Monday, September 26, 2011

Parent reactions to googledocs checklists

Since I am a parent, and I would love for any of my own kids' teachers to do the kind of tracking I talked about in my last post, I decided to contact a few parents. I started with the kids who needed a little, um, friendly boost to get them working. For example, I sent this snapshot of one student's summary to one parent, and cc'd the principal:

Remember, red is not good. The principal wrote me an email the next day to say that this snapshot had resulted in the parent coming to the school and meeting with a counselor, all for the purpose of getting her child on track. Apparently, this has been somewhat of a theme for this child. In short, this colorful snapshot had the impact that no other previous conversation had had in this particular household. The next snapshot looked much better:

Just another note about this particular student....notice the timestamp on the left in the last line.....this kid was doing math at midnight on a Friday night! I don't know what this says about me as a person, but that makes me feel....I don't I have been given superpowers. Googlepowers! I am Thor! But I will not use these powers for evil.....

I want to empower my students, not just to tattle on them to their parents. If this doesn't result in anything positive for them, I'll just become a nag and it'll be more work that I make for myself and them. It HAS to result in growth.

But that's not to say that telling parents is a negative. Two other parents were very impressed and grateful for the information I sent them. In both cases, the outcome was positive and helpful for the kids involved. As it turned out, one was reluctant to ask for help with the math, and the other didn't even know where to find the checklists, but was too embarrassed to ask. He knows now, and so does his mom, and she was thrilled to have access to it!

Thoughts for the next phase of using these gdocs:
  • How do I make this practice of updating checklists empowering for them?
  • How truthful are they being? Some things I can check on directly, like things that are handed in, but not everything on the list is handed in. And shouldn't I find a way for them to value being honest other than just checking up on them?
  • Should I give a mark for these checklists? They get marks for some of the items on the list, of course, but not all. A mark for keeping the list updated would be one sure way to get kids to do it. But I want their motivation to be deeper than that.
  • Time to get some feedback from the kids - is this just another chore for you to get over with, or does it help? Have you learned anything about yourself as a result of doing this? Maybe I should send their own snapshots to them. I showed one girl hers, because it was a thing of beauty, as you can see:

    In fact, there's math here - when you check something everyday, you get a straight line, sort of....and she seemed to think it was pretty cool too. So before I ask for feedback, I should show them their own weekly snapshot maybe. Sigh. More work.
At any rate, a few cliches come to mind: A picture is worth a thousand words. To thine own self be true. But most of all, power corrupts! I am Thor!

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