Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Communicating With Students (pt. 2)

Art 1 Newsletter

E-mails/Messages: Every week I send all of my students a message informing them of the current project and general announcements. You’d think e-mail would be my main source of communication with students in an online setting, and while I do use it a lot I do not consider it to be the most effective way of communicating. I start every day by checking my messages and answering any questions I have from students. Many questions are difficult to answer or explain in plain text so I also answer some of them over the phone. E-mail is actually my least reliable method when it comes to motivating students, however it is very useful for sending out reminders. 

Phone calls: Talking with students on the phone was something I needed to get used to in the beginning, and for some students it is still uncomfortable to receive a call from their teacher. I speak on the phone with each of my 180 students at least once every 9 weeks, but I speak with many of them far more often. Phone calls serve many purposes such as updating a student about their grade, helping them one-on-one with an assignment, proctoring them (discussing specific work to prove its authenticity), and encouraging them to log on and do assignments. With distance learning, it can be more difficult to motivate a student because they don’t see you eye to eye wondering where their assignments are. Phone calls serve as my main method of motivating students because I become more than just text on the screen when I call them personally to talk about how they are doing. I find that students are incredibly honest with me when I speak with them on the phone. They share many things with me that are school related and not. When I call a student they know I am focusing on their success and with many of them, persistence pays off. I find that the struggling students I have succeed at higher rates with consistent phone communication from me. However, I still have a group of students who do not answer my calls and I spend a lot of time speaking to answering machines. This can be frustrating, but when I have quality conversations with students I feel like those are my moments to shine as a teacher. Today I spoke with a student about her future, her plans after school, and gave her suggestions about how to choose a college. Though I don’t see my students’ faces every day I am still able to get to know them and establish a healthy rapport.

Parent Newsletter: I recently sent my first classroom newsletter home to update parents and students about the second grading period. Because it is an online school, there is not a large amount of papers that go home so I wanted to communicate with parents in a way that didn’t involve the computer. I do not have access to reliable email accounts for parents either, so a letter seemed to be the most effective way of getting in touch. I am hoping to communicate to parents that I am approachable and excited to help their child succeed. I included a parent activity in the newsletter that requires them to work with their child and also to contact me. I have yet to see if this activity will be successful but I am aiming to engage the parents and guardians in their students’ learning.

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