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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Cyber Security and the Start of School

With school beginning, now is a good time to remind our children about cyber-security and being good citizens in the digital world they will be sharing.

Many school districts are funding 1:1 devices for every student in their school. This may mean that your child will be bringing home a chrome book, net book or tablet to use which is issued by the school. These devices usually replace the paper-bound textbooks and may or may not have internet access. If they have internet access please take the time to talk with you child about internet security, cyber-bullying, and keeping your (and their) privacy secure.

When in doubt about cyber-bullying or internet safety and security - ask. Ask your child's teacher for a copy of what the school is teaching about internet and digital safety. If they don't know, ask the administration. Schools are subject to the Children's Internet Protection Act CIPA . They have two certification requirements: 1) their Internet safety policies must include monitoring the online activities of minors; and 2) as required by the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, they must provide for educating minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms, and cyberbullying awareness and response. Ask for how they are meeting these requirements.

Here three great ways to keep the school devices safe while at home:

1) Read the Acceptable Use Policy when it comes home. As a parent you will need to read, sign and return the document stating that you understand the penalties of misuse. Read it carefully and if you don't understand any of the policies, ask the teacher. If you don't feel you got a sufficient answer, ask the administration for clarification (in writing is always good at this level).

2) Explain to your child about using a school issued device. Anything stored, transmitted from, or download that is not allowable (including copyrighted material) may be subject to removal, loss of use, or depending on the severity school discipline.
3) Ask to see and review the device frequently. Remember, this group of students will be among the first to use a digital device from early grades on in their education. If we ask them to share how they are using it, to "teach" us about the technology, we will be learning and looking to see if they are being good digital citizens.

Remember, if you don't know what an "app" is or does; or the terminology of cyber threats, take the time to learn. Technology is doubling every 18 months, so it's okay to ask for help.

For more on digital citizens and cyber-safety visit the following sites:
https://sos.fbi.gov/ - FBI's website (relaunching in September) for teachers, parents and guardians providing information and reporting tips for cyber threats.
http://www.netsmartz.org/Parents - videos, guidelines and resources for the whole family on how to be safe online.
http://www.nsteens.org/ - Internet safety for just for teens (includes games, interactive videos, etc.)
https://www.fcc.gov/guides/childrens-internet-protection-act School district's responsibility in providing educational resources for internet safety.


|D|

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Parent University is a great idea!

The Metro Nashville Public Schools started their school year the first week of August. Included in the beginning of school was a Saturday called "Parent University."

Picture representing Parent University

Parent University is just what it means. It is a celebration for parents to meet school district personnel, make relationships, learn from presenters on a variety of subjects - from Cyber-bullying to developing online portfolios, to navigating the difficult departments and personnel of a "central office."

Allowing the parents throughout the district access to ask questions, provide information, and help with materials and ideas for their children is a great way to build positive relationships at the beginning of the school year.   Some how, when you meet a school official at a Parent University setting one has a conversation that is relaxed and informational as opposed to meeting a parent frustrated and trying to find resources for their children.

It is a community wide efforts, with social resources, government resources, along with business and educational services all in one location and all with one purpose - to assist and equip parents to help children be even more successful.

Check out the Parent University website for ideas for your community.


Reflecting and Renewing...Simple Organization

The beginning of school brings the smell of new book bags, fresh markers, highlighters, packs of paper and clean unused binders or folders. As we gather materials for the beginning of a new school year we should also pause and reflect on how we processed and organized our papers and supplies in previous years.

Do we really need all of those pens and markers on day one? Should we just get what we need and then replenish as we move through the year. Storage is always a premium in the classroom and in your backpack. Plus, if you store them at home, will you remember the safe place where you put the extras?

What is important to carry from class to class or from school to home? We know we need some method of note tacking and assignment tracking, but do we really need a spiral notebook for each class? Why not one notebook for all classes and use post-it tabs and post it notes to accentuate important ideas and materials that would be on a test. This way you carry one notebook or comp book and take all the notes for the classes. As you study and research you have everything in one place and not running the risk of forgetting the notebook that you really need when you get to the library and realize it's at the dorm or the apartment or worse, the trunk of you car -- have you seen things survive there?

Thinking about organization and reflecting on how you used things in previous educational journeys has allowed me to have one main, bound, composition book; then a small take-out box with colored pencils, post-its, and highlighters to make the book interactive. Try it. It's working for me.

Friday, June 19, 2015

#SELConference 2015 - Nashville

Today has been exhilarating, enlightening, emotional and just plain fun! Boy am I tired - in a good way!

