If a student fails a test, has a personal issue, or has a significant number of unexcused absences, a teacher can send a message to the rest of the student’s team through the online messaging network Mossprod. A student’s team includes their point person, advisor, cluster dean, house counselor, and other adults.
The purpose of the system is to support students by allowing their team to stay updated on their life, according to Rajesh Mundra, Dean of Studies.
“A lot of teachers use student alerts to talk about tardiness, unexcused absences, if [the student is] not doing their assignments, if they fail one or more significant assignments, [if] there’s been a clear academic downturn, disruptive or disturbing behavior. That could be from a teacher or another adult, like a house counselor or a coach,” said Mundra.
The Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center and the Academic Skills Center (A.S.C.) use the student alert system to inform adults on campus about accommodations, concerns, or other necessary information. For example, Sykes can use the system to inform a student’s team about medical concerns regarding concussions or other injuries, while the A.S.C. can send messages regarding academic support.
Andrea Bailey, Instructor in Biology, highlighted the system’s potential to support students with enhanced faculty communication. According to Bailey, faculty can use the system to address both immediate and minor concerns, and teachers should have transparency with students about using Mossprod.
“Students are usually aware that there’s communication going on about them, like if there’s Mossprods going on, because the whole point is to initiate conversations with students…The whole point is about supporting students, either in big ways or small ways,” said Bailey.
In order to ensure a student’s privacy, Mundra hopes that faculty have conversations with students before sending a Mossprod.
“I think a good practice for the teacher who is going to be writing or thinking about writing something [is] to first have a conversation with the student, because sometimes I think a student can feel a little blindsided when another teacher approaches them…I think there are good intentions from other faculty, but there are also issues of privacy for a student,” said Mundra.
While Mundra advocates for transparency with students, Nata Loumidis ’21 was not notified prior to a Mossprod, which she considered a breach of privacy.
“[After the Mossprod,] the rest of my teachers were super nice to me. It was so weird. They do it without telling you. I was unaware of the fact that my teacher let other teachers know of how I was feeling that day, and it just felt like an invasion of privacy,” said Loumidis.
According to Nikita Muromcew ’21, while there is potential for the system to be effective, there is still a lack of communication between the student and their team. Muromcew also thinks that the system would benefit from established standards about how faculty members should respond to a Mossprod.
“Even when there is communication, there’s no standard for what the expected response [is]. If a student is having a really hard time, what does that mean for a teacher? Is the teacher supposed to assign less work, call on them in class less? There’s just not a standard for even what requires that response and what doesn’t. I think it’s a little bit too subjective and really hidden because all of us are finding out right now,” said Muromcew.
Because of this issue, Mundra and Clyfe Beckwith, Assistant Head of School for Teaching and Learning, are currently working on a document to provide faculty with guidelines for writing reports.
“Some faculty might find it a little confusing as to ‘When do I write?’ or ‘For what purpose do I write?’ We also really guide faculty to write things that are factual and not kind of move into speculation about a student’s mental health or something else. That’s private information, and we shouldn’t be making that [speculation] anyways. I think faculty just need reminders about that,” said Mundra.
In the future, Mundra looks to generate discussion with students about the system. He sees the upcoming guidelines as a way to kickstart this conversation.
“Maybe when we finish this document… that will be a good point to share it with students and have a discussion,” said Mundra.