Yesterday, I received an email from “R” saying a parent was requesting that I join 55 other teachers at my school who are “already using Remind.”
This struck me as odd. Was the request really from a parent? (“R” came with no last name or email address.) Are parents demanding this, or is it clever marketing? Will it become an expectation at my school?
I know about Remind. It’s not a scam. It’s a relatively new app that makes it easy for teachers to text reminders to parents and students about upcoming assignments and tests – as well as text specific parents when their kids are struggling. It’s a smash hit in the ed tech world.
A few months ago, I heard an NPR report explaining how student attendance, assignment completion and even test scores improved in trial high-poverty schools when they used Remind. I don’t remember the details, but my overall impression was favorable.
Remind seemed to work – where websites, online access to grades and other forms of communication did not – because it did not require email or internet access, which many of the families did not have. That makes sense.
But what about in schools where students and parents do have email and internet access? Is there really an added benefit when kids and parents can already access this information with a few keystrokes? I’m already using gradebook-generated email, Gmail, a Moodle site, postcards, letters, phone calls and, of course, face-to-face conversations to communicate with families.
I can already hear the groundswell of support: Why shouldn’t we also use Remind? What could possibly be wrong with over-communicating? If there’s even a chance it will help, why not?
That sentiment is persuasive, and yet… I believe there is a real risk in over-supporting our kids.
Last weekend I had a long conversation with a friend who is a college professor; she was lamenting the number of college freshmen she sees crash and burn when the high school supports are removed. The more we do for them, she says, the less they learn to do for themselves. Eventually, that is a problem. An expensive one, when it means failing college classes.
I’m not denying that teenagers need help with organization, assignment tracking and so forth. Of course they do. What I am saying that we need to teach them these organizational skills, rather than just taking over and bypassing this learning opportunity.
When I was in high school, I learned how to record assignments and test dates in a planner. I also learned to write especially important stuff on my left hand. Today, kids can still do that. Or they can set up a Google calendar with reminders for themselves. Or they can check online class calendars. Or text a friend. Or check their class Facebook group. Or snap a picture of the assignment board.
Instead, we keep creating ever more passive mechanisms to allow them to get through high school without having to organize themselves. I think that’s a bad idea.
At some point in the next few weeks, I’ll have to make a decision about whether to use Remind. The easy choice will be to say yes – because, honestly, why fight it?
But I think we need to proceed with caution. We have to figure out how to ease our teenagers off of these supports as they move through high school, not just create more of them.
Maybe freshmen need this, but by the time they graduate, students don’t need Remind. What they do need is a system to “remind” themselves. And they will never create one if we keep doing it for them.