Megan Rocks! How the A+ Club assignments and grades updates help students and parents find academic success: Student Success Podcast no. 25

Megan Rocks! Megan and Michael discuss how the A+ Club helps students, parents and teachers.

Featuring Megan Schneider, Office Manager at LLC

Megan manages the A+ Club service that provides assignment, grades and missing work updates and notifications, essay review and all-round student help with homework, due dates, studying, grades to build academic awareness and relevancy.

Student Success Podcast No. 25, Jan. 22, 2016

See also Megan’s interview clip


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Host: Michael L. Bromley
Original Music by Christopher Bromley (copyright 2011-2014) Background snoring by Stella.
Best Dogs Ever: by Puck, Stella, & Artemis

Just a little snoring from Stella in this episode, while Puck and Artemis took it easy!

Here for Puck & Stella slideshow






Michael: thought we could talk on a podcast so anyone can listen in to you and I discuss the things we do and to hear what Megan sees in kids in their academics and struggles. What do you do?

Megan: the main thing I do is look at school resources.. posted by school Learning Management Systems (LMS) to look for assignments, maybe an upcoming test, study guides… if I find anything I send it by email to students and parents and their moderator.

Michael: Moderators are?

Megan: educational professionals who are assigned to students to talk to them once a week or more if they feel they need it to go over what’s happening in school, what they’re focusing on,

Michael: and you also review those conversations, log them and see what’s important and send to parents and students and log for follow-through.

Why would someone come to us for this, especially assignment tracking? Why would they need this?

Megan: it’s really helpful for them to have a daily reminder about what’s going on… It’s really easy when you come home from school and let the day slip away. But if you see the email, the reminder, oh yea, I have to do this or this… it’s a reminder. It forced the kids to pay attention, to think about what school work they have to do.

Michael: that’s the essential piece… the whole point of the program that I developed in the classroom, that kids compartmentalize their days, 1st, 2nd, etc. period… often times only think about that class when they walk in the door and stop thinking about it when they leave the door.

So we break that compartmentalization with these reminders… bring it to kids anyway they need it, email text… any way to get to the kids. Next piece is to get it to the kids to track their work themselves.

I hear from educators, well, if you’re doing it for the kids, they’re not going to learn how to do this. What’s your reaction?

Megan: well, they obviously already don’t know how to do it, so doing nothing isn’t going to help them!

Michael: I can’t tell you how often I hear this! You teachers and schools, you administrators, you give kids so much, planners, websites… but no matter what you give them, you could give the functional kids anything.. give them nothing, and they would track their work on their own… but you can give the kids who don’t have that skill set– executive function – or more imp;orantly relevancy… you could give them any system and they won’t use it.

You don’t know it, but I hear all the time, “Megan saved me!” So, the question is, do kids become dependent on these updates? Are we creating dependencies on Megan?

Megan: I don’t thinks so. I don’t see dependencies , they take our emails and with the whole system, the whole service, helps them realize that school work is important, something of value, something thinking about and investing their energy in.

Michael: Yes, it’s part of a larger process. Why can’t kids have this information delivered to them? We’re engaging kids in a process, part of what schools, parents, etc are doing, so we’re just bringing in extra pieces, not doing what the kids need to be doing themselves, we’re an accessory to those functions they need to follow for academic success. When I was a kid, I would have loved this, my personal secretary, my personal advisor.

Like you said, it’s the cumulative of all ewe do, the reflection calls, the assignment updates, weekly grade reports.

Tell us about grade reports:

Megan: Once a week I check the LMS for current grades and missing assignments, where they have their classes and grades posted, and I check to see where their grades are for the week, to see if they have any missing assignments maybe that should be addressed, So I gather that information w/ their grades and any missing assignments, and I send that out by email once a week, and it also goes to their parents and to their moderators (teachers)

Michael: It’s funny, because our moderators are working w/ kids to check their grades on a daily basis, and but it’s very hard.. parents say they always check grades, but it’s very hard to do that consistently … you don’t have time for it. And then you don’t make sense of it even if you do, because then it becomes an object of discussion, well, why do have missing work?

What Megan does is deliver it just as information, so parents and students can use it as information, not judgment, which is what kids shy from. What I hear from kids oh my god, Megan’s got my back, it’s because they use it, and we’re just reminding them.

What about tracking direction of grades?

Megan: this year I started trackign the changes in their grades week to week. Is their grade trending upwards this week, trending down, is there a reason for that? Oh, I’m improving, or oh, my grade fell a little bit, is there a reason for that? maybe I should look into that and see what happy.

Michael: or, what can happen, oh the teacher finally updated the grade on that work that ‘s been sitting around for three weeks. It’s important to know that the grades haven’t changed.

The idea for this came from a parent who said grades are nice, but I want to know a snapshot of direction… We will expand our use of that data to track grades on longer trends and getting kids to see it.

It’s important b/c kids are disconnected from future and so if teachers aren’t updating grades, kids aren’t connected, and our notifications connect them to bring in the past and the future and associate that through reflection calls with our student supporters into common goal setting .. builds relevancy, seeing day to day workflow, and put it all together for academic success And, Megan, it works! We hear from families that they love getting that information.

