As we move into the New Year, many of us make a resolution of sorts—an area where we could improve, get better, feel better, look better. As a teacher, I frequently not only resolved but pledged that I would be more organized and keep on top of my paperwork better at the beginning of each semester. I would have a binder for IEP documents, another for data collection, a third for behavior plans, one for lesson plans, an additional one for the curriculum of each course I was teaching, another for student schedules, one for materials I was going to implement from a training I had attended at some point, and so on. With my bookshelf-of-organization all set up and ready to go, THIS was the semester I was going to be organized!
Then the kids would come back, and before long, the top of the bookshelf was stacked sky-high with documents that belonged in those aforementioned binders, but which would remain atop the bookshelf until I was forced to organize them so they could be shredded or turned in at the end of the year, and all that paperwork would be overwhelming and meaningless as it sat in a stack all semester long.
In Check & Connect, there is one crucial piece of paperwork, the Monitoring Form. While in general, paperwork tends to be a source of frustration for school staff, many mentors report that the Monitoring Form not only becomes easier to complete after a month or two of getting accustomed to it, but that it truly shapes, informs, and guides them in how they work with mentees.
The key is developing a routine or system for completing the data entry every week. Most schools have online gradebook systems, and the data used by Check & Connect mentors is available (with specific permissions) on virtually all of these systems. Weekly analysis of ABC data (Attendance, Behavior, Credits/Grades) allows the Check & Connect mentor to immediately implement interventions to get the student back on track if they begin to struggle in an area.
Since immediate intervention is the key to implementing Check & Connect with fidelity, letting paperwork build up for months at a time simply is not an option. So, how do mentors make completing the Monitoring Form easier so they can implement Check & Connect with fidelity and still stay sane? The most common response I get is that once you get in the habit of using the form, it goes quickly (less than ten minutes a week). Here are suggestions mentors have shared that help them complete the Monitoring Form weekly:
- Set up a specific time each week to access data and complete the form. This creates a routine which allows mentors to recognize patterns in the data, while accommodating the varying times in which teachers enter grades.
- After you initially set up the form with the basic identification and academic data (student name, ID, grade, school, cumulative grades, credit accrual, and whether or not s/he met state standards), create a tab for each month in Excel (or a page for each month in Word) and save the form. You will not have to enter this information again until a grading period ends. If you prefer to do these forms on paper, fill out this information one time and make copies for the rest of the grading period!
- If you put dates on your form for each day of the month, only do this one time, then copy and paste (or photocopy) to all other sections of the form (or even to other students’ forms) to save time.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel! Sit together as a team to work through the Monitoring Form a time or two. Share what tricks you use, where/how you access data, what helps you communicate the information on your forms to your mentees, etc.
- Coordinators, set clear expectations for how forms should be completed (checkmarks, numbers, letter grades, percentages, etc.) and timelines for forms to be completed and turned in. Also, be clear with mentors about what information should and should not be included in the case notes.
What other tips, tricks, and strategies have you come up with to make your Monitoring Form user-friendly and easy to complete? Do you have other advice for mentors about getting in the habit of completing the Monitoring Form? How have you altered or formatted the Monitoring Form to make it more user-friendly for you?
About the Author: Jana Hallas, M.Ed., is a project coordinator and member of the Check & Connect training team at the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota.
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