Last month, I wrote about our core competency of academic maturity. An effective online school builds a student’s ability to connect with their teacher and classmates, and operate efficiently and effectively in the online space. We focus on connection, choice, and comfort to help students find success in the online space.
But, some students need more. And, that, of course, is appropriate for a new experience, like learning online. So, how do you help students who need extra support? Let’s explore this. I’ve asked Liz Katz, our Director School & Student Support, to describe how this works at One Schoolhouse.
Connection with Teacher
Just as at your face-to-face school, the primary relationship and communication is between the student and his or her teacher. Teachers work immediately from the start of class to build strong connections with students. They start with a one-on-one video discussion (Skype, Hangout, or Zoom) to create goals for the year and develop a rapport. If a concern arises—say, repeated missed assignments, or a lower-than-expected score on an assessment, the teacher contacts, the Director of School & Student Support and shares the details. When I receive that information, we want to make the support web a little bigger by bringing the Advisor into the picture.
Role of School Advisor
At that point, I reach out to the student and copy the School Advisor on the communication. Usually, my note includes the teacher’s concern, the student’s current average in the course, and suggestions for getting back on track. Most often, the next step is for the student to set up a face-to-face meeting with the teacher—just as he or she would do at a face-to-face school. Depending on the challenge, other recommended courses of action may include creating a plan to make up missed work, revisiting a topic or an assignment, or creating a study plan for an upcoming assessment.
When a School Advisor gets this update, it's also a signal to get in touch with the student. They make sure that the student understands what the best next steps are, and helps the student set an action plan, as necessary. The School Advisor also communicates back to me any additional information that we might need. We work with extraordinary students, and so often the reason for challenge is overcommitment at certain times of the year -- perhaps the student was recently the lead in the play, or just competed in a state championship. Occasionally, we work through challenges related to student health or mental well-being. The School Advisor helps us understand essential information that can be used to offer more effective support.
Bringing Parents into the Fold
Sometimes, when the stakes are high, a student needs a bigger net. When that’s important, we consult with the School Advisor whether it makes sense to contact the student’s parents so they can offer additional support at home. Our goal is always to have the right team in place to help our students achieve success in their courses.
The systems we have for creating support look a lot like the systems you see in face-to-face schools. That’s by design. On top of those supports, we use the reflections and goals students develop with their teachers to align our feedback and make sure that students receive the help they need to grow and gain academic maturity in a new learning environment.
Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)