Thursday, November 13, 2008

Shutting down bloggers, one blog at a time


Moan-et
Originally uploaded by aknacer
I continue to be amazed at dinosaur thinking in the workplace. And, no, I'm not talking about my place of employment.

I received an email recently from a fellow blogger who has been cut down on her blogging. She's a teacher in a public school. Here's a little something she received from her boss:
Actually, you'll not see the little something she received from her supervisor.

Revieved in an email this morning:
Please delete the quotes from my school district's directive from your blog post. I just googled it, and it popped up. If my school district does the same, I'm history--and I'm already hanging by a slender thread!
Oh, I can relate to that. In the spring of 2007, I went through the same rigamarole. See Coast Guard Bust and CG FORCECOM to {{snip}} ... The good news, if we can look a the situation with a glass-half-full perspective, is that, if my situation is any indication, things will get better.

In the mean time, at the request of my blogging colleague, I've deleted the missive from her superiors.
.
I've been reading her posts for several years now; while I certainly don't agree with everything she says, I have never found her postings disrespectful or even tinged with the thought of undermining her supervisors' authority. Indeed, as other teacher-bloggers have noted, her posts are educational. Wrote one teacher-blogger, "I have learned many things about teaching from her, and in fact, just changed the seating in my room based on some things I just recently read."

Some people are just afraid, I think. This whole notion of transparency and learning from others, well, the dinosaurs don't get it.

Sure, it's scary. I'm not talking about life streaming, but about sharing information, making people and organizations learning people and and organizations.

For instance, I've started posting my work summaries online. Insane, some would say. I've caught some flack for it, and some people have suggested that it's inappropriate. Well, to my mind, the payoff is worth the risk. Hands down.

At least the Coast Guard, more of a monolith than any public school district, has attempted to balance organizational needs with individual needs and, also, actually, larger needs. Recently, the Coast Guard came out with a policy which, first, defined unofficial Internet posts: An unofficial Internet post is when a Coastie (of any flavor, be they a military member, a civilian employee, or a volunteer) expresses
THEIR COAST GUARD RELATED THOUGHTS, IDEAS, KNOWLEDGE, EXPERIENCE, AND OPINIONS BY POSTING ANY COAST GUARD RELATED INFORMATION TO ANY (COAST GUARD OR OTHER) INTERNET SITE. UNOFFICIAL INTERNET POSTS ARE PERSONAL EXPRESSIONS DEVELOPED AND RELEASED BY A MEMBER IN AN OFF-DUTY STATUS AND ARE NOT INITIATED BY ANY PART OF THE COAST GUARD ORGANIZATION OR REVIEWED WITHIN ANY OFFICIAL COAST GUARD APPROVAL PROCESS.
Since I've mentioned the Coast Guard, I'm thinking this very post probably falls under this rubric.

So, what are the guidelines? Fairly balanced, I think.
COAST GUARD PERSONNEL WHILE IN AN OFF-DUTY STATUS . . . ARE AUTHORIZED TO MAKE INTERNET POSTS ON COAST GUARD RELATED TOPICS . . . THE COAST GUARD PERFORMS VALUABLE SERVICES AROUND THE WORLD EVERY DAY AND THERE IS NOBODY IN A BETTER POSITION TO TELL THIS STORY THAN EACH OF YOU. AS A RESULT, THE COAST GUARD ENCOURAGES EMPLOYEES AND VOLUNTEERS TO RESPONSIBLY ENGAGE IN UNOFFICIAL INTERNET POSTING . . . COAST GUARD PERSONNEL WHO POST CONTENT ON THE INTERNET ABOUT THE COAST GUARD BEAR A RESPONSIBILITY FOR ENSURING INFORMATION DISCLOSED (INCLUDING PERSONAL COMMENTS) IS ACCURATE AND APPROPRIATE. COAST GUARD PERSONNEL SHOULD KEEP IN MIND HOW THEIR POSTS WILL REFLECT UPON THEMSELVES, THEIR UNIT, AND OUR SERVICE.
The policy is replete with references to privacy information, information security, operational security, and all the other caveats one would expect from a military and law enforcement agency. But the bottom line is clear: it's okay to muck about on the Web 2.0 and add content. And, it's okay to talk about the Coast Guard when doing so.

