I grew up in Pleasantville, NY. I was involved in theater before I was involved in teaching, which is one of the reasons I came to Brooklyn High School for the Arts. I wanted to do something with my life where I thought I would be remembered for doing something good—and what better way to do that than to have this influence and impact over thousands of students over the course of your career? I teach AP History and Regents History, also a Theater History Course and Global History.
Our school does not have an issue with absenteeism; we have a really high attendance rate here. Our big issue was lateness, both at the beginning of the day and getting students from class to class. That was one of the reasons why Kinvolved seemed like an attractive offer to us. Before Kinvolved, I dealt with lateness and absence primarily using a bubble sheet. It’s a standard New York City Department of Education model called the STATs—you bubble them in, you turn them in at the end of the week, and that was it. Parent communication was completely separate from the actual taking of the attendance in the moment, so for parent communication you needed to find the time during the day to deal with reaching out to parents.
For me, Kinvolved is my primary source for taking attendance in the moment. Everything else builds off of it. When students arrive in my classroom I use my cellphone, I use the app, and I simply mark who’s present and who’s absent. At the end of the class, for some students who come in late, I move them from absent to late at the end of class, and then I hit the send button, and the messages go out to parents at the end of class.
Students are clearly more motivated to be on time. The communication, the fact that their parents are finding out about this, and often their parents are texting them on the spot, “why aren’t you in class right now?” that’s happening a lot. So there’s definitely been an improvement in my classes with lateness over the course of the day and first period—literally to the point where I’m by the door, and I’ll see the students running down the hall to get to class on time, which is not something you saw in the past!
Kinvolved has completely changed the amount of communication that I have with parents. It’s easy for me to send a quick message, so I do it more often than I did before. Before I had to dig up the email address, find my spreadsheet with this student, find the student’s name, pull out the email of the parents, or find the phone number and make a phone call. Kinvolved is my first line of communication now. Because I have it as an option and because it’s user friendly, I use it more often. I’m addressing the issues sooner than I was before, which is good for the students. The immediacy of it, that everything’s happening in real time, that parents are aware of the situation the moment the situation is happening, that to me is what makes this product unique to what we’ve done in the past.
One student comes most to mind. For the first month of the school year he fell behind almost immediately. He was absent from his first period class because he was taking his time, grabbing breakfast before he was getting here. Literally within a week of getting Kinvolved, this kid is on time every single day, and has been right up to this point. Literally 95% of the time he’s one of the first students in the building, in my class. Some of it was because before there wasn’t that automatic communication, but once that communication was set up, it was a huge turnaround for that student. Without Kinvolved I couldn’t be sure I would’ve gotten on it quickly enough. Not every parent checks his or her email frequently or has access to this type of communication. The fact that this is a text, which is the universal form of communication now, that makes all the difference.