Work-Life Balance

As we ease into Labor Day weekend, many educators, who have not started school this week, have already begun the mental preparations necessary for the start of the school year.  This is the weekend when we try to cram in all the fun activities that we enjoyed doing over the summer one last time!  As technology becomes more entrenched in our practice, we’ve already started using our devices to get school work done from home, often multitasking as we spend time with friends and family.  I myself have just said goodnight to my kids and as they drifted off to sleep, I logged into our school website to upload one or two docs that just got emailed to me from my teammates.  My instinct is to bang those things out now so I can relax later.  I have to be mindful of the trap that this thinking may set for myself.  Whenever we put off leisure time to tick off a few more lines of our to-do list, we are squandering precious time that could be devoted to being present with our loved ones, to enjoying a hobby that keeps us youthful, to exercising, or even to just having some much needed solitude.  While being effective at my job brings me great satisfaction, I must also keep in mind that my family, my tech hobbies like keeping this blog, my running, and my reading for pleasure bring me immeasurable satisfaction as well.  As we begin another school year, we educators must remember to “sharpen the saw,” that is, keep ourselves sharp by paying attention to the things that make us whole.  

When we are mindful of the need to detach from work after giving ourselves fully to it for the day, we will be better able to coach our students to adopt this mindset as well.  Many students struggle under the weight of expectations and have difficulty knowing when or how to shut off the working mind to save a little mental capacity for family, friends, hobbies, fun, exercise or even just alone time.  So as you mentally prepare yourself to re-enter the lives of students, and you spend some time polishing your syllabi this weekend, delineating your expectations for excellence for your students, remember to shut it off and dedicate yourself to the moments you have for yourself.  And when those students come through the doors next week, let them know that your high expectations include expecting them to forget about you as their teacher and your subject after a certain time each day.  Let them know that you encourage them to dedicate time each week to the art of keeping it all in balance.  They will appreciate you and and your class even more if you live by your own example. 

 

 

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Digital Citizenship

photo credit: http://cybraryman.com/digcit.html

As I write this, I’m sitting in the barber shop in my town waiting for a haircut. It’s Saturday morning and it has been quite a busy week at school.
I’m not in school now, but I would like to reach out to students at my school to engage them in a discussion about what it takes to be a responsible member of this “flat” global society.
Part of my job as Assistant Principal at North Attleboro High School is to enforce the code of conduct. This is a document that was created by a whole range of stakeholders in our community–I’m not sure how long ago–and approved by the School Committee, which is board of citizens elected by folks in the town to oversee the entire school system.
Sometime, students who are sent to me for breaking a rule in the code of conduct tell me that they disagree with a rule or that they don’t see the purpose behind that rule. Much of my job is explaining why the rule is necessary. Sometimes I agree that the rule, as written is outdated; however, my job is to enforce the rules not make them.
They get that in making sure everyone complies with the rules, the school can remain a place that is safe and conducive to learning. They often don’t see their own role in keeping the school environment a place that all students feel safe and comfortable in.
We all want to live in a world that accepts us for who we are, treats us fairly, and allows us to work to our full potential.
When we as citizens become aware of something that makes us feel less safe, or less able to learn, we are required by our social contract to step forward to help rectify that situation.
In school nowadays, students live in a connected world. They often don’t distinguish between friends they have in real life and friends they have on social media. Conversations had on social media are just as important and meaningful as conversations had with people face to face.
When someone says something on social media outside of school, it often impacts the school learning environment, and therefore becomes a school issue.
Sometimes students get themselves in trouble in school for the statements they make outside of school on social media. When I have to discipline these students, I look at that conversation as an opportunity to instruct that student in digital citizenship.
As fully connected members of a digital world, we have to each do our part to ensure that our digital world is free of hatred, threats, intimidation, and harassment. We don’t stand for those things in school and so we will not stand for them in social media.
Digital citizenship is a commitment to be responsible. Each of us in in complete control of the content we create a post online. But it goes farther than that. We are also responsible to call out or report instances of abuse. This isn’t to be “holier than thou,” it’s just so that we can make sure our digital world reflects the values that infuse our physical world. I know the world is not free of hatred, violence, and the like. There is space for freedom of speech. But that speech should not openly threaten, intimidate or otherwise infringe upon the rights of others.

I would love to hear from students.  What’s your take on being a responsible digital citizen?  Let me know what you think!

Teaching about privacy and the internet

When I was in high school, I kept a shoe box on the top shelf of my closet.  In that box, I tucked away letters and notes that I had received from various sweethearts, ticket stubs from memorable concerts and movies, and various other “secrets” that I wanted to keep away from the prying eyes of my family.  I wasn’t doing anything illegal, but it was safer to conceal that I had things of sentimental value, that helped mark a memorable time with friends, from my parents.

Adolescence is a time when you begin the process of constructing your identity, figuring out the public and the private self.  I’m not a psychologist, but I imagine it is very important developmentally for teenagers to have their own private space in which they safely explore and figure out for themselves who they are and who they want to become.

In school we help students develop the public side of their identities and, when we are at our best, we encourage them to be the person they want to be.  In school, students do have an expectation and a right to their own private space, but that area is considerably smaller than what they might enjoy at home.  When a student’s behavior arouses a reasonable suspicion that he/she is engaging in harmful activities, the principal or his/her designee can conduct a search of the student’s clothing, bags, locker, and car.  While school administrators may have to conduct searches more frequently than they would like to, this usually doesn’t impact a large segment of the student body.

With the omnipresence of technology in our lives today, we conduct more of our public and private lives online.  How much privacy can we expect?

The love letters of years past are now text messages, tweets, emails, and various other electronic communiques.

The recent scandal involving the Director of the CIA shows us how easy it is for law enforcement to uncover and expose an otherwise lawful, yet inappropriate relationship between two consenting adults.  I don’t mean to editorialize about extra-marital affairs; however, to me the case is important because it reminds us that we have almost no right to privacy on the internet.  If the director of the CIA cannot find a way to communicate privately on the internet, as the ACLU points out, how can any of us reasonably expect to be able to do so?

We can’t.

We can only take advantage of this teachable moment to help our students understand that anything and everything they say or write on the internet can be traced back to them one way or another.  We educators need to help pull back the veil of perceived privacy that we sometimes feel while “lurking” on Twitter or while surfing aimlessly across the waves of the web.  We have to model internet integrity and make sure we post only what we would say or share in a public setting.  By doing this and creating authentic experiences for our students to use and create content on the internet, students will be able to build their public identity on the internet and hopefully understand the need to keep the private stuff in the real shoe box and not in the digital dropbox.

Another thing we can do as educators and as citizens is to raise awareness about Net Neutrality, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.  We can read about and discuss the issue of privacy with our students and have them write (and hopefully blog) about.  We can encourage students to engage in writing letters to legislators asking them to consider revising outdated laws and adopting new measure to guarantee a fair amount of online privacy.  We can push them to read and discuss the “Terms of Use” policies of the websites they use most to understand what rights they retain and which they yield when mindlessly clicking the “I agree” box.

Whatever we do, we don’t remain complacent.

I and my student welcome your feedback.

In addition, if any of you have expertise in any of the issues discussed above and you would like to come and have a talk with high school students, you have an open invitation.

 

Photo Credit:
Bloom, Alan. “Shoe Box Scan NJ.” Shoe Box Scan NJ. Alan Bloom, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. <http://www.alanbloomproductions.com/ShoeBoxScan.html&gt;.