Saturday, October 26, 2013

Parents Can Give Me Internet Headaches

I get a headache every time I believe I'm doing something extra, something out of my way, something good, and then I am told by someone that it is not enough.

I feel like a surfer on the crest of a wave when it comes to computer use as a teacher.  I have never felt like I was trying to catch up to the wave or have had the wave come crashing down on me.  I'm not going to say I'm a "pro surfer" at using the computer for educational purposes, but I'm the guy who even in his forties can still get up on the board ride a few on to shore with the occasional wipe out.

Computers were to free up time from my hands in order to develop and explore other activities for my classroom or even to "make my job easier".  At first, it was no longer having to re-type a test to edit them year after year since I could access my saved file from the previous year.  Determining final grades went from hours on a calculator to minutes setting up a spreadsheet.  And then came the Internet.

Researching was now done in my house than in the library and it became easier to share and borrow lesson plan ideas.  The real boom was to be in parental contact.

My parents would have loved having access to the following:

-Email contact with the teacher instead of having to call or be home for a call (remember, when I grew up there were no voice mails or even answering machines)

-Access to my grades 24/7 with up to the minute calculation of the marking period grade

-The ability to see a list of my homework assignments

-When I played sports, a list of upcoming games, cancellations, and directions to the fields

Not only would they have loved it, but appreciated the teachers for doing it.

However, the problem with access to all this information has been COMPLAINTS

Complaints that it is not enough, that it's too many "clicks" to find information, but worse...

Instead of the student 
having the primary responsibility for information
coming to the attention of the parent, 
it is shifting to the teacher.

-Parents have complained after seeing a low grade online that the teacher did not contact them, not realizing that posting the grade online WAS the contact.

-Although teachers are putting homework assignments online (and sometimes even notes), now the complaint is that it should all be on one page even though their child has multiple teachers.

So in order to keep up with a child who is not keeping up with their responsibility, 
my colleagues and I to should take time out of our day in order to make things more streamline;
enabling the student to do even less.

-Online is SECONDARY, the PRIMARY source of this information should be the student.  If a parent is going to complain about having to do the work of tracking down the information, it should be toward their child for not being responsible enough to take or get the information in class.

-Complaints about the directions to away sporting events, as if it is not posted on the school's website the opponent's school can not be found. In the time the email can be written to complain, the parent could have easily typed the school's name into a map search. (Somehow my parents knew the location of every middle school, high school, and college that I ever played, without the Internet)

Every time some new website or app is presented to teacher's, we are always told "this will make your job easier".  For me, sometimes the jury is out.

When parents tell me how much they appreciate and how much it helps their child that I take the extra time to input grades online or fill a website with the information about my class, it makes me feel that it was all worth it.

But when a parent complains they want things even easier or complain even though the access to information keeps on improving (as if it is never enough), it makes me want to pull the plug on the Internet and return to the days of it all being the student's responsibility to be the carrier of all correspondence from school.

I have had more complaints about increased communication in the Age of the Internet than I ever did in the days before the Internet.

If the extra work is going to create more headaches for me, then what's the point?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Is Childhood Dead?

I am going to sound old here, but I read two stories this week that made me wonder what happened to the America where I grew up.  One was of a middle school in Long Island that has banned most ball sports during recess and the other was of the U.S. Postal Service dumping a series of stamps that depicted kids doing outside activity such as skateboarding and cannonballing into a pool because as the designer stated:

 "Apparently the President’s Council [on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition] 
and the Let’s Move people saw them and had issues with them."

(So I guess a safer bet would have been kids locked in their bedrooms 
playing X-Box or texting on their cell phones)

What has happened to childhood?

Recess in school today is a joke.  When I was in school, we had an hour off for lunch.  The first half hour was to eat, the second was for recess.  One day, I saw some of my students come in after lunch and their 10 minutes (if that) recess with a football.

Me: "Did you win?"

Student: "No, Tie"

Me: "What was the score"

Student: "7-7"

Me: "Wow, high scoring for 10 minutes"

Student: "No, we scored one touchdown each"

When we played football during recess (through 8th grade), we often played up to 10.  Ten touchdowns.  We had the time to do so.  We played tag (another one of those banned games), or we spent the half hour talking with our friends.  I remember when some older kids invented a soccer type game with tennis balls and we had large 25 versus 25 games.  Yes it wasn't perfect.  People were bullied and kids scrapped their limbs making diving plays they dreamed would somehow find the lens of an ESPN camera, but it was fun.  

We learned to problem solve on the playground and also practice conflict resolution.


First, we cut down the time provided in the day for kids to have unstructured "kid time" and added more academic time as if this would increase academic achievement.

Now, we are whittling away at what kids can do during that limited time, and probably in the end, we will just remove it all together in the name of academic achievement by saying, "the kids don't do anything during recess anyhow".

What happened to the childhood I lived:

-Where recess could be the bright spot that pulled you through the afternoon after a rough morning of classes.

-Where adding more school days were not debated because summers were a time for kids to "explore new worlds" and "dream big ideas" (If you need a reminder, look for a Disney cartoon called "Phineus and Ferb).

-When testing was done once a year, and although you were expected to do your best, no one stressed you out from September until you took them in the spring that your life depended on it

-Where kids met on a local lot for a pick up game of football, soccer, baseball, etc. instead of every sport they played being organized and run by an adult.

-Where lawsuits weren't discussed if a kid came home with bumps and scratches.

When did that childhood die?