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Just when you thought it was safe — homework is back, and...

Dial-A-Teacher is on record pace

Dial-A-Teacher is on record pace

“When I do my homework it’s hard, but when I call you, it’s like ‘Wow!’”
— Akira

“When I told my 22-year-old next-door-neighbor Lillie that I was going to Dial-A-Teacher today, she gasped and was all excited. Turns out she and her sister called from 1st grade through middle school because Mom only spoke Italian.”
— Ruth, a Dial-A-Teacher teacher

“I was spending the afternoon with my grandniece, her friend and her friend’s mother. When I told them that I was going to Dial-A-Teacher, my grandniece’s friend asked for the number. Without missing a beat, her mom answered, ‘212-777-3380.’ Turns out she used to call as a kid — often! We have spanned the generations.”
— Gail, a Dial-A-Teacher teacher

The sign on the door says, “Welcome to the Pride of the UFT” and for the nearly 30 years of its existence, that’s exactly what Dial-A-Teacher has been.

“We’ve been getting a record number of phone calls from students seeking homework help,’ said Anthony Harmon, director of the ever-popular program.

And what’s not to like? Students in need of an assist can just pick up the phone and get a teacher-expert on the line, to advise them on every topic from the most simple to the most complex.

Dial-A-Teacher’s 47 teachers are now logging an average of 1,100 to 1,400 calls a night, handling questions from kindergarteners through 12th-graders.

To spend time in their busy office is to overhear the teacher-side of the conversation: “OK, so first draw a cake ...” and “That’s a special kind of polygon.”

Calls are punted to those with particular specialties: “Who here is a chemistry teacher?” “Who speaks Spanish?”

And as happy students and parents throughout the city can attest, they will call back when needed.

Teachers at Dial-A-Teacher can offer help in 11 languages, plus three Chinese dialects, said Dial-A-Teacher Coordinator Karen Butler-Brock.

New technology makes it possible to track data on an as-needed basis, “daily, weekly, monthly, we can track by subject area and grade,” Harmon said.

A partnership with the New York Public Library has added new dimensions to the service: now students can post questions on a whiteboard, which Dial-A-Teacher can view and provide answers for.

Thanks to the partnership, there are now three supercomputers on which teachers and students can view the same screen simultaneously.

And for students who may have left their textbook at school, Dial-A-Teacher can access a reference library and copy and fax the pages in question to the student in need. Talk about Dial-A-Teacher to the rescue!

As you might imagine, the service has legions of fans — some even continue calling from college, because they know it to be a lifeline.

Thank-you cards and letters of appreciation are some of the ways that students and parents express their gratitude for the service, and they are spread across Butler-Brock’s desk.

“For students whose parents don’t speak English and can’t offer any assistance with homework, we are an incredible resource that sees them through many grades,” she said. She’s even heard from families that have used Dial-A-Teacher through multiple generations.

Funded jointly by the Department of Education and the UFT, this is one feel-good program that gets nothing but love from everyone who’s used it; it’s a win-win-win, for students, parents and teachers.

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