So we deliver information what schools are reporting, daily assignments, grade reports, the key is doing that regularly, on a constant basis.. if it’s not constant, if it’s not regular it becomes haphazard and it loses the point … the constancy of it makes it impactful.

[Stella snoring in the background!]

So Megan, you’re not just monitoring students, you’re monitoring what teachers are doing!

Megan: yeah, it’s interesting, a lot of diversity in teachers… some are engaged in the resource portion of what they do… posting study guides, upcoming test dates… and there are others who don’t post anything. That’s less helpful.

Michael: not only less helpful, destructive of student relevancy. We would plead with teachers to maintain that workflow, to get that feedback.   It’s essential feedback. When the future and present are disconnected kids lose relevance… if information is 3 weeks late, kids have moved on. Teachers, please … ! But we want to make sure that whatever information the teachers are posting is useful and delivered to students and parents.

if I were to go back to the classroom, the one thing I would do differently is to grade all work to return to kids the next day. I don’t care if half the class didn’t turn it in, you gotta give it back to them immediately. The feedback is essential… if they haven’t gotten the practice done and they haven’t gotten the necessary feedback.

Too many teachers just grade for compliance… teachers grade h/w, h/w, test…bam. And what does that tell us? They’re not learning along the way. You math teachers especially, if you see kids doing homework but bailing on your tests, you’re not giving them feedback that is relevant for them to get to that independent practice, which is called homework, to build to that final piece of independent practice, which is a test, so they can succeed in that.

I hear from parents , oh my kid doesn’t test well… what it means is that the pieces are coming together, workflow, goal setting, grades reflection…. for greater workflow and learning not just compliance, greater depth of workflow, not just complying with it.

Some people ask, what good is it to have all these updates if my student is already doing it? Well, I’m wondering if the student really is doing it. You and I wouldn’t be talking if your student was getting all As, if the outcomes were perfect, so you have a B student, some Cs, does all the work? Are they really doing it?

Megan: are they doing it correctly?

Michael: are they learning from the process? Kids are wolves, they know if teachers aren’t grading for content, just fulfillment, they could write Chinese on their papers.

Megan: I did that when I was in high school! Well, not Chinese, but if you know the teacher’s not actually going to read it, just to see if you did it, you write whatever crap you want.

Michael: I had kids in class who had learned in elementary school that the worse their handwriting the better their grade… seriously! it was a great strategy… talented approach to getting by

Megan: if they put this much thought and planning into actually doing the work!

Michael: b/c it’s not relevant to them. Relevancy has to start with awareness, and that’s Megan’s function, that’s the deep value of it

Megan: discussed essay review … whenever kids have an essay or any written assignment they need help with, they can send it to me and I edit for grammar and content, look at their argument, have they supported it with evidence

Michael: what’s the benefit other than that?

Megan: sending a rough draft to me means actually having a rough draft…. not just writing a paper the nigh before and handing in what they dashed off at 1 in the morning

Michael: we hear back from teachers when they are aware of this, they love Megan’s corrections… not writing it for them raising awareness about errors, grammatical errors… raises grade but also raises learning …and about the drafting process… the learning is multidimensional, especially w/ writing about drafting, being aware of audience

kids are self-conscious so they forget about audience

Megan: see that so many times, they think they’re writing for themselves… or for the teacher, so they skim, leave out important, or establish details

Michael: we can improve any level paper… from just a thesis or some detail w/o an idea… or a kid who has a really nice essay, there’s always improvement… thtat’s why God made editors, so important to writing. Kids should never assume that their audience knows anything about what they’re writing.

It’s self-awareness, essential. We work w/ kids on how to approach a teacher, how to be seen in the hallway or walking into the room, teachers see a different person, so we work w/ kids on how to communicate, to help teachers who just assume things, who don’t know the child’s point of view, don’t’ know that something’s going on… so important that kids communicate that out…thinking about this from discussion of audience, making others aware.

How would you have approached your own academics in high school or college knowing what you know now about teachers, parents and students.

Megan: Honestly, I could have used a program like this! I had a problem getting my homework done.

Michael: What could you have done: how self-aware were you as a student?

Megan: I was self-aware, I just didn’t care enough to do anything… I wanted to change, I was aware, but I wasn’t motivated enough.

Michael: motivation means connecting goals.

Megan: I definitely had a problem making school work meaningful. I knew I should do good in school b/c I wanted to go to college, but that was years away, in the future, not concrete when you’re thinking I don’t want to to do my homework, rather just watch tv

Michael: so you didn’t go through high school about being a philosophy major at University of Maryland?

Megan: no, no I wasn’t.

Michael: how’d that happen?

Megan: I took a bunch of different classes, took a philosophy class and I really liked it.

Michael: now we’re employing your knowledge of the world to help kids engage the world themselves more productively.

Megan: my advice for parents: try to be positive, and be consistent.

Advice for teachers: to be consistent, fi you have an online resources, use it, post consistently as much as possible. It’s really helpful for students to remind them about what’s going on in class.

Michael: that helps them engage in class outside of class, where we want them. And teachers out there, they don’t know it, but Megan is getting their back too!