Teachers Are A Treasure
Teachers are a treasure, and we need to make sure we’re taking care of them.
Did you watch Queer Eye? I cried so hard in the episode with Jonathan’s teacher! Bobby Burke came out with this little gem. I had to hit pause straight away and jot it down. Teachers are a treasure. Do you feel like you’re being taken care of? What do you wish people understood about teachers?
Protecting Student Privacy ONline
As teachers, parents, students, and administrators trust us with so many things. We’re trusted to educate children every day. We’re also trusted to keep them safe and always consider their best interests. As I exist more in the teacher world’s social media, I am concerned about student privacy online.
A few years ago, Europe rolled out new data protection rules and regulations, and I just so happened to be working in the EU at that time. These data rules were intense, but they made me reflect upon the student data I collect as a teacher and the information I share as a teacher.
When I first started blogging, I asked a fellow teacher blogger for advice, and she recommended that I never use pictures of students online. I have since followed that advice. Hopefully, if you follow me, you know absolutely nothing about the identity of my students. That’s the goal. Protecting our students’ privacy is so critical. Here are some pieces of advice about protecting your students’ privacy online.
Don't Use Their Image
Sure, in the classroom, I take pictures all the time. Actually, since GDPR, I take fewer photos. The pictures I do take I upload onto my school computer and drive and then delete off of my phone. I have no images of students on my phone at all. I don’t have them saved anywhere. I don’t have any- none. With GDPR, we weren’t allowed to, and I happen to think that while strict, it is a good practice.
I am not my students’ parent or guardian, and I should not be able to make decisions about where their image is used. I feel that if teachers are going to use their students’ pictures online, they need to have written consent each time AND they need to fully disclose what they are using the image for, why that image, and what benefits they receive by posting the picture.
I even take issue with the blocking of students’ faces. Many times you can still identify students based on what they are wearing or different identifying features. I firmly believe that we shouldn’t take any chances. If parents want to post their children, that is a different story. As teachers, we aren’t the parents.
I even unfollow any teachers who post images of students on Instagram. It’s an automatic no from me. Even if they say, they have permission- no thanks! I know that blogs that use stock photos like my own might seem impersonal, but I would rather that then know all the details of someone’s class.
Don't Share Their Names
One simple way to ensure student privacy online is to not use their names. Names are so unique and such a defining part of our identities. Student names should not be shared online either. I can’t tell you how many times I would have to re-record an entire Instagram story last year because I accidentally walked past one of the million places my kids’ names were posted in our classroom. I ended up always recording them in one corner where there were no features that could determine my location or student identity. That might seem extreme, but why would I let a world of strangers know that information?
As I blog, I, of course, might want to use names to create a picture. On my letters and letter-sound post, I wanted to show an example of a name chart. I chose names at random. I included some Polish names for fun, but I didn’t include the names of any of my little diamonds. Actually, when I am procrastinating on a blog post, I can spend hours on baby naming websites searching for just the right name!
This year I started using the singular they when discussing students online. This way, gender wasn’t even discernable. Now, when I say discussing students, I mean times like this- I thought of a hilarious time a few years ago that I was reading Sideways Stories from Wayside School. When Mrs. Gorf turned the kids into apples, one diamond shouted out, “Why didn’t she turn them into chicken nuggets?!” It was hilarious, and I shared that story on Instagram. I’m not discussing any other student information online.
Stop Recording Yourself Teaching
What’s up with this? I mean that with love in my heart. My time that I am in front of the students is a time when I am their teacher. I am not teaching to perform and share online. I am teaching to educate those little diamonds in my classroom. If I want to share something I’ve done with my class, I can share it another way.
Last year we did flashlight reading, and I wanted to take a picture of it to share. I, of course, didn’t want to share the image of any of my students, so I took a photo alone, in a dark room, with the lights off, holding a flashlight. I felt like a total fool because it isn’t my style, but I would rather feel like a fool alone than record myself teaching in front of kids to share on social media. I jokingly say all the time that I wish specific lessons were recorded because they went so well, but I don’t usually record myself.
I did record a few guided reading groups last year to use as teaching tools for our assistant teachers. I had parent consent before filming and explained that this filmed teaching would stay in the school’s drive. It did. I don’t have those guided reading lessons anymore. When I taught Reading Recovery, I filmed myself teaching to improve on my practice, but I had parent consent, and I no longer have those videos.
Don't Share Specific Data
Whenever I talk about student data, I make it up. I make up kids’ names. When I shared the post about planning for instruction, I made up the details of my class. You don’t need to know the real details of my class. You don’t need to start guessing who is who. Even covering up names when sharing class data is dicey. What if people saw that and started figuring out who was who? Often lists are in ABC order. It wouldn’t be too hard to figure out. That is not a game I want to be involved in.
What’s the purpose of the student data you want to share? What story are you trying to tell? Could you create fake data to tell the same story? And when I say false data, I mean it. When I made up that other data, I just plugged in random stuff, which was kind of fun. I didn’t think about a specific student and then fictionalize them. Nope- then it isn’t made up. I just plugged in random information into a sheet.
WIPS- The New WWJD
Maybe you didn’t go to Catholic school in the late 90s, but WWJD was all the rage. It stands for What Would Jesus Do, and it was everywhere. Guaranteed, I had at least a bookmark and a bracelet with this saying on it. We joked about it all the time, and it came rushing back to me just now! #yourewelcome I might be the only person who finds this funny or remembers it, but number five in this blog post is cracking me up!
