March has definitely has been a busy month for me. Yesterday, I concluded that month with a final virtual presentation for Educator Alexander. I loved sharing ways to empower student voice with the participants. Miss that session, no worries, you can check it out here:  Prior to that virtual webinar, I presented at two in person conferences (NCTies and KySTE) and one virtual conference (Spring CUE). 

In addition to a busy month presenting outside of Virginia, I hosted 3 sessions at my school and engaged in 17 coteaching lessons inside my school.  Whew- just talking about it makes me tired but so proud! April "should be" a little calmer as I put on my "mom hat" and begin exploring colleges for my youngest during Spring Break and only have a few virtual presentations.

Reviewing what are the ABCs of Transforming Learning are-

Two weeks ago, I shared a blog post called  N = Never Stop Learning.  During a month where I was engaging in so many learning opportunities- this was the perfect focus for N.  As educators, we need to be lifelong learners, but with so much on educators' plates right now- that can seem like the one thing that gets left off of our to do list.  But as educators, it is essential that we do engage in the pursuit of learning- our students deserve it and so do we.

This week, we will focus on O = Organize Family Engagement Events.  A lot of times, when we plan such events, it can get overwhelming.  We want to create the perfect event and make sure that we think of everything. Family engagement has been a huge focus for me this year and as I have embarked on this journey, I have found some amazing family engagement events that can help any school get started with the fun,

O = Organize Family Engagement Events

During the past few years, I have come to many realizations as I helped both of the school communities I worked for navigate digital learning challenges. Whether it was issues with Blackboard Collaborate Ultra  during virtual instruction or answering questions about digital tools,  I realized as I helped our communities' families that this was an area that I could impact more than I had previously. As I began this current school year, I met with our school's family liaison, Mili Santiago Martinez, and we discussed the challenges that our school community faced and the best ways to address them. This meeting created an amazing partnership that I am so grateful for.  As the two of us work together, we bring out the best in each other and that benefits everyone.

Starting with a Goal in Mind- Connecting Parents to Online Resources

Mili and I began this process seeing a huge need in our school community. My district was requiring parents to complete forms electronically using a system called ParentVUE populated from our Student Information System.  But many parents were confused about this resource:

These were just some of the questions we encountered. We decided to host an event called Pizza with a Side of ParentVUE for our families. Since 25% of our families speak Spanish, we determined that we would hold 2 nights- one conducted in English and one conducted in Spanish. We reached out to our school community using our school's weekly messages, phone calls and using Talking Points, a  two way communication tool for schools and the families they serve. We also partnered with our Parent Teacher Association and were so grateful for their support with volunteering and with providing pizza for our participants.

We created our resources together first in English and then Mili translated the resources into Spanish.  As those 2 nights approached, we were so excited about this event, but also nervous. Neither of us had ever done something like this. 

The two nights were huge successes and we were so proud of the impact we made. We had reached new families and helped them with an important need. Of course, lessons were learned. After lower than expected turnout for the first night, we realized the importance of reminder messages when people register in advance. But we also learned that we had started something special and couldn't wait to try our next event- Cookies and Coding.

Envisioning What Can Be- A Family Coding Event

When I attended the Virginia State Technology for Educators conference back in December 2022, I wasn''t sure what to expect.  One thing that definitely surprised me about this conference was the presence of CodeVA. Prior to attending VSTE, I had never heard of this group and was excited to learn more about them. 

So I attended one of their sessions during the conference.  As I engaged in the session, I was struck by the amount of resources available on their site, but one item particularly caught my eye: their Family Code Night Event kit. This Family Code Night Event kit is truly an amazing resource. It includes everything that you would need to organize, plan, and implement a family coding night.

This event has families solve puzzles on together. They work through a series of puzzles using pair programming and has them take turns working on the computer. It was such a heartwarming experience and we had a packed house plus. I would highly suggest that every school takes a look at this amazing resource and host a Family Coding Event. 

Build Towards a Bigger Goal- A Culture of Shared Responsibility

After the success of Family Coding Night, I am so excited to plan my next event with Mili. Did you know that Common Sense Media has premade workshops for schools in both English and Spanish? I didn't know that, but as I reviewed the materials, I was so impressed by the materials I found.

As an elementary school Tech Coach, I was especially drawn to the workshops for children ages 0 to 8.  It is so important for us as educators to remember that our students today live in a world where technology can always been present. They don't know any other world. But we need to make sure that we provide guidance to them in their digital world.

We, as educators, can work with our parents, to provide this guidance. If we do this at a young age, we can be proactive in our approach. I am very excited about introducing an event like this to our school community in May. We plan to have two nights- one conducted in English and one conducted in Spanish. I can't wait to see how this event turns out- check out the other workshops and see if one meets your school's needs.

So how will you organize family engagement events in your educational setting?

Try one of these ideas and see what impact it makes on you and your school community?  This week, I listened to a fabulous podcast episode about this very topic featuring two members of my PLF- Andrea Bitner and Carly Spina- Check it out using the link on the left- it has some amazing ideas- I especially like Andrea's 3 Fs- Fun, Family, and Free. Or maybe you have an idea that I didn't mention and want to share it with our community- I would love for you to add it to the comments below.  Find a partner to collaborate with or a team of colleagues- amplify each of your strengths and host an amazing experience. Don't worry about mistakes- they will happen and we learn from them. You got this!