Whether as a classroom teacher or as Director of Academics, I always appreciated opportunities to dialogue and collaborate with colleagues about many issues, all of which, directly or indirectly, were about students and students’ success. As a teacher, I always appreciated the days when staff would meet to write (yes, literally write and yes, a long time ago) report cards because I could actually see what other teachers were saying about my students and we could informally talk with other teachers and share concerns and strategies. Of course these opportunities only happened 3 or 4 times a year as did “Student Evaluation Meetings” during which teachers, administrators and guidance counselors discussed particular students’ issues. These meetings followed administrative review of student report cards and consisted of the list of students who were the most high profile with respect to behavior and/or academics. These were considered by both all constituents as some of the most productive meetings vis-à-vis sharing concerns and strategies for follow-up interventions. Parenthetically, these meetings have continued into the digital age of report card entries.
As Vice Principal and then Director of Academics, I often required information about students, certainly more often than the requisite 3-4 times of year when report cards were issued. I invariably found myself sending notes, emails, forms to complete and catching teachers “on the fly” in the hallway to discuss get or give pertinent information about students. Needless to say, scheduling meetings with teachers, whether because of their busy schedules or mine, was a challenge and often could not be done in a timely manner. Even written communications, as streamlined as I tried to make them, sometimes posed challenges. Our administrative team did set up what we thought was simplified standardized form that covered many day-to day comportment and academic issues. The process and “turn around” time however, for completing, compiling and reading entries, was not as efficient as we would have liked. Nevertheless, once compiled, the information was so useful in that it enabled me along with the rest of the administrative team, guidance counselors and other student support personnel, to easily identify issues through repeated behaviors. We were also able to identify some students who would have otherwise “fallen through the cracks” because they were not as high profile.
We did our best work in supporting students was when we worked (as we always did) as a team: teams consisting of collaborating teachers, teams consisting of teachers collaborating with administration and other school personnel.
Understanding students’ issues (often coming from a complex combination of sources) and developing support strategies, both short-term and long-term, ideally requires numerous snapshots that can be weaved together into a scrapbook, even if it’s only a small one. I truly believe that this is best achieved in a team approach. Face-to-face dialogue is our most valued team approach but is not always available. As dedicated professionals, however we can find solutions to the obstacle of time so that we can do what we do what we chose to do when we chose our career, educate our students in ways that will prepare them for the real world.