Tuesday, October 3

Sandalwood Teacher Web Pages Make Me Wonder If That's The Place For My Kids

When I was teaching, I had possibly the best Language Arts (English) high school teacher website ever created: menofalls.com. It's gone now, but here's another one I created simultaneously for our department https://sites.google.com/site/brianjaegerenglish/ and another one I created so that I could use the computers the school district was implementing: https://sites.google.com/site/brianjaegerteachingpage/welcome 

Fine, I was good at it. I used it for myself and for students to access assignments. These students had no excuses, and in all honesty, I think that bothered some parents, who continued to try to come up with excuses for their kids. So there's the danger in spending countless hours for a teacher. Parents and students still aren't quite satisfied, and you can still get laid off when there's a new football stadium to be built.

The problem is that I'm not satisfied when I see most other teacher web pages. This isn't because I think everyone should be like me as a teacher. It's because I know that a website of some sort tells students and parents what's going on in the class.

Now that we're in Jacksonville, living in the Sandalwood school neighborhood, I decided to check out the websites for the school's Language Arts teachers. I wanted to see what my kids would be learning from their high school teachers. What I found was fairly typical of school websites I have seen: some teacher pages with basic information, a couple with a good deal of info, and many with nothing at all. I want to be clear that the websites provided to teachers by Duval Schools are VERY basic, with three columns of potential information (one just for links). Nothing visual or engaging, and no real file storage system that I can ascertain. It looks to me like one teacher tried a Weebly site that is not linked properly, one might be using some kind of school login system, and one created a decent enough wikispace that might rival something I would have done about a decade ago.

All in all, I'd say that after looking at the website, I have no clue as to whether my kids should attend the school. Blank website pages make teachers look either uneducated or lazy, and I know that's not true from being a teacher, but I have to wonder how the rest of the community sees this when they look.

By the numbers:
19 Language Arts teachers listed (for a school this size, I assume some are special ed)
1 teaches Social Studies
1 website is good (linked out to own page)
1 website does not exist (redirect to district login)
2 websites are semi-useful with links and a purpose
3 websites are minimal (welcome messages)
11 websites have nothing on them

What should Sandalwood do? I'd force them to sit down at an in-service and write something on the stupid pages. I'd figure out a way to get photos on the pages, too, since it looks so unprofessional to just have 1980s text on your website. Lastly, I'd hire me to come in and help the teachers by getting all of them to at least have a syllabus and some useful links. They don't have to have weekly newsletters or links to every assignment, but these websites are currently a poor reflection on the school and district. And I am sure it's not only at Sandalwood.

I would not expect other teachers to spend an extra 10 hours a week in continuous website updating like I used to do. Their job is to teach, but the school district has a job to show the community that the teachers are doing just that. It's really better to just delete these teacher websites if they are not going to be used at all.

Here's a link to some pretty good Language Arts lessons, just in case you need some of those. 

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