Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Middle Schoolers and Cell Phones


Parents: I sympathize with you. The pressure that comes to bear from an adolescent who wants a cell phone is tremendous. Furthermore, they will resort to all sorts of underhanded emotional and psychological tactics to try and make you cave and buy them a cell phone. In the past, parents only had to prepare themselves for the debate over their adolescent having a new car when they earned their license. Now they still have to wage this battle, but preceding it is the cell phone ambush. You may never see it coming.

It could begin with either a subtle setting of the stage like,  "I read a story on the Internet where a girls' cellphone was swallowed by the family dog, which ran away, and they were able to track it using the GPS on the phone. Isn't that awesome?" Or the direct bull-in-china-shop approach like "I need a cellphone or you'll never know what I'm doing. You don't want that Mom. Seriously. You don't."

It does absolutely no good to say something like, "I made it through my entire time in school without a cell phone - I think you can too." They don't see the logic in that argument, because they can't fathom the context of it. It necessitates a world without cell phones and that just can't be. Heck, a world without smart phones is almost incomprehensible to these students.

Now, let me step back and acknowledge this doesn't need to be an us versus them type of deal, but I've heard from enough parents and students to know that it certainly feels that way. I also know that a lot of middle schoolers have cell phones and smart phones - I'll address this a bit later on. Obviously, most of what you read above is written with my tongue firmly in my cheek, but there are some things we can take away from this 21st Century family crossroads.

First, in all honesty your child doesn't need a cell phone in middle school. Every school should have plenty of phones in the building or main office and most schools have emergency communication systems to alert parents if there is a major issue. Often, children say it would be more convenient to call the parents if a game ends early or they want to go home with a friend after play practice if they had a phone. Again, anything a middle school-aged child is involved in should, ostensibly, have adult supervision and whatever adult is there will have a phone they can use.

Second, I'd say kids don't need a cellphone until they're driving. With appropriate education about the potential distractions of texting while driving or talking while driving, kids at this age can have a phone in case of an accident or to call before (or after) curfew to allay anxieties, or to find the safest ride home. It allows for independence while maintaining a quick and timely link home. Middle schoolers will always be under the supervision of adults and therefore the preceding reasons need not apply.

Third, if you do provide a cellphone to your child before they drive make sure you control it. Ask your provider about the family plans and the security options for your son or daughter's phone. These phones are essentially small computers with IM, text, camera, video, mp3, Internet access, and email capabilities. Make sure you are watching and checking (See Circle the Wagons, February 2011 for more thoughts on monitoring your child's screen time) what goes on on your child's phone.

Fourth, if your child has a phone, try as much as possible to create a context where your child believes they have your phone on loan. You might try this:

"Dave, your mother and I went to the store and I was able to get a new phone," the father says with a smile.

Dave responds with a grin from ear to ear, "Dad, are you saying what I think you're saying?" 

"Absolutely not, Dave. I'm saying I have an extra phone which I will allow you to use on a one-strike-you're-out basis," replies the father, also with a grin from ear to ear.

(Author's note: This is exactly how my father would have handled it were he to be having the conversation. He'd sometimes blow up the balloon and pop it right in front of you to make sure you knew who was running the show. God love him.)

The key is to outline what constitutes strikes (make it clear and concise) and then follow through. Make sure the phone is charged in a common place and do not allow it to be in the bedroom with your child. This will only lead to late night distraction and a lack of sleep, which is crucial for adolescents.

Finally, if your child has a cell phone or not, teach them the values you believe in and expect they will apply these values to how they use the cellphone. Promote social interaction - do not allow cell phones at the dinner table or out to eat.

Take heart, you're not the only one locked in a pitched battle over the purchase of a cell phone. All parents of adolescents have had this discussion with their child. Talk to each other and get some pointers on how to manage it. You know where I stand...

See also Rosalind Wiseman's website to the right. She speaks to many of the points above.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Solve the Quad from SchoolTube

I came across the site SchoolTube today, which is educational videos only, and open for all to use. I found this from Westerville High School in Kentucky and thought it was amazing. It is all about how to solve the quad!

Check it out here.

6th Grade at Kanuga

I just received word that the 6th graders at Kanuga had a great hike into the Pisgah National Forest. All is well there and they are having a great time!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Girl Bullying Conference: June 30 - July 2

As part of a national recognition of the need to address bullying head on, I received this email this afternoon. It is promoting a national conference on girls bullying and it encourages people from all constuencies to attend.

