I just finished dinner with the family.
I sat down in my chair after queuing up an episode of “Dora The Explorer” on the DVR for my kids. I picked up my smartphone, put on my reading glasses (the text is so small on these things!), checked my Edmodo notifications, and gmail. I had a couple of messages from students with questions about tonight’s homework and what to expect in class tomorrow. I fired off the replies before the intro song finished. Then, as I usually do in the evening, I checked my Twitter feed.
For those of you who don’t know much about Twitter, it is growing in popularity among teachers, school leaders, and parents as a way to collaborate and discuss big picture issues affecting education today. There are many “chats” that take place regularly. I saw a Tweet from someone I follow that mentioned the topic of tonight’s “parent-teacher chat,” called #ptchat, which is “planning a parent camp.”
I began to think of all the ways I have communicated with parents so far this year. Many of the exchanges were focused on topics of blog posts, but many more were emails from parents asking for clarity on comments that I sent home at mid-term. Some parents write to share information about important things that have happened at home and they just want to keep the teachers in the loop. All of these email exchanges are priceless. The more chances we have to interact and share information about our students and what we are learning in school, the better we are able to individualize the instruction that we deliver to students.
I sat on the chair tonight and thought how great it would be to be able to chat with the parents of my students while they were sitting down at home with their kids as the kids began their evening routine. I’m sure many parents would love to be able to exchange a quick message with a teacher just to hear some news about what’s going on in the classroom.
Then my rapture was broken as I thought of pragmatics. I thought of how I spent my time this day and my head began to spin at how fast and furious the day moves. Here’s a brief recap of what I recall of my day today:
5:45 AM Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head
6:30 AM Ironed my shirt in the kitchen
7:00 AM Drove to work listening to pundits haggle about the 2nd Presidential Debate
7:50 AM Meet with two colleagues to discuss Junior SAM class. We talk of ways to differentiate instruction to meet students where they are. We are currently working on an essay on a novel by Sherman Alexie.
8:40 AM Meet with parent, student, and team of colleagues in Wheeler House
9:00 AM Junior English 1 class meets in the computer lab to work on rough draft of Ties That Bind Unit literary analysis paper
10:00 AM Prep block. Check and respond to email, schedule meetings for coming days, filled out “permission to be absent” form for a WORKSHOP I will attend next Wednesday.
11:00 AM Deliver the “permission to be absent” form to front office only to be told that I need to get the formed signed by my Department Head. (There is no line on the form that says ‘Signature of Dept. Head’)
11:30 AM Meet with teaching partner, Kirsten Russell, for Modern Global Communities program. We meet weekly and discuss students who seem to be struggling and how to reach them. We came up with a policy a few weeks back where we require all 44 of our students to check in with either of us once a week during J block. So far, the kids who struggle seem to avoid us! But we don’t give up on these kids; instead we work together to figure out action steps. We also write our interdisciplinary curriculum during this time. Last week, we created this document about our Global Citizenship Project for T1. This time flies by as we often talk about ways our English and history classes intersect and we generate ideas for activities and projects in coming days and in future terms.
12:30 PM Lunch with colleagues in Goldrick teacher room.
12:50 PM Sophomore MGC classes meet in Library classroom for a presentation by Ms. Jen Dimmick on how to search for articles outlined in the document linked to above. Ms. Dimmick rocks our world with the web page she created in collaboration with her colleagues in the Library Department. After her presentation, students use laptops to find current event articles about their country’s involvement in the International Criminal Court.
2:00 PM Sophomore MGC class meet back in 1301 to complete 1984 Dialogue Journals, then to discuss reading from last night. Here’s our reading schedule with a description of what to do in a Dialogue Journal. We discuss Orwell’s vision of a dystopian future and how the masses lose the ability to think critically and thus are oppressed by an authoritarian government bent on maintaining power.
2:50 PM. J Block. During the next 40 minutes, approximately a dozen students check in with me. I have fairly involved discussions of about 5 to 10 minutes each with about 4 or them while the other kids approach me with quick questions. This is a veritable gauntlet that makes my head spin but I keep up beat and listen as patiently as I can to student concerns.
3:45 PM. I sit at my computer and grade quizzes that my MGC honors student submitted to Edmodo on the essay “Politics and the English Language” by George Orwell.
4:40 PM I get a call from my wife which snaps me out of my trance. I grab my bag, run down the stairs and jump in the car for the 45 minute drive down to Canton (which is only about 15 miles from Newton).
5:30 PM I play tennis on the patio with my 3 yr old son.
6:00 PM bath time and then dinner
7:00 PM Sit down to check email and Twitter and ponder how awesome it would be to have a Twitter chat with parents of my students on a nightly basis.
7:25 PM Reality check, realizing that I have an idea for the week’s blog post; run upstairs to type out the draft of this blog
8:30 PM Bedtime stories
9:00 PM pecking out the finishing touches of this blog on my smartphone as my daughter falls asleep.
I realize after writing this that at the end of the day, I am human and I can’t do everything. I can’t personally reach out to all parents each day. I can’t do all the reading I assign my students in three different classes I teach. I can’t read new books to feed my own passion for learning. I can’t possibly grade all of the essays I have neatly tucked away in my school bag. (At the moment, I have about 6 class sets of student essay to grade. This will be the topic of another post). I can’t do it all.
But I can be present in the moment I am face to face with students. I can communicate personally with 3 or 4 parents per day. I can publish most of my course material on the web for parents and students to access. I can write a weekly blog to keep parents abreast of news from the classroom. I can design and deliver high quality lessons that spark interest and motivate action in my students.
And I can come downstairs when my wife calls me to carry my three year old son up to bed.