It’s Long Past Time to Ditch the Student Agenda

It’s June. As teachers look into the rearview mirror at the year that was, there’s also excitement brewing about next year, and planning is well underway for a fresh start in September. For some, this may mean a new grade, new teaching partners, or even a new school, but for most, it will mean new students. Behind each fresh face, there is also a new parent or guardian counting on effective communication between home and school. However, how much time do teachers spend reflecting on the effectiveness of the tools they’ve selected to communicate with parents and guardians?

Teachers don’t intentionally select ineffective communication tools, but they continue to stick with what is familiar and comfortable, and unfortunately, administrators don’t seem to pushing for the transition to far more effective communication tools. Why aren’t these conversations happening in schools, especially when we understand the coloration between communication and student success? If the goal is to contribute to student success by providing a platform that facilitates strong communication, then we need to ditch the student agenda. In fact, it’s long past its expiry date. Arguably, the student agenda is the least effective form of communication right after no communication at all.

So what’s the alternative? I don’t want to endorse a single platform. There are several great choices available to teachers, all of which lend themselves to enhancing communication because they leverage what nearly every individual checks more than 100 times per day, their smartphone. Additionally, these communication platforms go far beyond simple text messages, they metaphorically put the parent or guardian into their child’s learning environment. As a parent, I can personally attest to this transformative experience. Did I mention that there’s no cost to teacher or parent?

Admittedly, if you’re ready this on my blog, you’re probably not my target audience for this post, so I have a favour to ask. Be vocal about the need to ditch the student agenda in favour of much more effective communication platforms. Talk to your colleagues and administrators about alternatives. Most importantly, talk about why the student agenda serves no purpose, and imposes unnecessary responsibility on busy parents and guardians.

In closing, I can hear teachers say: “But what about teaching our students to be responsible and organized”? Response: I’m very confident we can find more meaningful and relevant ways to teach our students responsibility and organization. Honestly, how many of our students see their parents, or others out there in the “real world”, walking around with an agenda to keep their life in check?


2 comments on “It’s Long Past Time to Ditch the Student Agenda

  1. David,
    I always appreciate your thoughts and typically agree with a lot of what you write, but this time I would like to have a difference of opinion. We are an AVID Elementary Campus and one of the first things we discuss with our parents and students is the term communication tool. A tool we use to communicate between school and home. Even for our youngest students, that includes a folder that goes home each night with correspondence between the teachers and parents. A built measure that parents know exists to share comments, thoughts and ideas with teachers and vice versa. As the students grow older the communication tool transitions into an agenda. Beginning in 2nd grade our students fill out their agenda capturing school events, homework or what is coming up in the classroom/grade level. Parents know it’s one of the ways we choose to communicate are it’s expected they use it just as we expect they check Facebook, Twitter, Remind and the other ways we choose to communicate. My theory…if we are choosing to many platforms to communicate, one of them is the parents chosen or most comfortable means. I will not force them to choose ours, but will accommodate their needs. In doing so, being uninformed is not an option.

    With all of that being said, my preferred method is not an agenda. I use my phone. However, that does not work for all of us and I know many teachers who have the fancy Erin Condren Planners and look forward to marking up their new one as soon as they get it.

    I do not feel it’s our job to tell students how to be organized, but rather show them tools and outlets at an early age so when their time comes they know how to be organized. Once they know how to be, they can choose the method and/or avenue that works for them. Paper or otherwise.

    Just my two cents from the perspective of an elementary principal.

  2. Hi Matt, thank you for your thoughtful reply. I don’t have any issues with providing choice in terms of communication tools, if they work for your school community, and they clearly seem to be working.

    I can only speak from my experience as a teacher in several schools, the parent of 2 child currently in the system, and my conversations with others including school administrators. Based on these experiences, the student agenda is clearly ineffective in most cases. That is where I’m coming from with this post.

    I’m pleased to read that you have experienced success in your school.

    Cheers, D

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