new online safety…same good parenting

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I’ve just spent two invigorating days at the Family Online Safety Institute Annual Conference. This event brings together tech industry leaders, education professionals, policy makers, and parents to discuss online privacy and safety. As I spend a lot of time discussing online safety and behavior with students and parents, I thought this would be a great avenue for me to learn about new trends, policies, and strategies for being a successful facilitator of these conversations.

I attended both plenary and breakout sessions on topics ranging from 1st Amendment vs. graphic content to the psychological impact of social media to the legal ramifications of sexting. I had conversations with local edufriends, researchers in the field, and leaders from instagram and ask.fm (yup, ask.fm–more on that in another post.) My brain swirled with all of the concepts and my twitter feed burst with commentary. Learning the trends of media use by adolescents and children was helpful in terms of data and provided reassurance that parents and children do, in fact, talk to one another about safety online.

I could wax poetic and share my notes from the many sessions but it comes down to this…parents (and other adults in kids lives) need to start the conversation of appropriate, kind, and safe behavior early and have the conversation often. This is not a new concept, but in our age of digital over-saturation, it seems to feel new. It is not about the latest app or the newest way to block content, it is about engaging in meaningful relationship building with our children. It is about modeling the appropriate use of devices in our own lives. It is about not panicking about brain development and at the same time providing opportunities for those little brains to build in meaningful ways.

It is apropos that this article from June in The Atlantic resurfaced on facebook yesterday. In brief, it seems that parents are more worried about a child’s high achievement and happiness then they are about building a sense of empathy and compassion. This falls right in line with what many of us see as educators–parents looking for filtering, blocking, privacy controls over having a conversation about appropriate, kind, and compassionate behavior AND creating lines in the sand about what is expected. My favorite line from one professional discussing children’s use of media created a little backlash on twitter but the point was valid—parents must be willing to say no, especially when it comes to their children and media/devices. Choices about use of media need to be purposeful and monitored. Screen time balance is not just about time limits-it’s about content choices and conversations of purpose.

FOSI has provide parents with a resource for helping them along the way. As has Common Sense Media. And Safe, Smart, Social. And a host of other companies and programs out there to help parents. It is there, all for the taking. Good parenting has not changed, it has just become just a little bit more challenging. We are in this together, as adults who care for children, to help them grow into smart, safe, kind, and compassionate human beings. Let’s go do it!

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community

**A word of preface: it is not often that I share such personal things on this my professional blog, but my world has been so fully rocked and my #edufriends community as well as my current and former school communities have been so amazing in the last few weeks, I felt a cross post was imperative. I hope that all in the edu community know my heartfelt thanks and my desire to serve you in any capacity, should you find a need. Be well. @teach2connect**

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My life has been a whirlwind in the two weeks since my beloved was called home to the Lord. My heart is broken to a depth I don’t fully understand. Yet, my heart is also full because of the intertwining communities that have come together to celebrate Kenny’s life, support our families, offer gifts, prayers, food, hugs, and tears. How do I even begin to say thank you? There are not enough words.

I believe the community you belong to is the community you help build. As a super-introvert, I feel like I have been blessed to ride the coattails of Ken’s amazing ability to build community. His laughter, his generosity, his gift for conversation, his sparkling smile, his compassion, his encouraging words and actions, these are what brought people into Ken’s community and I have been so honored to join him as his plus1/partner in crime.

In the deepest of our sorrows, our true friendships emerge. Our communities draw us together. We cling to these words of encouragement, grace, and strength in a way that we didn’t know was possible. We see friends old and new, acquaintances, and strangers come from the woodwork of our communities to lift us up when we can no longer stand. And these communities seek no reward, they seek no gain–they simply give. This sense of community has humbled me to my core.

I have often repeated the words grace, patience, gratitude, and plain old, thank you in the last two weeks as if I don’t have a thesaurus big enough to express myself. So I will go on with these words and live to honor the man that has built such an incredible set of communities for our Thomuto Team.

Peace to you and may the souls of the eternal departed rest in peace and rise in glory.

sifting through sand. #ce14

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I love being a Connected Educator. My network of #edufriends has allowed me to grow my practice of teaching and leading in a way I didn’t know possible.  My PLN has teachers, administrators, ed techs, edu wonks, and all sorts of ed-sy types from all over the world. We meet together on twitter, google+, facebook, instagram, and blogs. We occasionally get a real-life-in-person visit through our participation in edcamps and other local and national venues. So many incredible things are produced and shared through this network of incredible educators and parents. The amount of information can cause my brain to feel overwhelmed. I aggregate through hootsuite and feedly. I clip to evernote. I use all my tags and tools.

