Digital Parenting

One of my favorite resources as a teacher and as a mom is Common Sense Media. I started using it years ago to learn more about movies and video games for my own children. They give straightforward information about why a movie or game has a particular rating and what is in the movie that might be objectionable. Then you can decide if it is okay for your child or not. You can imagine how thrilled I was to find out they were launching an educational side to their services in 2009. Common Sense Media has continued to grow and provide quality resources to teachers and parents. I would highly recommend that you include them in your thinking as you parent in this digital age. This week, 1st and 2nd grade classes watched and discussed this video from Common Sense. It provides a good analogy about how we interact online and in our neighborhood, and it gives three straightforward rules to follow when using the Internet. 

1. Ask your parents first.
2. Only talk to people you know.
3. Stick to places just right for you.

Changing the World,One 5th Grader At A Time

As we begin a new calendar year and a new semester of school, one of my professional goals is to get better at sharing what my students are doing in the classroom. I am an advocate for teacher and student reflection in the learning process, yet I struggle with getting into the habit of making it part of my own process. I find that writing a blog post after a lesson or project helps me reflect on what worked and what did not work. It also gives me a record of my work and makes a great professional portfolio. Aside from personal benefit, reflection and sharing provide a great way to communicate with parents and other teachers about what students are learning in my classroom. This broadens the learning process by allowing educators to learn from each other, and it effectively gives parents a window into their child’s classroom.

For this post, I am travelling back in time to an assignment I gave 5th graders in October. By this time, students had some practice with Google Docs and Google Slides. We began by watching this video by Kid President. If you have never heard of Kid President, follow this link and be blessed. The videos this inspirational young man makes helps students know they have a voice and can make a difference no matter what their age or consequences. After watching the video, students were given the choice to use Google Docs or Slides to answer the question, “What can you do to help change the world?” Students turned in their assignments through Google Classroom which keeps them in a nice neat folder in my Google Drive. I chose about a dozen of the projects to display and then saved them each as a PDF.  Finally, I loaded them into a tool called Flipsnack. After they were loaded, I created a cover and selected customizations.
I was amazed at what the students came up with and found it difficult to just choose a sampling! I am convinced that tapping into what motivates students and giving them a little freedom to create, always produces great things. 
Click below and be ready to be amazed…

When you don’t know what to do – Reset

At the beginning of the year, I came up with my one word. If you are not familiar with it, the concept is to choose one word to reflect on for the year instead of a list of “set yourself up for failure” resolutions. Since then, I have been struggling with the word I chose. RESET.

Last year, my dad passed away. I shared the story here. Losing him changed me, is still changing me. It made me look deeper at my life, personally and professionally. This event that you logically know will happen someday – but you never really believe that someday will come – has brought all the questions and contemplations of my own life and mortality, as well as a complex and deep sense of loss. However, it has also caused me to be more intentional and to make sure I am spending my time and energy doing what really matters.

That is what my one word is all about. Changing my position, resetting to the things that are most important.


Who turned the light off?

cc licensed by Kelly McCarthyWhere is the turn in a child’s education that causes the light to dim? Is it developmental? A response to irrelevant teaching? Or something altogether cultural? 

It happened in my life. I was always a curious child, asking why to no end, reading encyclopedias at home for fun, writing ideas for books, and devouring logic problems and puzzles. Yet, something happened along the way that created a disconnect between learning and school.

Grades never motivated me much, but they did define me. I never believed that I was smart. Smart meant good grades and mine were average at best until the second semester of my Junior year. I am not sure if it was due to new friendships, ending a toxic relationship, or just growing up a little… Honestly, it was so long ago I can’t remember what made the difference, but that year I went from barely a 2.0 GPA  to well over a 3.5 in one semester. The counselor that year made a comment to the effect of “now we know what you can do.” I will never forget that. It was the first time I thought maybe I was more than what I had come to believe I was.

When I decided to become a teacher, it was the desire to share my passion for learning that influenced me. I wanted to show kids that learning could still be fun and that making a grade isn’t really what it’s all about. It has been a difficult road navigating between that passion and the institution that is our educational system. I have often wondered if it is worth it, if I am completely unrealistic, or even if I have it all wrong.


But, when I see the glint of possibility in a child’s face… of passion… of knowing who they are and who they could be…. I know.

Quick & Easy EdTech Ideas for Christmas

As I coach, collaborate and consult with teachers in how to use technology to impact learning, I am always aware of the time constraints that teachers face. So when I saw this idea from Shannon Miller, I reworked it and created a design in Canva and then uploaded it to Thinglink to make it interactive for my teachers to explore over the break.

I tried to include a variety of tools and resources, but also wanted to share things that could immediately be used in the classroom when we come back in January. Enjoy!

Quick & Easy EdTech Ideas for Christmas

Lessons Learned in Hospitals

No one enjoys being in hospitals. I almost wanted to scrap the idea of comparing the experience with that of education. Almost. I did a lot of watching, listening and experiencing things this summer as I spent time with my dad, who was in and out of multiple hospitals. I learned some things that I believe resonate in education.