Susie and I spent the day at the 2015 SEL Conference in Nashville presented by Alignment Nashville and other great sponsors. A keynote by the intense Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade started us off,  followed by over 50 different options for break-out sessions.

We had the privilege to present "Eight Ways to Change Climate, Develop Culture, & Build Community" to a group of nearly 50 enthusiastic attendees.We enjoyed the building of community, sharing our cultures and learning how to document and understand the climate within our schools and classrooms.

For those who attended our sessions and for anyone else who would like to have the materials and references we curated for session, I have placed links HERE for the presentation and HERE for the handout materials and resources. Please note the resources page in the handout has additional materials and references for your post-sessions experience.   As always, please feel free to engage in dialog with us. We look forward to exchanging ideas, successes, as well as constructive methods and strategies to continue the experience we have had today!

We have thoroughly enjoyed our day, made many new relationships and have expanded our knowledge of learning to have and share "audacious hope!" Thank you!

|D|



Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Calendar, New Year, So What?

This week I have been inundated with processes and procedures in resetting priorities. It has been through every media outlet and mechanism possible. I get it. There is a new number at the end of the date field. It is a new calendar (who has paper calendars?) and resolutions are supposed (really? who says?) to be made.

Even though the statistics vary as to how many of us will keep resolutions and thus either give up, fail, or forget; we are enticed to try. But why?

Can change(s) occur that quickly? Have you ever watched anyone push an elephant?  Only when the is mass and acceleration that exceeds the force you are trying to move can the elephant be moved.  (Even if the elephant doesn't want to move).  So why should I care about making changes or resolutions if I haven't thought carefully about whether the probability of success is even there?

I can declare "I will read more," but if I don't carve out the time or I don't substitute another activity for reading, then I haven't really considered all that will need to change before I can even remotely be successful at reading more.

Usually change occurs when a "force" is applied. Underline force. This is Newton's second law. Where F(orce) = M(ass) times (A)acceleration. I just believe there isn't enough force occurring in the mere changing of one digit at the end of the date to make the significant change the rest of the world seems to think I need to make.

The amount of force needed for change has to be greater than the amount of change wanted. Either I work out to get strong and be able to push more weight than I can now, or I search for a way to entice the elephant to want to move, either way, if I want acceleration on my goals, resolutions or changes, I will need to increase one or more of the attributes of mass or acceleration in order to increase the amount of force needed.

So instead of looking for new resolutions, new goals, new.... perhaps I need to start looking at the forces already working in my life.  If I wish to change my life's direction, what are the forces causing me to move in the direction I'm moving now and how can I redirect or refocus those forces? What force is causing me to not read sufficiently now? Am I too tired when I get home? How do I change that?

I must examine the processes and forces, list them, mind map them, look at their effects on what I believe to hold dear. I need to educate myself on what are those forces of change. Are they for certainty, purpose, or control? Have they been there and I'm just comfortable with them? Are they positive forces guiding me through my journey and thus I should possibly increase them?

Only when I do the work to see those forces of change at work in my life and learn what pieces of the Newton's equation to change or if to change it at all, can I begin to see any change become as easy as turning over the page on the calender.

|D|


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

10 Ways for Teachers to get ready to go back to school after Winter break

As a teacher I will start back to school for the second semester of the 2014-15 school year in January. The first day will be a planning day to reconnect with peers, colleagues, and get ready for the students.  Will I be ready? Will stress play a part on that first day when the students come back? 

As a former Sr. Software Project Manager my primary focus was mitigation of stress in the management of change. Change is a part of our daily lives and how we management it either helps us through the change or causes us to be stressful through the change. Here are my ten things to do as I prepare to go back to teaching and working on managing a stress free learning environment to start the rest of the school year. 

10 - Move my mindset to one of learning and growth. When I am in restoration mode I sometimes want to stay there. Over the break I've read great books, visited with family and friends, watched movies, enjoyed good foods, as well as found some new ideas to use in the classroom. I need to return to the proactive growth mindset. I want to be surprised at what my students have retained over the break. I don't want to show disappointment on any regression. I want to set everyone up for success an adjust plans to reteach if necessary. I may need to rekindle the students minds to remembering what we work so hard to learn before the break. If I am positive, they will be too.

