Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Unleashing Our Collective Genius (Part 2)

After our morning CPT to begin to organize our first round of Genius Hour projects and ideas for teacher learning, we have some very early returns on what our teachers will be working on and I think you will agree that this is already looking like a transformative and amazing experience for our teachers and our school.  These are projects that I am already aware of after 3 hours:

Two teachers are working together to developing a MOOC shell for EGHS teachers to start, develop and store their own blended learning courses. In order to do so, they will have to learn Python. They've already downloaded and played a bit with Google's course builder as well. One of the teachers has already taken a few MOOCs on programming, so his knowledge when shared could fast-track that large-scale project somewhat.

One teacher is working with a cadre of teachers to help them create flipped videos/units for their PE, English, Math and Spanish classes.

One math teacher will be working with our Physics teachers to learn about the technology tools that they use in their classes to pick up ideas for quick activities and demonstrations in his classes.

A group of English and Social Studies teachers will be working in a Humanities cohort designing grade-level , school-wide debates and satire video projects based on their units of study. All of these projects will be interdisciplinary.

Two teachers will be using their Creative Writing & Acting classes to produce original, student written and directed one-act plays for community performances.

A group of teachers will be developing projects that use blogs written and responded to by students that are immersively tied to their ongoing content.

A group of teachers will be working to brainstorm ideas to support students with anxiety in the classroom and determine ways to support students with social/emotional difficulties during their lunch time (i.e. designate another spot in the school for students to meet for lunch).

A group of teachers will be developing Interdisciplinary units with art with French/European literature of the same time period. (era or movement or century to be decided perhaps impressionism) They are looking to add a history component as well.

Another group of teachers and the principal will be working to revamp our senior project program to reflect 21st century learning standards and create greater levels of student engagement.

One teacher will be creating a performance based task that models collegiate learning assessments. Students will be given a series of articles that they will se to make an argument/break an argument. The task will be in the area of economics.

Another group of teachers will be designing a school store that will reflect a true retail management and operations experience for our business students.

A group of English and math teachers will be working on creating and using more formative assessment in their classrooms and developing classroom activities and lesson that are student centered and student designed/driven in order to make our classrooms more dynamic and engaging.

Our media specialist is going to collaborate with all EGHS departments to create ONE place for students & staff to locate our teachers' websites. Presently, students & staff have complained that they can't locate or remember how to find individual teacher's website. Also, para-professionals assisting students have had difficulty finding the correct teacher website to help their student(s). Her plan is to house all subject content under "one roof." This will help students and staff by minimizing their access points to a single URL, thus saving time and increasing productivity. Also included will be all academic databases; sort of a "one-stop shopping" for all students and staff.

Great things are happening here. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Unleashing Our Collective Genius (Part 1)

Here is a copy of my e-mail to the faculty yesterday afternoon to prepare us for the weekly AM CPT Genius Hour (As I wrote about in a previous blog) that will be happening at our school, beginning on Wednesday morning:

"You are a genius, and the world needs your contribution" - Angela Maiers.

Over the years, our Department Chairs and School Improvement Team have relayed the faculty’s concerns over prescribed CPT and PD time, and we continue to recognize that you should be learning what YOU want to learn in addition to what we need to let you know in order for us to navigate the course of the school year.

AM CPT Time/PD Time/ and in the future, Duty Time can and will be allocated to allow all teachers the opportunity to develop and share your interest/passion about whatever it is that you want to explore or share with others. To improve your practice or the school.  And to do it alongside whoever you want to work with.  

I understand those who may be nervous about starting something this open ended, or people who may think this is another thing you "have to do,"  but it's designed to be helpful, useful, interesting and benefit you in ways prescribed PD can't.  

Try something.  Learn something.  Do something.  Things will not go perfectly, but that is OK.  We will learn so much together this year if we try. It's not a failure or a bad experience for anyone to have to stop, regroup, take a few steps back and continue on or try something new. It demonstrates that we are learners too.

