Tag Archive | Citizenship


I went to see Act of Valor with my sister. Towards the beginning of the movie, before the team deploys for their mission, the Lt. gives a brief pep talk to his team. He tells them to make sure that everything is all set at home before they leave; their relationships, finances, etc. If they are not, he encourages them to let the chief know so that they can help. His reasoning? If things are left uncertain at home, they will be unable to focus out on the mission.

What a message that sends! I value you. Your happiness is important to me. Your success is our success. I’ve seen something similar to that in a school a couple of years back. I know that recently the Waldorf school in California has gotten some press as being the anti-technology school of choice for Silicon Valley, but having visited one myself, I believe it is more than that. You know how some say it is the emotion that is invoked that people will remember? Well, this is certainly why I remember why I remember my visit there.

Upon entering the school I was warmly (and sincerely) welcomed and immediately felt at ease. During the day I had the opportunity to tour the grounds and speak with students and teachers. Here is what I discovered. Every child, every person, is greeted (at least once) by name once they enter the campus. There are multiple adults and student greeters stationed to do just that.

In one classroom I visited a child began to cry. The teacher kept singing until she reached the child and enveloped her in kindness. A gentle touch on the child’s hand to calm and a soft voice with probing questions to soothe. Some may say this is a perfect way for children to behave to receive attention, but it demonstrates to the children how important they are and that they have support.

In speaking to one teacher she had told me that she had once worked in public education before going to the Waldorf School. She mentioned that she worked with excellent teachers in the public school, but she never felt as supported as she did at Waldorf. Why? Because if she was struggling with something the whole staff was there to support her. If a child was having difficulty the entire staff participated in helping that child.

Yet the sense of community did not end there. During my tour it began to rain pretty hard out and I asked about recess. The parent that was my guide said that weather never prevented the children from being outdoors. They all had gear to participate in any type of weather. Naturally, I queried about the gear because some of the students were in attendance because of scholarship and would not be able to afford the gear. She responded that those families who can, provide extra gear.

This school, this community, understands the importance of belonging and significance; and it brought me back to my Montessori days. The students and the staff are supported to be clear-headed so that they can do their best while in school. The same with the staff. When there is that type of community it is easy to see how there is great success for the students after graduating.


I Didn’t Realize

Inevitably, each school year this pops up, and when it does I love the teachable moment it provides.  We were walking outside the other day and a kiddo came to me, upset that another kiddo waved his skyball in his face.  I was talking with the upset kiddo and he said he felt like the other kiddo was picking on him; rubbing in the fact that he couldn’t play skyball that day.

I do a lot of work with kiddos around I Statements and was working with him to word his feelings in this way so that he would be ready to chat and express his thoughts.  Once he very proudly stated, “It really hurt my feelings when you rubbed the skyball in my face because I can’t play today.”  The other little guy stopped and looked at him, stating, “I didn’t realize that.  I was just so excited that I got a skyball I wanted to show it to you!”

After that they had a brief conversation about the awesomeness of skyballs, and then I stopped them for a quick chat.  I said something like this, “You know guys, I just realized something.  Jack, you were upset because you felt like Cordell was picking on you for not being able to play skyball.  And Cordell you were excited to get the skyball and wanted to share that with your friend, but didn’t realize it would hurt his feelings.  You know, sometimes we do things, and without meaning to we hurt someone else’s feelings.  Sometimes we just don’t know what is going on with someone else, how they feel, and we don’t know how our actions are going to effect them.  This is a really important reason why we need to talk to each other.”

Both kiddos thanked me when we were done chatted and happily ran down the stairs together.  I truly do love moments like these, because it shows kiddos how necessary dialogue is.  Dialogue like this encourages them to be honest while being kind.  In the end, both parties demonstrate empathy and are empowered.  In addition, the more we can help kids work through misunderstandings like these the more trust we build and they know that they can come to us for anything.

Pin It!

Thanks to a friend, I am now a pinner.   When she first sent me the invite I was at a ‘not another social network’ stage.  But then she kept sending me links of things that she found on Pinterest.  And so I decided I should take a peek.

