Grandpa Roy

Yesterday we celebrated the life of my Grandpa Roy. He lived to be 101 years, 9 months, and 5 days old – a very rich and full life. I had the privilege of sharing some of my experiences and lessons learned from the 47 years I was blessed to know this amazing man.


When I was a little kid grandpa would sneak up behind me, grab the hair on the back of my neck, pull up and say, “Grow Tall!” Years later, when I was taller than him, he’d look me over and chuckle with satisfaction saying, “See, it worked!”

picture958Grandpa was not a tall man, but he was a strong man. I never knew him when he was one of the top wrestlers in his weight class in the Pacific fleet, or when he performed in the wrestling show down at the Long Beach Pike back in the 1930’s – BEFORE World War II –  but I’ve heard stories. Lots of stories. When we would work on projects together out in the workshop he built in Hemet, California or the one in the basement at his Denver house, I’d get to hear about his time in working in the machine shop on the repair ship USS Medusa. Later, as his characteristically strong hands became shaky an unable to work with the tools he so dearly loved, I would travel to Indio, California for visits. We’d sit at the breakfast table drinking coffee and there would be more stories to share. Stories about growing up in Marion, Iowa, where at 10 years old he learned how to rebuild batteries and repair cars in his father’s garage. I’d learn about the summer he spent living in a tent down by the river at age 13, and that one late Christmas Eve when he banged on the store window to get the proprietor to let him in so he could buy presents – the only presents his family would receive that year because he was the only one who had a job.

There were so many other stories, but many of them are probably not appropriate for a memorial, so I won’t tell them now. Maybe sometime if you want to head over to the bar and buy me drink, I might share a few more…

As a teacher I know that so much of what we learn, we learn through stories. From grandpa’s stories I learned first hand what life was like in a world of steam locomotives and Model T’s. Where your word and handshake carried more weight than the most ironclad, notarized contract. A world where common sense was…well, a lot more common. From Grandpa I learned the importance of self-reliance, hard work, and always doing your best at any job regardless of the pay – because it is the right thing to do. I learned that life isn’t easy, but it can be fun if you take it moment by moment, keep smiling, and have a sense of humor.

Any of you who had the chance to meet grandpa and ask him, “How are you doing?” Got to experience his sense of humor. His comebacks and one liners were legendary.

Even the last week I saw him, when I walked in his room and said, “You know Grandpa, you’ve looked better.” He couldn’t really speak, but he didn’t have to – he just turned slowly and gave me that classic “look” – proving he was still there and sharp as ever.

I am truly grateful for all the time we spent together. For the many stories told, lessons learned, and words of advice given. Thank you Grandpa for sharing your memories and experiences, your cheerful, positive attitude, and for being not just a wonderful grandparent, but also a good friend.

As he told me on countless occasions, “You know, I’ve had a pretty good life.” Yes, you did Grandpa. Yes, you did.

August2006 004-1


The Spanish Inquisition

I bet you read the title of this blog post and said to yourself, “Hmm, I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition.” That’s because…



The chief weapon of the Spanish Inquisition is FEAR!   Have you ever decided not to try something new and innovative in your class because of fear?  Fear of what others might say, fear that it might not work, or most of all, fear that someone will complain and the next thing you know you’re getting “The Spanish Inquisition” from THAT parent, or your department head, or your school admin.

I had the pleasure to tune in for part of the FutureNow LiveStream today, specifically the panel discussion led by Scott Kinney.  One of the topics of the discussion that struck a chord with me dealt with what needs to be done to get teachers to “buy in” to integrating Digital Age technology in their classrooms. That brought up the question of how do we support innovative teaching practices and foster an environment where it is safe to take risks.  That’s where the light bulb went off for me.

We all know that students cannot learn in an classroom environment where they do not feel safe.  How can we expect teachers to risk innovation if they do not feel safe?