We understand that Creativity Requires Time:  
And there are no correct answers:

So have FUN.

On Wednesday morning, please go to the rooms assigned as a starting point.  

You were grouped together there for a reason, I promise. You figure out why.  :)

Start talking to one another and find out why you might be in that room.

(Here’s the ‘flipped classroom part) Ahead of time, consider these thoughtfully and be prepared to share out your answers to the group before proceeding:

“I can help people with…. “  
“I could use help from people with…. “  and
“I am interested in…  I want to learn how to… I want to develop….  I want to try…..”
(It is very possible that you will have more than one answer to any of the prompts. Good.  Write them down.)

After sharing, armed with that new information, start to mingle and see what connections you make.  You can stay there for 10 minutes and see if working connections are made or you can try any of the other rooms to start a discussion or start to form a working group of geniuses.

Keep in mind, you can create something by yourself or with partners. However, Genius Hour time is time to learn, to create, to share, so find something that excites, energizes or interests you and other people who you want to collaborate with.

What can the end result be?  Whatever it is.  Ideally, something that can be shared with the faculty or the world and benefits you and/or the school.

What should be expected of you?  That you use the time to learn.  To grow.  To benefit the school in some way.

At the Conclusion on Wednesday: Consider the time frame and how long you will need to spend on your activity and let us know how long you estimate this will take, who you will be working with and where so that we can publicize what you are doing and let others who may be interested in helping or learning from you in on the action as well.  You can enter it in THIS FORM.  If you don't have an answer yet, that's OK.  We will continue this process until everyone has an idea.

We have so many smart, creative, dedicated people on our staff. I'm really looking forward to seeing the collective genius of our faculty unleashed.
Timothy S. Chace
Assistant Principal
East Greenwich High School
300 Avenger Drive
East Greenwich, RI 02818
(401) 398-1300
@MrChaceEGHS on Twitter  

I am absolutely certain that this endeavor will result in amazing collaborations, products and results produced by our faculty, because I know from experience that we have some of the smartest, hardest working, most collaborative, creative educational risk takers anywhere and they have our full support to make something special happen for themselves and our school.

I am also certain that this process will have interesting starts and stops and bumps in the road along the way.  And it is my intention to chronicle it for you in my blog for the benefit of fellow administrators who are willing to give up control and trust their teachers to do what's best for their own professional development practice and their school's improvement. 

As Sean Junkins, a distinguished educator from South Carolina Tweeted recently, "PD isn't a three hour workshop, it's a career long process in which educators fine tune their craft to meet student needs."

It is my hope that others can benefit from our experience, learn from our mistakes and provide us with feedback and suggestions moving forward that can help us more fully unleash our collective genius. 

Stay tuned...  Something awesome is happening in EG... again. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

What Does the Fox Say About Teaching Like a Pirate?

I have an eight year old son and a nine year old daughter.

I will apologize in advance for subjecting you to their favorite song and video for the purposes of our discussion...

... and good luck getting that out of your head now for the rest of the day. Or year.  Or life.

To say that I hate this song would not do it justice. I despise it. From what I understand from some students in my advisory, the song was intended by the musicians to be the worst song of all time. I am not sure how successful they were, but they certainly gave it a good go.

And yet... day after day, hour after hour, I can't get it out of my head.  I find myself humming or singing it to myself (Federal law prohibits me from singing in public) all day in my office, in the hallways, at meetings...  and I have listened to it all of three times in my life.

So when we think about engagement and learning, I wonder how something that is the opposite of what we would think of as engaging to me can be so ever present in my consciousness?

Let's be honest, I typically can't remember what I talked about with someone three hours ago, but this stupid song sticks with me day after day after day?  How can it be? And what can we learn from this experience as educators?

In Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Chip Heath, describes the conditions required to make something "stick," for it to be useful and lasting:

The best way to get someone's attention is to break a pattern.  Consistent stimulation makes people tune out. We become aware of things only when something changes. 

