Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Safety on the internet

Dr danah boyd has posted a blog about her involvement in writing a report for Internet Safety Technical Task Force. One of the points that she raises is that "The kids who are in trouble offline are more likely to be in trouble online and offline psychosocial factors contribute to online risks". My observations of teen behaviour with my students reflect this, the students who have the most "inappropriate" material on their myspace pages are most likely to be the ones who are seeking assistance from school counsellors about troubles or fronting the administration over poor in school behaviour. This leads to the question what are we as the community, and more particularly parents and teachers to do?
My first thought is we must listen. Often risky behaviour is a cry for attention, so we need to be listening to our children and students before they get to this stage. During the last six years there have been a number of students whom I have wanted to go to the parents and tell them this. I have suggested that my principal write a newsletter article about this but he suggests newsletters are for positive things. Secondly once we as teachers and parents are listening we need to be honest and open in our talking with young people, explain why we are asking that they do/do-not do things, admit we don't have all the answers.
For many years I have been reading about "middle-schooling" a concept that blends the relationship development of primary school with the broad and deep understanding of high school by putting students in-front of only a few specialist teachers, even sharing some subject areas. I personally think that this could lead to a better social and learning environment and have volunteered to be involved in this at my school, however the way that time-tabling is done at my school it is not something that I have been able to do yet. Perhaps next year.
In the mean time I will do my best to listen to the students I have and talk openly with them, especially my year nine IT class where online issues are a major theme.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Is this a job that will have a long-term effect?

Holidays are a good time for reflecting on what we do. Over the past week I have been doing a bit of contemplating education and Doug Johnson's question in his blog about time really got me thinking.
Do I as a teacher have a long term effect on my students? It is obvious from reading biographies and histories that teachers can have an influence on their pupils eg Helen Keller. In my own life there were three key teachers who enthused me, Thanks Mrs Seaman, Mr Shepherd and Mr Lovell. Talking to other teachers at a training day from Julia Atkin many teachers sited a good teacher as one of the reasons they got into teaching.
Having only taught for six years it is hard to determine the long term influence of what I have done but a number of my students who i have stayed in contact with on mySpace have said that I have assisted them. One in-particular (when I was having a week teaching despair last year) has sited my continual encouragement in year eleven and twelve chemistry as the reason she was able to get into and do the university course she has just completed. Come to think of it perhaps the fact that I am a mySpace "Friend" to over 100 current and ex students shows that I have an influence over them. I think the key is to ensure that that influence is a positive one that encourages exploration of knowledge, creativity and safe behaviour.