Do our schools provide an environment where teachers feel safe enough innovate? If yours does, then it seems you may be in the minority.  As I work with teachers at both my school and others I’ve noticed, especially in the past two years, that the stress level of teachers seems to be off the chart. High maintenance and confrontational parents, tedious administrative accountability measures, high stakes testing, the push for Common Core, budget cuts, layoffs, all seem to eat up precious time and increase anxiety levels.  The time and energy it takes to try new things is smothered by the “need” to not rock the boat.  Add to that new technology initiatives which, while good-intentioned, overlook the need for adequate training and support. No wonder teachers don’t feel safe.

Those of us in the EdTech world see the benefits of technology in the hands of students. We recognize the need to, as 3rd grader Mary Moss Wirt so eloquently pleaded this morning, “Teach us the the way WE learn.”  We get it.  But what we don’t get are teachers who resist implementing technology. We look at them and shake our heads. We mutter under our breath saying things like, “I can’t believe they’re still using Power Point.” “Look, they still have a flip-phone.” “There they go, running off more worksheets.” “If they can’t change, they have no place in the classroom.”

What we fail to recognize is their fear. It’s REAL. It’s legitimate. Fear of the unknown. Fear of change. Fear of failure. Fear of looking stupid. Fear of losing their job. Fear of stepping out and taking a risk because they do not have that safety net that those of us in the EdTech world have – each other.

Have you ever seen a teacher in tears because of their frustration with technology? Ever see the look on their face when you step in and with two or three clicks fix something they have been struggling with for hours?  These people know, or at least suspect, what we say about them under our breath. They can see it in our eyes as they roll.  You wonder why they don’t ask for help? There’s your answer. Instead of building a relationship, you’ve made them feel more isolated. Will they be coming to you for support again anytime soon? I know.  I’ve done this. Even if I didn’t intend to. It happens.  I know because I’ve seen teachers struggling with tech and when I offer help, in the same breath as they are thanking me they also say, “I was afraid to ask you because I didn’t want you to think I was stupid.”

Just like my students, when it comes to technology, I want teachers to be independent thinkers and problems solvers. But I also want them to feel safe enough to ask a question when they get stuck; to try something new because it’s how their students learn.  They need to feel that they have support. Not snarky, eye-rolling support, but genuine empathetic and caring support.

When a safe, supporting environment is present, learning can happen, but for real growth to occur teachers also need to take responsibility and build their own learning and support network.  Doing this requires trust.  I’ve written about trust before. I also encourage you to read this blog post from Principal Eric Sheninger  – “Autonomy Breeds Change“.   Using some of these strategies, hopefully your school can lower stress, encourage professional growth and create an environment where nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.


Top 10 List of … SQUIRREL!

Everybody loves lists. When Tech & Learning published a list of their most read stories of 2012, fourteen of the twenty five stories listed were lists. Apparently if you want more people to read your post, make it a list. Why? I suppose it’s because many of us are so easily distracted that we prefer reading a quick list rather than take the time to dig deep and absorb a well thought out, logical discourse on …


#1 –  MeoGraph

Here is a fantastic tool that lets you combine your narration with text, maps, images and YouTube videos to make a timeline story. Check out the examples on their site. Thanks also to Hunter Davis for posting this tutorial video that explains step by step how to…


#2 – EduCreations

If you have students using iPads this FREE app is a must. Students can create and narrate their slides to show what they know. With a free account, completed lessons are automatically uploaded to your site and can be shared with a URL. Tools are simple and easy to use. There are basic pens for whiteboard-like drawings. You can also use the iPad camera to capture images and bring them into your…


#3 – Google Stock Images

Many teachers refuse to let go of Microsoft Word and move on to Google Docs for one reason – clip art! With the addition of Google Stock Images you now have more than 5000 images you are free to use in your Google Docs, Presentations, and Spreadsheets. Here’s a tutorial that explains to use Google Stock Images. Using stock images I was even able to find a picture of a…


#4 – BeeClip

Looking for an alternative to Glogster? Check out BeeClip. It’s a simple scrapbooking tool for you or your students. With a free teacher account you can create a project and assign it to up to 30 students.  Paid accounts give you even more. You can upload your own images to use as clips or use their BeeClipper browser plug-in to grab images off of web pages and add them to your clips library. The first clip I added was a picture of a…


