Monday, May 31, 2010

No Apologies

It's that time of year again -- the time when people razz me about getting to lay around and do nothing all summer and get paid for it. I hear it from people I know who are kidding, and I hear it in the media from total strangers who have never worked in the field of education but think they know everything about it because they've been to school themselves. Well, I am here to tell you I refuse to apologize for having a summer vacation that I have earned and really isn't much of a vacation at all.

I say I have earned this vacation because I worked hard for the past 180 days with the kids in my classroom. I have taught and re-taught. I have created lesson plans, assignments, and assessments of various types. I have contacted parents. I have disciplined students. I have coached kids in track. I have graded papers and tests and quizzes. I have listened to and evaluated speeches and presentations. I have attended team, department, staff, building-level technology, district-level technology, leadership, school improvement, and anti-bullying committee meetings. I created and presented Internet safety presentations for students and parents. I prepared my students for standardized tests. Just to name a few things. How I wish I could say I accomplished all those things in my seven hours in the classroom each day, but much more often than not, like most teachers, those activities went way beyond my classroom time. I did a lot of hard work this school year; I deserve my summer vacation.

Which leads me to explain that it's really not much of a vacation. I am taking one planned trip this summer. The rest of the summer will be spent focusing on three things: helping a colleague prepare to take over teaching computers next year (as well as her sub when my colleague goes on maternity leave); writing curriculum for the high school prep/transition class I am taking over next school year; and starting my course work for my ESL endorsement. So no one should be fooled into thinking I will spend the next three months sitting around and forgetting all about school. Summer is when I look forward to doing school work unencumbered by school. I can work at my own pace and uninterrupted. I can work at home or the library or on my patio. I will spend my summer working -- just not in a classroom with students. I'm not abnormal; this is what most teachers do.

So feel free to tease me about enjoying my summer vacation. I will. Because I enjoy what I do and I'm working on it all summer. And I deserve every reward I get from teaching -- monetary or not.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Technology has created a way for children to harass and bully each other in damaging and inescapable ways. In order to effectively deal with the problem of cyberbullying, I believe that ALL of the following people need to work collectively. If one group is not on board, then cyberbullying will continue to be pervasive in the culture of teenagers.

· TEACHERS: Teachers need to learn what cyberbullying is and address it as needed if the topic is brought up in class. Teachers need to listen to students who come to them to report instances of cyberbullying. Teachers need to know what rules and laws are in place regarding cyberbullying as well as what kinds of resources are available to help students who are victims of cyberbullying. Teachers need to be willing to document cases of reported or observed cyberbullying and never, ever assume such behavior is typical of children and teenagers and students just need to learn to deal with it.

· SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS: School administrators, like principals, assistant principals, and deans, face the same responsibilities that teachers do when confronted with cases of cyberbullying. In addition, school administrators need to establish clear and enforceable consequences for cyberbullying. They also need to be willing to contact law enforcement when needed to send a strong and clear message that cyberbullying is simply not tolerated.

· VICTIMS: Victims of cyberbullying should never be expected to just deal with the problem on their own. Rather, they should be taken seriously and see that their harassment is being taken seriously and it is being dealt with. They should receive counseling as necessary in order to learn strategies for dealing with cyberbullies.

· BYSTANDERS: Those students who see cyberbullying taking place need to be assertive in assisting victims by standing up for them and reporting cyberbullying when it is observed. Too often bystanders are unwilling to stand up for those they see being victimized because they are afraid of incurring the same disdain inflicted upon them by cyberbullies. Bystanders need to understand what cyberbullying is and be educated about what they can do to help squelch cyberbullying.

· PARENTS: Parents need to be involved in what their own children do online and with their cell phones. This should include having an account on a social networking site like Facebook or MySpace, and "friending" their own children. It is also advisable to check histories on cell phones and computers. In addition, parents should have access to and passwords for email addresses, instant messaging accounts, and social networking sites. When parents see something their child has done that is inappropriate, it should be demanded of the child to remove the offending material and/or the parents should take it down themselves. Being passive about what children do online can lead to disastrous consequences. Just ask the parents of Ryan Halligan, Megan Meier, and Phoebe Prince. It is irresponsible to let our children run unattended on the Internet.

If all of these stakeholders take on a role in combating cyberbullying, then we will have the benefit of seeing it diminish and hopefully establish a culture of tolerance and respect among children and teens. It is when the majority of one group does not come on board with addressing cyberbullying that everyone else's efforts fall flat. Cyberbullying can become socially unacceptable if everyone is willing to take a stand and take part of the responsibility for combating this social ill that is plaguing our children and teens.