First, Pinterest is a site built upon collecting things that interest you and sharing that with others.  You can collect images, videos, sites, blogs, games, purchases.  Whatever you choose.  And teachers are well known for collecting. It allows me to collect sites in a visually appealing way; there has to be an image associated with what you pin.  And because I work with younger children I know the importance of meeting the needs of a variety of learners, the combination of visuals and text are helpful!  Of course the educator in me couldn’t help but start thinking about all of the educational things I could do with it!

Professionally, I’ve begun boards related to digital citizenship and kind-heartedness.  Pinterest is a perfect site to collect articles, websites, and what-not around topics that are important to you.  For me it is digital citizenship and anything that inspires kiddos to be kind to each other.  But I’ve also been able to collect curriculum related resources.  I love how this allows me to connect to fellow educators in another way (in addition to Twitter).  I’ve followed a few more education blogs since I’ve started pinning, too!

Now…in the classroom…I see a great deal of potential for it.  I am an avid of Symbaloo.  I have a great deal of Symbaloo webmixes on my classroom website.  I like that I can create visual buttons for all of the users to access.  But here is the problem, oftentimes I like to pull out a few of those resources for my kiddos to access.  For example, when we are learning multiplication facts I like to pull out specific games that will let my kiddos practice them in a fun way.   I often use Tumblr to aggregate those resources, but I really would prefer to provide them with a visual.  Pinterest would allow me to do that!  I can pull together specific games related to time out of all of the time games I have and post little notes on them so that they can determine which would be best for them!

Those are all great ways I can use them as an educator, but are also some stellar ways for my kiddos to use them.  Did I mention that there’s an app for that?  Whether you use Android or Apple there is.  This makes the application much easier to integrate in the classroom.  Here are a few ideas I have for how it could be used by students:

    • Student Portfolio ~ I currently use Evernote in the classroom as a student portfolio & do love the multi-modal capabilities.  But I could just as easily see this be done with Pinterest.  Students could take a snapshot of their work, upload it, and then write a reflection.  They could also video record their reflection and post it.
    •  Research ~ They could gather resources for a research project and write their notes right on the pin.
    • Share Books ~ They could post images of the book jackets, rate them, write book reviews, develop theories about characters.  Speaking of characters…
    • Character Pinterests ~ They could create boards that demonstrate their understanding of a character or historical figure.  For example (we happen to be reading Despereaux) they could locate images of light and revenge to demonstrate what is important to Roscurro the rat.
    • Timelines ~ They could develop a timeline of a typical day of a historical figure (we happen to be exploring Native Americans) and post images that demonstrate what things they would most likely do during a day: hunt, skin, tend to the corn, etc.
    • Scientific Procedures ~ Couldn’t they capture images of the process they went through during an experiment and capture their notes of it along the way?
    • Problem Solving ~ They could do the same for explaining how they solved a mathematical problem.
    • Explore Language ~ What a fun way to create pictorial representation of vocabulary and/or phonetics they are currently exploring? It could even become a visual dictionary for them!!!<span style=”color: orange;”>Student Portfolio</span>
    • Digital Story Telling ~ Pull together images and write captions to pull together a cohesive story.  They could do the same thing with non-fiction writing and create an infographic!!!

I am sure this is just the tip of the iceberg.  I’m also thinking it would be a good way to group together student projects instead of listing them on my website.  When they all publish something, I could pull them together on a board and make it one-stop shopping!  I would love to hear some ideas of how you have used or would use Pinterest with your students!

For Me, It Was Phoebe

January 2010, my husband and I were in the car on our way to Maine to enjoy a restful weekend.  As usual, my husband was driving and I wa jumping around the various apps on my phone.  Scrolling through my Facebook and Twitter feeds I spotted a post about a young girl in Hadley, Massachusetts  who committed suicide.  Immediately I was clicking on links to discover why.  Why would this young girl kill herself?  In the series of video clips and articles that I devoured my heart broke.  It broke for Phoebe.  It broke for her family.  It broke for all of us.