#5 – CTRL “F”

Want to be a hero to your students? Teach them to use CTRL-F. I’m still surprised how many people don’t know they can use CTRL-F in any browser to search for specific words on web pages. Just type in a word, and if it’s on the page, your browser will highlight it for you. If you’re using Google Chrome the right scroll bar even shows marks indicating how far down on the page each instance of the word appears. No longer will students have to read paragraphs of information just to find one fact. They will love you. They might even give you a…


#6 – Google Docs Research Tool


Let’s say you’re in Google Docs writing about squirrels. You need more info about them. Highlight the word “squirrel” in your doc. Go to TOOLS and select RESEARCH. To the right of your document you’ll see a box with images, facts, and web search results, but that’s not ALL! Drag an image to place it in your document and docs will automatically put an image citation footnote at the bottom of your page! Web search results let you preview web pages, insert link, or automatically cite the page in your document.

Options let you change the citation format, and the pull down menu in the search bar lets you restrict searches to images, Google Scholar, quotes, dictionary, or your personal Google +.


#7 – Dropbox

dropboxI’ve been a dropbox users for years sharing files between my Mac and PC, but recently I’ve found it’s my favorite way to move items to and from the iPad as well. If you can get it in your iPad Camera Roll you can easily use the Dropbox app to upload it and get it to your computer. Many apps have a built-in export to Dropbox feature too. If you have a class set of iPads, Dropbox works great for copying student images, artwork, and videos to your teacher Mac, PC, or…


#8 – Snapseed

snapseedSnapseed my favorite photo editing app for iPhone and iPad. It was totally worth the $4.99 I paid last year. Now that it has been acquired by Google it’s price has been lowered to FREE. You have no excuse for not downloading it to your…


#9 –  Sifteo Cubes

Sifteo CubesThis new cube game system will get you thinking outside the screen and challenge you unlike any other. Lots of education possibilities here. It comes with 4 games including math & word puzzles. You play by tilting, touching, shaking or touching the cubes to each other (something they call “neighboring”). I had to get a set of these for my niece for Christmas – and one for myself too just so I could…uh…well…be able to teach her how to use them. FYI: Sifteo has Education Pricing if you think you might want to purchase some for your…


#10 – A Little Inspiration

Do you believe that you need to work hard and be successful in order to be happy? TED speaker Shawn Anchor suggests you have it backwards. I’ve shown this video to our school faculty, at teacher workshops, and shared it online countless times this year. As we move into 2013 let this inspire you to start the year off with a “Happiness Advantage”.

Happy New Year!

*What’s up with all the “squirrels”? It’s a little joke understood by those who are easily distracted and have also seen the Disney Pixar movie “Up“.

Squirrel images from Google Stock Images

A New Theme for a New Year

Even though 2013 is still more than a week away, I decided to launch my new blog theme a little early. Why? Well, basically I was FORCED to CHANGE. Suffice it to say that my old blog theme was not compatible with the new version of WordPress, hence the new look.

I was not happy about being FORCED to CHANGE. I was happy with my old theme. I was comfortable with it. It worked for me. Selecting and customizing a new theme was troublesome and inconvenient. I resisted. Then I heard my own words coming back at me. Telling myself what I’ve told teachers on countless occasions…

“It’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong. It just happens. Deal with it.”            Why the Web Will Never Replace Books

Sure, it’s somewhat unsettling when the voice that’s mocking you is your own. So to all those teachers out there who’ve had to listen to me say those words, please know that I too feel your frustration and I’ll try to be a little more patient with you in the future.

By the way, now that it’s done I think I like the new theme better anyway.

Bring Back the Ink Layer…(Sort of)

When SMART updated their software to Notebook 11, the “Ink Layer” was replaced by something called “Smart Ink”. My problem with SMART Ink is that it does not work with a live image from my non-SMART document camera. If this frustrates you like it does me, you can bring it back…well sort of.  Here’s a way to fake an ink layer so you can draw on a live image from your  document camera.  (We use the IPEVO P2V Camera.)

