In this post, Miss Elder talks about what inspired 21CCCS to hold Community Outreach events and the importance of teachers knowing their students:
During my first year at 21CCCS, another teacher and I visited the house of a family from our school while they held a weekly meeting with other families from 21CCCS. Seven years later, I can’t recall the original purpose of our visit, but I still vividly remember how much fun we had. I remember plenty of laughter, students sitting in a circle, deep in discussion, and a vigorous debate about whether Genghis Khan or Hannibal Barca was a better military leader. I’ll admit, seven years later, that I totally lost that debate, but it was the exact sort of environment that experts say is ideal if we want our students to be deeply engaged in their education. It is also the kind of environment that is incredibly difficult to create when students are stuck in a desk at the mercy of a bell schedule, and the teacher is watching the clock, hoping to squeeze in all the essential content.
The future of education is in technology because it allows us to remove those types of antiquated constraints, and it makes it possible for a system to exist where that ideal environment is the norm and not the exception. Technology allows us to gather precise data about individual learning styles and areas of student need, and to analyze effective teaching strategies. We can use the data to meet the needs of each individual student in a way that would otherwise be impossible. Technology allows us to reach students wherever they are, even if they are, quite literally, on the other side of the world. At the same time, there is a danger that technology will begin to replace the personal connection that students feel with their classmates and teachers. This connection is crucial. It is not enough that teachers know all about their students—teachers need to actually know their students. And it’s not enough for students to know all about the content of their course—they need to know that they are part of a community of learners who care about them and are engaged in the same endeavor. One of the reasons I love working at 21CCCS is that, among all the cyber schools, ours directs more effort towards this goal than any other.
It was with this goal in mind that we began holding Community Outreach events twice a week and Saturday Socials once a month. The events are meant to give students an opportunity to make those personal connections with classmates and teachers. We choose to meet in areas where we are likely to reach the most students, send out teachers two nights a week, and hope that students will come and feel like they aren’t alone, behind a computer screen. Sometimes we have twenty-five students and everyone is loudly playing games and making fruit pizza. Sometimes we have one student and we are still loudly playing games and making fruit pizza. But either way we are always having a great time and we are always there for the students.