Saturday, 21 February 2015

Family BBQ

One of my professional development goals this year is to establish and maintain better communication and relationships between school and home.  Don't get me wrong, we developed great home/school relationships last year. It happened organically though. I'm confident that it would probably happen again this year but I want to be more proactive.

I've planned to hold one social event and one learning event for our extended VRP family each term. Last night my family and I hosted the first ever VRP Family BBQ. For anyone new to the blog: VRP is the name my class goes by.
The story goes a little like this: our school has a  single gender program alongside the mixed gender classes. In our year 6/7 unit last year there was a boys class, a girls class and then two mixed classes. I taught one of the mixed classes.  Very quickly the children noticed that two of the classes had strong identities simply based on their single gender nature but the two mixed classes?  Well not so much.  Someone noticed that RP (I'm Mrs RP) sounds a lot like IP which through a bit of mental gymnastics lead to us becoming the VRPs.
Yesterday was - in the words of most of the VRPs - stinking hot.  Even with the air conditioner on, our learning space was 27C after lunch.  I was a bit nervous about the number of people who might pull out because of the heat but, having bought several kilos of sausages and pre-cooked several kilos of onions (by which I mean my husband did them), I wasn't about to cancel.

I'm so pleased I didn't. Families of about a quarter of the class came. Nearly 40 people in the extended VRP family came together in our learning space to share a meal. My husband cooked the bbq, and everyone else brought salads to share. The adults enjoyed getting to know each other, and the young people relaxed and had a few laughs.

Before everyone arrived I pinned up the 'working papers' of a maths activity that the VRPs have been working on this week.
Using at least one of (+, -, x, /) and "5" exactly 4 times make 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 & 10.
Each of 0, 1, 2 etc. have their own sheet of butchers' paper on which we've been recording number sentences as we discover them. I thought it would prompt some interesting discussions between the students and their parents.  It sure did.  Discussions, a wee bit of confusion, and competition! It also prompted some rich conversations about how the VRPs learn: the different entry points for learners at different points on their journey; the places of mental discomfort for all; the open ended nature of the problem; the ambiguous nature of the problem; the obvious collaboration and discussion.  Parents asked questions and our young people proudly demonstrated 'wisdom' as they explained their thinking and the benefits of our learning program.

It was a fantastic experience. The feedback on our Facebook group has been wonderful:
"Thank you so much for your efforts, time and food prep tonight. I really enjoyed being able to chat with some other parents, being a working Mum I haven't had much of an opportunity to do that."
"Thankyou for a lovely evening. Really nice to meet other parents, children and you (not as a teacher) and your family. Thankyou for your time and organizing this event." 
"Thanks for a great BBQ Markeeta and your assistant Geoff. Good night now to go geocaching."  (We had a long discussion about geocaching, and how we might get involved as a class, and possibly hold a geocaching event as our next social gathering.)
"Thank you Markeeta for a wonderful evening. We thoroughly enjoyed talking, & laughing, with other parents & students as well as you, your husband and your children. I was sooooo glad all the cakes were eaten (as our household is on a "health-kick" & dont need the temptation in the house hehe). The kids had a ball! Jackson & Amber had so much fun playing chasey with a heap of kids whilst Max liked 'chillin' with the older tweens/teens in the "Oasis". Thank you again. " (I wrote about our oasis here.)

There was actually very little planning involved, and the benefits far outweigh the costs. I can't wait for next term's event. (Did I mention that I love my class? And that their parents are a pretty awesome  bunch?  Well, if I didn't... I do. And they are.)

This relates to the following Australian Professional Standards for Teachers...
Standard 1 Know students and how they learn
Standard 3 Plan for and implement effective teaching and learning
Standard 7 Engage professionally with colleagues, parents/carers and the community

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