A mean comment whispered in a hallway. A student who sits alone in the cafeteria every day. A child who stops eating her lunch. These are details that may escape the notice of busy teachers, but they can be very important.
Small incidents and changes in behaviour may indicate the start of a worrying trend or a larger bullying problem. But school personnel struggle with workloads and often have no system for recording behaviours in any meaningful, proactive way. This can be a real challenge when it comes to supporting students with less obvious challenges, collecting information for parent-teacher conferences or producing the specific details required for bullying incident reports.
Montrealers Brenda Fayerman and Judy Stein, who have 50 years of teaching and administrative experience between them, set out to change that. They wanted to create an easy tool for educators to record anecdotal information on the fly about their students.
The result is an app called TEAM Student Tracker. Designed to work on smart phones, tablets and computers, the app enables educators to record information about student behaviours, progress, accomplishments and issues that may indicate either underlying issues or ongoing improvement. The intuitive, user-friendly interface means teachers need only tap or click to record observations. Teachers can view each others’ notes in real time and generate reports.
Fayerman says that teachers are more likely to contribute if they know others are doing so as well, and if they know others will read what they have noted.
Stein says she always valued staff meetings where teachers could talk about issues and review the progress of students. “We could come up with strategies to support students but the problem was we didn’t have time to do this exercise on a regular basis,” she said.
Fayerman said oftentimes a parent would call with a concern and the only information we would have about their child was their marks because small incidents weren’t being recorded anywhere.
“Six months after an incident that never got written down, the teachers won’t remember the details,” she says. “We figured there’s got to be another way for them to share this kind of information.”
Stein offers an example from her years teaching science; she says she noticed that certain students had trouble processing the language, vocabulary and content. During staff meetings, she heard similar complaints from teachers of other more intense, content-heavy courses.
“After talking back and forth, we realized it wasn’t really the content, it was a reading issue,” she recalled. “There was this spark; this “A-ha!” moment when we realized what’s going on with these kids in all these classes is something bigger.”
Stein and Fayerman felt this team communication was critical for helping students better achieve their potential. Their app facilitates the process of making sense of critical daily impressions — positive as well as negative. Being able to quickly and easily note acts of kindness or signs of leadership in certain contexts, for example, can help support students who are quiet, shy or generally compliant and who tend to fly under the radar.
Without this web app, “[teachers] tend to share negative things only, because we’re dealing with some huge situation and we don’t know what to do. You often hear [in the staff room], ‘so-and-so got in a fight.’ But how often will you hear someone say ‘so-and-so helped another child?” Stein notes. “Why would they bother?”
But this information is equally as important, the women explain. And with this app, there’s a place to record those smaller, happy incidents that didn’t get wider notice before.
Educators and parents interested in learning more about this app can call (514) 668-5814 or check out the demo version, videos and explanations at www.edtechjsbf.com.