Sunday, July 21, 2013

How an Innovative Teaching Assistant’s Blog has Increased Engagement Between Parents and School Life

by Schools Improvement Net:

The Isle of Wight Island Press has a great story about an innovative primary classroom assistant’s blog on life at her school which is increasing engagement between parents and everyday life at the school …

HOW many times has this well-worn scenario played out?
Parent: “Hello, sweetie - what did you do at school today?”
Junior: “Nothing.”

It is the archetypal response. Clearly, if it was the case, school would be a waste of everyone’s time.
So, what to do about it?

Mum and dad playing good cop/bad cop until Jimmy spills the beans or for some bright, artistic spark to set up an immediate and entertaining information stream - a stream that bridges the great divide between the school gate and home.

Well, that is just what Nicola Winsland, a teaching assistant at the Bay CE Primary School, Sandown, has done in a brightly imaginative and entertaining way.

After looking at Nicola’s Sunnysiders blog, parents have logged on and declared it a delight. Through the wonders of the web, she now has a cult following across the globe too.

It was another Nicola, this time Taylor, who teaches the Reception class, who highlighted her teaching assistant’s achievement and flagged it up as a potential model for other schools to follow.

What a good idea, to have an entertaining diary cataloguing that hitherto hidden land of school, all the way through.

Nicola Taylor said: “My talented teaching assistant’s blog is an innovative way of informing our parents what goes on in Reception on a day-to-day basis. The setting and characters are fictitious but everything recorded has actually happened since September 2012".

“Parents have embraced the blog and are able to identify their own children among the characters - some sitting up til the early hours to read and enjoy it. With such dismal press about education at the moment, I think this is a bit of light relief that goes to show how hard teachers, support staff and children work in school - and have fun too.”

Nicola Winsland’s blog forms a permanent print-off-and-keep record of all those little things that happen at school, which would otherwise never have gone beyond the gate. Nicola - who is portrayed as Mrs Crayon in Mrs Very Jolly’s class - not only pens the blog but illustrates it delightfully.

She dreamed up the idea walking her dog on Ventnor Downs, deciding every post would be accompanied by an illustration. Every now and then a rhyme is thrown in for good measure. She wrote the blog in secret for a while until she had the confidence to share it.

“I didn’t tell my colleagues anything about my plan. In fact, I didn’t tell them anything about it for the first three months of blogging Sunnysiders 2012. I guess I wanted to see if I could actually type using only two fingers and still leave enough time to produce some drawings.”

When she did spill the beans, Nicola Taylor’s reaction could not have been more positive and the merry blogger had already built up an archive of stories for them to get their teeth into.

Nicola Winsland said: “Judging by the feedback after reading the backlog of posts, our parents couldn’t quite believe the amount of exciting learning experiences their children had already had the opportunity to participate in".

“They also enjoyed trying to identify members of the team depicted in the blog, as well as their own children, of course. I have no idea what I’m going to write about until it actually happens. It will always be inspired by something a little learner has said that day, such as ‘I sleeped with my eyes open’ or ‘my hamster repeats everything I say.’”

More at: The humour in life behind the school gates

You can read the blog here

Do you have a successful school blog you’d like to share with our readers? What makes it work well? Please add the link to the comments below …

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