Your brain hosts loops of information.  This song has several very catchy loops and variations in the beat and melody that draw in your attention and stick in your head because of the contrasting styles.

Also, there is an interesting question posed... one that I never considered before this song...

What does a fox say?

And while watching that crazy video, I kept wondering: "What are they going to say/do next?"

As a teacher, what can we learn from that? How can it be applied?  

Here's some ideas:
  • Identify the idea or theme that you want to communicate to your students
  • Find what's counterintuitive or unexpected about the idea.
  • Communicate that in a way that confuses your student's highly developed guessing systems. The systems that make them successful in everyone else's class- at least the teachers who don't utilize good questioning strategies...
  • Then help to refine that guessing "interface" and develop new learning and understanding.
  • Create suspense. The "AHA!" moment is so much more powerful when it is preceded by the "HUH?" moment of creating a mystery that you all can solve together. Allowing students to share ideas, counterpoint and work it out in groups makes it much more engaging and a true learning experience.
  • Create curiosity gaps : Tell student only enough for them to realize that there's a piece missing from their knowledge, then ask them to find it.  Together.
  • Curiosity is the intellectual need to answer questions and close open patterns. Develop curiosity by doing the opposite : Pose questions and open new situations for students to solve.
  • Create a Turning Point : Develop a hook, a curiosity, What happens next?  How will this turn out?
Bottom line: It's important to open new gaps before we close them.  

Most teacher's tendency is to tell students the facts first, but that's a mistake if you want to engage them and have them learn, because first they must realize why they need these facts.  But how can you accomplish this?  
  • Highlight specific knowledge that they're missing. 
  • Pose a question or puzzle that confronts students with that gap in their knowledge. 
  • Challenge them to predict an outcome- this creates two knowledge gaps : "What will happen?" and "Was my guess right?" (The news does this before commercials, they tease you with something that you don't know yet, and didn't care about at all until you found out that you didn't know it.)

Instead of thinking, "What content do I need to cover today?", reframe it as, "What questions do I want my students to ask me today?" and maybe your class will be running through your students heads for days and weeks at a time too.  

Free your inner Ylvis.

I'm Not Your Father's Principal: Valuing Weak Ties and Connected Leadership

This morning a teacher approached me in the hall and asked me how to post a video of her class on Twitter.

I found this delightful for a number of reasons.  First, she is a very recent convert to Twitter as a teaching/learning/communication tool and has remained somewhat hesitant in it's use, secondly, she is taking that next step and beginning to post new content rather than simply lurking, and that is where Twitter begins to become valuable as a communication and sharing vehicle.

As we concluded our conversation, she asked me not to "let the principal know that she's late for her hall duty" because of our conversation.  I replied that I am pretty sure that the principal and assistant principal would be supportive of her using professional time for tweeting... as she may have noticed ( I said facetiously), "we do tweet from time to time as well..."

She responded, "Yes... and during school time," which gave me pause. Was she viewing this like teachers often do when kids are tweeting or texting during class?  Is there something else I should be better spending time on in her opinion?  Do people view the use of professional time by teachers and principals to Tweet, blog or read them as wasting time or being unprofessional?  Hmmm... that had never occurred to me before.

So, how do you act as a reflective practitioner? Through tweets and blogging, I can reflect on my own practice, receive input from teachers, students, the community and other practitioners from around the world. The use of tweets and my blog also allows the school community to have a clear understanding of exactly where I stand on important issues. As an educational leader, I think it's very important to clearly communicate my goals, values, and vision. Blogging allows me to do this, as well as providing me with a forum where those things can be developed over time.

