Friday, April 30, 2010

A Tale of Two Phonecalls

The phone rings...

Hello, this is Wayfarer.

Uh, hola. Soy (student calling for his exam on phone calling).

¡Hola, Student! ¿Cómo estás?

Uh,,, bien. Sí, bien. ¿Y tú?

Less nervous than you, I’m thinking... Bien.

[continuing in Spanish...]

Heh. Uh, ok. (shuffles papers) Uh. Is Mbungo there ?

No, I’m sorry. He’s not here right now. He’s in another class.

Oh. That sucks. (lengthy pause as more papers are shuffled) Can I... Wait. May I take a... No, wait. Can I leave a message?

Sure. What’s the message?



Oh, um...(gives message but at a volume that one would need superhearing to decipher).

I’m sorry, but I don’t understand you. Can you repeat that?



Can you (indecipherable)?

I’m sorry. What?

What? (shuffles papers)

You need to call me back.

[sigh] What?

I’m hanging up now. Bye!

Oh, OK. Bye!

The phone rings...

Hello, this is Wayfarer.

[in French] Hi, Wayfarer! It’s (another exam-taking student) on the phone. How are you doing?

I’m well. You?

Fine, thanks. Is Mbungo there?

No, sorry. He’s busy.

Oh, that sucks. Can you take a message?

Sure. What’s the message?

It’s important. Please tell him that Anne’s lost at the airport and can’t find her tickets. She says Mbungo has them in his backback. (Disclosure: The student came up with this unconventional dispatch entirely of her own accord, using random bits of vocabulary from several units.)

Wow! OK. I’ll tell him. Do you have a number?

Oh, yes! It’s [gives number]. Can you repeat the number to me?

Now I’m really impressed! Sure. It’s [repeats number, but gives one digit wrong intentionally].

No, it’s [gives correct number]. Do you have it?

Yes. I have it. Is there anything else?

No. That’s it. Thank you!

You are VERY welcome!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Don't stop thinking about...

I went for a 22-mile bike ride today. It was 45°F, wet (but not rainy) and the wind was blowing at some 20 mph. I finished the hilly route in 1 hr 22 mins. By the time I got off the bike, my hands were so cold I could not make a firm fist.

The biggest problem, though, was that I had to pee so bad by the end of the ride my kidneys were hurting!

I should explain. You see, there's a lot involved in pulling the bike over.

First of all, one has to find a place. It needs to be secluded (no peeing on anyone's front lawn) yet near enough to the road that I can drag the bike off. It would not do to have someone stop, throw your bike into the back of their truck and drive off while you're, well, indisposed. The path to one's place of seclusion needs to be not muddy or gravely, or too grassy, because that stuff gets into the cleats of the cycling shoes and then I can't click back into the pedals.

Assuming that a place can be found that meets these rather stringent requirements, one has to deal next with the actual act of voiding the bladder. This is easier said than done when one's parts have been pressed on a bike seat for the last hour. I don't want to set off a TMI alert here, but there are times when it takes some help to get things moving in such situations.

Fast forward past all those details. Now one has to get back to the road, mount up and get started again. On a ride where I'm not pushing for a time, this is straightforward. When my legs have been working at their limit for an hour, though, they do not take well to stopping and starting. Hell, even getting on the bike risks a certain amount of cramping if not done just so.

In the end, I decided that the risk of kidney failure outweighed the hassle of stopping. I'm a guy; I can hold it that long. I'm just grateful the road was mostly smooth and that it wasn't raining. I did my best not to think of running water or babbling brooks. It would have complicated things.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I’ve been offline for the last several days on purpose. I’m sorry I didn’t announce it. It was a sort of spontaneous decision to unplug so I could focus on the things on my to-do list during vacation. To answer your question, yes. I did, in fact, accomplish rather a lot this week. I even managed to pull together a few quotes.

“That’s right. We’re a bank, and we said, ‘Damn.’” (Danvers Bank, from their recent radio ad).

“This is much more important work than raking.” (NiNi, on moving plants around in Nana’s garden this week).

"Do not be so quick to deal out death and judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends." (Gandalf, from The Fellowship of the Ring).

“I'm happy and sad all at the same time.” (Ruth, on coming home from college and having to take a semester off because she can’t afford to go back).

“I gave him an appreciative pat every time I read a really good section.” (Jinx, about reading Brecht while sitting at his gravestone).

"I felt them shatter, right away," (Washington Capitals center Eric Belanger, after losing a half-dozen or so teeth in a run-in with an opponent's stick during Game 5 of their playoff series Friday night).

"I knew I was in trouble, but what are you going to do? It's the playoffs," (Belanger, remarking on his third period return to the game in which he lost the aforementioned teeth).