The link is here and under Useful Links to the right of this post.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Sleep-Memory Connection - Interactive Information

I found this website today about the sleep-memory connection. It has a great interactive function which describes the various levels of sleep and how it affects memory. I've added it to the list of Useful Links to the right of this post.

Check it out: NOVA: The Sleep-Memory Connection

Michael Josephson Commentary: Motive, Tact, Tone, and Timing 723.3

A brief outline of the important factors to be weighed when telling hard truths:

Michael Josephson Commentary: Motive, Tact, Tone, and Timing 723.3

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Can I Lead? Yes, But....

I came across this post this morning at LeadershipNow, and thought it applicable to the motto of Canterbury, which Douglas so eloquently described in the last post. It is a concise summary of what leadership means to us at Canterbury, and what we work to instill in our students.

Can I Lead? Yes, But...

Monday, May 9, 2011

What Are We All About? I'll Let an 8th Grader Tell You

Since December our 8th graders have been stepping up in front of the entire school community to give a sermon on their spirituality. This morning, Douglas gave a sermon that summarized his experience at Canterbury over the last nine years. He explains, clearer than I have ever heard before, what it is to be a student at Canterbury. So I will let him speak for all of us:

“To Learn, To Love, To Serve, To Live” We all know these words as the Canterbury motto, yet it is really a motto for each of us to live by. As an 8th grade student, as my mom would say, I have heard, spoken and repeated these words about a cagillion times during my time at Canterbury School. Have you ever really thought about what these words mean to you? Not just as a student of Canterbury School, but as a person with intellectual curiosity, compassion, spiritual purpose, and moral direction.

“To Learn”, According to the Webster Dictionary, “to learn” is to acquire knowledge or skill in. My 9 years here at Canterbury School, I've had many opportunities to attain knowledge. One of my vivid memories is the “MDG Explorers” experience in 7th grade. We spent two days outdoors trying to find solutions to global issues. We took on the identities of people living in developing countries and experienced first hand some of the challenges they face daily of shelter, hunger, and fatigue. We had to work together to find solutions to big problems. I was assigned the position of someone with very little food or money while other people had both food and money. I had to learn to save and barter with what little I had for both food and shelter. These seemingly silly challenges over the course of two days gave me a glimpse of what many around the world face everyday. This exercise, developed by Canterbury, was one that not only tested our endurance but challenged our mind to realize what others less fortunate go through on a daily basis.

The Outdoor Education Center is another opportunity “to learn” at Canterbury School. We have learned many skills such as how to belay, climb on the low ropes course and the high ropes course. The high ropes course is an example of not only learning a skill but also learning how to trust your classmates. When you are suspended thirty feet in the air with one of your peers on the other end of the rope, trust is very important. I have appreciated this type of learning and have realized how lucky we are to have the Outdoor Education Center.

“To Love”, according to the dictionary, “to love” means to hold dear or cherish. At Canterbury School, we are given so many opportunities to develop long lasting relationships with both teachers, faculty and students. Some of us have been together for the full nine years, others may have joined our class midstream, yet we all have a special bond. Our class is very unique because we are one of the smaller classes and we have very few boys, in fact the ratio of girls to boys is two to one. For many that would be a real negative but we have instead come together, appreciating our likes and differences. Not all of us like the same sport, dress alike, live in the same neighborhood or have the same interests but we all hold dear our friendships with one another. My brother, Clay, graduated three years ago and just about every weekend his friends are at the house either playing XBox, basketball,or just hanging around . My mom made the comment the other day that the Canterbury clan seems to always comes back together. The friendships I've made over the years are very special and I know I will cherish each and everyone of you forever.

As students in middle school we may not take the time to communicate our appreciation to the teachers and staff. For instance, on the Odyssey Course at Wilderness Adventure, it will not be forgotten how Mr. Carrick, Chris Lindsey and I raced to get off the high ropes course as it began to thunder. We were the last group on the course, I fell and was in a position that I could not get back up, Mr. Carrick came to the rescue.

“To Serve”, according to the dictionary, “to serve” means to act or work as a servant. Canterbury has shown us from age five to fourteen the importance of giving back to the community. In lower school we sang for the elderly at Well Spring, collected can goods for the less fortunate, and collected school supplies for children that had no supplies. Recently I went to New Orleans on an 8th grade mission trip with five classmates -all boys! We worked with an Episcopal mission group to assist victims of Katrina. While there we helped an elderly man clear his garage of debris and trash and we cleared an area of land of trees, shrubs and trash so that new houses could be built. Although it was great fun being with Mrs. Fisher, Mr. Vogel and five of my classmates, the best feeling was that I felt I had made a difference. I had helped someone in need, I had acted as a “servant”.