Do you remember her?  Phoebe Prince.  The fourteen year old girl recently immigrated from Ireland.  The freshman who caught the eye of a older football player at her school.  Who dated that older boy and paid dearly for it.  For three months, other girls (the “popular” girls) tormented Phoebe.  They taunted her in school.  Cornering her in the library, bathroom, and hallway calling her a whore.  These girls threatened to beat Phoebe up, prompting Phoebe to ensure she was never alone in school.  They made harassing phone calls to her home, sent her mean-spirited text messages.  They went on Facebook and ridiculed her, calling her an “Irish slut”.   On the last day of Phoebe’s life, as she was walking home from school, one of her tormentors drove by her and threw a full soda can at her head.

But that wasn’t all.  I wish it was.  What I later read is what makes a place in my heart for Phoebe Prince.   I wept when I read that after her death these same girls that tormented Phoebe were continuing to harass her.  They were publicly proclaiming at parties/dances and on Facebook that they were glad Phoebe was dead.  It appeared as if they felt no remorse for her death.  All I could think about was her family.  Could someone be so insensitive that they would leave disparaging remarks on a memorial page?  A page that was viewed by Phoebe’s friends and family, those who loved her?

And for all of those things I will remember Phoebe Prince.  I will always imagine the fear she felt as she walked through her school.  I will always imagine how helpless she felt when she attempted to protect herself by going to her school’s administration and them failing to do anything about it.  I will always imagine the pain her family felt upon losing her.  And their hearts being ripped apart when others spoke ill of their long-lost daughter.   I know that there were others before Phoebe, even as far back as 2003 (that I can recall) and others that followed.  And it saddens me that they are gone from this world.  That they felt suicide was their only option to escape their pain.  But for me, it was Phoebe that changed my views on social media and mean-spirited behavior.  And for that, I thank her.

BrainPOP! Citizens

I can not say enough about BrainPOP! and BrainPOP! Jr.  They are incredible kiddo friendly sites with informative videos on a variety of topics.  Each video is accompanied with a quiz and Activity pages that may include a graphic organizer, vocabulary page, and an activity. Sometimes kiddos like to learn more and there are sections for that ~ FYI and Q&A.   Not to mention the fantastic BrainPOP! Educators section they have with an array of resources, including webinars.

For this post I will be focusing on some specific content available on the websites for: Cyber Safety.  There are a variety of ways to stay safe online and the folks at BrainPOP! have resources available for both age groups.  They also have a webinar available in the BrainPOP! Educators section to get you familiar with the resources available.

You will probably notice that there are more resources available for the BrainPOP! site (grades 4 and up).  This makes sense considering that young adolescents are more likely to be online and engaged in social media.  I found about ten BrainPOP! videos available with topics on:

Each video covers one of the nine elements of Digital Citizenship.  You will also notice that there is also an Online Safety Poster that you can customize for just your kiddos.  In addition to these topics there is an Online Safety Game available.  There are an array of resources available in the FYI section that you could jigsaw your class; having kiddos responsible for reading and reporting on one of the top tabs.

You can use a lot of the BrainPOP! resources listed above with primary aged kiddos (K-3), but you may like the audio – visual feature of of BrainPOP! Jr.  The closed captioning is a favorite feature for my kiddos because they like seeing how to correctly spell the words.  Not to mention that Annie’s voice reads roll overs.  BrainPOP! Jr. has an Internet Safety, Blogs, and E-Mail videos available.  This is perfect for this age group because many of them are beginning to explore social media sites like Club Penguin and Facebook and have a tendency to talk to strangers online (even though they wouldn’t do that off line).  There are even more resources available in BrainPOP! Jr.; they have a comic, topic specific game, and other multi-modal activities available.  Just check the bottom of the page for them, the kiddos LOVE them!!!

