It’s a mouthful, but it boils down to essentially two words: monitoring and feedback. We already know why we do it: we need to make decisions, assess where our students are at, and what we need to do to get them to where they need to be. I’m not going to preach to you in this post about the importance of monitoring and feedback. In fact, I’m just going to ask some pointed questions to people in high places. Much higher than me, the plebian teacher. Because honestly? At times… I feel that’s all I am to the system.
I monitor and you do too. If you don’t think you do, every time you scan your classroom while teaching? You’re monitoring and assessing. Should I address that behaviour by stopping the class? Is Josiah interfering with Mikhail? (names are used generally, so Josiahs and Mikhails don’t take offense please.) Should I do that extra learning activity or skip it based on the time left? You’re monitoring and assessing, every day…and sometimes, all day.
In some cases, we also ‘over-assess’. We haven’t taught and reinforced enough, but it’s close to mid/end of term and we need to give those standardized tests. We need marks, a summative grade and that hijacks everything. We forget about all the interruptions to our teaching, the days missed for meetings and unforeseeable events…and we expect to produce grades. Good grades.
I don’t blame administration, I don’t blame middle management. The pressure is on their backs as much as it is on ours. Here’s what I don’t get: why is it that we’re out of a pandemic, and our system of education still can’t, (after 3 years!) have an effective monitoring and feedback system of its own?
There are days when I ask myself, “So, what did they actually put in place to monitor and track students enrolled in our schools?” “What did they do about all the students who fell off the grid during quarantine? Have they been re-absorbed by the system? Was there some structured reintegration in place for them?” Or did we just do what I think we did: Say it’s over and go back to the old ways. If students fell off the grid, it’s on them and their parents.
Additionally, we’re now dealing with the threat of ‘global boiling’, melting polar ice caps and unprecedented outbreaks of once frozen viruses. Actually I shouldn’t say now, because it’s been in the cards for a while. We’re heading for some major disruptions worldwide and not to be a doomsdayer, but we could very well find ourselves in another crisis, be it a pandemic or an extremely hazardous natural disaster. Also, let’s not forget the MANY children who can’t go to school right now, because their countries are at war.
Is it that we’re just going to live in a bubble and pretend we won’t be affected? That’s them, not us! Great, so what’s our plan if/ when it becomes us?
So I’m writing a letter to whom it may concern:
Dear Sir/ Madam,
I’m just a simple teacher in a classroom of about forty students and I need you to know how I monitor and give feedback:
I use my personal data plan: I don’t get a stipend to pay my phone bill or buy phone cards. I communicate via WhatsApp, I make calls to parents and it seems like it’s become an expected practice. I just wanted to know if you were thinking about providing me with a financial allowance for that?
I come in before/ stay back after school: I come in early or stay back late to set tests, grade assessments and plan lessons with built-in formative checks. Will these extra hours be compensated anytime in the foreseeable future?
I answer email & respond to messages on a privately-paid for LMS: Apart from teaching all day, I’m expected to post resources for my students, respond to messages and email from parents,admin & students. Sometimes, that means I have to do this from home, because there are days when I have 8 periods and just a short break & lunch to eat or, you know, be human, use a restroom. Would you be willing to assign me a clerical assistant/ cover the cost of my Internet bill?
I’m an extracurricular coach, motivating students, one-on-one, to give their best even if they’re having a bad day. I provide a listening ear, even though I’m not a psychologist or counsellor: I chaperone students to football matches/ basketball games/ cricket matches/ music & drama festivals...you name it, I do it. During this time, we get to talk and students share with me what’s going on in their lives. I get a better understanding of them as ‘whole’ individuals and they get to see that I really care. Again, can we discuss reimbursement? And I don’t even mean monetary…how about some compensatory time, that’s NOT my weekend?
I would also like some information as regards your own monitoring and feedback mechanisms:
Is there a national database of students enrolled in the system? Excuse my ignorance, but every year I fill in a Demographic form for my Form class. Is this data stored somewhere? And if it is, what is it used for? I’ve never been told, nor do I see the analytics at the end of the process.
What is the reintegration plan for the students who dropped out of school during the Covid-19 pandemic? Were home visits made by the necessary authorities and a needs assessment conducted? If so, what’s the proposed framework for re-absorbing these students? Surely you’re not adhering to the ‘Well he/she’s eighteen now…so it’s too late for him to write the regional/ international school leaving exam.’ That simply can’t be your response. Not as the system that produces, or rather, SHOULD produce an efficient work-force.
Will you be investing in a nationwide Learning Management System? Certainly, a budget must have been set aside for doing just this. On my salary, a Zoom subscription isn’t feasible and surely, you don’t expect me to teach in free 40-minute sessions that cut off when my time’s up. Also, please remember that Zoom isn’t an LMS. Is there a system I can use to create modules and lessons for my students? I mean, one that you’re paying for, not me.
What’s our plan for flood days/ natural disasters? Again, is there a back-up plan in place for the inevitable? Is there a department responsible for creating and disseminating wellness and ‘marked safe’ checks for students? Of course, that might require you to invest in an LMS…so probably back to question 3. You can argue that tech might be knocked out in this scenario and that’s probably true. But at least we should meet to put our heads together and come up with a plan to make sure our students are safe if/ when these events happen. Or is it, out with Duty of Care when these calamities befall us?
I look forward to your response and sign off with utmost respect.
Honestly my fellow educators, I’m tired of being asked how I monitor and give feedback on students. I do the job, I report to Deans, pass on to Guidance and yes, they too, are working on hundreds of cases all at the same time. I’ve seen Deans miss their own classes because they have to deal with disciplinary matters. I’ve seen guidance counselors jump into their own cars (pay their own gas bill) and head to students’ homes and community police stations. The monitoring and feedback is happening on the ground level...in the schools themselves. But I wonder what happens when all the data leaves our hands/ desks.
Sad to say, but some days, I wonder what’s the point? Today is probably one of those days, because a student I know, who passed through the system, is facing criminal charges. I think about yet another student, who was brutally executed…did we go wrong somewhere? There are literally piles of incident reports on these students and the monitoring and feedback WERE done. But where did it go when it left our hands? You see, because there’s always a time when we get the “Well, you’re just the teacher and this isn’t your jurisdiction. We’ll take it from here.” So we step aside and watch the inevitable happen- the child becomes a file on a desk (one of many), even though deep inside, we still hope and pray that someone WILL actually take it from here…
What’s effective monitoring and feedback? Simple: a system that doesn’t give up on a child, just because it costs too much to invest in him/ her. Simple: a system that doesn’t just kick an orphan out of a home because of his/ her age and tell him/ her to fend for themselves. Simple: a system built on the social and emotional intelligence of both adults and children.
Do we have a system like that? I’ll let you be the judge.