Teaching is already challenging enough without adding something that is potentially troublesome and complicated, but databases can actually make the job easier. While there are a number of databases out there, usually it will be easier (and cheaper) to use the tools you already have. Of course you already have to deal with numerous types of databases for school, but those aren’t quite the same. By setting up a simple database in a program like Microsoft Access, you can simplify your daily activities.
Even if you don’t think of yourself as a tech savvy teacher, consider creating a basic database for yourself instead of trying to track information in Excel. If you are less inclined to use technology because it just isn’t your area of expertise, there are a few things that can help you better cope with the information you have to maintain for school. No matter what your skill level or proficiency, you should be aware of the rules and regulations regarding information privacy that dictate what information can be stored on what computers.
When the time comes, you can actually get a good look at how your class is performing through database reports, and you will find that forms can significantly simplify the experience. In fact, most administrative requirements will have forms to make it easier to deal with entering grades and attendance information. You can create a database for yourself,
or you can join together with some of your fellow teachers to streamline your lesson plans, share project ideas, and critique teaching methods.
Creating Lesson Plans
One of the most challenging aspects of teaching is coming up with lesson plans because you have to look at the plans from several different aspects. First you have to make sure that you are able to cover all of the different requirements for both state and federal guidelines (and frequently local requirements). Then you have to come up with several different ways to present information to cover the various ways that children learn. On top of that, you have to make it engaging enough that your students will learn the material that is presented. If you are the kind of teacher who wants to cover several different parts of the curriculum at a time, you also need to track what you have done and what still needs to be covered.
By using Access, you can create a database that identifies everything that needs to be learned over the course of the semester or year. You can record information on all of the lesson plans you have, ones you have found online, lesson plans that are used by your coworkers, and anywhere else that you find a lesson plan you may like to use or modify. Then you can compare what you need to teach with the existing plans to come up with one that hits the points and makes sense. If there is a current event that perfectly exemplifies a current lesson (particularly for science or social studies), you can work that into a lesson plan you have prepared.
You can also track how successful each lesson plan is with the students. If there was a particular problem with the plan, you can take notes and tweak it for next time. If the lesson plan utterly fails, you will know to create a new one before next year.
Tracking students is relatively simple. Create a table that includes all of your students. You can create a form to track transfer students and students who move, making it easy to identify when a student joins or leaves your class. Another form can be used every day to record anyone who is absent that day (that will save you having to go through the table every day). Creating a table for attendance actually sets you up for the next important aspect too: grades. This also means that you need to make sure that you keep this table current.
Tracking and Reporting Grades
This one could be tricky because you have to be careful about putting this confidential information on a computer outside of the school’s network. For these types of databases, it is generally best to use a school computer to save information, or least get prior approval to save this information to a personal computer.
Access is actually ideal for storing this sort of information because it gives you numerous methods of tracking grades and updating information. Of course you will have to maintain the same information in the school database, but you may be able to load the information into the school system’s database. It is worth the time to determine whether you can do a straight conversion or load up a text file with the grades to keep you from having to double enter information.
In terms of actually managing the information, you can create forms that are easy to use and specific to your needs. If you create a single form for grades, you can also include a field for the grade type (such as participation, quiz, daily, test, or presentation), so that Access can include the right percentage for the grade. You can assign names to the forms, and then link it to the table used for attendance to go through all of your current students and add the grade for each of them. This will guarantee that you include everyone.
Generating Progress Reports
One of the best things about Access and grades is that you can examine how each individual is doing in a class, as well as getting an overview of how each class is doing. If it looks as though the students in one class are having trouble with a particular area, you can adjust your lesson plan to cover that area before the next quiz or test.
The reporting area is probably the most useful aspect of Access for teachers because you have to maintain so many different metrics. You can create reports that run metrics from any angle you want, something that can be very difficult to do in a school maintained database. It is considerably easier to work with something that you created because you already know exactly what is recorded and how you have recorded it.
Projects are one of the things students tend to like the least about school. You can use Access to track how well projects do, the average grade for a project, the kinds of problems students encounter, and information on how to handle the project in the future. You can create a separate form for projects that ties back to the gradebook table (so that the grades still show), but that you can pull other details for future reference.
Meetings, Conferences, and Certification
One of the most troubling parts of teaching is keeping up with all of the different aspects of the job that aren’t directly working with students, like parent conferences, school mandated conferences, various meetings, and certification. You can create an area in your Access database just to track this information. That way you can pull reports that tell you what you need to plan for each month.