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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Thank You for Telling On Our Students

  I attended our FFO event at Hacienda Del Sol on Friday evening.  A lovely time was had by all.  Two sets of our wonderful parents were seated at a table.   I made my way over to say hello.  They proceeded to tell me two incidents that left me beaming with Eagle Pride.  One of the moms told me that her student lost a Nook (portable digital reading device) in the first few weeks of school and was pretty heartbroken, never expecting to see it again. In no time at all, a good citizen on our campus found the device and turned it in.  The Nook is now back with its owner.
   Another heartwarming story was about a student who had left an IPHONE on our campus.  The student went back much later in the day, without much hope of finding the lost phone.  The IPHONE was still where it had been left. No one had taken it.
   Parents remind me that this is not so in other places.  They also said that they perceive our students to be very honorable young people.  I agree.
    Eagle On, students!  Thanks for being responsible by making good choices!


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Deserts, Monsoons, Storm Safety

  A good drink of water can be a lifesaver in a desert.  When torrential rains course through the desert's unofficial highways, it trails and washes, they do so with a ferocity that only nature can produce.  We feel safe here because Tucson is our home. It is a beautiful place to live and to raise a family. All it takes is more rain than usual, and we are reminded that we are mere guests of the Sonoran Desert.

   As always, here at ECMS, student safety is our primary concern.  This is especially true during monsoon season.  As many of you know, our Site Council has spent a lot of time developing our emergency plan at Esperero.  We want to be prepared for any situation. We are not alone in our mission.  We are part of a larger district team and we are so grateful for all of their support.  Thanks to the wonderful, hard working members of our district facilities team, who arrived around 7 pm last night and strategically placed heavy sandbags in areas of our campus that could potentially flood.  They worked late into the evening to ensure the safety of students.  A special thanks to Mr. Doug Huie, CFSD District Director of Facilities, for being onsite and making sure ECMS is ready for any storm.

   And, speaking of safety, during monsoon season,  it is a good time to remind students about storm safety. Here is my storm safety tip of the day:

  Keep children away from running water.  Though many children (and young people) love to play in puddles after storms, Rural/Metro advises keeping them away from storm drains, washes, and creeks due to rushing water and the potential for danger.  Moving water as little as one or two feet deep will carry away most vehicles and 6 inches of moving water can knock a person off his feet. 

The advice from our Rural Metro Fire Department is: WHEN IN DOUBT, WAIT IT OUT!! 

Stay safe, Eagles.




Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Remembering 9/11

   On September 11, 2001,  I was walking to my classroom.  Our school's audiovisual clerk came out onto the sidewalk to stop me.  I could hear the television blasting from her workroom. She motioned to me, "You have to come and look at this.  A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City."  The morning kept on.  Then, there was a second plane. Then, the towers fell. Students were scared and had so many questions about what was happening.  It was a day when teachers knew no answers.  We all lived in liminal space between disbelief and speculation.

   On September 11, 2014, we will observe a minute of silence at Esperero Canyon Middle School during the morning announcements.  Our flag will fly at half-staff in honor and remembrance of the victims of September 11, 2001 and their families, as well as all the men and women who have bravely served and continue to serve our Nation in the fight against terrorism.



Sunday, September 7, 2014

These Digital Times

Dear Eagle Families:

Welcome to the ECMS Eagle Angle Blog.  This blog is my opportunity, as principal, to communicate with parents about issues that concern those of us who are raising and educating young people.  I was very faithful about blogging year before last.  I stopped as I really did not perceive that people were interested.  However, several parents have requested that I start blogging again.  I am more than happy to do so!!!

I feel so fortunate to work in the Catalina Foothills School District.  We are privileged to have the visionary leadership and parental support to offer students the most innovative approaches to education.  Our implementation of 21st Century Skills and Deeper Learning Proficiencies is yielding amazing results among our students. They are making I-movies, digital stories,  and using google docs.  Fitness Gram is an app they can use to track their fitness in PE.   Every year, technology enriches the content students are learning. A lesson utilizing technology standards and tools  is richer and can engage students at a deep level in all content areas, thus contributing to "deeper learning." Technology in education is truly revolutionizing both teaching and learning.

