Monday, October 6, 2014

Here's a TIP!

Yesterday I received an unsolicited text with the picture to the right.  The caption read "The only correct way to tip.... proof that (student names) are both gifted and talented."

 Social Media and the Teacher of the Gifted

I must say, that prior to receipt of this text and photo, I had no doubt that the three young ladies responsible for what appears to be a downright generous (and origamically decorative) tip were both gifted and talented, and really needed no further proof, but was very amused by both their creativity and their willingness to share this random thought with me via text on a weekend.  It's this connection to my students, and their interests and randomness, that increases my ability to serve the very diverse, and very large, population of gifted students for whom I am responsible.

I do not see every student on my caseload every day.  In fact, there are some students that I literally have to summon to see their shining faces, as they are not in any actual classes that I teach, yet I remain responsible for the implementation of their GIEPs.  It's tough to remember to seek out people that are consciously, or unconsciously, avoiding you when the day to day high school stuff is happening.  The people that I do see are excited, engaged, and looking for opportunities.

I am connected to my students via technology.  Many of them have my cell number because of previous seminars they've attended without me where I've been responsible for transportation.  The GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) population doesn't misuse this privilege.  No one has ever called me about a running refrigerator or Prince Albert's whereabouts in the middle of the night.  I am also 53 years old, and there is little chance that anyone would misconstrue the relationship between me and my students.

I have students as friends on facebook.  I tweet now, but very few of them even know that I do.  (Quite frankly, it's pretty boring to receive tweets from someone who only tweets about education, but if they want to follow me, okay...)  There has been a lot of controversy about teachers and social media.  Several years ago I was a pretty vocal advocate for the online relationship of teachers and students.  (You can read the Lancaster Newspaper article here.)  I still believe that there are more positives to teachers and students interacting via social media and other technology platforms.

This weekend, as I spent WAAAAAY too much time on facebook, I sent more than a dozen links to students.  Some supported National History Day projects they were working on.  Others were articles from less serious researchers that would support independent study projects of a variety of topics.  (Happiness, motivation behind watching horror films).  Still others were just "I thought of you when I saw this" types of messages or tags.  The kids know I'm thinking about them, that I'm connected, and that I care enough to say so in a subtle way on the weekends.

Do I watch my online presence?  You betcha.  Are my privacy settings as tight as they should be?   Probably not.  I'm hoping that my online presence reflects a positive role model that continues to create positive relationships outside of school that keeps kids connected to me as a resource -- if or when they need me.

This year, I've added a Schoology account to the repertoire of social media.  The hope is that students who are unable to connect in physical classes can take advantage of enrichment discussions that are happening in this new "facebook like" site.  Using Schoology for posting special seminars, discussions and video links should connect all of us -- making us deeper, more engaged thinkers.  Heck, I may even post a video to teach napkin-folding or origami.  Clearly at least some of my students are ahead of the curve with those skills.  Student engagement -- go where they are!

And isn't that what teaching is all about?

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