In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell writes about “connectors” (people who relate easily to people), mavens (people who relate easily to knowledge and data) and how the types of relationships that people have can directly influence the way they think. Gladwell says that your close circle of friends think quite similarly to you; that's why they're close friends, and this results in a strong connection, but they don't push your thinking, beliefs or practices very much. It is the people that you know who are not in your immediate and closest circle of friends that can have a dramatic impact on your learning because their thinking may diverge from yours. Gladwell argues that this weak tie, this connection to others that provides you with alternative viewpoints, can be an extremely powerful learning connection, one that can challenge you, and one that can serve personal growth. That’s where social media outlets such as Twitter and blogging come in.

My Twitter (@MrChaceEGHS) enables me to connect with people who share similar interests, and develop those "weak tie" relationships with other educators; those connections serve to enhance my personal learning, supplement my understanding and to change my thinking. Sometimes my thoughts are validated, sometimes they are greatly challenged. But that's good, and it forces me to refine how I think about my practice and the beliefs that underlie it. Being connected to other educators who share the same challenges provides an opportunity to learn daily, from some of the brightest and most talented people in my profession, all around the world.

I see reading, researching, debating and writing about teaching and learning as something that is a big part of my work day. Every single day. As a lifelong educator, I need to be a learner too. I need to develop an understanding of what is happening in schools all over the world. If I don’t learn and develop new ideas and understanding, how can I expect my teachers or my students, to do the same? Blogging and connecting with others not only helps me to learn; but to do so in a transparent environment where others can see me doing it day and night, seven days a week. As a leader, you shouldn't expect things from others that you are not willing to do and model yourself.

As Mother Teresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”  I do hope that I can make a small difference as stones that I throw out provide small ripples to new connections and create more informed and self-actualized leadership dialogues that may grow into better practices in our schools that benefit kids.

Won't you join me, fellow principals and teachers?  Find the time. Make the time.

Come on in, the water's fine.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Are We Failing Superman... or Can We Be the Heroes?

I discovered this truly remarkable video last night.
It is easily my favorite YouTube educational video of all time for any number of reasons.

I grew up reading comic books.  LOVING comic books. Adoring them. I had hundreds of them (and still have them- I'm waiting for my son and daughter to be old enough to be responsible enough to "inherit" them). While many adults scoffed at my preferred choice of reading material, but I have always felt that comic books should be accepted as having literary worth. Not all comics have literary worth, of course, but I would argue that just as many novels out there are not worthy of that designation either.

When utilizing my vocabulary and so many turns of phrases each day in my communication, I am often cognizant of where I learned many linguistic tools of my trade from... comic books.  The same way that many adults remember a favorite teacher, I remember favorite issues, stories and characters and how they shaped my thinking and communication.

That being said, it will be obvious why this video appeals to me.

When you watch it, it will also be obvious why now, as an adult, as an educator, this video appeals to me as well.  Because is is dead solid perfect in it's message. I have discussed many of these themes in a previous blog post, and have discussed most of the other points in private conversations with my fellow administrators and our teachers.

Aside from the many references to superheroes that might escape you if you are not a fan and add to the overall enjoyment of the piece... there are overarching themes that are inescapably provocative and thought provoking.

Everybody is different and have various interests and abilities, just like superheroes, so why are we expecting kids to learn the same things at the same time and expect them to be interested, engaged and successful?

High school diplomas value only a small percentage of humanity's skills and knowledge.

A one size fits all curriculum is blind to our natural aptitudes and intellects.

Why do we think that what prepared children to be successful in the 50's (or 1850's) can adequately still prepare kids for the future?

Why do we have kids learning to do things by hand that no one does by hand anymore?  No statistician calculates a mean  deviation by hand, and you don't really need to in order to understand what it's for or how to use it. So why do we still do it?

If a question can be answered in one second using a smartphone, why are we asking it?  If we are just testing a student's memorization skills... then just do that... but it's only a tiny fraction of their intelligence and ability to understand and work with complex ideas and applications.

In your adult life, do you ever learn something just in case you might need it five or ten years into the future?  Of course not.  So why are we force feeding tons of curriculum into kids for that same reason?