There are caveats when traveling these new and exciting roads.  I am a digital immigrant.  I admit it.  I was in my 30's when I became aware of the implications of the internet on my chosen profession.  A student taught me how to turn on my first computer.  And, even though I have devoted a lot of time to learning about technology, I was not born into the digital age.  If you remember a typewriter and correction tape, chances are you are a digital immigrant like me.  I am always more careful with things that I do not fully understand.

Digital natives, of course, were born into the age of computers. They play on computers many times before they can read.  The digital natives who are our students/children navigate the worldwide web in the security and comfort of their homes sometimes without a thought that they are putting themselves  at risk for cyberbullying and internet predators.  Our children may be corresponding with people they do not know in real time, people who are being dishonest about who they are.   These are all very frightening possibilities to educators and parents.

At school, we have technology policies and procedures which we implement and monitor with fidelity to ensure student safety.  Our goal is to teach internet safety habits and for those habits to transfer to when students are away from the school setting. At home and in other settings,  using the internet and the worldwide web safely requires discernment and education.  I also want to encourage parents to monitor your child's online activity.   Things can and do go wrong for kids on the internet.   It is important to be aware. Prevention through education is key.  Here is a cautionary list, not made to scare anyone, but to raise awareness. 

 WATCH OUT FOR THESE APPS and FEATURES:

 1.  Youtube challenges are not new.  These "challenges" are aimed at young people, modeling and encouraging the performance of dangerous stunts.  These "challenge" activities can cause injury or worse. From eating caustic cinnamon to burning oneself with ice and salt, it is too bad that Youtube allows these videos as they put young people at risk.

2.  KiK Messenger. Kik is a mini social network. Similar to iChat or Google Chat, users can talk to multiple people, upload pics and files and even send built-in greeting cards or sketched pictures. Like Facebook or Twitter, it's impossible to verify someone's identity through the worldwide web, thus making our kids vulnerable.

3.  SnapChat. This iPhone app allows users to send photos that will "self-destruct" within a few seconds. This means that the user can send a potentially damaging picture to a friend or someone else, and it won't stay on the recipient's phone.  Talk to your child about the dangers of sending risky photos.

4.  iFunny. The app lets users create comic strips using photos and captions, and post or send them to friends.  This app is rated for ages 17 and over. Once created, the comic strip can make its way to social networks, or it can be saved to phones and computers by other users. This can expose students to humor and behavior that is not age appropriate.

5.  Instagram is an online mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking service that enables its users to take pictures and videos, and share them on a variety of social networking platforms.  This service also makes it easy to hide your identify and to create "fake" accounts.  Instagram can be a platform for bullying.

Additional Caveats
Many of these sites require the user to be age 13 or older.  I would venture to say that this is not well monitored and impossible to regulate.   Parental Controls in Windows Media Center can help you set limits on your kids' computer time as well as limiting the programs they can access and games they can use.

What does "friend" mean on the worldwide web?
 Who are your child's friends on Facebook and other apps?  Is it possible for a 12 year old to have 1,000 friends?   Accepting cyber friendship requests for someone you do not know in real time is dangerous.  People are often not who they say they are.  Look at your student's list of friends and ask questions.

What do I do if my child is harassed or bullied online?
Call law enforcement.  Make a report even if you do not know who is harassing or bullying your child.

Steps to Take to Have Content Removed from Google and Instagram
If you come across content that violates your family's privacy on Google, here is a the website to request content removal.

https://support.google.com/legal/answer/3110420?rd=2

Here is Instagram's Privacy and Safety Center Site:

https://help.instagram.com/477434105621119/


My hope is to help parents better monitor their child's activity in cyberspace.  And, most importantly, to empower digital natives and immigrants to keep themselves safe on the internet.  Knowledge is power.  Let's work together to keep kids safe for years to come.  The internet is here to stay.  Let's teach kids to use it wisely and to protect themselves and their families.

Please feel free to email me with any concerns that come up as a result of my blog.  msetliff@cfsd16.org

Respectfully,

Mary