October 22, 2010

Time for Students, Parents...AND ME?

One of the struggles that I face every year is how available I should/need to make myself to my students and parents outside of the school day.  As an educator, my first year of teaching was fraught with overextending and over volunteering myself.  Now I worry that I am turning myself into a seeming recluse to my students and parents.

However, a little background is in order.  At my school I am a drama teacher.  That requires a ton of my own free time in order to choose, produce, and direct a play.  Now, don't get me wrong, it's what I love to do.  There are not a lot of other ways for me to spend my time that would make me happier.  However, it does account for A LOT of my time.  That being said, I try to limit the amount of extra time beyond these requirements in order to help guarantee that I have a life outside of work.

The dilemma is that students and parents need my time outside of my work day, but I need it too.

Here are some of the solutions I have found:

1. E-mail: Who would have thought, right?  Many teachers and administrators still believe that the best and only correct way to contact parents is by phone.  However, that means finding times when parents will most likely be available to talk and when I am available to talk at the same time.  It also prevents both sides from composing their thoughts clearly and in an organized manner.  One other issue that I have found is that I do not have a landline phone at home, I have my cell phone.  If I call using that, then my parents have my cell phone number.  Not to be hurtful, but I'm not okay with that.

2. Online Classroom: One of the changes that I have made is taking my classroom entirely online.  I SCOURED the internet to find a site that would fit my needs.  It could not require student e-mail addresses.  Students could not be able to send private messages to one another, to help prevent cyber bullying.  I found one that fit the bill, Edmodo.  It is a great site that offers me an online gradebook and assignment creation.  I can embed video, documents, and presentations (especially Prezis) and students can turn in documents to me through the site.  Because my classroom is online and every assignment is posted there my students' work and progress remain entirely transparent to them and their parents.

3. NO OFFICE HOURS...Make an appointment.  If you really think about it, seeing students by appointment makes WAY MORE SENSE.  I want students to plan ahead and think about the reasons that they need to see me and what help they are looking for.  How many students come to their teachers and say, "I don't get it!"  By making appointments to see me for assistance they first have to see me and say, "I don't get it!"  Then, I can say, what is it that you don't understand, and when can I help you?  In addition, having an appointment helps to guarantee that they will show up for the time.

Education is changing, shifting, adapting, and that is what I encourage my colleagues and my students to do everyday.  One specific thing that is changing is that people are getting busier and busier, and teachers are no different.  As soon as I started working with the level of technology in my classroom that I now have to be a teacher and tech support.  Keeping all of this in mind, it is IMPERATIVE to find new ways to make it all work for you and your students.

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