24/7 Teacher

7.jpgOur school is going digital. Now don’t get me wrong, we don’t live in the Middle-Ages and have had computers for years. There are quite a number of IT rooms where we are encouraged to take our students to do work online. For instance, next Wednesday I have planned to take the horrible class there to make them work on J.K. Rowlling’s biography.

The digital plan is something different. I f I have understood rightly, the idea is to put online what is now done on paper. Thus, what at present I write down in my planner at the end of each lesson will soon have to be written online. The fact that we do not have a laptop in the rooms does not seem to be an obstacle, which means that I will have to write it down in my planner first and then again once I get home.

The same applies to absentees. Whenever a student is absent I write his/her name down in a big book and also on a slip of paper. The book is checked at the end of each day whereas the paper is checked almost immediately so that the school can phone the parents if they suspect foul play. It is actually quite efficient and the number of skivers has been reduced dramatically since the beginning of the year. I believe that with the new system I’ll have to go online at the end of each day to enter the names of the students who will have been away.

Another innovation is the fact that we will have to provide an email address so that the parents and students can reach us and ask us questions whenever they feel the need. Obviously it is necessary, even desirable, to meet the parents (I met a family last Monday and another one the week before), but we already have a system through which the parents can contact us. At the beginning of each school year, all student receive a small notebook which contains the school rules and where each student writes their personal schedule and then the marks they get. This notebook is filled in by families to explain a child’s absence or delay. At the end, there’s a section for correpondance between families and teachers. It works quite well most of the time and when a student “fails” to show it the school can ring the parents or the parents ring the school and decide on an appointment.

What I dislike about the new system is the feeling that the small haven that is my home will lose some of its soothing value since I will be likely to receive emails from (angry) parents – I somehow find it hard to imagine that someone will bother to write to me to thank me about the great work I do with their kids – any time and any day. Besides if we provide the email address given by the administration they will be able to check if we have anwered the parents, when and what we have written. This feels too much like Big Brother for my liking. Then what about the High Holidays when I purposely don’t use my computer, even if sometimes I have to work, to preserve some of the sanctity of the day(s)? Am I being excessive in my doubts about the new system?

3 thoughts on “24/7 Teacher

  1. I can understand your concerns. As a teacher, I would worry about the same things as well. I think that in this case, an ounce of prevention is called for. Think carefully about what you are and are not willing to do online, and when. Discuss your concerns with your supervisor, or write her a memo. You want to make your intentions clear at the very beginning, so that you don’t get criticized later on for “not cooperating”. Teachers have the right to provide feedback about a new system and request modifications to it if necessary.

  2. I’m a bit late getting to this post, but I think that e-mail is a boon to teachers. It depends on the class size, of course, but I find it very useful in communicating with parents. However, I am shocked that anyone would implement this if teachers don’t have their own computer to use for responding.

    Here are some guidelines I follow:
    1. Be the first to e-mail, preferably earlier in the year, and e-mail about something positive: the student did well on a quiz, the student asked some excellent questions in class today. That way, if you ever have to e-mail about something negative, the parent already has a positive impression of you.
    2. Answer all parent and student e-mails within 24 hours: excluding Shabbat and holidays, of course. I often tell my students that if an assignment is due by e-mail on Friday, it needs to land in my Inbox before candle-lighting or it is considered late.
    3. If you are unable to respond within 24 hours, send a quick note that acknowledges receipt and tell them when you will get back to them. Then beat that time by at least an hour.
    4. CC the administration.
    5. Attach files with samples of classwork. If I am e-mailing a parent to say that their child did not turn in the homework, I will attach a copy of the assignment so that they can have a productive conversation with their child.
    6. Be polite, clear and professional. I prefer to save e-mails in draft for an hour before sending them, and then read them over to see if there is anything that can be phrased better.
    7. Spell check. Twice.

    Hope that helps, good luck!

  3. Thank you for taking the time to answer so thoroughly. I’ll have to print that and keep it near my computer.

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