  1. Plug in your document camera and get an image on the screen. (Don’t go full screen yet.)
  2. Start Notebook 11
  3. When the blank notebook page appears,  go to the VIEW menu and select TRANSPARENT BACKGROUND 
  4. You should be able to see your document camera window. Use your mouse or trackpad to make it go full screen.
  5. Using the SMART pen, you should be able to draw on the live image. The SMART Toolbar should appear near the bottom of your screen.


When you finish, you can use the camera tool to capture the image with your notes. Click the “Exit Transparent Background” button in the SMART Toolbar to get back to the normal Notebook 11 view.

The “Transparent Background” feature mimics the “Ink Layer” feature that they took away when they released Notebook 11. I can’t guarantee this procedure will work for any document camera, but it’s worth a try before you go out and spend your dollars on SMART document camera.

“Why the Web Will Never Replace Books”

There’s comfort in the routine. Security in the familiar.  For many, it’s that morning cup of Starbucks from the same place at the same time. You don’t even have to order it because the barista sees you walk in the door and has already started pouring. For me, Wednesday morning is pancake morning. At 6AM you can find me at the Original Pancake House, sitting in the back at the round table with the owner (a buddy I’ve know since grade school) and several other “regulars.”  Any disruption to this routine and something is just not right.  You’re pushed out of your comfort zone.  The universe seems a little off kilter.

This week I needed to help a teacher whose comfort zone was disrupted because the web site she had been using was not there anymore.  She took it personally. “What did I do wrong? I did the exact same thing I’ve done every other time.  How come it’s not working now?”  We worked through all the stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally reluctantly moved on to acceptance. This is why many teachers are so reluctant to give up their books.

There’s comfort knowing the book will always be there. The book is trusted. The book is faithful.  Sure the web resource is exciting, engaging, and stimulates the imagination and the senses more than the book ever could, but somewhere in the back of your mind you know that a long-term relationship would never work. There’s always that uncertainty that you may wake up one morning and that web resource will be gone. No note. No apology. Just gone.

Okay, maybe I’m being a little over-dramatic, but the reality of the web is that “the one” resource you’ve been using may not always be there. It’s easier for students to deal with this than you.  In a year they’ll move on to another class,  while you’re left behind to teach the same content again. Comfort yourself with the knowledge that students who got to use that site were engaged and able to learn because of it.  That cannot be taken away. Students who never knew the site, won’t miss it. They will learn just as much or more from the new site or tool you are about to find.  So allow me to offer a few words of advice that may help you to move on.

  1. Just like you get in your car and do everything the same, like you do every day, one day it won’t start. It’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong. It just happens. Deal with it.
  2. Skip denial, anger, bargaining, depression and move straight on to acceptance.
  3. Always have a plan “B”.
  4. Know your content and always be on the lookout for something better.  If you find something great, use it.  Dump your old site before it dumps you.


Creating and Collaborating in the Cloud

This year is a year of changes at my school. I’ll likely be sharing others in future posts, but today I’d like to focus on one that I’m most excited about  – Google Apps replacing Microsoft Office.

Beginning this Fall our incoming 6th grade students no longer all have the exactly same computer supplied and imaged by the school. Instead they are allowed to purchase and bring their own laptop computer. This means our teachers are now dealing with students who could have Macs or PC’s and a variety software and hardware configurations. We needed something that would create a common experience for any platform and Google Apps was the logical choice.

To learn more about our Bring Your Own Laptop program click this link:


  • Google Apps is FREE.
  • Since it works in a web browser, the user experience is the same whether your on a PC or Mac.
  • Google Docs are saved automatically. There’s no need for students to save their work or try to remember WHERE they saved it. This is a BIG deal if you’ve ever worked with middle schoolers.
  • Google Docs are saved “in the cloud”. If a student’s computer breaks, their work is not gone. They can get on another machine, sign-in, and have access to all their work. This eliminates “the dog ate my flash drive” and “my computer froze” or any other technical excuse they might use to get out of doing their work.
  • Google Docs are “collaborative”. This opens up new possibilities for collaborative notes, documents, presentations, and projects. It also makes “turning in” assignments a simple matter of sharing your document with the teacher. No more saving, downloading, and uploading of files. It makes commenting, correcting and revising work much more efficient.

