There are some decisions that come along that just floor me as they seem to be made indicating those that are making them are so out of touch.
I ran into results from a decision last evening on social media. The comments were absolutely brutal.
Let’s go back.
Years ago, I was part of a team that implemented an electronic report card. Report cards are the glue that keeps education together. It’s just one additional form of school to home communication but it’s in writing and kept on file unlike the other notes, phone calls, meetings, etc.
Our implementation came out about the same time as reporting via levels of student achievement. That was a struggle in itself although it was supposed to ease up on the difference between a student “getting” a 78 versus one getting a 79. My thoughts about that go back to high school where there were always a couple of people who would inch me out mathematically come report card time.
My superintendent at the time was really supportive because the ultimate success or failure would end up on his desk. As a result, we went through what we thought was going to be the exhaustive list of things that could go wrong and prepare possible solutions. In actual implementation, we weren’t even close but we tried. He helped with the implementation with wisdom like:
- “The only person that likes change is a baby in diapers”
- “There are only so many ways that you can say that a student is performing at a Level 3”
It’s great to have someone further up the food chain deliver those comments. To his credit, he also sat in on a couple of workshops and provided a review with me afterwards. I’ll always give him credit for that as we refined things.
It was a huge moment in time given that there were not enough computers in schools at the time for all teachers to grab one and certainly not everyone had one at home. And, we used that totally reliable method of file sharing between colleagues with their comment libraries and home to school and back cartage – the floppy diskette. People learned in a hurry that there were additional hoops to jump through if they used Windows in one place and a Macintosh in another.
It took a while to get success. I was doing workshops 2 and 3 nights a week; my home phone line became public knowledge as well as the “kid’s line”. I learned to refine my questioning skills based upon the questions and comments that came in.
We test drove it at a couple schools and the itinerate teachers supporting technology worked and created “One Sheet Wonders” that would step you through any situation. OK, most situations; there still was a need for panic phone calls.
The driving factor in all of this was teacher professionalism. They didn’t want to just get report cards done, they wanted them done and perfectly. They recognized the importance of communication and wanted to make it as good as they could. I know that some were frustrated in the early years as some were not only just learning how to do report cards on a computer but they were learning a lot of computer skills from scratch at the same time.
When I run into some of them these days, we joke about how naive and yet invested they were in the process at the time.
It would be nice if we could end the story here but unfortunately, we can’t. Eventually, the writing on the wall was there for the overreliance on floppy diskettes and a move to a cloud-based solution with logins and passwords became necessary. That changed the game and also the solution that was used for the report cards. It was another bit of learning for all.
Cloud-based always makes me smile. The giants like Google have made the notion of “the cloud” as something magical and always functioning perfectly in our mindsets.
Then, COVID hits. Those computer skill sets needed upgrading. In particular, the pedagogy of teaching effectively online became so important. I wasn’t part of that directly although social media makes all of us available to those who wish to reach out. I was happy to help where I could.
And, all of this brings me to last night reading those comments. In the middle of all of the other issues that everyone is dealing with was a decision to switch report card generation programs. I immediately thought of me poking around with Windows 11, just doing random things and discovering how it works. Sometimes, I fail more than I win but that’s OK. Doing what I’m doing isn’t mission-critical. As long as the WordPress editor works, for example, I’m able to get these posts out no matter whatever else isn’t working 100%. The voices that I was reading yesterday were over the top in frustration trying to get their results the best that they could be. My heart went out them.
I know that they’ll ultimately get them done. How do I know that? Well, there are always due dates where you’re done whether you think you are or not!
This change just seems to come at a very strange time given everything else that is happening.