Educate don't Isolate!

@MrBrettClark 1 Comments

It's amazing to me what people will blame for the problems in this world.  America is fat, blame McDonalds.  People get lung cancer, blame tobacco companies.  The Cubs can't win the world series, blame a goat.

Whatever happened to people taking responsibility for their problems?

Let me tell you about the latest example: In the state of Missouri, Gov Jay Nixon signed a law into existence that prohibits teacher-student Facebook friendship.  Not just Facebook, but any social network that is exclusive and allows for private communication.

From the bill:
Teachers cannot establish, maintain, or use a work-related website unless it is available to school administrators and the child's legal custodian, physical custodian, or legal guardian. Teachers also cannot have a nonwork-related website that allows exclusive access with a current or former student.
I'm sure there are ways to "work around" the law, but is it worth the risk?  Now, I understand the intent of the law.  Yes, there have been some incidents where teachers and students have had inappropriate relationships.  Yes, there is always a danger of problems arising in the area of social media, but is social media to blame?

My good twitter friend @johntspencer and I joked back and forth about the new bill.  We applied the logic to different areas.  For example, when I was in college a coach had an affair with an athlete, and yet athletics weren't outlawed.  I had a teacher who later got fired for drinking at a restaurant during a field-trip, but field-trips weren't outlawed.  As John suggested, if a math teacher sleeps with a student, should we blame math.  After all, math teaches us to multiply.

I agree with John's assessment that we need to take the "digital" out of "digital citizenship" and "cyber" out of "cyber-bullying".  Bullying happens in the cafeteria, but we don't call it "cafe-bullying".  We don't just teach kids to be good citizens in the digital world, we teach them to be good citizens.  We don't stop bullying that just occurs online, we stop bullying.

It's not a matter of location, or if it's a physical or virtual reality. It's about integrity!

I can not imagine a world anymore where I can't communicate with my current and former students through social media.  I've had students this summer contact me about putting me down as a job reference, asking me questions about their schedule for the new school year, and some have just wanted to talk.  I've asked students their opinion on new ideas I want to try this school year, and many of them read my blog and give me feedback.  Some of them like my ideas, and some of them challenge me (Yes Thomas, I'm talking about you)!  I want and need both types of feedback.

We can not continue to ISOLATE students and hope they'll be safe! We must EDUCATE them and know they'll be safe.  Education is the answer to the problem.  A teacher in my school educated her students on the dangers of social media, and many of them began to make their Facebook pages more private, they cleaned up their friend lists of people they didn't know, and they stopped posting their location every five minutes.

That's how you solve this issue Gov. Jay Nixon!

America is fat because we eat to much, people have cancer because they choose to smoke, and the Cubs can't win a world series because their team isn't good enough.


The first question you should ask this year.

@MrBrettClark 2 Comments

My wife is having surgery next week in Indianapolis.  This past friday, we were at the hospital where her surgery is taking place, for a pre-op appointment.  They were going through the different information for the operation when the nurse asked a question that caught me by surprise.  She asked my wife, "How do you like to learn?"  After my wife answered the question, the nurse began to give her more information on the procedure based on my wife's answer.

It got me thinking about the beginning of school.  One of the best things we can do as teachers, is ask the right questions.  Usually the beginning of school starts with the same questions.  "How was your summer?" "Did you go any where exciting?" Of course, if you had a terrible summer, and you were stuck at home, you'd rather not answer.  I understand the reason behind the questions, we like to get to know our students better.

However, what better question could we ask than the one the nurse asked my wife?  What if you started off the year by asking your class, "How do you like to learn?"  First of all, think about what this question is telling your students:

1) The class is about them, and how they like to learn.
2) The class is not about you, and how you like to teach.
3) You are telling them that they all have the ability to learn.
4) You are telling them that it possible to enjoy learning.

It is a question we must both ask and then act upon.  If the nurse had never offered material based on my wife's answer, I just would have thought it was a weird question.

I think of my three sons.  Two of them are in school.  They are completely different when it comes to learning.  My oldest is a reader.  He's about to go into the third and is an avid reader.  My middle chid is a hands on learner.  He is about to go into the first grade and loves to put together Lego sets.  This morning we went to Lowe's Build and Grow program.  They build binoculars and both took a very different approach, as the pictures below show.  The oldest placed everything out, and read the directions before doing anything.  My middle child just started putting things together.

Their teacher needs to know how they like to learn, and needs to act on it. Their education depends on it.



@MrBrettClark 1 Comments

We are about a month away from the first day of school. The summer has been a whirlwind of work and excitement.  It has really made me reflect on how we teachers spend our summers "off".  It is always the first thing people think about when they find out you're a teacher. They say things like, "Man, it must be nice having summers off.", "Hey part-timer! Why don't you work all year long like the rest of us?', or "I'd love to just sit around and do nothing for 10 weeks!"  

I guess nobody ever thinks to ask athletes the same question.  I've never heard an interviewer ask Peyton Manning, "So Peyton, what's it like to only work 16 to 20 Sundays a year?"  Why not? One, because he is famous and a "superstar". Also, because we know that he works on becoming a better quarterback every offseason.  In fact, I just read an article about it today.

In the article Peyton talks about how the NFL lockout has hindered his summer workouts and his recovery from neck surgery.  He hasn't had access to the same trainers, or facilities and he feels like it has hindered his rehab and preparation for the upcoming season, if there is one.

Anyway, I keep asking myself this question, have I taken advantage of my offseason to make myself a better teacher and educator?  Am I working on my weaknesses? Am I perfecting my strengths? I feel like I can honestly say, yes. Between my masters classes, conferences (both in person and online), books that I've read, and collaborating through social media, it has truly been a summer of learning.

The purpose of this post is to encourage all of us to be better.  We can always improve.  In fact, we must always improve.  As Vicki Davis said this week at my corporation's elearning revolution conference, kids are not numbers.  Also, as Professor Stephen Heppel pointed out, when you put in the word "education" into you get a globe full of faces.  Because education is about kids.  It's about helping our students unlock their potential.  May all of us educators work as hard at improving our abilities as much as Peyton Manning works at becoming a better quarterback.