RICHARD HYATT: Technology extends school's reach

August 23, 2013 

In an era when dogs enjoyed a steady diet of homework, it was strange how many nasty notes from teachers never made it home and how the ones that did were returned with signatures that did not resemble mom's or dad's.

Students today have to be more creative for, instead of stuffing notes in a backpack, sophisticated teachers use computers and smartphones to update parents about what is going on in the classroom.

Kids don't have a chance. Teachers can text her mother if their little darling doesn't do what she's supposed to do when she's asked, and if the occasion calls for it, can even transmit photographic evidence that would stand up in court.

Those of us with guilty consciences and long memories cringe when we realize what such practices would have meant to our reputations, but they are valuable to parents that want to know what a child is doing at school.

It starts in elementary schools, where a teacher in the early grades can instantly text a much-welcomed photograph of a smiling child that was sobbing when Mama left them that morning.

It can be a simple email sent by a principal reminding parents of an open house, a PTO meeting or an after-school ice cream bash. Instead of mimeographed notes that get lost in the shuffle, these messages show up on the phone or the computer screen.

Newsletters and bulletin boards are effective, but teachers don't stop there. On a daily basis, school websites update mothers and fathers on coming events, school calendars and supply lists. They can check the daily menu in the cafeteria and pay for school lunches.

These sites usually provide a link to pages maintained by individual classroom teachers. These are

more personal, updating parents on homework assignments, classroom projects and behavioral expectations.

Many teachers use Internet programs that allow them to inform caregivers what happened that very day. They can praise the child or let a parent know about shortcomings. These digital reports sometimes get home before the child does.

These aren't efforts to gang up on the students. They are used to create a partnership between home and classroom and to ensure that parents aren't surprised when report cards come out.

Schools and classrooms are doing their job, and Muscogee County parents were pleasantly surprised to receive an automated phone call at the beginning of the school year from David Lewis, the system's brand new superintendent.

His message was simple: Welcome back. But it established a needed connection between parents and the district's top educator.

It also pointed out the lack of communication among school administrators, the school board and the parents they serve.

Isn't it time they quit letting the dog eat their homework?

-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him on Twitter @hyattrichard.

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