9-Let the student's help return the classroom to a different theme. If I do all of the work on my planning day to take down the decorations, put away the holiday materials, then the students miss an opportunity of ownership in creating the next theme. As we put away the holiday decorations we also realize things come to an end and new beginnings take place. It's helpful to allow the students to be helpful and to participate in the space they occupy. They will have more respect for something they helped to create. Don't forget to update the classroom job list, too. Don't have one? Check out TeachHub's suggestions for creating classroom jobs.

8-You are not alone. If you haven't been to the classroom during the break, you may be overwhelmed at what is to be done. Take a break and help one of your colleagues, make it a time to work together on helping one another to clean, straighten up the room, or reorganize materials, keeping in mind that you are not alone and have great colleagues wanting to help with fresh new eyes and ideas. (Leave some for the students to do, see #9.)

7-Positive notes or emails home. I'm going to take time out the first week back to write positive notes and emails back to the parents to set the tone for the rest of the school year. We are so busy doing the teaching process we sometimes forget to include the parents in the exciting elements which happen in class. I have made a personalized version of a "positively note worthy" note pad made from 1/4 page cut outs. I can keep them on a small clipboard and write a quick note home while I'm working directly with the student in circle time, in one-on-one, or during my "walk-abouts." Parents enjoy getting communications on how well their child is doing in class and if they start getting them regularly it will change the relationship when the time comes for a more serious meeting or phone call.

6-Practice positive teacher language. After being with adult size friends and family members over the holidays we may relapse back to saying "good job" or "great work" rather than being specific in our language to students. Responsive Classroom has some great tips on reminding, reinforcing, and redirecting language to use a refresher before the students return to class. @responsiveclass and #RCChat are great Twitter resources and RC Facebook page is also helpful to bring us back to using positive teacher language.

5-The second half of the school is a great time to re-visit hopes and dreams, goals, and expectations with students, colleagues, data teams as well as parents. Be positive when working with students in setting or revisiting goals. Remember that failure is a part of learning - staying "in the failure" should not be an option. I was reminded during the football bowl games that we don't score every time the quarterback touches the ball. We must face set-backs, determine what is needed to move forward and keep trying until we get it done - one down at a time if needed.  As a special education teacher I see success measured by the minute, the hour, the day, the week, the month, etc. Encouraging students to keep trying and to continue to learn beyond their goal is integral in life's journey.

4. Remind and reinforce classroom rules and procedures. It has been a long time in the minds of some students since they were lining up, sharpening a pencil, raising their hands, waiting their turn....so re-visit the school rules, classroom rules, logical consequences and procedures to put everyone back on the same level. If you think you don't have the time to do this, remember that every time one of these routines are missed and a classroom management issue arises you are reducing the time of engagement. Taking the time to get it right is always less expensive than taking the time to do it over (and over and over).

3. Extend sharing time for the first few days. If you have a Morning Meeting where a limited number of students share each day, you may wish to extend the time allotted, or create other opportunities to share (at the end of the day during Closing Meeting) or remind the students that lunch and recess are great times to share with their friends about what they did, the gifts they received, and their holiday experiences. Everyone's story is important and each  of us want a time to share about our experiences with our friends (even we teachers like to share exciting things!).

2. Make a list and check it twice. A few days before you go back to your teacher's desk try to remember your passwords, key codes, etc. If you haven't used them in 10-14 days you may have difficulty getting into your computer, the secure areas of the school or even the teacher's lounge. Revisit the class schedule, the class roster, and other items just to bring them into your working memory. It will be easier to transition just in case there are new schedules, additional events or even just making sure things go smoothly when the students return on the first day.

1. Rest. As we get closer to going back to school our brains start to think about things we need to do. Our brains will tell us and remind us what we need to do or what we may have thought about doing - put those on the list - (see #2) but trying not to stress about those items will usually generate more stress pulling us into a vicious cycle. Staying up late and worrying doesn't resolve anything n any positive manner. My wife's normal school schedule is a 4:30 a.m. wake up call and arrival at school by 5:45 a.m. (it's her preference as the principal to get to school early to get her work done so she can be available to her staff throughout the day - 23 years an educator she has her work schedule down to where she can be the most successful.) I'm not as much of a morning person as her, but I realize that a good night's rest and leaving enough time to get to the classroom to handle any unforeseen issues allows me to control the stress and not allow the daily stress to control me. A good night's rest helps us think better, manage better and just "be" better.

My best wished for the rest of the 2014-14 school year and a personal Happy New Year to each and every educator. Education is a second career choice for me, but it is a passion where I cannot wait to get back into the learning "groove."  As I told one parent I met shopping during the holiday, "I can't wait to get back to school." She looked at me and said, "Me either!"



