' I am entirely certain that twenty years from now we will look back at education as it is practiced in most schools today and wonder how we could have tolerated anything so primitive.' John W Gardner
I am so saddened by the tragic shooting that happened only hours ago in Connecticut. I cannot even begin to comprehend what the families of the victims are going through. My thoughts are prayers are with them.
My husband is a deputy sheriff and for quite a few years now he has been a firearms instructor and SWAT team member. Last summer he received intensive training that allowed him to become a certified active shooter response instructor. He works with two of his colleagues to teach a two day course that is a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on scenarios that rely on the help of numerous role players. They can provide training to other law enforcement officers as well as teachers.
I was curious to know how many educators have received training on what to do if an active shooter is in their school. Here are some of the answers I received:
I was glad to see that a few people from my network do go through trainings. I shared a few private messages with a couple of people and their trainings happen on a fairly regular basis and they include law enforcement officers. However, I am fairly certain that most schools do not invest the time or resources in making sure their entire staff is properly trained. Ken Shelton nailed it on the head. This is not a topic that is addressed in many schools because we don’t like to talk about it. It is certainly not pleasant to imagine students being shot and killed, but it is a grim reality. Schools such as the one where @BryantHistoryT work are implementing a program called ALICE. This type of training emphasizes the importance of evacuating the building if possible, not huddling in a corner and becoming a sitting target.
In the coming weeks, we will hear everything from how this could have been prevented if people were not allowed to own guns to how this is a prime example of why every American should be allowed to carry a gun. These arguments will accomplish nothing. It is inevitable that more school shootings will happen while everyone is busy arguing about whether or not we should be allowed to own guns or that certain types of firearms or ammunition should be outlawed. It is unlikely this issue will be settled anytime soon. In the meantime, I would urge teachers to ask their administrators to line up law enforcement officers that are qualified to provide training on what to do in the event of an active shooter. (Not all law enforcement officers are specialists in this area. It is important to get training from people who know how to do it.)
Districts pay thousands of dollars to bring in experts to provide professional development or to deliver a short keynote. Isn’t it time we invested some time and resources into teaching teachers how to protect our children.
If you do have a specialized team of law enforcement officers develop a plan for your school, please follow through on all of the suggestions. They are the experts. There is no room to drop the ball and not follow through. Many times it won’t be possible to save everyone, but we are much more likely to react appropriately if we have some idea of what we are supposed to do.
Check back in a day or two for a guest post that my husband is going to write about this topic. It might be the most important post you ever read.
I’ve had enough. I used to love my job, but I just can’t do it anymore. Forty percent of my students are failing because they can’t/don’t/won’t do their work. Something is wrong. REALLY wrong.
Before you think I have totally lost my mind please let me explain.
For the last eight years I have worked at a school where we have a tremendous amount of access to technology. Like most teachers, I started out by having my students locate information on the Internet. From there I began to have them create projects such as short movies. The next step was blogging and using different tools to reach out beyond the walls of our classroom to connect with others. I vary the types of things we do in class, but it just isn’t enough. I don’t feel like they are learning skills that will help them be successful in life. As much as I would like to think that my classroom is student-centered, it is still very much teacher-centered. I So I’m going to stop what I have been doing and try something different. Starting in January my students are going to control of their learning.
I teach Social Studies in an alternative school where most of my students are juniors and seniors. I have approximately 40 student that are in my class for two hours twice a week and for one hour every other Friday for one hour. The average length of a quarter is nine weeks which means that my students spend about 40 hours in my classroom. Due to the nature of our program we do not give homework so every assignment must be completed in class. When we come back from break in January each of my students will complete an individualized learning plan. This plan will include four topics that students select based on the focus of the class. (As I am typing this I am already questioning why I would limit my students to a particular focus so this might change. The classes that their home schools require them to take might determine their topics. At my school I teach “Social Studies” and I have the freedom to teach a variety of topics.) I will have a list of topics that are based on based on the Nebraska Social Studies standards for students to choose from. During the first couple days of class students will select their topics and come up with questions about that topic to help them guide their research. With hundreds of topics from which to select, I hope my students will become more engaged in the learning process. One of my goals is to teach them how to do smarter and more efficient research. This is something that all too often we assume students know how to do. Most of my students do not have the skills to find information and evaluate it. This will be a focus in my new classroom.
