All students will achieve their maximum potential by becoming responsible, productive citizens and life-long learners.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Media That Isn’t So Social?

This post may be somewhat controversial being that it is a blog and I have shared the link through Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and Google+.  Given that, I hope to at least stir as much reflection on the topic of being as “plugged in as possible” that I have had over the past three weeks.

Many of you may have seen the recent Utube video titled “Look Up.”  It was circulated on Facebook and quite possibly Twitter as well.  It is, in its own description; "A spoken word film for an online generation.  'Look Up' is a lesson taught to us through a love story, in a world where we continue to find ways to make it easier for us to connect with one another, but always results in us spending more time alone."

This video is powerful.  It continues to give a strong message each time you play it.  Powerful enough that I decided to show it to our entire school for advisory.  Now, I had previously posted a blog about the effect of phones on student attentiveness.  It was titled Texting, tweeting, and media: What ishappening to our students ability to focus and write?”  It was well enough received that I did an episode of “The Dr. Is In” for the students.  Clearly this topic of cell phones and social media has caught my attention.  This is obviously in part to my position, but also due to the fact that I am an avid fan.  Social media and a cell phone can be so helpful concerning the acquisition of knowledge and ability to connect.  If they are used appropriately that is…

Which brings me to this…
I am a big supporter of technology and its implementation in education and life.  I am also of the viewpoint that trying to stop students from using technology is not only impossible, but detrimental to education and a waste of valuable resources spent better on improving the quality of education. 

That being said…
Technology is having an effect on students.  There is growing research indicating that it is having a detrimental effect on executive functioning.  More research has surfaced concerning its effects on students’ ability to successfully interact socially.  I would also argue the same for some adults as well.  However this post is ultimately about our reflecting on our behavior and its inherent consequences.  After all, the older we get the more we realize (sadly at times) that life becomes a “zero sum” experience.

So my question is this…
How do we educate not just our children, but ourselves as well concerning the balance between good and bad use of technology?  That is quite the test of our own character because in doing so, we find (at least I have) that we are battling this wave of other children and adults who do not quite see it the same way.  The film clip takes a strong stance that argues we are slowly shutting ourselves off from our surroundings and therefore, missing out.  If we are falling victim to this as adults, how can we expect children to free themselves?  Many teachers out there (at least those I have spoken to or read) have (at some point) made the comment that more and more students are lacking in the ability to properly communicate or use the appropriate emotions when doing so.  Have we thought this through?  Do we reflect on how to guide our children to appropriate decisions?  Remember (and this is scary) that we will never be able to protect our children from being exposed to most things.  We will only be able to instill the character, morals, and ethics to make good decisions when they are exposed.

So, watch the clip with an open mind, read my post (if you wish), and watch my clip (maybe), but most of all be honest with yourself and reflect.  I must admit, the students liked the clip, but struggled with the discussion afterwards.  I set the stage for them with a few instructions and nothing but a poem about putting the script down and just engaging in some authentic human interaction (If you would like any of the materials or a further explanation just let me know).

My point is…

When it comes to technology and even students in general we must remember a few things:
1.      The more control we try to exert, the less we actually have.
2.      If we don’t understand change, we can’t grow.
3.      Implementation without pure intention or complete explanation always equals failure.

We all know what we must do as change is inevitable.  Seek to understand; strike a healthy balance between what’s important and what isn’t; and teach and lead by modeling purposeful thought and action.  After all, we tend to forget that inanimate objects are not inherently “good” and “bad,” rather decisions and actions are…thankfully they can be taught and learned.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Finish Successfully: Support, Trust, and Understanding

As the year draws to a close and we all start reflecting on the successes and failures of the year, I just wanted to share a thought I had to teachers, students, and parents alike…STOP!  The truth is that the year is not over yet.  Take a step back; pull your heads from the overwhelming cyclone that is the end of a school year; and focus.  I know that there are students who are giving up on the year; celebrating a good year; or hoping beyond hope that they can pass all their classes.

My point is this…do not finish until you cross the finish line.  I was taught two (of many) critical lessons if I wanted to be successful in sports:

1.      Hit to the whistle.
2.      It doesn’t matter if only one person is out of bounds, keep wrestling until you are both out.

So the question remains…how do we instill this in the students now?  The short answer is this:  we instill it by modeling the urgency of the situation and staying with what we all know creates a successful educational experience.  When I say we, I mean the only three that have a major impact on student success:  students, families, and teachers.

First are the students; because it is their responsibility to be successful.  Yes, the journey, during which there are many individuals responsible for supporting them, is important, but eventually when all is said and done; they are the individuals who must live with the result.

Second are the families; because they have and will spend the majority of time during the formative years with the students.  It is easy to say; “But the schools are supposed to be teaching them everything they need to be prepared for the future.”  In reality, most of what they will need is non-academic and while schools do teach some of that, the family has a much greater impact on a student’s morals, character, and values.

Lastly are the teachers; because they are charged with everything in between the previous two.  They need to support the student by reinforcing the positive values necessary to continue the existence of and productively contribute to a civil society by opening student minds for learning.

So, here is the issue.  This winning mixture is successful only when all three groups are working together.  How is that done?

The answer is through trust, understanding, and involvement.

For example:

·         Students
o   Take advantage of the opportunity to learn and grow.  Accept responsibility.
o   Ask for and accept support from teachers and parents.  Seek help through openness and honesty.

·         Parents
o   Understand that teachers are trained to do their job.  Just like you.  Treat them as professionals.
o   Realize learning and growing is painful and requires mistakes and at times, failure.  Help your students learn by fostering grit and not catching them every time.

·         Teachers
o   Engage students in meaningful content.  No mailing it in.
o   Bring parents into the process so they understand.  Do not ignore the most powerful influence on the student.

The key that holds for all three categories is support.  If each one supports the other in an open, honest manner, trust will form to the benefit of all involved.  We live in a time when students are labeled entitled, parents have moved from “helicopter” status to “snow plow” status, and teachers are degraded as being lazy and overpaid.  Couple this with the common idea that we should not keep score, everyone gets a trophy, and it hurts someone too much emotionally to fail at something and we have a bad mixture that does not equate with life.

Education is about preparing students for life.  Instead of labeling and blaming people, we need to take stock of how powerful we have been, can be, and could continue to be if we solve the problems by focusing our energy on the issues and acting responsibly. 

After all, there are winners and losers in every facet of life.  So, do we quit and hope to be successful next time?  Or do we realize and accept that success doesn’t wait.  It starts now; with or without us.

I equate accountability with what you do when being watched and responsibility with your character when you are not watched.  Observations/evaluations are almost done, grades for seniors are almost closed, and parents are making graduation/summer plans.

So the question remains…is the year over? You tell me. Is it too late to get better or do we start something now?  Ultimately, it is up to all of us.