10 Things for parents to consider before children go back to school after Winter break






Going back to school after Winter break can add stress to a child, parent, and the daily routine, especially after the holidays. Family time, relatives, special celebrations are all fun and everyone gets excited, however the anticipation of going back to school offer stressful times if we wait until the night before school starts to get ready.  Here are my top ten actions to consider as a parent before your child goes back to school in January.

10 - Stay informed. Check the school's district, school, and classroom websites, calendar, Facebook or Twitter accounts for any last minute changes to schedules, routines, new initiatives, or other considerations which may begin during the start of the second semester of school. Some teachers will post items two or three days before school resumes to remind parents of any changes in schedule or events the first week back.

9- Prepare notes to send to the teacher. If there have been changes in the student's health or any event which will help the teacher to know about a life-changing or other "life-event" (birth of sibling, death of close relative, etc.) send a note to the teacher. Email can be overwhelming for teachers the first day or two back so a brief note to look at email or to call home would get the attention of the student's teacher right away.

8- Talk about returning to school. Be positive. Remember that unless the child is old enough to understand sarcasm, they will take adult comments about "having to" return to school as truth and feel differently about school. Let them tell you about the fun things they did before school ended. This will help to bring back the fondness and generate positive anticipation in returning to school in January.

7-Update the school on any changes in phone numbers (get a new phone for Christmas?), emergency contact information, address, or any other changes to be sure the second semester contact and inclement weather considerations are in place at the beginning of the January term.

6-Talk to your child about school attire. Remind the fashion conscious the cute outfit from grandma may not work for standard school attire where the rules are more restrictive and consistent which wouldn't allow some of the styles to be worn at school. Also, take the time to discuss and talk about what we see on the outside is should not to be used to judge what is on the inside. A good idea is to talk about and prepare for what your child is going to wear when they go back to school for the first few days and even get them to help you select specific clothes so they are not hiding in the laundry basket on the first morning back.

5- Talk with your child that it may be difficult. The first few days back to school are an adjustment to working on math, language arts, rather than other holiday activities. Also, remember homework may be on the schedule when school starts back in January. Early discussions can ease the surprise element of change and help us as parents and our children to set expectations before we get overwhelmed. Understanding and preparing for change helps to mitigate the challenges which come with change.

4-Our children love to share what happened over the holidays, but some things just shouldn't be shared. Some classes will have time to share about what happened on their winter holiday or about their most exciting gift. As parents, if we take the time to ask questions about the holiday we can get an idea of what our children remember and can give guidance on perhaps not discussing the relative who stumbled or mumbled - even though the family may have seen it as funny at the time, discussed in a school setting may not have the same hilarity.

3-Help your child remember things about school. Ask them to tell you about what they think their first day will be like: "What will be the first thing you do?" "When will you go to lunch?" "Will you have Art, Music or PE?" Ask them to revisit their hopes and dreams or goals they set at the beginning of the school year. Not too much emphasis, but a good discussion or a few probing questions will get the brain working and ready them when they walk in on the first day back. (For help on revisiting hopes and dreams in the new year.)

2-Cut back on the holiday treats. By the time the holidays are over with all of the unique family traditions the cafeteria breakfast and lunch programs are going to leave our taste buds calling out for spices, seasonings, and craving, shall I say it, "sweets." After the New Year's day food traditions, start going back to the same foods and schedules the students were eating during their regular school day. Having meals at regular times or with foods on regular days (My daughter still asks for macaroni & cheese Wednesdays and she has a child or her own now.) it will help each of us get back into our comfort routines.

1-Get to bed early. Video games for gifts, late nights with relatives, are all great to have when you can sleep in or nap the next day. But when the demands for school start back, ease back into getting the proper amount of rest. But don't wait until the night before to change the bedtime for children. For my kids we would start on January 1st to ease back the non-holiday bedtime by fifteen minutes or so earlier each night until we were back to the normal school bedtime. We would also make sure to use the same wake-up method that we used during school days. If you use an alarm start setting it now, not the night before.  (Wondering what to do if you wake up early and school isn't back in session? How about spending the time reading. Select a book to read or visit an online reading site.)

Helping your child to ease back into the school day routine will reduce the family stress, personal stress and provide comfort and routine to the child. If you are like my family, we enjoy the changes the holidays bring, but are so happy when we can get back into the comfort of the familiar. We just seem to relax after everything returns to "normal."

|D|