One of the challenges of coordinating videoconferencing is what to do when teachers cancel or change their minds on doing a videoconference. While it can be very frustrating for those who have put in time scheduling, doing test calls, and all the preparation necessary, I think we have to step back and look at it from the teacher’s perspective.
They may not always tell us why they are canceling, but almost always it’s a very good reason. Family issues, health issues, school scheduling issues that they didn’t know about before, curriculum pressures…. these are all reasons why teachers cancel. They sign up thinking that it will work out, but when it comes right down to it, they can’t make it happen.
Sometimes, with a little patience and encouragement in discussion with the teacher, you can resolve the issue satisfactorily to salvage the program. But other times it honestly has to be canceled.
Reacting to Cancellations
In our early days of videoconferencing, I sent some strongly worded letters to teachers about canceling programs. Guess what? They’ve never done a videoconference since. What was I thinking?!! We don’t do that anymore. We can’t take it personally! We have to consider their point of view and be gracious and understanding!
Of course we want teachers to realize that scheduling is challenging, but teachers are really stressed and under a lot of pressure. If we add to that stress, we are teaching them that videoconferencing isn’t worth the trouble. We have to cut them some slack and work with them to resolve whatever challenges arise so that they will continue to participate and use videoconferencing.
What About You?
So how do you handle cancellations? Any advice? What tips do you have to help teachers work through challenges with a videoconference?
Cancellations can really be hard. Especially last minute ones! But I think your right, it is very important to keep in mind what the average every-day world of a classroom teacher is like. We have to try hard working with them to make videoconferencing, and distance learning in general, as easy as we can. We all know how powerful this type of learning can be for students, we have the luxury of thinking about it all the time, after all, but for a teacher looking over her/his desk, piled high with the million things they need to do to keep their classroom running smoothly, it may not be that easy to see!
So it’s our job to make it easy for them… to work with them so that their vtc event fits smoothly into their current class curriculum… to make sure their experiences are interactive and foster two-way learning opportunities (after all we learn best when we teach)… to always check ourselves and make sure the content of any given event is really best delivered through vtc rather than some other means… And most importantly of all, to always remember the role of distance learning is (generally) to enrich the student’s classroom learning, and we can only do that through the support and partnership of the teacher.
With all that in mind, the very best way we have found to avoid, or easily work through, cancellations is to really get the individual teachers invested in the event! I can’t say that every program we do is with teachers that are totally into it, but I can say that we have never had a program cancelled with a class when their teacher is totally in to it!
But then that means the next question is……
How do we get, and keep, teachers invested in a distance-learning event?
Richard, I love how you stated that “we have the luxury of thinking about it all the time”. This really frames what we should be doing to assist our teachers. My responsibility as a full-time VC person, I try to make it as easy as possible for the classroom teacher.
My teachers that I have a personal connection to or who have participated in an event year after year seem to be more open to share with me when a project does not fit or has a part that is problematic or challenging for them. One teacher did not have a book for Bluebonnet a couple of years ago and I bought one and drove it to her school and helped her figure out how to teach the unit. Now, she does Bluebonnet every year and has also done Read Around the Planet and RegionQuest.
For newbies, I think the key is to SHOW them what it looks like and then to provide as much support as possible through phone, email, vc, WebEX, whatever it takes to make them understand the requirements.
Any other ways we can help our classroom teachers?
I agree whole heartedly with being patient and hand holding and making the experience a good one for teachers. There is, however, something that needs to be added about teachers who back out of scheduled programming.
Each year we run a MysteryQuest Regions program. This involves 4 classes but we run it with a minimum of 3. On one of our sessions last year we were down to our minimum of 3 when, two hours before program start, I got an e-mail from one of the teachers telling me she would not be participating. This obvioulsly dimminished greatly the experience for the two remaining classes.
In the evaluation that these two teachers filed they both stated that they didn’t feel the program was worthwhile for their students because there were only two schools connected. And they both stated they would not do MysteryQuest Regions again. And guess what, they didn’t sign up for it this year. So, while I agree with Janine that sending teachers who back out of programs a nasty e-mail might discourage them from participating in distance learning events that teacher who backs out of the program may cost you more in participating teachers than just the one. At least it did here in Macomb.