So I lived my 5th-grade life following the WWJD motto, and now I follow the WIPS motto. WIPS stands for What If Parents See. I don’t know how much some teachers disclose about their online life to their actual students’ parents. But I think this motto benefits all. I always operate under the assumption that everyone I know will see everything I post. So, if you don’t want people to see it, don’t post it. This motto can save you a world of problems.
SIDENOTE: One time, I followed this very teacher famous Instagrammer who always posted pictures and videos of her kids. One day she suddenly disappeared like her whole account- gone. Then her BFF posted that she had to make a new account, and we should follow her there. A true lover of drama, I went to the new private account. This Instagrammer said a few parents and students found her page, and she had to delete it and start a new one because she didn’t want them to know what she said online. I followed her for like a week more, and she posted kids’ images on her new page! She also told stories and used kids’ names! Like stories, I would guess you wouldn’t want to be shared about your kid. On the account that she hid from parents and students! That’s not good. If you have to make a private account (where you’re still sharing student data) to hide from parents and kids, it isn’t right. At all. We can do better. We need to protect our student’s privacy online- no matter what.
What Are Your Thoughts on Student Privacy?
How do you ensure you’re protecting student privacy online?
If you’re a parent I would love to hear some thoughts on the current social media era of education.
This post in no way shape or form is about a best teaching practice. This teaching practice is so expired and out of date that I include a warning here. But it is fun, and kids love it. It’s not research-based at all.
Sit back, relax, and let me tell you about Storylords and why I love it so much!
Most kids who grew up in Wisconsin in the 80s and 90s knows the joy of Storylords. To say this program is outdated is an understatement, but kids still love it. This show is by no means a #bestteachingpractice but a resource that might bring joy to your heart if you watch. I wouldn’t recommend using instructional time to watch Storylords. When I taught grade 3, we used to watch it during snack time just for fun. It in no way should replace or take meaningful instructional time.
Thunder and Lightning, Trumpets and Drums, Readers Rejoice, A Storylord Comes!
Those are the words that Norbert uses to move into the world of the Storylords. Also, these are the words I hear kids using at recess when they’re playing Storylords.
Storylords is an educational program about reading comprehension strategies. It is a very low-budget production. In the show, there is the evil Thorzuul. Thorzuul wants to turn all readers who can’t comprehend what they read into statues. Norbert becomes an apprentice Storylord and attempts to gain comprehension strategies to defeat Throzuul.
Thanks to PBS Wisconsin, all of the episodes are on Youtube. The strategies taught are not bad strategies, in fact, they’re probably strategies you’re teaching in your classroom. The way they’re being taught isn’t the most up to date though. It’s really the use of a chalkboard among other things that give Storylords a special old-timey vibe.
**It looks like PBS Wisconsin may have taken Storylords off youtube. I can’t tell if the links aren’t currently working because I am out of the US or because they really don’t work anymore. Luckily for all of us HERE is the entire series thanks to another youtube user.
There are 12 episodes in total.
- Activating prior knowledge before reading
- Connecting what you know with what’s on the page
- Knowing when you don’t know (in your head)
- Knowing when you don’t know (on the page)
- Directed reading-thinking activity
- Question-answer relationships
- Decoding words in context
- Inferring word meaning in context
- Story mapping
- Pronoun anaphora
- Identifying main idea and details
- Integrating comprehension strategies
Once again, I cannot stress this enough; don’t waste your instructional time on this. Maybe one day, you’re out sick, and you could fill time with a little Storylords. The last time I watched this series was when the grade 3 teacher was out for a whole week, and we had to fill time with something. I mean, it is sort of educational. But just a little bit!
Best of luck on your journey to becoming a Storylord!
Did you watch Storylords growing up? Do you have any outdated and old things that you love like Storylords? Share them in the comments below. I would love to hear what people just can’t get enough of.
Flexible Seating Mistakes
We all make mistakes. Here’s a little teacher flexible seating reflection- I didn’t launch flexible seating as well as I should have. I made a lot of assumptions I should not have made. Each class you have is different and comes in with different experiences and background knowledge. While I applied that to my content teaching, I didn’t think about flexible seating! 🤦♀️Things weren’t working. Instead of flexible seating providing powerful choice and agency it was standing in the way of our learning. Instead of learning conflict resolution we were constantly tattling. Finally, we just needed a fresh start.
Adding IN a Flexible Seating Reflection
We scaled it way back to a new launch. I made all of the decisions for my students. Every few days, I assigned students a new seating option to learn about how to work in that space. The student who sat there before taught them a few tips about their new spot and at the end of their time, they rated their seating options and reflected on their learning while sitting in a particular spot. This flexible seating reflection was precisely what they needed! It provided the structure that they still needed and provided “choice” even though I was doing the choosing. They also had input in the choice through their refections.
After a month and a half, we were ready to try to fly free again and make our own choices. I wanted them to do one more final reflection about their learning before we got the decision back. A reflection that would remind them that we exist in our classroom to learn (and have some fun). I developed this fun reflection that we completed on Seesaw. It was simple, but it was just what we needed, and their thoughts blew me out of the water!
Once we finished our flexible seating reflection, we had a conversation as a class. It turned out that most students said they preferred to work alone in a quiet spot. They only liked 1-2 people sitting near them. Most kids didn’t like sitting in a place where the air conditioner blew directly on them. Kids loved sitting on the couch and didn’t like sitting at tables, particularly the big tables that were supposed to seat 6.
We posted this information on our whiteboard and worked to make improved flexible seating choices. From time to time, some assistance is needed in making choices, but for the most part, we’re doing well. I don’t know why I’ve never thought to launch flexible seating in this way before. I will 100% start the year off with something similar next year.
Feel free to steal the image above and upload it into Seesaw for your learners!