We weren't born in factories from a mold and we don't develop at the same time and same way either, so why do we group kids by age and expect them all to learn the same things in the same amount of time?

The best teachers aren't those who know the most, but those who believe in you the most.  Who help you to develop the most.  They do this by offering the right challenges at the right time, asking the right questions and providing the right feedback. Books and computers can not coach you, encourage you or help you discover your passions... that's why teachers are so important.

A high school diploma doesn't prove that anyone knows or can do anything, really.  It's not a testimony to knowledge, but to perseverance.  It's about patience, not learning.

People knowing and being able to do different things is not only what we need, but it's a truer reflection of who we are as a society.

So what's your Hypokryptonite?  Do you value rote memory over analysis and evaluation or creation in your classroom?  Do you need to work on developing skills as a coach or a guide while giving up your traditional role as the repository of human knowledge, the "expert" in the room?  Are you an administrator who wants to make positive change but something or someone is holding you back from action that you know is good for kids?

How can we all use our own superpowers together to make positive changes in education? Let's advocate and share and work together for a progressive education system that will prepare today's kids for lives in the actual world that they will be entering and leading very soon.  Not the one we lived in.  Not the one that the current No Child Left Behind and National Curriculum (PARCC) are forcing kids into while simultaneously standardized testing them into frustration, depression and failure like Batman's villains would hope to do to him.

“Heroes are made by the paths they choose, not the powers they are graced with.” - Brodi Ashton

Avengers Assemble!!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Stroke of "Genius"

How does YOUR school and district handle Common Planning Time and Professional Development?

Are the things that are worked on and presented during those times determined by the administrators? 

Is PD done primarily in a whole-group format, with lots of people in an auditorium, cafeteria or library?

Are your teachers active?  Engaged?  Excited to be there?

Are the things that are being taught meaningful to all of your teaching  staff?

To paraphrase Dave Burgess, "If teachers didn't have to be there, would you be professionally developing an empty room?

What if you did things differently?

What if you could create and support opportunities for your teacher's professional development while also increasing teacher leadership in your building and initiate the sharing of great practices with the whole school (and the rest of the world)?

And what if I told you, fellow administrator, that this would not require any additional effort on your part? In fact, it will keep you from having the usual, "what are we going to do this time?" concerns, that are often fraught with anxiety about how to use valuable time that we never seem to have, but is often wasted on presentations that aren't fully attended to or relevant to your captive audience.

Starting this week, EGHS teachers and administrators are beginning to use our weekly AM CPT time, as well as some faculty meeting/PD time (and prospectively duty time next year if things work out) to follow their own professional learning paths, based on their individual interests, passions, needs, and creative inspirations. 

New learning and projects will be designed by our classroom teachers- teachers who can follow whatever their interest or passion about teaching and learning may be, while simultaneously improving their practice for our kids and sharing their discoveries, products and creations back with the school and the rest of the world as well.

We've started a Genius Hour program for teachers!

But what is "Genius Hour"?  Check out this brief overview and see if you feel inspired by the possibilities.

We started with a Google Form that asks the following questions:

Those answers will lead to what we have jokingly referred to as a "Speed Dating/Learning" protocol next Wednesday morning, where our teachers can find collaborators for their new learning and projects.

The only thing that is required is that everyone's projects will be shared with the faculty and/or the world once they are completed before they move on to the next one.

I am so excited about the possibilities that can come out of a Genius Hour at a place like EGHS, and I am looking forward to the creative energy that will undoubtedly come from the teachers within our school… stay tuned...  

Great things are coming.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Dangers of "Traditional" Thinking

It sits on my desk every day.  A constant reminder of what happened.  It's something that I never want to lose sight of, though ironically, because I do see it every day, sometimes I see right through it... but in my head, I never, ever forget.

Traditionally at my high school, the freshman class has been targeted during the October Homecoming Pep Rally by the upperclassmen, they are greeted with chants of "Go back to Cole" – a reference to Cole Middle School. It has been done for as long as anyone can remember; traditionally accepted as a rite of passage- and over the years the freshman have returned volleys of their own, with chants such as "Go to College", "Seniors Stink" and "C-C-R-I" (a reference to the state's community college). 

