When my two daughters came into this world, my first thoughts were about how lucky my wife and I were to have 2 beautiful, healthy amazing babies to hold and love. I also thought about the future and how I am now responsible for them. I am here to love and care for them and especially protect them.
I watched the video below that many may have seen or heard about, and couldn't help but feel overwhelmed by emotion of sadness for this young woman and her family. I also thought how horrible the actions of her tormentors were and wondered how people could act that way. I had viewed part of an episode of CSI Cyber about a girl who was being bullied and harassed online and how she wasn't able to escape.
I found myself becoming angry at those human beings, those individuals who thought it was okay to treat others this way without the thought of the consequences of their actions. I began to think about a tragedy that could have been avoided. I thought about what her parents might have done, should have done, and realized with some of interactions they had little control to prevent this. I say this in the fact that I work with teenagers who are very social and like many of us struggle to cope when not connected to others. As well as an age when you are less likely to tell your parents everything that is going on. So understanding this, I realized that her parents may have been doing everything they could think of to prevent these harmful interactions, but aside from sheltering your child away from the world, they will face some negative interaction with others. It is an unfortunate aspect of human society, at least in our highly advanced, civilized society.
As I continue to contemplate the events that led to this tragedy I wonder am I strong enough to protect my own children from the dangers of society? From the perils of online life? From predators who you can't see, don't appear at your door but get into your house just the same. Am I strong enough to both protect my children and allow them opportunity to experience life? Can we all turn Amanda's tragedy into positive change?
Please help be the change that our children need and deserve. Please take some action in your life in your role as parent, educator, friend to help this from happening to another person.
Here is the link to Amanda's Legacy site including the investigation into her cyber stalker.
First things first- the job description. This can be worded in such a way as to make it sound like your dream job. It is usually pretty vague to allow for additional responsibilities some may not have been dreamed up yet. Yes I understand that it would be impossible to outline every aspect of a job in a manageable size document. I present the concept to illustrate the point that as educators we are not prepared for what really constitutes the position of a professional educator.
What is expected of an educator? At least what they train us for.
Educators, as we progress through the official training programs, are taught to focus on content mastery, classroom management, assessment, pedagogy, and curriculum. We take courses that emphasize the concept that all children are different and learn differently so we must differentiate and scaffold. Yet we are also told that STANDARDIZED TESTING, those tests that treat all students exactly the same are a great measure of student knowledge and growth. I hope you see the irony of this. We add more tests each year. Teachers must now be experts in data analysis and interpretation. They must use this new data to differentiate lessons for each student, connect to the common core, improve test scores and not leave a single child behind. High stakes testing can keep you awake at night, but hopefully your focus is on creating experiences for your students, preparing them for the WORLD beyond and not test prep.
Teachers fill many roles beyond the purveyor of knowledge. Teachers are no longer expected to be the sage on the stage, the omniscient being in the room. Content knowledge is not the most important role of a teacher. This seems contrary to the training I received as I prepared to become an educator. Teachers in training were told don't smile until December. Classroom management is most important, and don't get too personal with your students.
The Hidden Expectations of Educators!
I have to admit I blindly followed some of the advice those older teachers had given me and laid down the law with my students early in my career. I thought if students obeyed they were learning. I fortunately saw the light, which is why I am able to write about the hidden expectations for teachers.
Parents entrust us with their children for the majority of that child's day. Parents expect us to educate their child, to teach them the subject matter, but also to assist them in learning manners and social skills. I am a parent, and I find myself expecting my children's teacher to help them learn skills beyond the curriculum. I want my children to be safe, secure, happy, engaged, challenged, cared for and appreciated.
Teachers are expected to play many roles often go beyond what was ever described in educational training or any job description
Teachers are Role Models! With being Role Models we are also at times a symbol of Morality, or a Moral Compass for our students. The fact we spend so much time with students provides us with tremendous opportunity to engage and inspire our students. We can be the catalyst for inquiry and the development of individual passions. With this comes the responsibility to model positive behavior with our students. To demonstrate to them positive interactions with others.
Teachers are expected to not only educate the students in their classes about the content outlined in the curriculum guide, but also about life. Teach young people how to share, resolve conflict, demonstrate compassion and empathy for others. Teachers are expected to teach a sense of the world around them, and understanding of world events we ourselves might not completely grasp.
Educators in all capacities are expected to do so much more than just guide instruction. This is what should be taught to pre-service teachers during their training. They will be counselors, they will hear the stories of poverty, abuse, depression as it is unfolding in the lives of those they are charged to educate and Protect! They will engage these young people on a daily basis with the potential to be the most positive human interaction that child will receive that day. There is so much more to teaching than knowing your subject area content. Teaching is about relationships and compassion for each and every child!