What's the teacher-blogger who's been shut down to do? Well, she clearly can't keep blogging, at least with the same focus she had before. As noted in one of the most recent posts, "From now on, you'll find nothing of substance here."

Actually, you will not find anything there, as she's locked down the site so that no one can read it. That's right, no one. It's become little more than a personal journal. No more learning from a fellow teacher. No more seeing through a window into someone's classroom. No more learning about how schools function and school leaders lead and school managers manage.

What irks me greatly is that in this teacher-blogger's posts, she didn't even name the school she taught. No hint of the real location. No hint of the real people involved. Rather, an unabashed view of one anonymous classroom in one anonymous school in one anonymous district.

And for that she gets the muzzle. Noted another follower,
All I am saying is this: if it can happen to her, it could happen to the rest of us. Keep your eyes open and your backs to the wall. And keep on posting.
Indeed.

So another blogger bites the dust. Or so the administrators think. We all know, however, that the hog will be fed, and ideas will flourish, and free speech will reign in the end. And, I look forward to reading this teacher-bloggers words and learning from her (albeit not from words on her blog), and other intelligent and dedicated professionals in the blogosphere (or whatever suitable replacement we can find).

To those leaders and managers who are concerned about content on the Web 2.0, get over it. Trust your people. Sure, give them guidelines. And follow-along. Realize everyone is still learning about this new media, so mistakes will be made. But also realize that there is more positive power here than any of us can imagine right now.

To my teacher-blogger colleague, and all the other folks out there who have taken it in the chin because of blogging (yes, Michael, you), keep at it. I certainly will; blogs and other tools help make us all learners. And that is nothing but good.

Cross-posted at Tidewater Musings and A School to Call Home.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sometimes a position announcement reaches out and grabs ahold of me

I'm certain that it appears I'm no longer actively seeking a school position

Not so; what I am doing is being much more selective in what position announcements I bother responding to. While I'm still called to teach, I also realize that I'm actually doing good where I am right now

Every once in a while, a position announcement reaches out and grabs me. I felt the grip of this one. The school
is seeking a high school English teacher for the 2008-09 school year (courses will probably include 9th grade, 11th grade, AP English, and Creative Writing). The successful candidate will join an exceptional team of teachers and work with curious, passionate, and capable students in grades nine through twelve. Qualified candidates will have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in English and at least three years teaching experience. We are particularly interested in candidates with experience in project-based learning, the Writing Process, interdisciplinary teaching, differentiated learning, and innovative curriculum. The position also involves active participation in duties related to a residential community oriented high school (faculty meetings, advisory, evening and periodic weekend duty, and attendance at all-school events).

The school is enjoying maximum enrollment of 100 students (50 male, 50 female), 80% are residential students. Commitment to experiential education and project based learning.
I've written the academic dean, indicating my interest in the position. We'll see where it ends up.

Picture from this post is from Ojai Valley Photo Gallery.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Worth 25 minutes of your life



Hit the green button, and you'll feel as if you're at the conference.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Education and Creativity

What an awesome talk from TED:



About my job search: What search?

;-)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Still here; still looking; still slow going

Well, it's been more than a month since I've posted. In the blogosphere, that is an eternity, and any regular readers I might have had here have certainly gone onto other places on the Internet.

I'll not provide excuses for my lack of posting, other than to say I've been doing other "stuff." Some of it has involved other places in the blogosphere; please don't feel like the forsaken woman (or man) as that has certainly not been my intention. In part, there's been no news to post here.

Frankly, my job search has gone nowhere. I've been complacent with it. I think part of that comes from being content (more or less) in my current job. We have some new things going on, and I've been slightly rejuvenated with those initiatives.

On my RSS reader
, I have 228 job announcements tagged, but I haven't applied to any of them... except one which is a repeat school from last hunting season. Nothing has spoken to me except for this one; I keep waiting for something to jump off the board and announce, "This is it. This is the job and the life for you!" Just the one.

Of course, I only need (or want) one job.

