By: Danielle Yanssens
As middle and high school educators for a virtual school, we are often frustrated when we try, and fail, to contact students. It is our policy for each teacher to contact their students at least once a week to ensure that they stay on track in their courses and to give the students an opportunity to ask questions. However, if the student simply won’t pick up the phone, how do we make that contact? We try emailing and messaging through our student information system, and some students will respond. However, the best way several of our teachers have been able to stay connected to their students is by texting. Your first response may be to say “that isn’t true communication, you can’t really connect with someone through a text.” But is that really true in today’s technology based world?
I took a look at my own personal experience with texting to evaluate whether I felt this was a quality way to communicate. My phone rarely rings, especially during business hours. I receive several texts a day from friends, family and co-workers though. Sometimes it is a quick message letting me know that my daughter’s practice was cancelled or a reminder to run an errand after work. Co-workers who aren’t in my building will often send detailed texts regarding an upcoming project or situation that needs handling. If I need more information, I will call them, but if not, I appreciate being able to address the message when I have time. I truly value text messages from my two teenage daughters. I think back to when I was a teenager, and cell phones were rare. I have access to what is going on in my daughters’ day, far more than my parents ever did, through text messaging. The ability to text definitely makes me feel more “connected” to family, friends and co-workers. Some may not see this as a quality type of communication, but as we continuously tell our teachers they need to find ways to “connect” with their students – if text messaging works, then why not use it? Below is an example of a text message between one of our teachers and a student. I would call that great communication, since this teacher wasn’t able to contact the student via phone or email all semester. It’s definitely better than no communication at all.
Me: Hey Jennifer! This is Mr. D your math teacher! I’m worried about your progress!
You are only 6% done with my course and should be around 50%.
Is there anything I can do to help you get moving a little quicker?
I love math and love to help! Let me know please! Mr. D. 2:10 PM
Jennifer: Um could u send me a print out of the week by week pacing guide and I am having a really rough
time with fractions 2:12 PM
Me: You should have one in your folder with the rest of the math worksheets. I will try and send another one,
but you can always download it in schoology and just follow along! You wouldn’t need to print it out.
Do you have time to work a bit right now with me on the phone? 2:23 PM
Jennifer: Yes I do
Me: Okay, great! 🙂 2:34 PM
Me: Don’t forget…I’m here to help almost every day! Just need to ask! That’s what we do! 🙂 2:36 PM
Jennifer: Okay thank you 2:37 PM
Danielle Yanssens is in charge of Continuous Improvement for My Virtual Academy. Her organization also offers On-site Alternative Education programs, several free online learning options and credit recovery for students throughout the state of Michigan.