My Take Away!
What has impacted me the most in my teaching has been those personal connections with my students. I am so excited to share the positive connections made by those students who let me know I made a difference in their lives. It is harder to acknowledge those who made a lasting difference in mine because sometimes it is too late to show those students they matter, they are valuable, and they are loved!
The following is a must read story shared by @supt_Jordan Travis Jordan about a student he will always remember. Missed Opportunity.
KIVA - Micro Loans
Today I was able to meet with a teacher who was just awarded a grant by our district's Education Association. The grant is for micro loans to be used via the non-profit organization KIVA. If haven't heard of KIVA before, take a look at their organization at kiva.org. KIVA is designed to put lenders, in connection with borrowers. This is the cool part, anyone can be a lender. You register for an account, add money to your account, and then decide who's project you would like to fund.
KIVA in the classroom
The teacher I met with today, was looking for some assistance in his endeavor to empower his students through the use of the KIVA loan program. I went into the meeting understanding what KIVA was about and that he had received some money to be used by his students to provide opportunities for real people around the world who were trying to improve their lives. I didn't know what his vision for how he was going to do this.
I had spent some time looking at the KIVA site for potential borrowers and read over some of their projects and stories. Each one was a compelling narrative as to why they were deserving. A few thoughts rushed through my mind as I read these stories, how can I get more people involved in this? How can anyone decide who is most deserving?
When meeting with the teacher today, those two questions popped up as we were planning the lesson around the students using their grant money to fund KIVA projects. We first proposed having a small group in each class make the decision as to where the money should go. Then we began to realize the potential impact of the decision to change lives shouldn't be limited to a few students, but should be opened up for all students in the class.
How do you decide who is deserving of funding for their life changing project? And how do you get the largest group of people possible to experience the opportunity to make a life changing decision?
The first question is difficult, which led to the second question. We know there are thousands of potential projects and people on KIVA looking for assistance, so how do you decide which to fund? Should this be left up to a small group for each class? We decided that this was too important a decision to allow just a few students to have this power. This led to the discussion of the teacher narrowing down the projects to a more manageable size for each class. Some may like this, others may say this gives the teacher a lot of power in the process. We decided that each class would get to choose from about 20 projects and with 5 classes this would still be about 100 potential projects. Yes this isn't a perfect solution, but to leave it completely open would have made it unmanageable for students in our time frame.
Next, how do we narrow the projects down from 20 to a number that can be openly and vigorously discussed as a class? How can you engage all students in this project? This is where we came up with two options for moving from 20 down to about 5 topics.
Option 1- put students into groups and allow them to select the project they would like to fund. This would mean that all students in the group would need to agree on the decision.
Option 2- allow all students to read about each project and get into groups based on which project they would individually like to fund. This would allow groups to be formed around a topic they support. The drawback is potential for too large of a group forming around 1 of the topics, so you could have students select their first and second choice and then putting them into groups if group size became an issue.
Now that we have groups, how do we decide? We still haven't discussed the decision making process. With groups created and topics selected, we have the topics narrowed down, but still don't have a winner.
Students have by this point made a decision on which one they think is worthy, but we are still looking at possibly 5 projects to fund. So how do we decide which is MOST deserving of funding? Students must create a sales pitch. In their groups they will need to create some type of presentation that helps them demonstrate the potential benefits of funding their project. The difficult aspect of this is the fact that all are worthy projects. It is a matter of the groups creating a more dynamic and persuasive presentation to sway the voters to their point of view.
Students need to be well informed about their project and be creative in how they present. They will need to create compelling arguments, eye catching visual aids, and present with some flare. The students are all selling worth while projects, but they have to show their classmates why their project has merits beyond the others.
On thing we discussed as part of the presentations, discussion and voting was that this isn't about winners and losers. The voting should not be done based on who is in a particular group, or your desire to win. The selected project will be a little closer to their goal, but those not selected are still worthy projects that didn't get selected. The people and causes in those not funded should never be looked at in a negative light or described in such a way. All have merit, students are simply voting on which they believe are MOST deserving because they are all worth assisting.
The potential takeaways!
This lesson has the potential to be life changing, not only for those who receive funding, but for the students who make the connection between their classroom activity and real world people, places and events. Students are participating in real world activities and hopefully see the difficulties in making these types of decisions. It would be my hope that some would be compelled to want to find other ways to help fund their project even if it wasn't voted on by their peers.
I am excited about this opportunity to work with these students on this project. I can't wait to update the post to share the projects that were funded. I also want to see if there are others in my department who want to work together to make this happen for others. Lastly, I hope you take something away from this and could find a way to make global connections like this for your students.
Keep working to create experiences for your students that they will never forget. They will forever be grateful for your passion to make a difference in their lives.