Another opportunity “to serve” that has been very important to me has been Hutton's Hero's. As so many of you know, Hutton is one of my closest friends and he has diabetes. I, like so many of you, have participated in the Juvenile Diabetes Walk held in September. Every year the group gets larger and larger as awareness spreads. Not only do we raise money for an important cause but we gather as a school to support three students affected by the disease. We create awareness of a disease that is increasing daily. Canterbury has always given back to the community but is especially evident when you see the JDRF team t-shirt worn by children, teenagers and adults.

As we are sit here in Phillips Chapel, I realize how fortunate I am to have had such an opportunity to serve God. I have been allowed to participate in services through reading the prayer, singing a hymn, holding the flag, and carrying the cross. Phillips Chapel brings the entire school together two to three times a week and whether it is to hear a sermon, come to the front for a birthday wish, announce the score of the lacrosse game or to encourage recycling, we are all together under one roof.

“To live” The final words of the Canterbury School motto and yet my favorite. “To live” is to remain alive or continue existence but what it means to me is to make sure you take what God has given you and run with it. At Canterbury School there are so many ways “to live”. Whether performing in Bye Bye Birdie, competing in chess club, playing in the band, or participating in sports, there are all kinds of ways “to live” here at Canterbury. I have played soccer, basketball and lacrosse while in middle school and have not only loved playing each of these sports but also representing Canterbury School. I have great pride for this place and it has allowed me “to live”. I am currently playing lacrosse for Canterbury and it has been an unbelievable season. We have 6th, 7th and 8th graders on the team and we have all pulled together as one and been so supportive of one another. One of the biggest games of the season was against Mendenhall Middle School. We went into this game expecting to compete against a great team and although it was a rainy, cold night and we were all very nervous, we came together and pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year. We defeated Mendenhall by one goal and you would have thought it was the Super Bowl of 2011. There were so many students, parents and even alumnae there to support and cheer us on. This game was the definition of “to live” for me. I will never forget this season of lacrosse playing for Canterbury School.

Another example of the meaning “to live” is Wilderness Adventure! In the fall of your 8th grade year, you get to go on the bonding trip called Wilderness Adventure and as the teachers say “You're not truly an 8th grader until you get back from this trip”. We did such things as the fly down the zip line, go caving in the dark, mountain biking, climbing, and rafting. We also, as a class design our banner that will represent each and everyone of us as the Class of 2011. Wilderness Adventure allows each of us to stretch ourselves by testing both physical and mental endurance. At one point while caving in complete darkness, I found myself stuck on a ledge. Not only did I have to move myself very carefully so as to not fall in the pit but I also had to stay calm and not panic. Upon completing the caving exercise and back at the lodge relaxing, I realized that's what it means “to live”.

“To Learn, To Love, To Serve, To Live”, the Canterbury School motto, but more importantly a motto for direction and guidance. As you repeat these words in the years to come, I encourage you to find your own meaning to the motto. As for me, they are words that not only remind me of my memories of Canterbury School but also how God wishes me to live my life from this day forward.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dana Foundation Blog: Who Am I? An Exploration of Self

The Dana Foundation has sponsored a speaker series on the question, "What is self?" In the middle school, our students begin asking themselves that on a daily basis. The parameters for their discussion centers around their friends, their strengths, their looks, and their society. The post below speaks to a combination of factors that could determine self. I find it interesting that some scientists are attempting to explain self in a purely scientific context. In its most basic form, middle school is the time when children first begin to answer this question.

Check it out:

Dana Foundation Blog: Who Am I? An Exploration of Self

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bin Laden News: Student Reaction

I just visited a 7th grade social studies classroom and I walked into the class debating the question:

Was the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden justice or revenge?

It's a topic which garners passionate responses from those who have a context from which to approach it. 9/11 is the defining moment of the Millennial Generation. For us, we remember vividly where we were when the Towers were attacked. We remember the pictures and the people - seared into our personal and national conscience. Most of us would not hesitate to answer this question, to jump in and offer our perspective.

The 7th grade was in pre-school on 9/11 - younger than the students President Bush was reading to when he heard the news about the attacks and we all saw his face drop. Their world has always been colored by 9/11, yet they did not experience it. So their answers to the question above may offer some insights to how our culture has adapted since the war on terrorism began.

It is one of the strengths of an independent school that a teacher can spend a significant amount of their classroom time peeling the onion of tough current event topics like this one.