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EdTech Update





Parent-teacher conferences - who needs 'em?

Instead of dedicating two evenings and a full day to conferences this fall, Westwood Middle School teachers are holding weekly office hours, calling, emailing or meeting with parents during that time, as well as making themselves available for face-to-face meetings on specific dates in October (from 8 a.m. to noon Oct. 14 and 4-8 p.m. Oct. 20), February and April. Westwood Middle School to ditch traditional conferences, Oct 12, 2015

I have always dreaded parent-teacher conferences. As a child, I remember putting nails under the tires of my parents' car, hoping they would get a flat tire that would keep them from the conferences where I was sure my teacher would tell them every horrible thing I had done in school that year. While I never remember my folks coming home with bad reports, the conferences still made me very nervous. I never ranked high on "comportment" or "effort" though my test scores were always pretty good. Hmmmm.

Anyway, the article above talks about one district scrapping the traditional twice-annual ritual of parents and teachers (and sometimes kids) meeting to discuss student achievement, behavior, and who knows what. In my former district, one of our strategic plan's metrics was the percentage of parents participating in P/T conferences. But as we joked as teachers, the parents who didn't need to be there were the ones who showed up; the parents who we really wanted to talk to were nowhere to be seen.

I argued that given the access to their children's data through parent portals into the student information systems (grades, attendance, discipline, assignments, etc.) attending a F2F P/T conference wasn't as important as it may once have been. How many of us visit a banker or investment counselor or read our monthly bank or investment statements when we can monitor our accounts in real time, online? Does it make sense for either a parent or teacher who wants parents as a partners to wait until a quarter of the school year is gone to communicate?

To me, real-time access, whether online, telephone calls, or as-needed conferences with a specific purpose, are far more beneficial than the tables in gym a couple times a year.

Shouldn't we be differentiating and personalizing parent education as well as student education?


BFTP: Who Doesn't Get It?

My principal just doesn't get it. How can anyone not understand just how good libraries are for kids?

I always shudder when I hear anyone say that someone else doesn't "get it." Why might a person, "not get" something that seems obvious to the one expressing frustration?

  • That the person is stupid. (Amazing, however, that a stupid person could get through graduate school.)
  • That the person is being willfully ignorant. (I supose such devious people exist - but to what purpose?)
  • That the person has not been properly educated. (They don't ever talk about libraries/technology in administrator training programs.)

Here is what I think is more likely -  most administrators "get it" just fine - they just have a different reality that makes our "it" less important to them than it is to us.

We can offer the very best hammer in the world, but if your principal really needs is a saw, having a great hammer is immaterial. They get "it" that you have a good hammer - it just isn't relevant.

Maybe it's us that don't get "it."

Just thinking about this as I read our district's AYP results in this morning's newspaper. The only "it" some principals will be "getting" is how to raise the reading or math scores of certain groups of kids.

Please stop saying, "They just don't get it." It may reflect on your lack of empathy and understanding, not your principal's.

Original post August 11, 2010. This was expanded into a column on effective communications too.


Jennifer LaGarde, Zombie Fighter

Last Saturday, Jennifer LaGarde gave the keynote at our ITEM state library/tech conference.

It may have been the best keynote I've ever heard aimed at library media specialists. Period. And I have heard some good ones. 

In BRAINZ! How To Survive The Zombie Librarian Apocalypse! Jennifer shared 7 tips (and a lot more wisdom) about how to fight for improved library programs that are relevant and effective in today's schools. Like the speakers who best motivate, the talk was a strategic blend of smarts and heart and a reminder that great school library programs are too important to too many kids for them to be in jeopardy - and that it takes good school librarians to create such programs.

And just maybe, I liked the talk so much since I heard echoes of my excoriations to the field over the past 30 years- but delivered more effectively.

Anyway, a chance to hear MY hero in action. Keep up this important work, LibraryGirl!

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