So how does Google Docs work in the classroom?

When students create a document the first thing they must do is give it a proper TITLE. The document title is analogous to putting your name, class, period, and assignment on the top of your paper. Our students are required to name their documents like this:

LastName, FirstName Subject Period Assignment


Naming documents this way allows the teacher to search and filter documents by assignment, subject, name, or class period.  A teacher could filter all documents shared with them to see all submissions for a particular assignment or just the documents submitted by a particular student. If a student shares “Untitled document”, the teacher will not accept it.

Instant Commenting

When a teacher is evaluating student work, adding a comment or critique is a simple as clicking your cursor in the document or highlighting a section of text and pressing CTRL-ALT-M (the keyboard command to insert a comment). CTRL-ENTER will post the comment.

When a comment is posted, the student can see it immediately.  If a student happens to have the document open while a teacher is looking at it, they will see the comment pop up on their screen. They might also see the teacher’s cursor moving through the document right on their screen indicating that the teacher is looking at their document at that very moment. As I explain this to students this might seem kinda creepy, but it’s also pretty cool.

In our old system, students submitting documents would have to upload a document to to Moodle. The teacher would have to download and save the document. Open the document. Add comments. Save the document, then upload the document back to Moodle so the student could see the comments. Instant commenting in Google Docs is a big time-saver.

Revision History

This is like document insurance. As you work on and make changes to a document, Google Apps is generating a revision history. At any time you can go to FILE and SEE REVISION HISTORY to look at previous revisions of your document. So if you, or one of your collaborators accidentally deletes part of your document, you just find an earlier version of your document and restore it.

How is this helpful to you as a teacher? Think about the writing process. Now you can take a students work and use revision history to go back and see their writing process. What changes did they make? What did they add? What did they delete? Did they make the corrections you suggested?

Have you ever been part of a group project and had a bad experience because you did all the work but everyone in the group got your “A”? Now a teacher can use revision history to see not only what changes and additions were made to a document, but also WHO made them. So now the teacher can see who did the most work and who did nothing. Now those lazy people who sit back and let you do all the work will get their just reward. (It’s about time.)

Teachers as Contacts

We also recommend that students using Google Apps, add teachers to their contacts. This is something our teachers have students do at the beginning of the school year. It makes sharing a document with a teacher much simpler because they just share it and select the teacher’s name from their list of contacts. You don’t have to hope that students will type your e-mail address correctly every time.

We’re only in our 3rd week of school and already I’m hearing positive comments about how much quicker and easier it is to assess student work with Google Documents as opposed to dealing with Word and PowerPoint files uploaded to Moodle.

If you’d like additional Google Doc resources, here is the site we created to support our Google Apps training:

The Purgatory of the Online Helpdesk

I’m in charge of Moodle at my school. To “make life easier” we have chosen to go with a hosted solution. I don’t want to mention any names, but you’ll find a clue hidden in the image below.

While I’m normally not one to complain, I feel compelled to share the following story. It all started yesterday as I worked to backup our courses from the previous school year to get ready for the new one. The task was simple. Backup each course with student data so it could be downloaded and archived. According to Moodle documentation there is an automatic way to do this, but since we have only be using Moodle for one year, I am unfamiliar with the process. I could explain more, but I think you will get a better picture from the continuing comments added to my support ticket – a ticket they have yet to submit a reply.

