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Engagement for educators on the go

By Tips and ResourcesNo Comments

This blog post is part of our “Guide to Family Partnerships” series, based on the stories we collected while assembling our 2016–2017 Impact Report.

When parents try to reach a teacher or administrator over the phone, they’ll likely reach a phone ringing at an empty desk or have to leave a message that won’t be received until after dismissal. The resulting games of phone tag cause frustration and can undermine important relationships.

“If you call my desk, you’d never reach me,” says Harlem dean Mr. W., who is constantly away from his office and walking around the building providing student support.

Educator perspectives on how Kinvolved helps

KiNVO makes it easier for parents to reach school staff during their hectic days. For Mr. W., this close connection strengthens relationships: “Through text, I’ll get it and be able to text back. You’re not waiting until the end of the day to get what you need.”

Educators can also reach parents in real time, without being intrusive, via KiNVO’s text messaging feature, ensuring parents get the information they need no matter where they are. Mr. G., a guidance counselor in the Bronx, described being able to get in touch with a mother as soon as he realized her child was cutting class. When the parent saw the text, she called Mr. G. “from her cell phone, while standing on a street corner”—and solving the problem did not have to wait “until she got home and saw a missed call.”

With KiNVO, Ms. S. at a Brooklyn high school appreciates that she can ping parents when a tardy student shows up. “As soon as they come in, I take out my phone and send a quick message: ‘Just walking in.’ It takes ten seconds and it’s something I wasn’t able to do before.”

Putting it into practice

  • At the end of each day, sort by unread messages your Kinbox—your KiNVO message inbox—to be sure you reply to anything that may have slipped through the cracks.
    • Pro tip: To save time, sign up for daily notifications of unread messages.
  • Create in KiNVO a template bank of your commonly used messages, then simply customize your notes with the student’s name before sending.
  • Perform and narrate your KiNVO activities, such as swiping to take attendance or texting a positive message to parents, in front of your class. This will help you develop a routine while also building student investment in what you’re doing.
Kinvolved Technology

Building Kinvolved’s Technology with Empathy

By ThoughtsNo Comments

September marks not only the beginning of the school year, but also a time when we share new features with our Kinvolved community.

We’ve listened to every sentiment that you’ve shared–both words of delight and suggestions for improvement.

A 2015 survey of over 100 Kinvolved teachers in NYC showed that use of Kinvolved’s app had a significant positive impact on family engagement, both in terms of quality of communication and frequency of communication. Specifically:

  • 88% of teachers agreed that Kinvolved improved their communication with parents
  • 69% stated that using Kinvolved increased the frequency of parent communication
  • 66% noted that parents were easier to reach using Kinvolved’s text function

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Teachers also reported that they’re seeking:   

  • A better way to track communication efforts within Kinvolved’s app
  • Translated messages to break down language barriers that persist in high needs communities
  • More granular details about attendance data and messaging related to attendance

Kinvolved has listened, and new features include:

  • Pre-translated message templates
  • Improved attendance data page with views of subgroups of students based on attendance trends, and ability to send messages to each subgroup
  • More robust communication tracking system that conveys pulse checks regarding positive and negative messaging

We’re eager to hear what you think of these new features, and what additional features you’d like to see.

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We’re all in this together, with the shared belief that technology tools can be part of a systemic change for our children. We’re starting by messaging families, but we know that each day, with each message, we make a significant impact in the lives of teachers, students, and parents across the nation.

How can we do this better? Email me directly with your feedback or ideas at Alexandra@Kinvolved.com.

Alex is a co-founder of Kinvovled, and serves as Chief Product Officer. Previously, Alex worked in the South Bronx, advocating for and educating families of children with special needs. Alex is a 2012 Education Pioneers Fellow, where she worked with Teach For America and Leadership for Educational Equity developing scalable eLearning platforms. She holds an MPA in Health Policy and Analysis from NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service, and a BA in Psychology and minor in Anthropology and Sociology from Lafayette College.

Back to School: Starting Positive

By Tips and ResourcesNo Comments

Back to School: Starting Positive

Starting off the school year right takes thought and intention from both schools and families, and it can make a world of difference for the next 10 months.

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As the summer winds down, teachers are anticipating meeting the new students with whom they’ll spend the year. They’re thinking about the best way to quickly gain the confidence and trust of students and parents who have different backgrounds and expectations for the year ahead.