“I prefer not to poop in the neighbor’s yard, if I can help it.” (Missy, a triathlete, on addressing the effects of distance running on one’s digestive system).

“It’s a nice TV!” Wifeness, as she lovely caressed the remote to our new flat screen).

“It had better make a damn good cup of coffee.” (Wifeness, remarking about the cost of my new coffee maker).

“Mmm. That's good joe.” (Michael "Goob" Yagoobian, from the film Meet the Robinsons, echoing my sentiments).

Saturday, April 24, 2010

If I had any money...

...I would open an account at this bank because they’re so cool!

From the bank’s website:

“We thank our agency, Fort Franklin, for their creativity, and for ruling in general. If you like what you see below, forget we mentioned them; they’re spoken for.”

Monday, April 19, 2010

Marathon, By Surprise

In 490 BC, the Greek messenger Pheidippides was said to have run from the battlefield of Marathon (where he had just been fighting) to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated. The story goes that Pheidippides ran the entire distance without stopping (he had to run around Mount Penteli, which stands between Marathon and Athens). Upon arriving in Athens, he burst into the assembly, exclaimed “We have won!” and then collapsed and died.

The grand and popular tradition of abusing one’s body by running obscene distances was born.

the Boston Marathon was inspired by the success of the first modern-day marathon competition during the 1896 Summer Olympics, Continuously run since 1897, it is the world's oldest annual marathon and ranks as one of the world's best-known road racing events. This year, the event attracted more than about 23,000 registered participants.

Including our own Uncle Mahk.

Mahk has run the Boston Marathon before. In fact, his father used to go stand at Newton Town Hall to stoically cheer him on. It was a tradition that meant a lot to Mahk and, when his father passed away last year, the rest of the community began the whispered conversation of how to continue this tradition. It was to be a surprise, which meant that Lisa needed to figure out the details of where his dad used to stand, when Mahk would likely pass by that spot and coordinate how to get in and out of Newton on Patriot’s Day. She was emailing us last night the final details and wrote, “It's like pulling teeth.”

Two vehicles left Wayfarer House this morning to drive to Newton, complete with cow bells, posters, snacks and 80’s music (that was for us). We arrived and found parking not too far away from the race route, and were cheering racers on at the 19-mile marker by 11:45 -- in plenty of time to surprise him when he went by at 12:15 or so. At just after noon, I walked upstream a ¼ mile or so in order to alert the rest of the group that he was coming (the little ones’ attention spans would only hold for that moment of excitement). At that point, the elite runners had passed and the early batch of regulars had started coming in. By the bib numbers, Mahk was still a way off, so I settled in against a tree and tried to look for his face in the stream. At 12:20, the stream thickened considerably. If you’ve never been to a marathon, imagine a two-way street full all the way across with people running. Like, a lot of people. Like, so many people going by so fast that your eyes can’t catch them all. I hoped I wouldn’t miss him.

I did.

By 12:40, I knew he had to have gone by. I called down to the group. Nope, they said, they hadn’t seen him either.

I walked back down to the group and we gathered the kids and posters and cow bells. We asked someone nearby to take a picture of us so we could send it to Mahk’s phone. At least he’d know we were there after the fact. Then we waited for the stream of runners to thin out so we could get back across the street. Did I mention there were 23,000 runners? You can spread out 23,000 runners a long way.

We found a pizza joint not far from where we’d parked. Mahk checked in with Lisa while we were gnoshing to say he’d finished, and he was genuinely surprised when we all cheered him over the phone! He was also genuinely honored we’d come and disappointed he’d missed us (apparently, we were on the wrong side of the road anyway). Sorry, Mahk! We’ll get it right next time!

And since it won’t be a surprise next time, we can actually tell you we’ll be there! That’ll probably help.

The credit for this photo belongs to Blaise, a friend of Mahk’s who DID happen to see him and who, as it happened, was right near where we were. I’ll post the pic we sent to Mahk’s phone as soon as someone can get it to me.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Week in Quotes, but not from Buttercup

There was a rash of quotes from The Princess Bride on Facebook and in person this past week, but I chose to leave those out. That would have just invited more, and we could have gone on for days. Here's what's left:

“You get the underneath and I’ll get the overneath.” NiNi.

“At least with Barbie, you can bend her legs to get it in her pants!” Bessie, who did not even bother to complain that I was going to post this quote completely out of context.

“He’ll pay me 5$ if I’m quiet till lunch.” Gia, about participating in the National Day of Silence.

“Bunny!” Monica, randomly quoting Lisa.

“Would you like some epic with that fail?” Lisa.

“So we were planning this party, and it’s not gonna happen really, so I guess it’s ok to tell you...we were gonna have soda.” SiSi.

“Why would anyone put a hot tub in the middle of an orchard? That’s ridiculous!” Rebeccah, about a problem in her geometry homework.