The Stinsons by the Elizabeth traveled to see the Stinsons in the Wilds of Pennsylvania for Easter. My parents were thrilled, as they hadn't seen Jack (or any of us) for over a year. Late on Monday, my parents and I were sitting around the dining room table and they asked about the search and my plans. I mentioned that I had hope as my father had a twenty year long job search; he flinched. He said I was mistaken.

I guess it's a matter of perspective. I remember he went on an interview at an all girls school in Poughkeepsie, NY in 1974. I remember this because (a) I have pictures and (b) I ran up and down the dormitory halls and the girls yelled, "Boy on the floor." My father didn't get the job (head of school), and the school closed within a couple of years later. He remained where he was a rector until sometime in 1991 or 1992 when he accepted a call to a church in eastern Pennsylvania. And, there were applications and interviews in the intervening years.

Okay, that's not a full two decades, and maybe the search wasn't active the whole time, but, for me, the point is still clear: sometimes it takes a while for the right call to come along. In the mean time, continue to good work where you are.

So, while I'm hopeful for this new opportunity at the Little School on the Prairie; may this be the call I'm waiting for... and, no matter what, may I continue to good work here along the shores of the Elizabeth.
The picture with this post is by David Morris who posts at flickr as iowa_spirit_walker; the picture is used here with his kind permission and under a Creative Commons license.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Silence: Flu and uncertainty in what to say


Wikipedia Concept Map
Originally uploaded by juhansonin
Things have clopped along here at the Stinsons Along the Elizabeth. Jennifer has had morning sickness for what seems like four months now. And we were hit with the full force of this season's flu, a strain not in the vaccination; we were down for the count for two weeks.

Now, on the reason for the post: Wikipedia as a source.

From Barbara Nguyen at The Editors Weblog: Top (news)papers reference Wikipedia and raise question of website’s credibility as source. Evidently, Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, thinks the encyclopedia's best journalistic use is for background research rather than as a source to be quoted.

I'd say the same goes for academic papers. I wouldn't ban its use, but I'd certainly want substantial supporting documentation.

As to the job search: let's say that good news doesn't come in thin envelopes.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Ranting in an age of near infinite knowledge accessibility

Brian Kirwin has been ranting over at Bearing Drift with the post It ain’t true, but they keep saying it. On the state of education in today's world, he wrote,
My kid’s school is great, but all the others are horrible

This is the single biggest impediment to improving schools. Even in Detroit, where 80% of the kids who enter as Freshmen don’t even graduate, you’ll find “but my school is different.” It’s amazing how we expect kids who every day in the real world interact with technology that the Apollo 11 astronauts didn’t have, they have access to a worldwide goldmine of information in a world that’s quicker, multitask-oriented, interactive and incentive-based, and we wonder why 30 kids in a room with a common textbook working at a unified pace with no incentive to do any better than the person sitting next to them results in a generation of students so bored with education that we face the real risk of creating a nation of salespeople marketing the inventions and innovations of other nations.

Until we adopt an education model that is interactive, individualized and incentive-laden, schools will continue to try to improve their outdated, 20th century models like Edison’s competitors tried to make better candles or blacksmiths who thought better horses were an adequate response to Ford’s new carriage.
Indeed. I think the Coalition of Essential Schools might have a possible answer. I know others do, also.

What is it that is holding the American education system back?

Your thoughts?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The heat has turned up slightly

Here in southeastern Virginia, it's been a balmy winter. Today the heat was up, and everyone was out in short sleeves.

The search for an answer to my call is also heating up a bit. I have a couple nibbles at the moment. One is for an assistant head position at a day school with a unique environmental focus. I've been tinkering with my credentials file, particularly the page Search Objective for Peter Stinson.

I did a major rework of one section, going so far as to delete Desired school characteristics and in its place put The ideal school.

