This is the latest in a series of blogs by partners of the Fluency work.
By Riley Bonar
I could sit here and talk with you about how it’s important to communicate with your students’ families. How developing those relationships really matter, but we already know this. It isn’t new information for us. What I’m here to share with you is how the Fluency Project has helped me realize the valuable potential of building these relationships authentically.
I’ve been using the app Remind in my classroom since I first started teaching. This past year, I decided to try something else. I wanted to facilitate the growth of relationships between myself and my families, but also for relationships between families, too. Through Facebook and email lists, I had opened new doors to becoming more than just their child’s teacher. I became friends with my families. Through the spring semester, with Covid-19 taking over any and all plans, I did have a small sense of security. I had worked so diligently on cultivating this classroom community. My families were all present online—100% of them. I even had some grandparents and step-parents involved as well. Before we had any direction from our county, I jumped out there and started going “Live” on my page. I read stories, shared mini lessons, reminded them how much I missed them, and asked them how they were doing. I never had a pause in my mind thinking “What if the parents are watching these silly videos I’m making?” It literally never crossed my mind. Even if they had been watching, which I’m sure they were, it didn’t matter. I didn’t care. These parents are now my friends, and I value the relationships we formed.
I look forward to hearing from them every chance I get! They share with me about losing teeth, reading a book, or where they’re going on a trip. I love their sweet messages and videos. And yes, I get these messages from parents with the occasional cameo from their child. This platform became more than just relaying information from school to home and back around again. It has become a way for us to connect.
When people ask me, “Tell me about yourself? What do you do?” I don’t respond with just saying that I teach and whatever else. I say that “I am a teacher.” It’s usually the first statement that comes from me. Being a teacher isn’t just a part of who I am; it is my essence. It’s truly the definition of who I am. Sure, I’m other things too. A wife, a dog mom, a photographer, but the thing that matters so much is that I’m a teacher. I’m proud to be a teacher.
Riley graduated from West Liberty University in 2014 with a major in Elementary Education and minors in Special Education and Early Education. Riley began a career as a teacher at Warwood School in second grade and then moved on to be the Leaders of Literacy Reading Specialist. She is now going into her fourth year teaching Kindergarten at Woodsdale Elementary.
Riley has been engaged in the West Virginia Campaign for Grade Level Reading and The Fluency Project. She is currently is a member Cohort 3 of The Data and Technology Fluency Project with West Liberty University and the CREATE Lab (situated in Carnegie Mellon University). Riley’s special interests include keeping up with the latest early education trends and bloggers, portrait photography, being a pet mom to her fur babies, and thrifting.