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Recovering ‘what was lost’

Dial-A-Teacher remains an important, free tool for students
New York Teacher
Two men wearing masks engage in conversation at a computer. One man, bald, is standing over the man sitting at the computer
Erica Berger

Dial-A-Teacher Program Coordinator Sean Blanks and Scott Horodyski as he works to help students and parents with homework challenges.

The UFT’s homework helpline, Dial-A-Teacher, is back for its 41st year.

Dial-A-Teacher offers K–12 students free help after school from teachers in all school subjects in seven languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Haitian-Creole, Bengali, Russian and Tagalog.

After nearly two years of school under the shadow of the pandemic, the Dial-A-Teacher team is trying to “combat what was lost,” said Sean Blanks, the Dial-A-Teacher program coordinator. Access was a big problem during remote learning, he said. “For example, some kids didn’t have access to laptops — so we’re working to recover the basics.”

Scott Horodyski, a teacher who is in his sixth year working with the help line, said students are “struggling” to catch up and the phone lines are “ringing off the hook.”

After their experience with remote learning, he noted, students are used to getting academic support outside the classroom. “They’re more comfortable reaching out,” said Horodyski, who teaches math at IS 77 in Queens.

Parents and caregivers are central to Dial-A-Teacher’s programming. Many tell Horodyski they feel “helpless” when they can’t teach children themselves, “but that’s not a parent’s job,” he said. “Their job is to get their child the help they need,” which they can do by calling Dial-A-Teacher. Horodyski routinely speaks with students and parents simultaneously on speaker phone. “Parents aren’t alone — it’s our job to teach, and we’re here to help,” he said.

Dial-A-Teacher also offers support for parents including workshops on topics such as time management, homework as a family affair and “pantry math,” which shows parents how to bolster their children’s math skills by having them help out in the kitchen. Dial-A-Teacher offers these workshops to parent-teacher associations both virtually and in-person.

While Horodyski loves classroom teaching, he thinks programs like Dial-A-Teacher are vital for good learning outcomes. “The more the students call, the more they gain confidence,” he said. The quietest student in a class of 20 or 30 who rarely raises a hand can get needed one-on-one support.

“It teaches them that if they put in the work and time, the results will come,” he said.

Dial-A-Teacher is available to help with homework on Mondays through Thursdays from 4 to 7 p.m. at 212-777-3380.

Related Topics: Parents, Dial-A-Teacher