Saturday, March 3, 2018

Slice #3- Duties as Assigned

I am a literacy coach.

And as a literacy coach, I have many duties-- co-teaching, backward planning, looking at data, and playground duty.

And other duties "as assigned."

Some weeks, the duties "as assigned" take up a whole lot of time.

Take this week, for example.

Our district has adopted a new platform for storing curriculum. Because I don't want to be sued for libel, I will call it Teach-A-Matic.  On the Teach-A-Matic platform, you join a "Group" related to your particular grade level. After you have joined a group, you can access grade level curriculum and resources, and you get emails advising you about professional development. Mostly it's fine.

Except when it isn't.

And that's when "Duties as Assigned" kicks into action.

This week, for example, I was meeting with a kindergarten teacher. H is a veteran, one of those quiet giants who performs miracles in her classroom every day. I work at a dual language school, and she is charged with the huge responsibility of taking monolingual English speakers, and teaching them to speak, read, and write in Spanish.

At one point during the meeting, we logged onto Teach-A-Matic. As we are logging on, H tells me she really doesn't like this platform, because she gets 30 emails a day about things that aren't related to her.

I can't figure out what she is talking about. As a literacy coach, I belong to all of the grade level groups. And I never get more than two emails a day from any grade level. I ask her to show me what she means.

She opens up her email. And there really are, at one o'clock in the afternoon, 15 emails from different Teach-A-Matic curriculum groups-- High School Chemistry, AP Biology, Financial Literacy, Integrated Math 1-4. I can't figure out why, as a kindergarten teacher, she is getting those emails.  I ask her to log on to her Teach-A-Matic home page, so I can see what groups she belongs to. Thirty groups- including High School Biology, Chemistry, Algebra, Financial Literacy, etc. pop up.

"You aren't supposed to belong to all of those groups," I say.

H just raises her eyebrows. "I don't," she says.

"You work on our SLD plans," I say. "I will figure this out." I vaguely remember hearing about a "Leave This Group" button at an inservice I attended last summer, and think I can find it.

Of course I can't find the button, but I do find the phone number for the Teach-A-Matic help line. I wait in the queue for ten minutes, in which H goes to get her kids. So then there are twenty kindergarteners learning Spanish, and trying to show me their loose teeth, and writing journals, and me on the Teach-A-Matic help line. When the gentleman finally comes on the line,  he first tells me that I must be wrong, that H couldn't possibly belong to thirty groups, 29 of which are high school. He checks, then comes back.

"She is in 30 groups," he says. "Did she join them?"

"No," I say. "She teaches kindergarten. She wouldn't join all of those groups. How do we get her out?"

He messes with it for a few minutes as assigned, then tells me that it looks like a district problem, and that I will need to contact the district level administrator for each group. I ask how I will know who that is and he tells me we just need to open up each of the thirty groups and find the person with the crown next to their name.

"Find the crown for thirty groups?" I ask, thinking that this has become a much larger project than I had envisioned.

"Yes," he says. "Wait, maybe I can help. I think we have a list of administrators." He puts me on hold, during which time five-year-old G leaves his center to come and rub the soft material on my jacket, then asks me why I am wearing my pajamas to school.

Finally Scott, the Teach-A-Matic helper,  comes back and gives me the names of four people I need to email. I realize thirty minutes have gone by and I am going to need to leave to teach my seventh grade reading class. I assure H I will send the email after school, which I do.

On Wednesday afternoon,  I get a response with directions about how to "Leave" a group. There are about ten steps, including opening up each group, looking for a "leave the group" button, telling Teach-A-Matic "Yes, I am sure I want to leave the group," then logging back onto the home page to choose another group.

Thursday morning, at 7:00,  I head down to H's room,  directions in hand, to take care of the problem, but she is conducting a parent/teacher conference, and I don't want to interrupt, so I don't go in. Thursday is a full day, and then we do parent/teacher conferences from 4-8. It's 7:00 on Friday morning before I can get back to H again.

H logs onto her computer and I am ready to begin. Except I can't find the "Leave This Group" button, which is the first step in the directions. After ten minutes and a whole lot of scrolling, I attempt to call the gentleman who sent me the email. He's not at his desk, but there is a cell phone number I can try. He doesn't answer that either.

I mess around a little more and finally find the "Leave the Group" button. It's not at the bottom of the page, where the directions say I would find it, instead it's about halfway down a sidebar on the lefthand side of the page. I begin leaving groups.

Thirty minutes later, I am almost done, when the ECE teacher wanders in and asks me what I am doing. When I tell her, she says, "Hey, I'm in all of those groups too. Can you fix mine?"

"Sure," I say, having become a Teach-A-Matic expert. And then I think maybe I should email the two other ECE and kindergarten teachers to see if they are having the same problem. One of them emails back immediately that she is. The other ECE teacher is new to our district. She somehow escaped the high school group barrage, but wants information on how to join a Teach-A-Matic group. Of course I will be glad to help her do that.

I finish her computer and then email the person who sent me the directions, to suggest a small revision, so that it might be easier for other people to find the "Leave This Group" button.

I estimate I have now spent about two hours, mostly before and after school, on this "Duty as Assigned."

Friday afternoon, we have an FAC. I am telling the middle school studies teacher about the "Leave the Group" fiasco.  The fourth grade teacher sitting on my other side overhears. "Hey," she says, "I have that going on too. Can you fix mine?"

"Sure," I say. Inwardly, I sigh.

Duties as assigned, indeed.


Unknown said...

Carol, this sounds miserable! Your slice made me so grateful for people like you that graciously volunteer their time and energy to help others. God bless you, Carol!

elsie said...

Technology has its advantages, but then again it isn't always the easiest to navigate. I think you are going to become a very popular person in your school. It's so much easier to leave a group by getting up and walking away.

Pam Ela said...

Oh. My. Goodness.

As a former instructional coach, I soooooo feel your pain. I love that you can find humor in some of the ridiculous, frustrating situations. The part about the little one coming over to pet your clothes had me in stitches. I can totally envision it! So sweet. So real. So in contrast to the likely desire to hurl the phone across the room by that point.

Great scene!

Tamara said...


How I love to read your writing. This post is so relatable and full of the details that put me right in the room with you. Thank you for making me laugh. I look forward to a month of reading your daily posts! said...

Now this is teaching/mentoring I can not only relate to but also embrace as the real world of teaching today. GREAT POST!