New School Year, Same Old School Issues

Even with all the new technology, some things never change.

Most Arlington County students return to school today and for many parents, myself included, this means rebooting your schedule and preparing for the many email alerts and texts coming from your child, his or her teachers, the school, the county, the PTA, coaches and activity sponsors.

The world is so wired these days and schools are trying to keep up. But for all the new technology, parents still have some of the same old school problems.

Parental Involvement

No matter whether we text or Skype to get the word out, there always seem to be a handful of parents doing most of the work.

My son attended band camp this summer. One day when I was dropping him off for camp, a concerned mother ran to my car with a large green poster board.  With my door still open she inserted herself into what I considered my private time and space.

“Are you aware of sign-ups for dinner?” she asked. She was talking about a sign-up sheet to bring dishes for the nightly dinner served to marching band members. “I signed up on Jooners,” I said. Jooners is a free scheduling website designed to make communication among group members easier. The problem is not all the parents use it. So what's the point?

For those who don’t use Jooners, the dinners were mentioned on a listserv created by the music department’s parent organization. The person who managed it last year? Their daughter graduated. So we're still waiting for a volunteer for this year.

School Lunch

A few years ago I signed up for MySchoolBucks.com, which allows you to pay for lunch online and sends you an email alert when the balance is low. Great! But extra charges apply if you pay online.

Still, I do use it to check out what my son’s been eating, especially if it seems he’s running through money faster than normal. Once I noticed six Otis Spunkmeyer cookies purchased at 50 cents each in one day! I need an app to stop that from happening.

School Work

Arlington County gives parents the ability to track student assignments and grades online through Blackboard and Edline. The problem is that not all teachers are tech savvy. Some teachers update their pages daily. Others could care less.

What is odd is that while teachers can get away with not staying on top of technology, students can't.

Some classes don’t even issue a textbook to take home. The teachers expect the students to complete their work online. Last year I was frustrated that teachers seemed to want a pass, often forgetting to update their Blackboard pages, yet they expected my 14-year-old to be responsible for completing his online textbook work?

Speaking of books, I went online to see the summer reading requirements for my son. He chose one of the books and we went to the library to get it. It was checked out. So I asked them if he could download it as an e-book on my Kindle Fire. They said yes., but there was a waiting list.

A waiting list for an e-book? I went to in Clarendon and just bought it. 

Communicating with Children

My son has a cell phone but only seems to check messages two hours after they are relevant. And it seems the sole reason he texts me is to tell me he left a book or an assignment or even his keys at home.

He's also required to carry a flash drive with assignments on it. But of course he leaves that at home. It's attached to his keys.


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