8/13/2012 4:06 PM
Can I use automatic backup to do a one time back up of all our existing courses and student data so that our teachers can simply reset their courses – deleting all students, submissions, and grades – for the new school year?  If so, how would I set this up? Where will the files be saved so I can download them and save an archive? Can I create a 2011-2012 backup folder? I used to have FTP access to our Moodle directories, do I still have that?
8/13/2012 5:03 PM
Doing some manual backups while I await a response. I just backed up the following course (05 History) but after completing the backup, I am unable to download the file. I get the message in my browser that the web page cannot be found.
8/14/2012 11:37 AM
Also get the same error when trying to download the backup for (06 Homeroom).
8/14/2012 12:19 PM
Trying to backup the course (07 Language Arts) and the process just stalls after clicking “perform backup”.
8/14/2012 12:28 PM
Found two completed backups of (07 Language Arts) when I click the “Restore” link. Never received the “completed” screen when performing the backup.  I would still like to try to set an automatic backup so I don’t have to do each class one by one. Is anyone there to help?
8/14/2012 3:52 PM
(08 Physical Science) backup file will not download either.
8/14/2012 4:35 PM
Dear Diary,
I sit here painstakingly backing up each of our Moodle courses one by one. I can’t help but wonder if I will ever see my home again. Do you think anyone misses me? This process is excruciatingly slow and sometimes it just stops completely, never letting me know if it’s done anything at all. Yet here I sit. Waiting. Clicking. Staring at a cursor that just goes…blink, blink, blink…mocking me. Mocking the futility of my work. I’ve asked for assistance but the only response I get are the empty echos of my own cries for help.
8/14/2012 6:37 PM
Depression is setting in. I see no end to this backup purgatory. I did not believe this process could get any slower, but it has. Still I move forward, bit by bit, byte by byte – with the speed of an advancing glacier. Yet I keep posting these notes – hoping against hope that someone, somewhere out there will read this and come to my rescue – like casting messages in a bottle out into and endless empty sea. I regret that by the time I receive a response all that may be left of me will be a dry skeleton hunched over a dusty, cobweb-ridden PC. If you do happen to read this please notify my next of kin.

And here I still sit. Backing up courses one by one. I still have not received any response from our hosting service. At this point I don’t expect a response, although some sort of acknowledgement that someone is at least reading my pleas for help would be nice.  So that’s why I’m blogging this – to pass the time while I wait and to put my words out there where SOME-one might actually read them.

At a time of year when I should be writing something inspiring and motivational to get you energized for the school year, I write this. I apologize for de-motivating you. This is the part of my job that I dislike the most. Backing up files, updating databases,  importing and exporting user lists – if this was all I did all day you might as well bring in the straight jacket and haul me away now.  Thankfully, tomorrow our teachers report back and I’ll soon get to work with people again. While that opens a whole new set of challenges, at least I know that my words will not be floating off into empty space.  (Except maybe in faculty meetings.)

A Matter of Trust

My grandfather will be 101 years old next week. He grew up in a world where a man’s word and a handshake carried as much weight as signed and notarized contract does today. Neighbors watched out for neighbors. If you messed up you owned up.  He shared with me the words his father shared with him: “When you’re hired to do a job, you do your very best work, not because of how much he’s paying you but because you promised to do the work when you took the job.” He was never out of work a day in his life, even though the Great Depression.

Grandpa was brought up knowing the importance of trust and responsibility. So was my Dad. So was I. If I ever misbehaved or slacked off in my classwork, few things would put fear into my eyes more than a note or phone call home. The teacher was respected. Their words rang with unquestionable truth and usually resulted in a tense conversation at home that night, followed the next day by an apology to the teacher and a promise to do better.  That was the system and the system worked because my parents trusted the teacher as a trained professional, responsible for the education of their children. Today, if a teacher even has the courage to make that call, they better also have a defense attorney on retainer to deal with the barrage of  accusations from parents claiming prejudice against their child, and incompetence in their teaching. (What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents)

Ask just about anyone about our education system today and very few will argue that it’s broken. Countless blogs condemn the “tyranny of the test”. An endless line of political candidates pad their popularity by proposing plans to “fix” education:  Abolishing No Child Left Behind, increased spending, more time to plan lessons, more technology, digital textbooks, smaller class sizes, changes in instructional delivery like flipped classrooms and blended online learning. Don’t get me wrong,  these are all good ideas, but I think they are ignoring the main issue that is undermining our education system. Unless we deal with this issue, I believe any strategy to repair education in this country is doomed to failure.

