Remote Reflections from a Teacher Turned Trainer

July 02, 2020

SchoolStatus Trainer Tyler Cummings has been asking a lot of questions about the return to school in the fall after months of remote learning and an unusual summer break. His thoughts always comes back to one thing— relationships. 

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School will start again at some point.

What will it look like? I don’t know.

Will it be normal? I doubt it.

Will it be a traditional schedule? I think a lot of districts are hoping it will be.

I think there will also be some distance learning in the fall, maybe a hybrid system. Call me a pessimist, but I just can’t see school going back to business as usual. Not yet, maybe not ever again. 

Preparing for an Unusual Year

So what do we do about it?

If I’m a teacher, how can I prepare for a new school year with new challenges with new students? If the school year doesn’t start traditionally or if the school year starts off normally, but we have to shut everything down in mid-September… How can I get to know my students when I don’t have my students in front of me?

It was a point of pride for me to know all my student’s names by the end of the first week of school (high school teachers know this is a challenge, elementary school teachers… I’m jealous of your 20-ish kids). When teachers know who their students are, the kids will trust the teacher. When the kids trust the teacher, the teacher can teach the kids. As an Educational Diagnostician, there is an abundance of data I have access to without needing to bother anyone or make copies from the perm folder.-1

And where does that leave us now?

Getting to Know You

We want to know our kids, but we might be hamstrung by a global pandemic. And what if we weren’t? Wouldn’t we still want to know everything about our students before they walk into our classrooms? Of course. And the beauty of using SchoolStatus is that we can do that today during a global pandemic and we can do this next year when (fingers crossed) we have gotten past COVID-19, we can do that next semester with new students, we can do that at any point, including those professional development days that we have at the beginning of the school year. 

As soon as a teacher has access to a student in your district’s student information system (PowerSchool, SAM, iNow, etc.) they will have access to that student in SchoolStatus. They have access to their historical grades, attendance, discipline records, prior year’s state tests or benchmark assessments. They have access to the entirety of the student’s record without the need to go to another teacher and ask “How was Johnny in your class?” 

Sometimes our schools are small enough that we know everyone in the building anyway. Sometimes they are so large that we might not know some of the other teachers in our building. In either case, an educator doesn’t have the time to ask anyone about little Johnny. Let alone little Jackie, little Jill, little Joe…

But little Johnny’s teacher last year left a note on the Student Card about Johnny. “He’s a bit overactive at times, but does well when you seat him near the front of the room.” Perfect! Now as I make my seating chart, I can be sure to add Johnny near the front. There might be a note for Jill, “Mom and Dad are not in the picture, she lives with Grandma and Grandma is awesome.” And now you know a little more about her.

visualization (1)

We spend an entire year getting to know our students. We learn a lot of quirky things about them. I once taught an 11th Grader that loved dinosaurs more than my preschool aged son. I love knowing those things about the kids. I made sure that I shared that information in Notes. 

Looking at historical trends in attendance is helpful to know who we need to focus our attention on early in the school year. Should I make my first phone call home to the kid with three years of perfect attendance or the parents of the kid who missed every Friday in the second term?

Using prior assessments to help form a baseline for my students prior to taking a benchmark will help me set better expectations in my classroom. If I teach a state tested course and I know how all my students scored before they walk in the room, I can better place them into differentiated subgroups. I can use data to help shape my classroom before the school year even starts. 

The best data about a student is not quantitative. It’s not state test scores or number of absences. It’s qualitative. It’s the story of this kid. Who better to tell you that story than Mom, Dad or maybe Grandma? The best tool that SchoolStatus can give to an educator is easy access to communication. As soon as that student is assigned to me, I can reach out to the parents and begin the conversation. They have questions about who you are. They have questions about how you teach. They have worries and fears. They have expectations for their kids. And no one knows their kid better than a parent. Reaching out is the best tool that an educator has. 

Will Covid-19 affect our classrooms next fall? Yes. Does it need to stop us from getting to know our students? No. Nothing can stop education. Nothing can stop educators from making those connections with students. SchoolStatus is an awesome tool to help you do exactly that. 

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SchoolStatus gives educators a real-time picture of all data associated with their students including benchmarks, state assessments, grades, discipline, attendance, etc. From the same view, educators have tools to contact parents via text, email, or call while documenting the communication on the student record. No other parent communication technology provides tools for data analytics and parent communication from within a single system.

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