Other videos that I’d like to point are the BrainPOP! Jr. Bullying, Anger, and Friends videos.  While not cyber safety specific; relevant.  Students need to practice positive social skills off line, or face – to – face.  It is during this practice that they will acquire skills necessary for their online lives.  It is helpful for them to understand friendship; how to be a good one and knowing what they want from one.  They should know how to recognize and control their anger; know what triggers them.  This type of self awareness will help prepare them for positive online relationships and conduct.

Focus … Focus …


I, like many folks, have vast interests. This extends into my professional life as well. I find so many things important. I am sure this is because of my strong belief that children are people and have many facets that make them the special kiddo they are. The whole child. Are they healthy? Are they happy? Are they hungry? What’s their passion? Are they kind and treating others kindly?

So often I’ll tweet something about homework, school nutrition, education policies and/or reform, even family involvement. But my real passion(s) … Kindness. Technology.

Kindness. Are adults modeling what it looks and sounds like to treat others with kindness? Are we having conversations with kiddos when they display unkind behaviors? Are we using reinforcing language when we witness displays of kindness? Are we using literature as a means to discuss emotions and reactions to those emotions? Are we using historical and current events as a tool to learn from others’ mistakes and successes?

Technology. I find technology to be a fascinating part of our lives. What we are capable of doing with technology, good and bad, inspires me every day. And so I may tweet and blog about particular Web 2.0 Tools and Applications that I find helpful and engaging in the classroom. Because, as one of my third graders says, “What eight year old doesn’t want to have fun learning?”

For me, it is the mingling of the two that drives me. Are we living positive offline lives? Are we transferring our face to face skills online? Do we behave the same way online as we do offline? What are we doing, as experienced adults, to mentor our youth to do just that? How are we using technology, specifically social media, in the classroom to support the growth of positive digital habits?

A dear friend of mine says how important it is for each of us to have a passion. Something that makes us excited about our day and fulfills us. Cyber Kindness does that for me, and it is time to nurture it. So, I will be shifting my Blog focus a bit to do just that. Focusing on tools that encourage collaboration and communication. Focusing on websites and organizations that are dedicated to promoting positive (digital) lives.

My hope for you is that you discover your passion. Nurture it. Live your exciting life!

Mobile Teachers

I can’t imagine not having my iPad and/or Droid by my side while teaching. Am I tethered to my devices? Not necessarily. But I have become accustomed to the applications available on them that assist in the daily ‘stuff’ that makes up teaching.

I can not say enough about Evernote! I use it to keep track of parent – teacher conferences and phone calls as well as notes during PPTs and student – teacher conferences. I was sold on upload with Evernote last year while conferring with one of my students. after conferring, he wanted to try what we just talked about but couldn’t remember it. I tossed him my phone and he listened to our conference to remind himself, followed by application of our chat. Because I have Evernote downloaded on both devices I could still confer with other students while he was doing this!

Twitter and HooteSuite are very helpful when we are tweeting away in the classroom. Having these applications on both devices has allowed me to walk around and chat with my students while monitoring what they are all tweeting. During a recent TwitterView my classroom desktop was not connecting to the Internet. But…hooking my iPad up to the projector I was able to display the feed in case the student devices were not loading quickly enough. But I was able to walk around chatting with my students and use my Droid to stay in contact with the folks we were interviewing. Also, it comes in handy on field trips when we want to share our experiences with other folks!

Goodreads is a fabulous social bookshelf! We can be knee deep in a read aloud turn-and-talk and I can monitor what my students are saying about the book in real time. Or I an see what books my students are uploading to their shelves to get an idea of what they are reading at home and school. I really enjoy seeing their ratings and book reviews!

These are just some of the apps that I have on both devices, but there are some specifically on my iPad that I find helpful. Stick Picks is a handy app that lets me keep track of Ana array of things. I have written about it here. another one that infrequently use is Teacher Pal. Also written about here. While some may think it is poor modeling to use our mobile devices in the classroom, I disagree. When we use our devices for things like these we are showing our students what it means to be a responsible learner and citizen. We are showing them that we can use our devices for specific tasks and walk away from them. We are showing them how to be task oriented. Purpose driven. Accountable.