Mr. Kue is a math teacher at The Maxine Greene High School For Imaginative Inquiry on the Upper West Side. Last year, he left the finance world and entered the classroom through the New York City Teaching Fellows (NYCTF) program. Learn how KiNVO helped him escalate his parent outreach, invest students in coming to class on time, and boost his students’ attendance rates.
Transition to teaching
Mr. Kue recently wrapped up his first year in the classroom after 22 years on Wall Street—a transition inspired by a “gut feeling” that is tough to pin down. Shortly after deciding to resign his position at Credit Suisse, his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. He stayed home to care for her and his three sons for two years, and during that time he came across an advertisement for the New York City Teaching Fellows (NYCTF).
After this “lightbulb moment,” Mr. Kue decided to apply to NYCTF, which prepares college graduates and career changers to lead NYC classrooms. While he knew he liked working with kids—he has coached baseball for more than 12 years—he struggles to explain exactly why he chose teaching. “It’s just something in the gut that said, this is something that would satisfy you and also give back,” he says.
His wife and sons were supportive of the switch, believing that he would thrive, based upon his track record of helping with homework and coaching. Others were a bit more skeptical. Friends would comment, “You’re making six figures on Wall Street—why would you want to leave that?” He remembers asking similar questions of former coworkers who made similar moves and now recognizes that, “there actually is no good answer, just a feeling to do something more fulfilling.”
Through NYCTF, he attended a couple of interviews with schools and felt fortunate to land at The Maxine Greene High School, where he appreciates the flexibility his administration provides. “Because they knew I had career experience,” he says, “they gave me leeway, and they let me come to them when I needed a resource.”
Mr. Kue right away observed parallels between his Wall Street and teaching roles. Finance prepared him to manage upward and downward. His students remind him of the team he led, which he trained to work as a group. Colleagues at his level are like his fellow teachers, with whom he collaborates across departments. And “taking team results and explaining them to upper management” mirrors sharing progress with his principal.
The First Few Months
Yet, despite his past experience and NYCTF support, no amount of training or practice could truly prepare him for the classroom. One of the most challenging aspects was coming to terms with the fact that he would not always be able to accomplish that which he set out to do. Mr. Kue describes himself as “Type A,” illustrating his drive to achieve results by quoting Talledega Nights: “If you’re not first, you’re last.” But the reality of being a high school teacher meant that, despite his high expectations and best efforts, progress didn’t always come as quickly as he would have liked.
Mr. Kue sums up his first few months in the classroom in a way that resonates with any new teacher: “rough.” That’s where KiNVO comes in.
In the whirlwind of adapting to new systems, strategies, and students, attendance was not at the front of Mr. Kue’s mind. He admits that during those first months, he did not always enter attendance in the system he was supposed to use, calling it too time-consuming and confusing. His parent engagement efforts were concentrated into one designated period each week, during which he picked about six numbers to call and typically left voicemails that did not generate a reply.
Maxine Greene High School for Imaginative Inquiry
2015-2016 School Year
With KiNVO’s help, one in three of the late students started showing up on time—”a win for me and any teacher.Bob Kue
Parents now respect and expect communications from me,Bob Kue
Giving KiNVO a Try
When Mr. Kue started using KiNVO in the middle of October 2016, he immediately recognized how it could help him streamline some of his day’s stressful routines. “KiNVO made life a lot easier,” he says. “Things finally started to connect.”
Not only does texting save him time and amplify his reach, but parents of his students say they prefer to receive texts over phone calls. As a father, he can relate. When he got calls from his sons’ school, “I was always afraid to pick up the phone. Texts are easier because you can read and respond on your own time,” he explains.
KiNVO has also helped Mr. Kue to frame discussions with students and parents by providing concrete evidence of attendance patterns. Before KiNVO, he tracked when students arrived to class, and some would dispute that they had been late. It turned out they had no sense of how the minutes added up. KiNVO data clued them in. During weekly individual check-ins with his students, Mr. Kue started pulling up their profiles to show the time they came each day. “They said, you know what Mr. Kue? I didn’t realize how much lateness adds up to class time I miss,” he remembers.