But sometimes, it feels like I’m sifting through sand. (This is a good problem to have, of course.) The deluge of information can exacerbate my already full brain–constantly feeling pressure to multi-task to be able to follow the threads. Then I stop. Close the tabs. Remember that in our 24/7 world, it will always be there later, tomorrow, or if I need something else, it will be there still. If we as Connected Educators try to keep up with the rush of our networks, we will inevitably all find ourselves in lovely padded rooms with Nurse Ratched as our guide.

You can connect a little or connect a lot, as long as you connect. If you are new to our connected educator world, do not dismay, in time, you’ll sift through the sand, find your go-to’s and build a strong network. Click on the link above for great resources from The EduBlogger or tweet me, @teach2connect and I’ll get you on your way. You can do it PLN! Keep Calm and EDU On.

 

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do i get a cape?

Whenever I talk about being an NAIS Teacher of the Future at home, Ken (the soon-to-be husband) says “Teacher of the Future” in a circa 1920′s radio announcer voice.  It makes me laugh and gives it a somewhat superhero spin. It provides a comical twist to a really big thing. I get to represent my school as someone who has a voice in the future of education. No pressure there, huh?

But in all seriousness, I take this responsibility very seriously. We, the Teachers of the Future cohort and alumni, are charged with studying, reflecting, and sharing our understanding of the way teaching and learning should be in the 21st century. Since we are getting started 14 years in, we have our work cut out for us. While we will all study the aspects of Blended/Online Learning, Assessment, Student Health/Well-being, and Accreditation, we will really be looking at how education is “done” in the United States and elsewhere.

I think it comes down to asking great questions. I am a big fan of the Essential Question. Wiggins and McTighe define an essential question as “a provocative question that will foster inquiry, understanding, and transfer of learning.” (2003) As a teacher, it is incredibly important that I ask questions about my own practice. Is what I am doing a Best Practice*? This summer, I went so far as to read an entire book about asking good questions.

I begin a reflective process of teaching and learning with these questions:

What are we doing? Why are we doing it? How is it good for kids? What do we need to change to make it better?

As I ask these questions, I am able to refine my practice of teaching and learning and guide students on their educational journey. Without these questions, teaching and learning can easily become stagnant or sterile. With these questions, teaching and learning can become robust, innovative, creative, and, frankly, fun for the teacher and the student.

The fact of the matter is, we are ALL teachers of the future. The children in our charge are going to be the leaders of our world. It is our responsibility, in collaboration with their family, community, and friends, to give them skills and experiences that will prepare them for adulthood. (Again, no pressure, right?!) It is our duty to ask the right questions, to encourage the children to ask them, and work together to find the answers.

No capes required.
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Amazing Graphic from @venspired, Krissy Venosdale

*This was our Norwood School summer read for 2014. Such a fantastic read for new and veteran teachers alike. Chock full of all of the things you should have learned in ed school, but probably didn’t.*

remembering when they can’t remember.

My current crop of children are between the ages of 5 and 14. The oldest ones were only a year old at most when the towers fell and the Pentagon burned. How do you explain to them a horror that happened only a few miles away? How do you even begin to share this moment that his real for many of the adults in their lives yet only an historical moment for them. Much like the assassinations of JFK, MLK, and Pearl Harbor are a piece of history for me yet so real for the generations who came first, I suppose we show them the pursuit of honor and reverence for courage, peace, and share stories of hope. It is hard to be a teacher in a time of war. However, these children have never lived the blissful existence of troops generally safe at home and abroad. They have never known a time without public, flag-draped caskets. Yet, we still offer hope. We still offer lessons both intentional and unintentional on modeling, love, compassion, global unity, and peace. We allow the children to come to their understanding of suffering and pain in their own time and hope they will become the “good ones.” Working for justice. Working for Peace.

On this day, we try just a bit harder to show them the lessons that really matter in this world. As we, the adults, each have our own memorial.

The work we do is noble my friends. May this day find you blessed with strength, courage, and hope.

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Lucky 13

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This year marks my 13th year in education (technically 12.5 until January**, but I’m calling it even.) Each year has brought new challenges, joys, children, adults, programs, rooms, and resources to create a fantastic time of learning and growing. I am really excited about the new adventures I am able to undertake in 2014.2015 including curriculum review, a new coding course, and more parent education for the digital age. We are blessed with a new Head of School this year and the buzz around our campus is enthusiastic and optimistic. I can’t wait to watch the change process from both a boots on the ground perspective and a 30,000 feet view. 

