Sunday, August 03, 2008

Don't trust the teachers



Looks like if I lived in Lamar County in the state of Mississippi, I'd be trouble. 

Apparently the district has decided that any contact over a technological device between student and teacher must be sinister in nature because they banned any communications by way of Instant Message and Text Message.  This is just another edict in the list of measures that make teachers look unprofessional and give off the vibe that most instructors are just short of becoming the next Debra Lafave.  The whole thing stinks.  Now, why would the school district take the measures of barring techno-speak between students and teachers?  Could it be a scandal?  A long list of teachers that have gone afoul of the law?

"We didn't have any breech or event in any way that led us to this decision," Superintendent Ben Burnett said.

"The only intent is to limit the personal communication between teachers and students. We don't need to let it cross the line between professional and personal communication."

You're telling me that the teachers can't control themselves in creating personal relationships with students?  That technology actually facilitates these interactions?  Do they realize how absurd this sounds?  Obviously not, and once again the idea that technology is dangerous in the hands of teachers is disturbing.

If you haven't figured it out yet, I've both text messaged and instant messaged students.  I decided that communication between myself and the students could be enhanced by technology about three years ago.  I made myself available near the end of the year by e-mail and found that I was receiving e-mails nightly from students looking for a variety of resources; from links to websites, to clarification on homework.  But e-mail was limited to the time it took to respond so last year I got Window's Live Messenger on my computer.  See, I don't have kids and my evenings are usually spent eating, talking with my wife, and then watching Giants or Kings games in front of the tube with my laptop on the table.  Sports are great background noise.  I found that at least three nights a week I had students wanting academic assistance, and since I was working anyway, why not give it to them?  The students found it valuable and I found it good for kids' progress.  Facebook's new chat app has also been used, but more for ex-students that like to chit-chat about one thing or another.  The text message angle has been used less.  During field trips, Model United Nations trips, or during away basketball tournaments I use it to keep track of kids and send messages en masse.  Students text me from Model UN committee and ask where to meet for lunch (a college campus is quite big), and basketball players are given my number in case they are late for games (Santa Rosa traffic sucks). 

I have a couple of online rules that I follow when communicating with a student.  First, I log everything.  Live Messenger logs all communications that I have with students and those logs are saved.  Second, I never initiate a communication with a student unless it is directly related to an immediate school necessity (ie "meet outside of the BMU after committee).  Third, I don't delve into any area with the student that is not related to school.  Finally, I don't rehash what we did in class, including repeating what the homework was.  They know where that is and I'm not about to hold their lazy hand.  See, I monitor myself because I'm a professional, like the 99% of teachers that are out there trying to get these kids to succeed.  The technology is there to help us in that endeavor and slamming the door in our face is a great way to piss us off.  It's also hypocritical.  Teachers realize the pressure that society puts on them for success, but can't get a logical uniform standard in place that benefits the kids the most.  On one side you have the idiots in Lamar County banning technology, and on the other you have the examples like KIPP schools that basically require 24/7 technology access between student and teacher.  There can't be a happy medium? 

I know, how about we let teachers be professionals and go after the morons that get into inappropriate relationships with students.  That sounds like a more logical approach.      

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