It’s the role of the families to guide their children through this transition into the fall.  

As a parent of elementary school children, my biggest job right now is to get them excited for school. I’ll let them know I’ve heard their new teachers are superstars. I’ll pique their interest about the new experiences they will have and the new friends they will meet, and give them a window into some of the work they will do by showing them videos or dabbling in relevant projects over the summer.

Approaching this school-family relationship with a positive attitude goes a long way toward setting the right tone for the rest of the school year. Once a positive tone is set, it’s much easier for both sides to accept constructive feedback and make tweaks along the way.

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Alternatively, when the wrong tone is set, there’s a risk children won’t be excited to come to school, parents will struggle to get their children to listen to their teachers, and children won’t be the learning sponges we know they can be.

Starting off right takes thought and intention from both parties, and can make a world of difference for the next 10 months.

Zvia Schoenberg is the VP of Business Development for Kinvolved. Zvia has served in strategy, business, legal and operations roles within K12 education institutions including networks of schools; the NYC school district; and stand-alone schools. Zvia received her JD from the New York University School of Law, and her BA from Washington University in St. Louis. She is fluent in Spanish and lives in Brooklyn, New York. Email Zvia at: zvia@kinvolved.com.

Parent Personalization: Good bye to _________________’s mom or _______________’s dad (Part 3 of 3)

By ThoughtsNo Comments

This is the third part of a three-part series of best practices, written by Michele Narov, Lead Teacher in Newark Public Schools.

Kinvolved’s communication app helps teachers reach parents and other members of students’ support networks to foster relationships. How can teachers make sure these relationships are positive and that the communication app is used to reach full impact?

Tip #10: Get to know your parents as people.

None of your parents are named _________________’s mom or _______________’s dad. 

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Surprisingly, nobody told me this when I started out, or I would have avoided some awkward dismissal time conversations, when I racked my brain to remember parents’ first and last names. During my second year, I took the time to introduce myself by name, smile at, and learn and remember the names of my parents, and whenever possible also learn little bit about them as people.

For older grades whose parents do not pick them up from school every day, referring to parents by names over a message can still add a very important personal touch. 

Tip #11: Never assume your students and their parents share a last name.

I am always careful to not address parents with the last name of my students and to double-check my parent contact sheets to ensure I am using the correct name. More often than not, my students and their parents do not share the same last name, and some people may be offended by the assumption.

Tip #12: When reporting a positive or negative classroom behavior, be specific and avoid ambiguous qualifiers.

This is such an important tip, and I still hear stories from fellow teachers who fall into the minefield of ambiguity. If you tell a parent, “Your child is off task at school,” they can easily misunderstand what happened. If you tell a parent, “Your child poked the girl sitting next to him with his pencil 3 times during math, and did not complete his worksheet,” you have a shared understanding of events.

This is true for positive calls, too! It sounds so much better to a parent to hear, “Alicia aced her last 3 math exams, and today she helped the student next to her to work out a really difficult problem,” than to hear, “Alicia is doing well in school.”

Tip #13: Only leave voicemails or send texts with positive news.

If I have negative news to report, I want to speak directly with a parent. If I get a voicemail, or send a text, I try to just leave a brief message asking that the parent call me back.

Tip #14: Invite parents into your classroom!

Does your school have career days? Invite your parents! We do parent breakfasts a few times a year. This year, the other third grade teacher hosted all of our parents during the holiday season for a gingerbread making competition with students. It was a really great way to get to know parents and also allow parents to get to know one another.

Tip #15: Offer instructional resources

Your parents want to help their kids, but not all of them know how. Provide them with websites, tip sheets, workbooks, and resources whenever you can. Kinvolved’s Community Managers can provide this directed support.

Tip #16: Find a translator!

Luckily, my school has a bilingual team and paraprofessionals who speak a variety of languages. But if you are a teacher at a school without access to translators, most school districts actually offer translation teams as a resource.


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Contributor: Michele Narov was Kinvolved’s Summer Business Development Associate. She was responsible for developing and fostering partnerships with schools, after school programs, and community organizations dedicated to improving student success. Michele is a Teach For America corps member, and serves as a third grade math and science teacher at Camden Street Elementary School in Newark, NJ.

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