My intention for the year is set to focus on my own humility as a leader and to encourage others to grow their own practice in a way that makes learning personal and meaningful for everyone. This begins this week with 1:1 new teacher tech training. We’ve moved this from whole group to 1:1 so that I can establish relationships, gauge each new teachers comfort with tech, and open up lines of communication in order to serve them this year. I’m so excited to meet our new faculty! 

Do you set an intention or specific goal each year that trumps all others? I started this practice three years ago and have found that if I have that one mission-driven word to come back to each year, I can maintain focus and simultaneously build a character skill. In my first year, I chose patience and last year, I chose courage. This is my personal challenge to self, unattached from my professional growth goals with my boss. I find this really keeps me accountable to growing.

So here’s to Lucky #13 and all my best wishes for you as you begin your new school year! Make it your personal best.

 

**Oh and how about a look back to that very first year. 2001 in Iowa.

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mathophobia and edu-change

“I suck at math!”

“I’m afraid of math.”

“I can’t teach in the general classroom because of math.”

“No, music and math don’t exactly correlate for me, thanks.”

All of these phrases have come out of my mouth repeatedly in the last 36 years. I am suffer from severe mathophobia. I have struggled with every math class I have taken from first grade addition to senior year, “oh crap, I have to pass this to graduate high school”, Algebra II. I have received exactly one A in math, in my General Ed Math class in college. For the most part, with the help of a tutor, it has been scrape of my teeth passing.

So when the NY Times Magazine Article, “Why Do Americans Stink at Math“, came out two weekends ago, I clipped it to evernote and put it away. But as several other articles including, “5 Ways to Help Your Kid Not Stink at Math” and “Americans are Bad at Math, But It’s Not Too Late to Fix” came out this week, I decided to dig a little deeper.

Quick summary. The original article draws comparisons between the intent of American math reforms as seen by a Japanese educator in the 1980′s. Upon his arrival to the US, he found that all of his hopes (and reforms he’d put into place in Japan) were dashed by a didactic American system of learning math. Specifically, an emphasis on answers, products rather than process. There are many causes for lack of implementation within any curricular reform, in the case math, but specifically, the article draws attention to the lack of teacher training when reforms create a dramatic shift. It points to the current shift to the Common Core Math Standards and their emphasis on process and thinking skill over rote computational skill. Lessons that take numeracy out of context and emphasize rote memorization have led to an American population with math-phobia and worse, math innumeracy. 

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I have watched many a teacher and parent, included my beloved sister, balk at the implementation of the CCSS in Math. I have read a million articles pro and con. I have seen publishing companies take the CCSS and reduce it down to a series of workbooks and apps to make the standards fit within the traditional pedagogy of worksheet, drill-practice mania. I’ve come across lots of  booklets and tools wrapped up in little bows with cutesy graphics to give teachers tools to implement curricular reform into their classrooms. But tools and training are not the same. Additionally, wrapping up a new way of thinking about math must be accompanied with a new way of thinking about teaching and learning. 

In order to make a turn around on the nation-wide epidemic of mathphobia and innumeracy, we must turn the tide of what it means to be a teacher. We must look at the way teachers are prepared both in undergraduate and graduate education and the way we provide and undertake professional development within our schools and districts. Implementing curricular reform is difficult and it takes vast hours of quality professional development to provide both a philosophical base and a pedagogical base for change. We need to take all that we know about best practices in teaching to teach our teachers first! A teacher who understands how to teach in a way so students can learn will be a much stronger classroom leader than a teacher who teaches only the way they were taught. 

My argument  is not with educational reforms or the common core (though I will not touch the topic of standardized assessment at this juncture.). Rather, my argument is with our current practices of teacher preparation, continuing education, and professionalism. Teachers need to be given time to learn and grow to implement new practices. Teachers need to maintain and active growth mindset to believe that they can and should learn and grow. Finally, communities need to embrace the role of teacher as a professional title and expect this form of professional growth from their teachers while simultaneously respecting their expertise in teaching and learning. 

As with all edu-change, the pace feels like running in molasses. In the meantime, I’m working on my mathophobia by opening my mind to thinking about math in new, practical ways. To look at how math is used regularly in my own life and recognizing when I need a brush up on skills beyond calculating tip and sale price. And to recognize that it is never too late to learn.