Building a positive classroom environment isn’t just about what happens inside a classroom, it’s about building a classroom community without walls, one that includes and engages parents and caregivers. Research has shown that students with involved parents and caregivers, regardless of background, are more likely to be successful in academics and develop better social skills.Continue reading
Posts By: Tasia Fields
Tasia Fields: “Parents and I have become partners; we’re in it together”
For teachers like Tasia Fields, connecting with parents hasn’t always been easy. Working at a Title I school in Chicago, where four in five students come from low-income families, communication barriers come into play — from language to parents working multiple jobs.
Tasia recently talked to some of our team about how ClassDojo has helped her overcome these barriers and build a classroom community for her fourth grade class.
Why do you love being a teacher?
Education is a real passion for me, so I enjoy all aspects of it. As a classroom teacher, hands down the best part is getting to help kids grow and change over a year — which sounds like a long time, but it’s really not! And the biggest changes aren’t always academic. It can be things like confidence, which is so important. It’s a powerful realization to know you can help create an “Aha!” moment for your students.
Is there a recent “Aha!” moment example you can share?
Yep! There’s a young boy in my class who is so capable of working to his highest potential but somewhere along the line he started to believe he couldn’t. This year, I’ve been encouraging him to go after challenges and push himself. Most recently we’ve been preparing for an exam and I saw he wasn’t sure of himself. But I encouraged him and he did a practice essay for me. I could tell he was nervous — but I loved it! I told him: “I told you you could do it if you practiced!” You could just feel his confidence rise as he started to believe in himself more. The next day when he took the exam he felt prepared, and he did wonderfully.
ClassDojo really helps with this – helping us all talk about these non-cognitive skills that are so critical – like confidence and not giving up. When everyone in my classroom believes these skills are important, and encourages them, students feel empowered to grow.
What does classroom community mean to you?
For me, a classroom community is a group of individuals working together – where there is trust in the environment, it’s comfortable, students are able to struggle and have success, and you have a set of shared values. It’s a community that’s not isolated to the room – it includes parents and other teachers. ClassDojo helps me build this community.
Before you started using ClassDojo, what were some of the challenges you faced in creating this sense of community – are they now easier to overcome?
Before I felt I was limited to a community within my classroom; it stopped at the four walls, and I was the only adult really involved in it. What ClassDojo does is extend the whole feeling of community so it overlaps into other places – parents and families at home, other teachers in the school. That makes us all feel more connected, and trust each other more.
Has forming a relationship with parents been hard?
I teach at a Title I school that is 80% lower income. Work schedules can be really crazy sometimes – so in the past, it has been very difficult. All that changed once I started using ClassDojo. It helps bridge that gap like nothing I’ve ever seen. Parents may not have internet access, but everyone has a smartphone. Because I’m sharing pictures and messages, it helps parents see school as a safe place, and brings them into the classroom experience. Being able to have real, ongoing conversations back and forth with parents really develops personal relationships with them, and helps us operate as a team instead of in silos. It means I’m no longer a “foreign” entity: we’ve become partners, and we’re in it together.
Are there certain features you really love?
The picture messaging capability is amazing – being able to snap a quick picture and send it home. Many parents of my students don’t speak English at home and pictures are a universal language everyone understands. Plus, I love that I can see when parents have read the messages with the ‘read receipts.’ I wear a lot of hats during the day and this way I don’t have to worry about messages reaching or not reaching them.
Have there been any benefits for you personally?
It makes teaching a lot easier for me. There are so many times that parents will send a message that says “thank you!” It’s simple but it really helps me feel that appreciation and support from home that makes a big difference!
What advice would you give new teachers?
Think about your students first – always ask yourself how will your practice benefit your students? Otherwise don’t bother with it. And relax – it’s okay if it doesn’t go perfectly to plan, be flexible and go with it!
Do you think apps like ClassDojo would have made your life easier starting out?
Absolutely! I wish it had been around then – it would have really helped me to bridge that gap between home and school, which would have made a big difference to my effectiveness.
What was the best response you got from a parent to sharing a photo or video?
The best response was, Wow, thank you so much, I love seeing my kid’s work in the classroom! !🙂