When I began my first leave eight years ago with my son (wow- is he REALLY already 8?), I was admittedly more focused on the task of becoming a mommy than being a connected educator. Sure, I popped in now and again to the classroom to check in and say hello. That was the extent of it. When I returned, I remember feeling extremely disconnected from my students.
Fast forward to baby #4. My how things have changed! While I still get to snuggle at home with my sweet new baby boy, I also get to stay uber-connected with my kiddos at school. In fact, I've received a bit of criticism about my desire to check in frequently with "work." I get a lot of, "Just relax and enjoy that baby" or "Work will be there when you go back." Sure. I get that. As a mom of four kids, I know as much as anyone that babies certainly don't keep, and that time flies by all too quickly.
That being said, I also know that what I do isn't a "job." It's certainly not something I do for the abundant paycheck or sweet 8:00-3:00 hours (HA!) 10 months a year (HA HA HA!). My kids at school have a time-share in my heart, and I think about them around the clock. I am responsible for their well-being as much as their academic growth. How could I check out of that responsibility for three months?
Admittedly, I am also a Type A control freak with a dash of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder on the side. So there's that. My poor sub!
So how does a teacher in the year 2015 stay connected from the comfort of her own couch (PJ clad and covered in baby puke)?
iHeart Apple. No, truly I do! From iMessages to FaceTime, I can talk nearly all day with my substitute. It's a free flowing conversation ranging from, "Where's the spelling template?" to funny kid stories. I can help guide behavior management decisions and receive important information about changes in after school transportation. Eight years ago when I was on my first maternity leave, it was still a cardinal sin to text in class. Now, the teacher's phone has become as integral a tool in the classroom as chalkboards were in their hey-day. Tomorrow I will be FaceTiming with my class to give a pep talk concerning grading period reading and math goals. How awesome is that?
Speaking of math and reading goals, I can see real-time academic progress using any device in my home. Just last evening, I loaded my students with new online assignments and objectives. It's amazing how much you can tell by looking at a computer screen. Little "Johnny" has obviously decided to take a vacation while Mrs. Copple is away. That's an easy fix! I can also check progress in our online grade books, assign new levels in our many programs (i.e. ReadingEggs), and share or grade work via eBackpack.
That's all well and good, but what about the human side of teaching? Thankfully my little bloggers (we use KidBlog) keep me informed of their weekend adventures, new pets, and who their BFF is at the moment. These little treasures warm my heart each time I check in on their posts. When I make a physical drop-in, it's easy for me to pick up a conversation with a kiddo. I can also comment on their posts much to their delight.
Technology has also blown the doors off of parent communication. I still receive text or Facebook messages from parents every day. I also frequently use Remind to keep parents in the know about classroom or school news. I think this helps parents, especially parents of little ones, feel confident that I am still invested in their child's growth and well-being.
The greatest part of all of this, is that I can do it while holding my little one. I am quite the one-handed typist. In fact, I'm blogging one little letter peck at a time!
Perhaps staying this connected isn't for everyone, but how wonderful is it that the opportunities are there? I know that when I step back into my classroom in March, the transition will be much smoother than ever before.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have a sweet baby to snuggle!
Photo courtesy Capture Photography by Christy Semmont.