Each student will also determine what their final product of their research will be. It could be a video, slideshow, infographic, Wikipedia entry or any number of other things. I will work with students to create a rubric.
All of my students need to practice their written and verbal communication skills. For each of their topics they will have to connect with an expert in that particular field. This might be someone at a museum or a professor at a university. It could be an author or someone that I am able to connect them with through Twitter. Ideas for where to find these experts will be part of their learning plan.
Earlier this week I took the time to ask my students something that I have been meaning to for some time now. I simply asked, “If you could learn about anything today what would you choose to study?” I compiled a list of their responses. I was surprised at the incredible range of responses and that so many of them are interested in topics that are typically taught in school. I am going to allow my students to devote 20% of their class time to studying a topic of their choosing. There will be some parameters and guidelines, but I want to help my students rediscover a passion for learning.
Maybe this is the worst idea ever and it will be a complete disaster, but maybe it will be the best thing I have ever done for both myself and my students. I cannot continue to force my students through the motions of doing assignments that they don’t care about. They need to take ownership in their learning. They need to truly care about what they are learning. I don’t know what else to do except grant them permission to take charge of their learning.
I want to send a huge thank you to Noa Gutow-Ellis for providing me with the inspiration to finally do what I know is right for my students.
I have agonized about whether I would share what has been going on in my life for the past month. I like to keep my personal life separate from my professional life, but sometimes the two worlds collide. I have dedicated the last four years of my life promoting the benefits of social media and raving about how wonderful it can be, but during the last month I have experienced how ugly it can be when it is used as a weapon. Over the last couple of weeks I have been targeted by some of the lowest life forms on the planet. One woman called my boss and told him I had no business being a teacher. She also had the audacity to post where my 17 year old daughter works for over 13,000 people to see. All of this has taken place on Facebook.
What did I do to upset these people? I stood up for a very good friend who has been accused of killing a dog in cold blood. This person is a deputy sheriff and has worked closely with my husband for over 13 years. He is more like family than a friend. My local paper posted a couple of different updates about how this officer shot a dog while on patrol on their Facebook page. I made a few comments where I urged people to examine all of the evidence before forming a conclusion about what happened and the next thing I know I am being torn apart on the JusticeforBos Facebook group.
The family of the dead dog formed this Facebook group just hours after their dog died, ostensibly to raise awareness about animal cruelty. However, the vast majority of the comments were not left to provide support to the family, but rather to take cheap shots at this officer as well as other local law enforcement officers. The main ring leader of the group is a man whose family harbors deep-seated resentment toward my friend because they believe he “murdered” one of their family members many years ago. There were never any criminal charges and their civil case was thrown out twice.
I believe so strongly in this person and I will not be bullied into not supporting him. I watched for weeks as thousands of people joined the JusticeforBos Facebook group and called for the resignation, termination, and in some cases, the murder of this officer. They claim that a short 3 minute segment of video proves this man is a killer. They claim they have even more video that backs up their story, but it has yet to be produced. They fail to acknowledge the numerous pieces of evidence such as the necropsy (which show the dog was shot as he was facing the officer and NOT while he was running away and eyewitness accounts that back up the officer.However, none of this matters to me. I KNOW that this officer had to shoot this dog because it was aggressive and it lunged to attack him. His word is all I need.
I started a new blog because I did not want to share the horrific things on this blog that I shared on there. The video and slide show contain graphic images and vulgar language so please be mindful of where you view them. There are dozens of screenshots from the “secret” Facebook group that illustrate the extreme level of hate and contempt these people possess. I have provided links to the articles from my local paper as well as the statement of support from the attorney representing the police department, embedded the surveillance camera footage, and linked to the summary of a lawsuit that has been brought up again. If you want to know more about the background of this story then please visit High Road.
I have shared all of this because I want some good to come out of this nightmare that I have been living for the last month. I am requesting that you leave a short comment on the post I wrote called Setting the Record Straight in support of law enforcement officers everywhere. They have an unbelievably difficult job which is made even more difficult when they are openly harassed. My wish is for the High Road to have numerous supportive comments directed at all law enforcement officers. They need to know that people believe in them and that they matter.