This is the section which was, in essence, left on the cutting room floor:
Desired school characteristics

Selection Criteria for all schools:
  • Non-profit
  • College prep or college bound
  • Maintain similar standard of living as current
  • Co-ed or all boys
Additional Selection Criteria for boarding schools:
  • 325 students, max
  • 35% day students, max
  • 1:9 faculty:student ratio, max
  • 25% international students, max
Additional Selection Criteria for day schools and day/boarding schools in the United States:
  • 400 students max (upper school)
  • Casual dress
  • Follows Coalition of Essential Schools or other progressive program
  • If private school, must be an "independent" school
  • Maximum faculty/student ratio 1:11

Additional Selection Criteria for schools outside the United States:
  • 400 students max (upper school)
  • May be an "American" school or an "International" School
  • Maximum faculty/student ratio 1:15
  • Prefer for school to offer the IB
You can see the new page here. Pay particular attention to the ideal school section.

I'd be interested to hear what you think.

Also, I re-ordered the sections; do you think it flows better?

Please do comment below, and please ask others to provide me feedback also. Thanks.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

How have you lived your life? Insights for us all.

I wanted to pass along two videos I came across recently that I think would be of benefit to all the folks in the ever-shifting blogsophere. They're both from Randy Pausch from Carnegie Mellon.

Well, he's actually on a leave of absence from Carnegie Mellon and has moved to Chesapeake, Virginia, with his family.

Anyway, there are two talks he gave this past fall. Devout members of the blogosphere have likely seen one or both of them, or at least heard about them.

One is called "The Last Lecture" which is a Carnegie Mellon lecture series: if you had one last lecture to give... In his case, it is nearly his last lecture as he is dying from pancreatic cancer. It's an awesome lecture about living life and succeeding at goals.

The second lecture is one that he evidently gave somewhat frequently, but gave again at UVA (where he was a professor before going to Pittsburgh) in November.

Both of these are worth the time to watch.For those who would like more information about Randy and his life and work, there's plenty on the web. Here are a couple of sites.Enjoy.
Cross posted at Tidewater Musings, An Unofficial Coast Guard Blog, and Coast Guard Performance Excellence.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Just how technology savvy are you?

I came across a list of technology-based interview questions for independent and international schools to use with new faculty members. Jeff Utecht at The Thinking Stick proposes that these questions will allow you to see how excited a prospective faculty member is about technology and how they might integrate technology into the classroom or their other work in a school community.

I though these questions were very thought-provoking; I took a stab at answering them (before really studying Jeff's analysis of each question); I liked the results so much that I posted my replies in my employment credentials package.

Your thoughts? Comments below, please.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Haidho American School in Sarkhan: Part 2

For anyone following my journey and wondering how I dealt with the Haidho American School, here was my reply to the superintendent, after many days of wondering what to say.

I decided to just take an open approach:
Thanks so much for your note back. I hope the New Year finds you and yours and the school community safe.

I appreciate your kind words and your straight-forward feedback. While finances are certainly critical, I've always thought that nearly
everything financial is negotiable, particularly if the "fit" is "fine." If you find, as the hiring season rolls along, you'd like to continue the conversation, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me. The opportunities present at Haidho American School are innumerable, and I would thrive on working in the HAS community.

I wish you a most excellent 2008.
I suspect, however, that while I may hear again from the head of HAS, I'll not be packing my bags for Sarkhan.

I did see a posting for a dean of students position at a day school nearby; I sent off my letter of inquiry this morning.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Making a long-term impact on students: Experiential Learning

Recently, I read about a Spanish teacher at Olentangy Liberty High School, Erica Vieyra, who had her Spanish V students take on a role playing exercise: they were to "assume a Latino identity, build an imaginary life in your home country and develop a workable plan to immigrate to the United States," as noted in an article by Holly Zachariah in the Columbus Dispatch.

The project has raised a fair bit of controversy amongst many, including some loud voices in the blogosphere. I think the critics are missing the point. This is not about liberal indoctrination or teaching students how to break the law; this is about getting students to learn through experience.

If I am representative of the typical American student when it comes to foreign languages, twenty-five years from now Ms. Vieyra's students will remember little, if any, actual Spanish. But, they will likely remember the many lessons learned from completing this project.

The same goes for the Newark, New Jersey, students who participated in the project pictured with this post. They spent three months building the boats and then launching them in the Passaic River. The project worked to integrate the usual academic disciplines with an experiential and hands-on approach.

I seek the opportunity to work in a school which embraces this sort of teaching and learning.