This type of "tradition" is not limited to EGHS, of course. I was freshman at Bishop Hendricken High School in 1981- one of those in a long, long line of freshman classes that were called down to the gym last (for maximum effect) and greeted with "Freshman on the Floor" screamed at us by the entire student body because there was (by design) no room for us in the bleachers. Additionally, we found ourselves dodging various objects thrown from the stands... because it was "all in good fun."  But it's not fun.  It's wrong.  It's unacceptable.  And I will do everything that I can to ensure that it will never happen again at my school.

It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership. - Nelson Mandela 

It is perhaps my biggest disappointment as an administrator, and definitely my biggest failure as a leader. When you learn about school leadership, one of the basic tenets that you are taught is that you have to respect a school's culture, traditions and values as you enter and become part of that community before you can try to impose your own beliefs and ideas.  It's just not smart to come in to a school like a bulldozer and disenfranchise yourself from the school community because you don't "like" or appreciate something that has been longstanding there.

That being said, I should have. I should have done something to stop the "Go Back to Cole" chant.  I should have done more than simply call the freshmen down first to give them a small advantage. I should have done a better job to protect them from this ridiculous, juvenile and abusive tradition.  But I didn't. 

I failed them. 

And then, two 11th grade students chose to take that atmosphere to another level.  They began throwing batteries into the crowd of freshmen as they were being dismissed. AA and C batteries. Two 14-year old girls were struck in the head, both hurt.  I was furious. Furious at the students for using such horrible judgement and placing no value on the safety of others.  Furious at the many students who knew that they were planning to do this and didn't tell anyone who could have stopped it. I later discovered that the students had talked to many people about it at lunch that afternoon, even showing off the batteries with pride. I was also furious at the students standing around them in the crowd who did nothing, or even worse, found it entertaining.

But most of all, I was furious at myself for allowing something like this to happen at MY school.  Where I was supposed to be a leader.  Where I was supposed to ensure the safety of those girls. I failed on all counts.  I would never allow anything like this to happen again. 

Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes. - Peter Drucker 

The first thing I considered was that this was not an issue related to one event in the school year.  It was not a Pep Rally problem, it was a school culture problem. A culture that allows 1/4 of the school to be targeted for abuse and derision, a culture that looks the other way when kids are bullied.  A culture that is entertained by making 14-year old kids uncomfortable or isolating them from the rest of the community is not one that I could support.  But how do you change something like that?

As a school, we had to begin a paradigm shift to a culture of appreciation.  A culture of kindness.  A culture that let's everyone; teachers, students, staff and parents know that "You Matter."  We notice what you do.  We care about you.  We accept you. Those had to be the new values that we exhibit every day.  But we needed a mechanism.

The genesis of this change and the method we used is chronicled here by Angela Maiers, a nationally acclaimed author and speaker; the person whose work, (in this video) in part, inspired this initiative. 

We expanded the You Matter program from teachers to the entire school community in September of 2013. In just over six weeks now, the @EGHSmatters program has grown from zero to 261 followers on Twitter. In addition, more than 580 messages of kindness and appreciation have been exchanged already within our school community.  And we are just scratching the surface of change. 

As you walk the halls at EGHS and look at the faces of our school, it is easy to discover through other people's eyes that there is something different going on this year.  There’s a growing culture of appreciation and kindness among the faculty and students.  We, as a building, are finding that recognizing the qualities and actions of others that make each individual special. As a school community, we are building people up rather than making them feel isolated and that makes us all stronger. And the night of 10/1/13 was the best example yet: when an anonymous student began a twitter account that could have turned into cyber bullying was created, our school refused to participate in it.  And our kids shut it down completely. In 23 minutes flat.