June 14 marked my 4th Twitter birthday. The first two years I was on Twitter I took great pride in having a very small personal learning network. Since I was only following a couple of hundred people, I was able to recognize the names of everyone I followed. For the most part I knew where they lived and what their job title was. I felt a connection to each person. There were no names in my stream that I did not recognize. About 18 months after I joined Twitter my PLN began to grow quickly. I started connecting with more and more people and I was able to follow 350-400 people without feeling overwhelmed. During the last year the number of people I follow crept up to slightly over 500. It was too many, but I know many people who follow thousands.
When I share the strategies I use on Twitter with others, the one thing I tell people is that they should never follow people just because that person follows them. I emphasize that one way to not get swallowed up in sheer numbers is to only follow people that have something specific to offer. In a moment of what I can only say was sheer insanity I threw my own advice out the window and I started following everyone who was following me.
I started going through my most recent followers. As long as it was clearly an educator who had a profile picture and a completed profile I followed back. But after I clicked “follow” for literally the thousandth time Twitter stopped the madness. On the 1001 click a message popped up that said I was “forbidden from following” anyone else. Apparently it is only possible to follow 1000 new people a day. During the 24 hour mandatory waiting period I came across two blog posts that reminded me of why I made the decision to keep my PLN small to begin with. Does Twitter Matter? by Josh Stumpenhorst and 10,000 by Dan Agins. Both posts stress the power of not just connectedness, but the actual relationships that can flourish. As I watched my “All Friends” column fly by at a pace I never knew possible with names I did not recognized I realized I made a huge mistake. I was spreading my PLN way too thin. How can I possibly be of any value to anyone if I cannot keep up?
I feel like I owe it to my PLN to follow fewer people. I cannot keep up with 1500 people! I just don’t see how it is possible. If I unfollow you over the next few weeks please do not take it personally. During this experiment of mine I have discovered that my personal learning network is no longer personal. Even though it is three times bigger than it was last week it isn’t three times better. It seems as though the law of diminishing returns applies to my network. It doesn’t make any sense to follow everyone just because they follow you. Many of the people in my PLN are people who I call friends. They are my support network and they help keep me in check when I lose my temper. I reach out to them and offer support when I can, but now they are lost in the crowd. We need to remember that we don’t owe it to each other to follow someone just because they follow us. I have said this for years, but I lost sight of why it is so important for our connections to be meaningful. Following someone just for the sake of following someone reminds of how back in high school we had everyone sign our yearbook whether we knew them or not just to fill up the blank pages. Every educator that is on Twitter is part of the same network. It is not necessary to connect to everyone. I follow plenty of people who don’t follow me. I don’t take it personally. Please think about this as you build your PLN.
It is hard to believe, but in less than two months ISTE will begin accepting proposals for ISTE13 which will be held in San Antonio from June 23-26. From September 5 to October 3, educators from around the world will have the opportunity to submit their proposals. This last year I was asked to review proposals for ISTE12. It gave me unique insight into the process of how proposals are accepted and rejected.
I know so many people whose proposals were rejected. These are educators for whom I have the utmost respect. They are thought leaders in the world of education, but they were still turned away. It really bothered me to see so many people take the rejection of their proposals so personally. I have wanted to write this post ever since then to provide a little bit of insight into the process.
ISTE appoints a certain number of proposal reviewer chairs. These are people who are members of ISTE and possibly people who have signed up to volunteer. I’m not entirely certain how they are selected. Each chair is assigned to a specific strand. Each chair is also responsible for recruiting two to three people to be part of a review committee. Shortly after the submission window closes, ISTE assigns each committee 30-40 proposals to review. If I remember correctly, my committee reviewed 30 proposals and we were told we could only select two. In essence, we had to reject 28 proposals.
We had a rubric that we used for scoring. We reviewed the proposals individually then got together virtually to discuss our top selections. To say the process was excruciating would be an understatement. Some of the proposals we were forced to reject were submitted by some incredible educators.
It was just as difficult to hear some of these same educators say they weren’t attending ISTE because their proposals had been rejected. I can understand why they took it personally, but at the same time the rate of acceptance is pretty low in most categories.
In order to make sure your proposal gets the maximum number of points there are a few things you can do.
Best of luck if you are submitting a proposal for ISTE13. I hope you will consider attending even if your proposal is not accepted. Sometimes it is nice to attend a conference as a participant which is what I will be doing in 2013.