  • While tests and numbers can be helpful, they don’t tell you everything. So many times doctors would come in without even examining the patient and tell us that all the tests were good, he should be going home soon. I wanted to yell, “Have you seen him! Does he look good to you?”

Looking back, I have done that with students. Mistakenly, I thought they were doing well because their grade was okay. On the other side, as a parent, it is hard to know how your child is doing when you feel like all you have to go on is data. Which leads to the next point.

  • It is important to communicate clearly and consistently. My dad had a LOT of doctors. Each hospital he was in had no less than five specialists assigned to him. The doctors we appreciated most were the ones that told us more than just the test results of the day.

We have to start communicating what our students are learning and not just their test results. We need to leverage the myriad of communication tools at our disposal to let parents know what their student experiences in the classroom. When you have a parent that asks why their child doesn’t have many papers sent home, they are not necessarily telling you to give them more worksheets. They just want to know what their child is doing. We have to replace one means of communication with another.

  • Act like a professional and you will be treated like one… and vice versa. Honestly, it was the nurses, the really good ones, that reminded me of good teachers. You knew they were going to be good when they came in with an equal measure of confidence and concern. They were the first ones to recognize when something was going on with my dad and would alert the doctors. They spent time with him, talked to him with dignity and respect, and they knew their stuff. Interestingly, there was a culture difference from hospital to hospital. You could tell the hospitals that treated their nurses as the professionals they are from the ones who did not, simply by watching how the nurses handled themselves and responded to questions.

Culture is everything in a work environment, and the best principals create a culture of trust and respect. Knowing you are valued no matter what your position or how much experience you have had, creates a sense of responsibility to be a professional in the classroom. And vice versa… the way we dress, conduct ourselves and relate with parents and colleagues will play a significant role in determining how we are, in turn, treated.

  • Listen to really hear what is being said. Sadly, we had some doctors who would come in, give their report and start backing out of the room before we could process what had just been said, or nurses who would go through their routines and barely speak to us when we asked questions. We also had the flip side, medical personnel who recognized that we knew my dad better than they did and could offer valuable input.

As teachers and administrators, it is hard to balance everything. There is a lot that goes on in a school day. It is hard to take the time and effort to really listen to parents… and each other. We all have opinions and we all want to be heard, but we have a really hard time listening and receiving what another person is saying. We have to get better at this if we hope to have the kind of culture and communication that we want for our schools.

  • When a professional in a service field becomes arrogant in their knowledge, they stop treating people as their main priority. We asked a lot of questions trying to get clarity about what had happened to my dad. No one in my family is in the medical field, although we joked that we thought we had earned a degree over the last three months. Sometimes our questions were very basic; other times they were highly impassioned and desperate for answers the doctors and nurses didn’t always have. The very best doctors and nurses handled our questions with complete professionalism, understanding where we were coming from, not taking the questions personally, and answering as completely and honestly as they could even when the answer was, “I really don’t know.”

We have to remember that parents send us a piece of their heart when they send their child to our schools. When they find out their child may be having difficulties, they will probably have a lot of questions and they may even question us in an effort to make sense of things. We can not take that as a personal attack on our practice or it becomes about us and no longer about the child. Part of our job is helping everyone involved understand what is going on and what the plan of action is. Walk with the whole family through the difficult stuff.

  • Caring matters. Dr. Royce Bargas was a rare find in this whole experience. We knew she was fighting for our family, and especially my dad, when she called every hospital and cardiac team in the city to consult on his case. She was always straightforward, but also determined to do everything she could. She empathized with us, gave usPhoto by nosha with CC License Attribution Share Alike  her phone number and told us to call her if we had questions or needed anything. And she meant it. She came on her own time to a hospital she didn’t have privileges in to just visit with us and help us talk through some hard conversations. She told us she was sorry, she hugged each of us and she cried with us when we knew there was nothing more anyone could do for my dad. She cared.

Students need to know that we will fight for them, do everything in our power to help them and will walk through the difficult times with them. Sometimes we have to care about and show kindness to the students and parents that are hard to care about and difficult to work with. If we will dig deep and think about the times we have felt most defensive and difficult, we will recognize it as a time we did not see or feel like we were understood or cared for. Students and their loved ones need to know we care because if we do not care, why should they?

Photo by nosha with CC License Attribution Share Alike 

Guiding Statements

Guiding statements for technology in a Christian school:

  • In all things and in all spaces, we are to glorify God first and foremost.

  • We must model and teach students good digital citizenship and wisdom in online spaces.

  • Technology should enable students to research, create, communicate and collaborate.

  • In order for our students to be technically literate, we must model and encourage them to be producers and not merely consumers.

  • In a cut and paste society, students need practice to think critically and to develop problem solving skills and discernment based on Truth.