Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What Do You Think: Parent Visits To Classrooms


It feels good to be back at Learning In Maine. During an epic battle with carpal tunnel this past year it took all my energy to keep my personal blog going. But I am feeling much better.

I needed some idea to get back in the saddle, and I got that idea last week.

I don't normally read editorials; I figure I listen to enough news usually to form my own opinion about whatever topic is at hand. But I do find myself reading editorials that have to do with education.

"Closed-door School Policy" appeared in the Ellsworth American and I found myself having a completely opposite point of view about it. Since I work for the paper, it isn't appropriate for me to send in a letter to the editor but I did want to put out the question to other people out there to see if others felt similarly.

The basic argument is that parents should be able to visit their kid's classroom whenever they want. I think that's completely off base.

I imagine many of us work in an environment where we control our own schedules to some degree. We know when a client will come in or whether we will need to be at a meeting later. Imagine if you worked somewhere where someone could walk in at any moment. Distracting? Hard to do your work? Absolutely. Just ask a receptionist or someone who works in a call center about being completely available. It's exhausting. Yet teachers are being asked for this constant availability in this editorial.

Is it that teachers are doing supersecret things they don't want parents to see? Of course not.

The truth is kids are distracted when their parents are there. (I certainly was when I was a student anyway.) In addition, when the parent visits, the teacher is trying to manage both the students' and parent's interests at the same time. What the parent ends up with is not even an accurate picture of a typical class.

Here's my stance on this issue: I say come on in parents but do let me know when you will so I could do a lesson that could incorporate you or even just make the observation a little less distracting. Let's face it, you're there somewhat to evaluate me and from one adult to another, that makes me a little nervous even if I am a good teacher. If you want to talk about your child specifically, let's set up a time after school where we can talk without me being distracted by teaching. Because both of us want the same thing: for me to be teaching your child the best that I can.

So what do you think about parents dropping in to your classroom? Maybe I'm being too sensitive about this but it struck a nerve with me. . .

The 2009 MLTI Student Conference - Call for Presenters

I've attended several of the annual student conferences that Jim Moulton has organized. It is an extremely powerful experience. If you haven't attended, you certainly should. Better yet, submit an idea for a presentation, either by yourself - or even better yet - along with your students.

Here is Jim's Call to Action:

I am writing today to encourage teachers and technical staff from across the state of Maine to submit an idea for a session to present at the 6th annual MLTI Student Tech Team Conference, to be held on Friday, May 29, 2009 @ UMaine in Orono. Please consider being part of this year's conference, and write to let me know that you are interested in joining us as a presenter! No details needed or expected at this point, just an idea of a topic you think would make for a good session. I will hound you for the focus later!

The conference will be sponsored by Apple, and the MLTI will be partnering with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and ACTEM, the Association of Computer Technology Educators of Maine .

The focus this year is once again STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a clear understanding of the critical role played by the Arts & Humanities in supporting deep understanding of those areas.


A) Sessions are one hour in length, and might be repeated depending on interest.
B) OK, so registration is not a lot per person, but it is, of course, waived for presenters (How kind of us, eh?)
B1) But - registration will include lunch this year! So yes, there is such a thing as a free lunch.
C) We are looking for both student-involved as well as non-student-involved sessions

This year we are going to continue what we started last year, in that we are going to try hard to fill the thirty Block 1 sessions (9:30 - 10:30) with primarily teacher & student team presentations - we want kids to have a chance to show the MLTI stuff they are doing both inside the classroom and out. Block 2's thirty sessions (11:00 - 12:00) will not be limited to student involved presentations.

And we are planning something special for Block 3 - a very cool and empowering "Super Session" with all participants involved! Not only will it be a great session, it will assure everyone is back in the brand new Hutchins Concert Hall for the door prizes and closing!

Here is a link to the conference clearinghouse page, where you can visit archives of past conferences to get an idea of how this has worked, as well as watch the current effort unfold:

Last year broke all expectations with over 640 folks in attendance, so we need all hands on deck, and are starting the recruitment early! Target for participation this year is 800.

The focus is on hands-on, engaging uses of the technology with real-world, real-learning, real-teaching purposes. We want to connect people to people and not simply people to technology, and have everyone leaving this day more powerful than when they arrived.

Specifically, we are looking for sessions that will have folks leaving saying things like this:

"Wow - that was cool! I learned how to do some great stuff."

"The kids loved it. And I learned a trick or two as well. I wonder if we could..."

"I never knew I could do that... I'll have to play around with that."

"Hmmm... that looks like a college I could have some fun at."

"I guess I am pretty good at working with this computer."

"I hope I remember everything I learned!"

"Hey, let me show you something I learned in that last session."

"I hope they do this again next year!"

Thanks so much.



Jim Moulton, Educational Technology Consultant, Inc.
Staff to the Maine Learning Technology Initiative
Faculty Associate of the George Lucas Educational Foundation