Tracking it Forward

images (2)By Nick McDaniels — As my time with my seniors winds down, I am starting to think about the relationships I built with many of them.

Some of them, I have taught three times, so I couldn’t imagine being closer to any students than I am with this group. But, a month from now, after final exams, farewell assemblies, prom, and graduation, how am I going to keep track of my students, roughly fifty of them? The truth is, in schools, we do a terrible job of staying in touch with students after high school and we need to do better.

So it begins now for me. There are no dramatic ideas here, nothing earth shattering. But when the whole education world is consumed with data that is misleading, inaccurate, and erroneously-relied upon, I’m going to start creating some of the data that really matters.

How are our students doing in life?
Are they pursuing careers relevant to what we taught them?
Do they have the skills they need?
Do they feel prepared to take on the difficulties the world can throw at them?

So this year, with my seniors, I will make sure to get contact information for them before they graduate. And I will get to work reaching out. I will call them, email them, reach them any way I can to find out what they are doing, to find out how I could have prepared them better, to prove that even beyond high school, we still have an interest in their well being.

This job is a daunting one for a teacher, particularly after a few years, when the number of students needing tracking compounds, but this is valuable work for current students as well, to reach out to alumni to see where they have gone and that they are doing.

I can think of no more important data that a school could collect, and not data set in today’s data happy culture that goes as undercollected as what our students do after they leave us. It’s time for me to start filling that void, but not in the name of data, in the name of showing a lifelong interest in the students I have come to know so well.

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