Once students were more aware of their attendance habits, they were equipped to change them. At the beginning of the year, Mr. Kue describes, 15 of 30 students in his first period geometry class were consistently late. With KiNVO’s help, one in three of the late students started showing up on time—”a win for me and any teacher.”
Of the 50 students in his algebra class, nearly 10 percent reduced their absence rates over the year as they learned that frequent absences could put them at risk of failing the course. “They did turn it around,”Mr. Kue says. And with more consistent instruction came academic growth. “I could see the correlation that if they showed up to class, they passed quizzes that week,” he recalls.
KiNVO data also provided talking points for parent-teacher conferences.Mr. Kue pulls out student profiles to go over the dates that students were out of school, and parents review their message histories and calendars to figure out the reasons for the absences. Some parents are motivated to take action right away, bringing the student into the conference to discuss how to make improvements.
He recalls that some parents were caught off guard upon learning that their children were not in class. One mother responded to the automated attendance messages by asserting that her daughter left the house so she must be in school. Once she realized that was not the case, she had a phone conversation with the parent coordinator that led to the student showing up on time.
Another parent was confused about messages saying her son was consistently missing Mr. Kue’s 8th period, since he had been marked present in other classes. After bringing the student in, they realized he had been cutting because he did not want to attend his elective the last period of the day. “The data provided via KiNVO helped her pinpoint and helped to change that habit,” he says. Conversations like these, Mr. Kue reflects, would not have been possible without KiNVO data to identify patterns and backup interventions.
Because Mr. Kue regularly uses KiNVO to message parents, they feel more comfortable reaching out about topics beyond attendance. When he sends a reminder about upcoming exams or assignments, at least 15 parents respond with a “thank you” and pledge to follow up with their children. Parents are appreciative of his outreach and have become accustomed to two-way communication—a 180-degree shift from his previous method of leaving voicemails. “Parents now respect and expect communications from me,” he says.
With improved communication comes another tool to reinforce positive behavior. When he made weekly phone calls, limited time meant Mr. Kue was unable to focus on the “middle of the road” students. Now he uses texts to incentivize his classes. Students are eager for him to offer praise to their parents, so he’ll promise: “Do well for a whole week and on Friday we’ll send a text together,” or, “Maintain your focus and we’ll send a text right now.” He recalls how one mother was pleasantly surprised after receiving a laudatory call: “In the past when she has received a phone call from class, it was not positive.”
Using KiNVO to Get a Head Start Over The Summer
Though Mr. Kue is busy with his graduate school obligations this summer—at the end of next year, he will obtain a Master in Teaching facilitated by NYCTF—he is already thinking about his goals for the fall.
First, he wants to continue using KiNVO to drive up his attendance numbers. “Of course I like 100%,” he notes,” but will be satisfied with 75% of students on time for his first period class and an average 90% attendance rate.”
Along with attendance, Mr. Kue wants to improve parent engagement, using participation at parent-teacher conferences as a metric. About 30 of 80 parents attended last year’s conferences, and he thinks he can get higher turnout by using KiNVO early on to build relationships. By introducing KiNVO to parents at the first conference and showcasing how he will use it, Mr. Kue hopes to “get them sold on it.” He has a major head start here because he is looping with his current students, meaning he will teach last year’s freshmen as sophomores. Now, his families will be accustomed to using KiNVO to communicate back and forth.
To turn KiNVO into a habit for parents, he also plans to send more weekly messages about general class progress and specific student updates. Since KiNVO lets him create customized templates that are personalized for each student, he doesn’t imagine this will be a heavy lift. Finally, he wants to use in-the-moment calls and texts from class more frequently. “It’s another tool in my toolbox to keep students motivated,” he says.