Education Binder: A Portable Teachers’ Lounge

By Stacy Allsbrook-Huisman

Think of the Education Binder as a portable teachers’ lounge. One way teachers gain insights about incoming students is through informal conversations with other teachers. With frequent school changes, a military-connected student won’t always have the benefit of this kind of communication. Their past teachers are not available to chat over a cup of coffee.

The Education Binder replaces this function of the teachers’ lounge for a military-connected student. The binder tells the story of the student. It’s a place where teachers can receive useful background information about a student, including communication from past educators, information about multiple moves, insight into social habits, strengths, needed improvements, and even a bit about family dynamics.

The complete picture

Every new student comes with a transcript, but an official transcript can’t begin to describe the resiliency and unique life style of a military-connected student. Official transcripts record grades, but they tell very little about the student as a peer or a learner. An Education Binder completes the picture of the student and his or her past courses of study.

Soon after my son began classes at a new school, I scheduled a parent-teacher conference with his homeroom teacher. I dropped off his Education Binder with his lead teacher a full week ahead to give the teacher an opportunity to review it before our conference.

On the day of our conference, the teacher brought the Education Binder. She told me that based on the information in the binder, which included past curriculum, report cards, and work samples, that my son would probably need additional help in writing and possibly math.

The teacher knew from the information in the binder that although writing was important at his last school, it was not at the same course rigor as the new school district. She also recognized that my son’s previous school was on a different track for math. Based on a letter from my son’s previous teacher, the new teacher believed he would be a good candidate for the accelerated track.

There is little doubt the Education Binder shortened the getting-to-know-you time for my son and his teachers by several weeks, saving frustration, and changes in class placement.

Teachers want to be able to meet their students where they are and challenge them where they can. Parents can help teachers get to know their students at a new school by providing complete background information found in a well-stocked Education Binder.

Using the Education Binder at registration

* Prepare the binder with information to show a full picture of the student. Include homework samples, notes from previous teachers, and more.

* When a student enters a new school, choose the right time and person to receive the binder: a counselor at registration or teacher during the first few weeks of classes, or both. Make copies of documents as needed for multiple recipients.

* Include a polite note to ask that the binder material be used as a supplement to the official registration packet when placing a student in appropriate classes.

* Give the teacher a week or two to review the binder, then request a parent-teacher conference. Waiting until the six or nine-week mark when conferences are usually scheduled may be too long to wait for a new student. The first few weeks of school are crucial to a child’s adjustment to a new school.

* Maintain the binder. Parents, teachers, and students can add new material regularly to keep the binder up to date. No need to wait for a move. PCS orders can come at any time, so the portable teachers’ lounge should be as prepared and up-to-date as possible.

Helping the student and the school

Even though the binder is not official information, it is useful to the school and helpful for the student. The binder is an essential form of personal communication between the parent and counselor, or parent and teacher.

As a parent, I never let my children’s official transcripts be the only link connecting their academic experiences from one school to the next. My son and daughter are much more than their transcripts, and it’s up to me as their parent to complete the picture by creating and maintaining our portable teachers’ lounge.

Stacy Allsbrook-Huisman is a military spouse, mother, and advocate for military-connected students. She is coauthor of Seasons of My Military Student: Practical Ideas for Parents and Teachers and Stories Around the Table: Laughter, Wisdom, and Strength in Military Life. Stacy uses an Education Binder to create smooth transitions for her son and daughter with every move.