daily emails have become increasingly complex. They are now filled with descriptions of each part of the day, specific language that I use, links to any websites or tablet applications that we referenced or used, and links to photographs from each school day (with children’s faces excluded).

Drawing Connections Between School and Home

“What did you do at school today?” is probably one of the more frustrating questions parents must ask their children. Older children are likely to withhold information. Young children simply can’t remember. However, if you can ask a more leading question, such as, “What did you learn about dinosaurs today?” or if you look at a photograph and ask, “What did you do with those rocks?” then young children often reveal the wealth of knowledge and skills they’ve absorbed.

Some parents treat each of my emails almost like a book about the day at school, which can spark rich conversations. The photos, in particular, often make little sense without a student’s elaborations. A relatively small time commitment can help parents connect what their children are learning at school to what they are learning at home.

To be clear, it takes a lot of time to prepare and write my daily emails. I am fortunate to have dedicated peers and school leadership who agree that daily communication is highly valuable, and do what they can to support the practice. Soon after I began this routine, the school invested in new computers and the rest of our teachers adopted the practice. We haven’t looked back since, and I doubt we ever will.

Unraveling Developmental Standards

Photo Sep 15, 10 59 50 AM

I recently took the time to unravel some developmental standards. I often share a list of standards with my students’ families, so that they know how their children compare to expectations. With a round of parent/teacher conferences approaching, I decided it was time to revise what I had been passing along.

As a pre-kindergarten teacher in Illinois, there are two main sets of standards that I regularly reference: the Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards (IELDS) and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for kindergarten. Much of the IELDS is below the level of my average students, whereas the kindergarten CCSS contains many standards that are very challenging. I try to be mindful of both, because my students generally fall somewhere between the two sets, and because I want my students to be prepared for what they will encounter after my class.

Reading through the standards is valuable but difficult. Doing so reminds me of areas I could better address with my students, and topics I should more deliberately incorporate. But the standards are lengthy, sometimes repetitive, and often difficult to navigate. The CCSS is on the Common Core website, but not as a single document; one must navigate various links to gather all the information. The IELDS is a prodigious 134 pages (pdf); I would not expect many educators to read it, much less parents.

To make things more manageable, I compiled the text of the standards into single documents (which took much longer than I anticipated). Next, I made a page on my website where that text can be viewed (or downloaded as Microsoft Word documents). Then I pared down and compiled the standards into a list of benchmarks that I want my students’ families to be most aware of. I also provide links to the full lists, for those ambitious and curious parents who want to read all of the standards.

Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards

Common Core State Standards – Kindergarten