“They listen to the Firefly song in France?” Julia.

“No way! I’ll never do that!” SiSi, when I suggested that she might be able to see better while playing catch if she tied her hair back or put it in a braid -- sigh.

“I've heard of T-shirts, plaques, plates, cups, bowls, crowns, flowers, and sashes, but BLANKETS?” Graham, on Julia’s prize for winning the Miss Teen Western Mass pageant.

“SAY IT!” Mahk, Matt and I, urging Liam Neeson to say ‘Release the Kraken!’, the only decent line in the movie Clash of the Titans.

“They waited until the end for that because everyone would have walked out if they’d put it any earlier” Matt, on Liam Neesons’s line.

“There's no going back now!” Erika, on having turned in her thesis.

No going back, indeed. Happy week, everyone!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

All I Ever Wanted

Vacation starts today. I’m not going anywhere. In fact, I am deliberately staying near the house. I have a list of things I have committed to doing, things that have been bugging me for a long time, things that need to get done so I can have some peace of mind and so I can do other things that need to get done. Here are the high points:

Purge the basement. This multi-day project has been on my list for a long time, and it will be tops on my list until it is done. Everything is coming out. Some stuff is going back in. The rest? Come on by and take it! Except the barber chair; that’s Bessie’s.

Do some reading. I have several books on my list. Most of them are education related, but I’m reading one on abortion and I’m looking forward to delving into Wilhelm’s translation of the Book of Changes. This is stuff that, when school is busy, I often set aside out of mental exhaustion. School has been busy of late, and I’ve been exhausted a lot.

Work on the Community School. I have things to read, but I want to put down on paper some guiding thoughts for the work that must come next. Maybe I’ll post about this during the week. Right now, it’s just too daunting to think about without my coffee.

Post something to the community’s DnD adventure. My nerdy side needs some love, and I’ve owed it to the players to move their adventure along for quite some time.

Training, goddammit! Between exhaustion that I now recognize to be symptomatic of hypothyroidism and the business of school, I have done nothing -- NOTHING -- for the last two weeks. It’s time to get back on the wagon. Or the bike, as the case may be.

The kids are going to Nana’s for most of the week, so I’ll be able to focus on the list exclusively until Thursday. If I get the basement done and the other things started, I will consider my time away from the classroom well spent.

What’re you doing this week?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Voice and Silence

Today many of our students have chosen to observe the National Day of Silence, a national youth-run movement that uses silence to protest harassment, bias and abuse in schools, particularly of the kind that targets gay, lesbian and transgender individuals. I, myself, will not observe this silent protest, although I have made it clear that I absolutely support the right of my students to do so without consequence. My classes all have exams today (I did not include an oral component), so there is not a great need on my part to accommodate instruction, but communicating about the several bits and pieces of their work still has to take place. We will do this in several ways:

Email. Many do this as a primary mode of communication already.

White board and marker. I cleaned my boards to make space for them to write, so they could leave me notes, ask questions and share stuff about the day that was important. I didn’t make this invitation explicit by telling them why the boards were clean; I don’t really have to do that. At my school, any clean white board is assumed to be simply waiting for them to write or draw on it.

Post-it and index card. The post-its go on the work they’re handing in. The index cards (which I substituted with regular pieces of paper this year to save money) sit out on my podium for them to take around the school with them, when they need to talk to each other.

Sign language. Many of my students also know a bit of ASL or can at least fingerspell. I can follow it pretty well, so they use that to talk about some of the formulaic things. We also have certain kinds of signs for common things like going to the bathroom, getting a drink, looking for paper and pencil (these exist to minimize disruption during class).

The question that is asked as part of the event this year is, “What are you going to do to end the silence?” My answer to this as twofold. First I will, as I do every day, work to end the need for silence by using my voice to speak out against harassment and abuse of all forms and to encourage others to speak out in whatever way they feel they can. Second, I will continue to create a space of safety and security that promotes acceptance and inclusion, and treat everyone in my world with the love and compassion they deserve. I hope that by providing an example of the kind of behavior I value, my students will understand that judicious use of voice as well as silence can be a force for change.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

An Unintentional Poem

Two of my Spanish II students asked me if they could see me after class today. I raised my eyebrows, for they are two of my top students, but I said sure. As the rest of the crew filed out, I sat down with them and asked, "What's up?"

"We want to read you a poem," they said. "Actually, it's a poem YOU wrote."

"Really??" I said, surprised (I do wax poetic in my classes from time to time, but hadn't done so recently that I could recall), "*I* wrote a poem?"

"Yes," they nodded, and proceeded to read. It began thusly...

At least
It’s not my fault
This is how we are
Like I was saying, ...