The issue is TRUST.

The system itself doesn’t trust it’s teachers. When you use standardized test results to determine “merit” pay you are telling teachers you don’t trust them. When you offer incentives like “Race to the Top”, you are saying that you don’t expect them to do their best because it’s the right thing to do, you need to bribe them make them try harder. When you mandate endless evaluations and “hoops” that teachers must jump through to make sure they stay accountable, you are telling them you don’t trust them to be responsible. (Downgraded by Evaluation Reforms)  Did you know that in Finland, there is no word for “accountability”?  “Accountability is what’s left when you take out responsibility.” (Accountability vs. Responsibility)

We look at Finland as an example of a system that works. So why can’t we make our system more like that? First, we have to get back what we’ve already lost – TRUST in each of our schools and our teachers to be professionals and do what is best for each student. (What the US Can’t Learn From Finland)

“Trust takes years to build and seconds to destroy.”

Once lost, getting trust back is no easy feat. I’m not going to go into what needs to be done systematically and politically to make that happen, as I feel that may already be a lost cause. Instead let me offer a couple suggestions of what can be done at a school or classroom level to help restore trust in your learning community.


A few years ago, our newly hired administrator told us one of the most empowering things a principal could say to his teachers.  He said, “If you want to try something new and innovative in your classroom for the benefit of student learning, then succeed or fail, I will back you up.” I can’t think of a better way to tell teachers that you respect them as professionals. How many teachers refuse to try something new because they feel they will be left “hung out to dry” if it doesn’t work? If you’re a principal or administrator I urge you to be a leader and stand up for your teachers. Let them know you’ve got their back – especially when THAT parent comes in to complain. I think you’ll be pleased with the growth that occurs when you remove the fear of getting cut down.


Be responsible. Do your best in all circumstances and stop complaining. Listen at least half as much as you talk. And be positive.  When you interact with parents are they only hearing negative things from you? One of my mentor teachers told me this strategy for building a positive relationship with parents.  At the start of every school year, he would observe each of his students. When they did something outstanding and praiseworthy he made a point to call parents and share it. What parent doesn’t want to hear how awesome their kid is? Especially from a trained professional teacher? In the event you eventually do need to phone home about a behavior or academic problem, parents are less likely to be defensive or feel like you’re picking on their kid.

These suggestions alone are not an overnight cure. It will take time and effort, but if teachers and administrators work together, stay positive, and lead by example we can begin to move forward. I really like this picture Diane Main shared on Facebook this week. (I wish I could find out who made it originally so I could give proper credit.)  If we all, both administrators and teachers, worked to be “leaders” as defined below, then we are well on our way to regaining that trust.

Online Behavior Infographic

One of the advantages of working at a Christian school is our ability to be able to integrate faith into our curriculum. One example of this is the infographic below. Much of what we expect in our students’ online behavior is based on the qualities of good character and ethics. So in essence, digital citizenship is character education.

My generation tends to see a distinct line separating our real lives and our online lives.  For our students, that line is much more blurry. Their online world experiences are blended with their real world. Their interactions with their friends and classmates cross-over between the digital and the face-to-face.  As a teacher it’s easy to make a distinction between classroom behavior and online behavior, but when you stop and think about it, isn’t it all just “behavior”?  Stealing is stealing, whether it’s shoplifting a candy bar from the liquor store, or downloading a copyrighted movie from Bittorrent. Bullying is bullying, whether it’s on the playground or in a text message.

When I created the infographic below, my goal was to take our current online behavior agreement (Word doc link) and make something that could be posted in classrooms and referred to daily as teachers and students work and interact online. The intention is to make Digital Citizenship something that is emphasized and modeled in all classrooms, rather than a subject that is only taught in the computer lab.


If you would like a higher resolution copy for viewing or printing…

Feel free to use it, share it, or modify it to meet your needs.