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. - Peter Drucker 

Every school has traditions or practices that may not sit well with you because they are not good for kids, or worse, detrimental to kids. It's our job as educators to work together to eliminate them. Teaching and learning is hard work.  We need to support everyone in our school community, especially our teachers and kids. We need to do a better job to recognize the things that make them special.  To be kind. To care about one another.

You can do that.  You just have to break tradition sometime.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Killing Bullies With Kindness...

“How would your life be different if…You walked away from gossip and verbal defamation? Let today be the day…You speak only the good you know of other people and encourage others to do the same.” ― Steve MaraboliLife, the Truth, and Being Free

It's part of my nighttime routine.

Before I go to bed and when I wake up I check to see what has been posted to the @EGHSMatters Twitter account so that I can retweet those #EGHSMatters hashtags for the school community and the rest of the world to see the messages of kindness, support and appreciation sent from all of the great teachers, students and community members that we have in East Greenwich sharing their appreciation for our many and diverse talents in the classroom, on the stage, field and in the community.

In just over four weeks, @EGHSmatters has grown from zero to 242 followers. In addition, 475+ messages of kindness and appreciation have been exchanged already within our school community. And we are just scratching the surface.

As you walk the halls at EGHS and look at the faces of our school community, it is easy to discover through other people's eyes that there is something different going on this year. A growing culture of appreciation and kindness among the faculty and students. It's a different feeling in the building. Smiles are greatly increased. Adults and kids are more readily recognizing one another for their successes, contributions and kindness. We are finding that recognizing the things that make each individual special- knowing that building people up rather than making them feel weak makes us all stronger. Appreciating and empowering someone and believing in them can make a difference, change their attitudes, change their lives. And it is making a difference this year. Last night was the best example yet.

While looking over the #EGHSMessages, one in particular caught my eye:

  • When a twitter that could have turned into cyber bullying was created, I think it's great that EG refused to participate
This, of course, required me to investigate further... that led me to another Tweet:
  • so someone started a EGHS gossip page and it's gunna cause drama just like at rocky hill I blocked them
Then another:
  • RIP EGHS gossip 10/1/13-10/1/13, while you only existed for 23 minutes, you will always be remembered as the worst idea in school history
  • No ones taken time to point out that eghs gossip was using askfm the biggest cyber bullying social network in existence to base their tweets
  • Literally what is/was EGHS Gossip I am not comprehending AT ALL
And more:
  • I wonder what attention *seeker* was responsible for the terrible EGHS gossip
  • now my whole feed went from "EGHS Gossip is stupid" to "RIP EGHS Gossip even though you only lasted 23 minutes"
  • My whole feed is about eghs gossip😂 you're all stupid
  • this is just immature.. I'm out
  • i think there should b a EGHS compliment twitter not a gossip twitter tbh 

In piecing together the story of the evening, as the first Tweet indicated, someone tried to create a hateful and hurtful gossip site and our kids summarily refused to participate. They outright rejected the notion. 

In fact, they shut it down completely in 23 minutes flat. 

I don't think that I have been prouder of our kids in the time that I have been here, and the teachers whom I have shared this with have expressed that same feeling.

Bullies need to operate in the shadows to succeed. They use fear, intimidation and social acceptance in order to continue their actions. When a light is shined on them, or even more importantly, when it is socially unacceptable to bully, it stops. 

10% of kids are bullied. 10% are bullies. 80% either accept and ignore it or they have the power to stop it. Last night, EGHS students stopped it. By themselves. Because it was the right thing to do.

There are lots of reasons why people bully, spread hate, fear or try to mistreat others. Jealousy, anger, frustration, attempts to move up in a social circle by trying to stand on top of others... every bully has a story, and we should spend as much time trying to understand them as we do trying to punish or rehabilitate them. Their actions reveal their weakness, not a strength. We need to consider treating them with kindness and understanding too, because that's what our culture is all about at East Greenwich High School.

EGHS does matter. And our kids just proved it once again.