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Eliminating the Excuse

March 11, 2015

One of the first lessons I got in teaching was to develop strong classroom management procedures so I could spend more time teaching and less time worried about the day to day minutia that can bog a teacher down. For example, I teach my students how to quickly pass out and collect papers—even making it a competition with other classes—so that we don’t waste precious instructional time on administrative tasks.  No confusion, just a smooth, simple procedure.

Technology is the same way for me. I develop my resources for the sole purpose of eliminating problems in class: forgetting assignments, forgetting work, forgetting books, not doing work because the student needed help, or losing a handout. By adding technology resources to my classroom I am able to build stronger connections with my students while at the same time eliminating the excuses for not doing what is expected.

I started with Twitter as a way to send text messages to my kids. I started at about 50% thanks to Twitter Fast Follow.  This became ineffective after Twitter started using advertising (I didn’t want my students to get text ads for hot singles in the area), so I began using Remind.com. With Remind I could send out a free group text to all of my students, not just Twitter followers, to remind them about assignments, dress up days for spirit, books, and anything else class or school related. While I have quite a few students on Twitter, I have a much higher engagement rate through Remind and text (⅓ on Twitter and ⅔ on Remind). Next I added Google Voice so I would have my own private cell phone number that I could attach to my email on my computer and kids wouldn’t be texting my personal phone number. Now there were two ways students could reach me via text (as they are more likely to text than call). This could change now that Remind has recently released Chat which is a whole new feature.

The final step was creating a blog. Now, if a student is absent and needs the vocab, they can go to the site at school or at home. Now, I don’t have to deal with “I don’t know who to get a copy from.” Bam! Go to the site.

As of right now, I do not feel there is any reason any of my students cannot find what they need: blog, website, Twitter, Google Voice, Google Drive, Remind, text, friend and so on. For my non-web students, look at the assignment binder in the back of the room. Extra handouts are there as well, no computer needed. Eliminate the excuse, manage your class, and create procedures that will keep you sane.

Matt Soeth is a high school teacher in California.  He currently teaches a leadership course and has previously taught 9th, 10th, and 12th grade English as well as AP English.

A previous version of this piece appeared on Matt’s Blog