The Necessity of Teacher Accessibility in Schools
Students and teachers alike rely on this positive feedback loop to assimilate new learning material into an already crammed brain, but the volume of fresh knowledge that young people are expected to absorb can quickly overwhelm their ability to comprehend the larger picture. As classrooms fill up with thirty, forty, or more students per teacher, the instructors themselves can get fairly overwhelmed by such congestion, and teacher accessibility levels can quickly drop to zero if no measures are taken to combat Large Classroom Syndrome. Fortunately, there are ample resources to both train and help teachers to overcome even the most harrowing concepts of truly accessible teaching styles. Here are a few great ways that adults can get kids psyched about learning more:
1. Parent Booker is an online service that broadly connects parents, teachers, and students by coordinating and organizing volunteer help for meetings, fundraisers, conferences, church events, and more. By incorporating Parent Booker into a school’s modus operandi, parents can be sure that they won’t miss a single opportunity to offer their help at their child’s next class fundraiser, and teachers won’t be bogged down by frustrated scheduling calls from parents.
Best of all, students benefit directly from Parent Booker: in addition to providing students with access to more adults at staffed, extracurricular activities, the service tracks volunteer hours across the board, and many schools get a financial kickback if they meet a certain quota (required hours and financial compensation vary widely). In 2010, for example, the Verizon Foundation awarded more than $5.5M in grant awards in support of its employees’ volunteer efforts across the nation. Many companies require accountable service reports as a prerequisite for doling out grants, and Parent Booker’s subscription cost of about sixty dollars a month winds up paying for itself by the end of the year (not to mention–students directly benefit from more engaging, well-staffed events). By using Parent Booker, you’ll ensure that your child always has access to an adult when he or she needs help, and that makes all the difference in a child’s upbringing.
2. POUR is an acronym that encompasses the fundamental core of teacher accessibility in the eyes of today’s students. The four pillars of POUR insist that educators and their teaching resources provide students with perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust information. After all, a message loses all meaning when its recipient can’t comprehend the idea, and the first step of accessible teaching starts with an attentive instructor who can discern between the learning styles of various children and adapt his methods to the needs of each student.
As a parent and/or teacher, make sure that your child or student is primed with an attitude of wonder and inquiry. Children who perceive the world around them as one of infinite possibilities and limitless human potential are more likely to strive accordingly for greatness. Next, make sure you give students enough time to accommodate for new material. The old adage of “win some, lose some” applies directly to early education, so don’t shut them out altogether by overloading them with too much, too soon. Once they’ve had a chance to play around with new ideas, give students tools for deeper comprehension the subject at hand. These tools can include anything from physical props, meant to metaphorize an abstract concept, to online resources for homework. More resources mean more opportunities to learn; still, effective teachers and parents are still the greatest resources that a growing child can access.
3. Be accessible by email. Create a separate email account to be used only for corresponding with students–you’ll be surprised at how readily and easily your knowledge will be disseminated through a simple email. Most students will opt for a silent message over one that requires being put on the spot, so communicating with students via this method is a fantastic way to bring out the inner writers and natural inquiries of children. Moreover, you’ll get access to students who really care about their own early education, but are simply too shy or socially inhibited to engage themselves in the classroom. You can set the parameters of the whole system, too, so correspondence remains helpful, monitored, and professional.
4. Google Voice is a surefire way to increase your accessibility to students without worrying about the repercussions of giving out a personal phone number to dozens of teenagers or children. The free service allows you to forward all of your phone’s incoming messages and calls to your email or a voicemail inbox, saving you the hassle of checking both. Teachers can grade papers quietly at home, and respond to their students’ inquiries by sending an email or simply calling them back. I had just one teacher in high school who offered his home phone number to his students, and his outreach was not lost on me. Young students need to know that adults are willing to hear them ask questions and opine about the current state of their education, and Google Voice connects the voices of discrete generations without disintegrating personal boundaries.
Above all else, ask the students if they understand, and mean it. Recognize when students are falling behind, and take the necessary measures to ensure that you don’t “leave a man on the battlefield,” because that’s how it can feel to children aboard the SS Public Education System. As a teacher or parent, it’s your job to give youngsters all the tools at your disposal in order to aid their development into prosperous, contributing members of society. It’s a tall order, surely, but being a teacher requires skill in the same way that being a parent does. Leaders are made, not born, so help students grow by exhibiting the practices that you preach, and learn how to find new methods of reaching out to kids who’ve already learned how to feign understanding. The planet isn’t getting any smaller, so your actions within the immediate scope of a child’s world will make all the difference: what we need now, more than ever, are positive role models and effective communication. Be that person! Tomorrow will thank you for it.