Sunday, June 21, 2009

Why I Want to Be More Accessible to My Students

When I wrote my Teacher Manifesto I wrote this promise:

I promise to be more available to my students. I will give them my phone numbers, email address, and Twitter name. I will encourage them to communicate with me outside of school. I will be available to help them with their education when they need help, not just during our class period.

I received lots of comments about this particular promise, and I want to explain why I included this promise.

My students live in what America considers poverty. We have in our school 90% of the students on free or reduced lunch. There are a huge number of students that live in single parent or single parent with extended family homes. These single parents are by a very large majority women. The male role models in many of my students lives are in prison, on drugs, or have other socially unacceptable problems. I may be the closest positive male role-model my students ever have.

While this information may explain why I might feel compelled to be more available to my students, it is not the reason.

I believe that one of the most important things I strive teach my students is to love to learn and to continue to learn throughout their lives. I have learned much more outside of the classroom walls. I continue to learn, most of which takes place at night, on weekends, and over summer break. This is what I want to model to my students. How can I do this if I don't allow my students to see what I do when I am not in the classroom?

I have been reminded often to model to my students the behaviors I want them to see from them. I'm stepping up to the challenge.


John Strange said...

Your REASON is more compelling than "why I might feel compelled."

My students have my email, my cell phone number. I almost beg them to contact me when they encounter difficulties with assignments. Few do, but those who do report that they benefit greatly from my responses. (And I believe they are correct). Of course they are college students, but we all learn more out of school than in it, whether schools want to believe that or not. And if I can assist in that process, I want to have that opportunity!

So my strategy is similar to yours. But what works for me may not work for others. I just hope they consider my position before deciding on an "answer."

Keep up the good work!


Jarrod Lamshed said...

I agreed with you on this point when I commented on the 'manifesto' post and I still agree with you now. I think that each teacher's (and student's) circumstances are different, and for some, this is not an option that they are comfortable with.

For me, students having after hours contact would be very beneficial. It's not something I have a problem with. I can always turn the phone off (or not answer) if the time is not right for me or my family. I am in a similar school situation to you, and believe the benefits FAR outweigh the negatives.

Kimberly said...

It's all about relationships, and being available to your students this way indicates to them in a tangible care!

Pam Thompson said...

I've thought about this a lot lately after seeing a post by another teacher whose district has said that teachers shouldn't have out-of-school contact. I agree with the premise of building and maintaining supportive relationships with our students. If they can contact you if they feel they need adult help, or support, then that's actually a big compliment and shows that we have gained their trust. Most of my contact from students is work-related, and usually be email but then that's where they obviously need the help at the moment.
However, if teachers are not comfortable with this then that would show through anyway, so would defeat the objective.