Thursday, January 30, 2014

Thinking about Social Media and FERPA...

Okay, so this has been on my mind for a while. I am genuinely curious, and would LOVE responses on this topic, because I really want to understand all sides of this, and really need to work to figure out where I draw the line. I also want to apologize if this seems rambly or not as succinct as it could, or should be. This is basically a stream of consciousness, think-aloud about this topic, inspired by something I observed on facebook tonight, as well as other instances around social media.

As teachers, we all know (or should!) all about FERPA. We all know that our students, and their families, have legal rights to expect that their privacy, and the privacy of their child, is respected. So, where does that leave us as teachers on social media?

I've seen conversations of late where "anonymous" teacher questions were posted (teachers submit their question, another teacher posts it on her social media, and other teachers respond), but then the teacher who submitted the question has made public acknowledgement that it was her question, along with sharing details about the situation. Is that a violation of FERPA? To me, it would be. Do I know who that child is? No. Would other teachers who work in that building? Maybe. Would other parents from that building? Maybe. And that parent? Oh, that parent, seeing that conversation online, would certainly know to whom it was referring. That child and family have, in my mind, just had their FERPA rights violated. Just because we leave off names, it does not mean we aren't breaking FERPA.

I've read blog posts from teachers I think do a fabulous job, where they write about their students who struggle with behavior. I know we need a place and a way to vent. I know we should be able to write and blog about our lives and our experiences in the classroom. However, if you are a well-known (or even a totally unknown) teacher blogger, and a parent visits your website, and sees you going on about how you were doing such great things in your classroom, but then this nameless child went off, throwing things, etc, how is that parent going to feel knowing that it was his or her child? How do other parents feel when they read these summaries of life in your classroom? Is it a reality of teaching? Yes. Children aren't perfect. Some kiddos are struggling emotionally and academically, and don't have the skills or ability to manage their frustrations. Is it overwhelming for us as teachers? Yes. Do we have the right to publicly air our issues in social media? I don't think so. We CAN address things by asking questions, such as "what have you done when...", without giving details about the situation of a specific child in your classroom...if it is a question that can be generalized across many children, many experiences, without a specific story or example attached, I'm cool with that. I'm not cool with "here's this specific story that has just happened to me, what would you do?"

I'm not saying we need to paint a picture of teaching as sunshine, rainbows and unicorns. That's not useful for anyone. I am saying that we, as teachers, and as participants in social media, really need to remember that everything we put out there is visible to someone else...and that "someone else" may be one of our parents, grandparents, friend of a family, someone who loves that child, someone who may be embarrassed to see their challenges and frustrations put out in public for all to see. We don't need to agree with all parents, and we certainly need to be able to seek help when we need it, we just need to be thoughtful when we post, and remember, as frustrated as we can get, it is never okay to publicize private conversations.

As I said, this is really just my reflection on what I am seeing happening in social media...any thoughts and ideas would be appreciated!


Monday, January 27, 2014

Yikes! Blogging is Hard!



Yes. I am not the best blogger out there. No, I have not posted since September. Yes, that is bad.'s a bit of why!

Well, I think any teachers reading this know just how hard the start of the school year is. And when you aren't a solid blogger to begin with, it's one of the first things to fly out the window. Added to the start of the year crazy was the whole finishing-my-practicum for my masters thing. That took me until Christmas, and holy cow, was it a LOT of work!

Well, a month after Christmas, and here I am, back to give blogging another go! Here is what I am up to lately...

Lots and lots of SNOW. Yep, I live in Michigan, and we've gotten lots of the frozen white stuff this year. It's meant lots of days off from school (today included, and tomorrow highly likely).

Sewing :) I started sewing rather unexpectedly about two years ago, when I dove in head first making a doll for my niece. Two years later, my three daughters all now have new dolls (which 2/3 of them requested two years ago). I am finishing up the quilt for my youngest daughter's doll, as well as handsewing three little inchworms for my girls. I am finding it really relaxing!

Being a dance/tumbling mom. It's not much compared to many parents, but two nights a week at the dance studio is a lot for me.

Spending time with my family. This has been the nicest side effect of being done with "school"...I can close my computer, and BE with my family. My husband and I have been watching movies, Sherlock, Doctor Who, etc. So nice to spend time together.

But wait...this is a teaching blog, not a personal life blog! So...what have I been up to as a teacher?

Trying to adjust to our new method of providing interventions to our at-risk students. This has been hugely challenging for me. Not that I don't know how to reach them, but making the groupings work, managing the rest of class while I (and my assistant) are working with groups. This has been HUGELY challenging for me, and I have been brainstorming ways to improve what I am doing. It helps that my practicum is over, and now I can try to address student needs in the ways *I* think are appropriate, rather than to fit into a pre-outlined plan of intervention.

I am super excited because I have been asked to speak for TWO sessions at the MACUL conference here in Michigan. MACUL is the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning, and I have gone to the conference for the past five years. I LOVE it, and always come back SO fired up for teaching with and learning from technology. I get to give the two presentations I have posted in my last post, and I can't wait! I am going to be busy over the next month polishing those presentations up, adding information, removing unnecessary "stuff" and so on. Very excited, but also very, very nervous to present! Plus, Erin Klein (who is amazing) is presenting at the conference as well, and ALSO speaking on Pinterest in pressure there!!! Yikes!

We also just found out that our district has been selected to pilot the new K-2 Common Core assessment. We are all working to keep a positive attitude about this (more assessment?), and keeping the point of view that we get to give honest, brutal feedback about how the whole process goes. It's a little overwhelming, but we'll figure it out!

Our principal softened the blow by sharing the news that our building is FINALLY catching up with others in the district in terms of technology! We are going to get more netbooks for our students to use, new (refurbished) computers for staff, and 2 iPads for every classroom! WOW!!! (May I just say...the teachers in my building have NEVER had "new" computers...we have always gotten hand-me-downs from other buildings, with Do Not Resuscitate notices attached (well, not really, but the tech guys all know...if a computer in our building breaks, don't waste your time fixing it), so this is a HUGE deal!!! We thought we were hot stuff finally getting upgraded from Microsoft Office 2003 earlier this year!).

Hmmm...Have I blathered on enough? I am excited to be blogging again, to be able to use this blog as a place to reflect, share, and build my PLN. Thanks for stopping by to read, I'm off to catch up on some blog reading of my own!