Friday, November 28, 2014

Our Door is Open

photo credit: Aeioux via photopin cc

Recently a newly communicated rule by our local fire marshal drastically changed the culture of my school. We were directed to close all doors in the building at all times. No exceptions. Despite my hunch that these rules have more to do with said fire marshal's personal preferences and less to do with code, reason, or understanding, our school complied. 

Well mostly. 

I arrive at school at about 6:30am every morning and I was still propping my door open until about 7:45am for a couple of weeks until someone turned me in to administration which prompted a polite request to ask for my adherence to the directive.

I understand. No, not the petty and unnecessary tattling by a peer, or the wisdom of a seemingly arbitrary directive. I understand that by not following the order, I may put our school at risk for a violation or fine regardless of its validity. Despite the fact that a fire marshal's likelihood of inspecting our facility at such an early hour, I shut my door.

It's awful.

I already maintain an engrained resistance to 'no exception' policy decrees, but the unforeseen effects of the shortsighted "closed door" policy has only magnified my cynical eye toward absolutes.

Some of the smaller problems created.

  • The 1st grader with braces on her legs, heck any student under 4th grade, has difficulty opening the heavy school-grade doors. I've stopped counting how many times, I've thought "whew that was close" after intervening to prevent a heavy door from closing on a 'littles' hands
  • You always feel if you're interrupting someone or something. Even the copy rooms (really?!) and teacher lunchroom doors are closed. You always feel like you're intruding.
  • Several door handles have started breaking and are in now in need of repair. No surprise when you put a month's worth of wear and tear on a handle in a single day. 
  • I'm convinced that the closed doors have contributed to increased illness and absentee rates. When EVERYBODY is touching EVERY handle MULTIPLE times a day, the icky stuff is bound to get passed along a little more quickly and distributed more widely. We recently had about 40 kids out sick, or about 10% of our entire student body.

The big problem

The entire feel of the school has drastically changed. You walk down the hall and no longer hear the buzz of learning interactions or the quiet diligence of work. Only the sound of your own heels as their sound waves bounce off the brick walls and over closed doors. It use to be just a couple of teachers would shut their door and seal off the world at the beginning of the day. Now it's the entire school.

When every door in the building is closed, it feels like every door in the building is closed. Does that make sense? The vibe is just stale, dull, and lifeless.

My door is still open

Figuratively of course, I don't want to upset the resident Johnny-law or the more authentic bureaucrat with a badge and his clipboard, but my door is always open. We've got the internets.

Even though my class' door is shut, we've got our virtual door open to the the world though our use of technology.
  • We've shared our writing with classrooms and teachers around the world through our blogs.
  • We've talked with and to experts in their fields (#GLFish chat, #LTAB and pop stars (Usher) using our class Twitter account @LaSalleElem216
  • We interact and collaborate with classmates in our grade level using Edmodo,  Socrative, and Today's Meet.
  • We watch, read, and discuss great ideas being shared via TED Talks.
  • We read leveled text using Newsela and explore different viewpoints using Newseum to learn about the things going on in our world, like the incidents in Ferguson, and talk about how we can change the world.
  • We've gone on Virtual field trips to spectacular locations throughout the world.
You can ask me to close my door, but I refuse to close off my classroom.

Thanks for reading.

Follow me on Twitter @YourKidsTeacher

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Social Media and Snow Days

photo: Eric Johnson Flickr

Remember the days of listening to the morning news broadcast on the radio and hoping beyond hope that your school's closing would blast from the speakers announcing a day filled with cartoons and legos? The radio? No? Maybe the television.

Pre-cable TV and before there was a morning news show on on every station, I had the radio. Nowadays, boy that's an old-man phrase, all a kid has to do is turn on the TV or fire up their phone to see if they can go back to sleep for a couple of hours or if they will be enjoying the day off. News stations around these parts, I'm sticking with the old man theme, will even send text alerts and weather warnings tailored to your school district or your neighborhood.

So yesterday when I saw which way the wind was blowing off of Lake Michigan, I knew from experience that I was going to have to get up early and shovel snow before I got ready for school. I made sure that my laptop was in standby with tabs open to the local websites and dedicated a tab to the tweets of my favorite weatherman and friend of Room 216. (@TomCoomes).

I shoveled our family's driveway and seemingly infinite sidewalks in the sub-zero wind chill exposure for about 45 minutes, then headed inside.  Once I started to feel my fingers again, I hit the trackpad on my laptop to see if I could enjoy my well deserved coffee at my leisure.

Nothing had been announced yet (5:30am), so I proceeded with the normal morning routine. Shortly after I counted out the scoops of coffee needed for my first cup, a browser refresh revealed a 2-hour delay. I posted the news with a quick status update on my class' Facebook page, scheduled a Remind message, and Tweeted out the info on mine and our class handle as well. I've used social media with my classes for the past five years to communicate with parents, share the good, and make connections not possible otherwise.

Sure, I could have let everyone figure it our on their own, but Social Media (SM) gives me another communication conduit directly into my home partners and their student's lives. The platforms allow me go where they're at. SM allows me to get a message to my audience more efficiently and effectively than even the news.

Posting, snapping, sharing 'stuff' also allows me to show my students how to use social media responsibly. They need to know that it is possible for the digital items they share and are attached to their name can be positive. Even if that message means that it is just a 2-hour delay and not a lake-effect snow induced day off.
Thanks for reading. 

You can find me on Twitter @YourKidsTeacher