A long time ago
Once upon a time
A terrible cold
It turns out that...
And what’s more...
He wasn’t too bright
So to speak
Who with half a brain...

Of course, ...
As soon as...
I knocked at the door
Go into

I was about to...
My nose began to itch
I felt like
I let loose a sneeze

Do you know what happened?
The darned house
Dead as a doornail
It seemed a shame

What they were reading to me was the list of idiomatic vocab I was asking them to find in the story they were reading! The spacing you see is actually the paragraph spacing in the story, so they could more easily find the expressions in context. They read it with beautiful poetic voice and inflection, and I was cracking up at how well it read the way it was written. After I got done laughing I think I said something about how I must not be doing my job well if they've got time to figure out how to make poems out of my vocab lists, but I was very, very impressed.

Can you tell what story the vocab is from? I'll give you a hint: Think common fairy tale.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Talking Parents Back From the Edge

Today is Parent/Teacher conference day. I’ve posted about this before [HERE] and [HERE], but this year I’d like to look at the event from the point of view of “talking parents back from the edge”.

I have several students whose parents, to be polite, ride their kids hard. They have high expectations for their children and a sometimes rigid belief that, without constant vigilance, their children will not do their job well as students. There are times when such diligence is necessary, to be sure, but I often see examples when parents who are too watchful do more harm than good.

One of my conferences involved a mom whose daughter is a good student. She earns credit in my class, her exams show that she understands what she’s seeing and her participation is consistently good. The one issue I have is that she doesn’t always keep up on her homework. It comes in, but not always in the week that it’s due. This does not bother me because my course is structured to allow students the flexibility to take the time they need to do such work. Mom, however, heard that her daughter owed me homework and... well, let’s say she came in ready to rake her kid over hot coals.

I welcomed mom into my (freshly cleaned and swept) space and she started right in on how she was disappointed in her daughter’s performance and that she wanted me to know that she found it unacceptable. I said that I appreciated the fact that she took her daughter’s education seriously and how refreshing it was to see a parent genuinely concerned for the welfare of her child. I then painted the picture of her daughter’s performance in my class -- she asks questions and offers answers, even at the risk of being wrong; she helps other students to understand; she does very creative work and she takes the time to review and revise her work to improve it. That she is a chatty cathy is part of her personality, and it is only a problem if it gets in the way of what I’m doing in the classroom. If I tell her to rein it in, she does. That her homework is behind schedule is something we’ve talked about, and I’m confident she’ll get it done. If I am ever worried about her, I will reach out immediately, but the narrative says she’s doing fine. Trust me to tell you the truth.

By the time mom left, she had cooled off considerably. The kid whispered “thank you” as she hugged me good-bye.

You’re welcome!

Now go do your homework.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I got blood test results back today. They match almost exactly results from tests in December, and together they present pretty compelling evidence of hypothyroidism.

That I might have hypothyroidism is not that shocking or surprising to me really. I’ve had symptoms of Graves Ophthalmopathy for more than 10 years, and my doctor and I have been talking regularly about what how the condition might represent a symptom of a bigger problem on the horizon.

Apparently, I’ve found the horizon.

It certainly explains a lot. As my wife said today when I told her, “...when you look at hypothyroidism, the classic symptoms are your favorites -- fatigue and sensitivity to cold, along with mild depression (not that you are clinically depressed, just that you get down, particularly when it's cold out). She didn’t mention the other things that I’ve been fighting strongly the last couple of weeks: Weight gain (despite eating less), muscle soreness and difficulty concentrating (at a time when I can hardly afford it). This list of symptoms together with the blood work makes it pretty clear what the cause is.

The question is what’s causing it? As I’ve been learning, there are a few reasons apart from the basic “your thyroid is failing”. One that attracted my attention was iodine deficiency. I’ve asked my doctor to look into this because, even though it’s practically nonexistent in the U.S. as a cause for hypothyroidism, there are two reasons why it might be possible in my case. First, we don’t use iodized salt at home, which is the biggest reason why Americans don’t suffer from iodine deficiency. Second, we don’t eat a lot of processed foods, which are often made with iodized salt.

If iodine deficiency proves to be the root cause, the solution is simple: Eat things with iodine. If it’s not, the likelihood of needing synthetic thyroid hormone to regulate my system increases to “nearly certain”. I am exceedingly nervous about this. Dosing with synthetic hormone to regulate the endocrine system is a delicate balancing act, and carries the risk of doing things to my eyes that will force some very difficult and irreversible treatment to avoid optic nerve damage. Potentially, it is a very slippery slope. I’ll also admit I’m not a fan of having to be engaged in this balancing act for the rest of my life. I’m only forty years old, for crissakes! If my father’s side of the family (which I take after quite a bit) is any indication, I’m gonna see ninety with no problem. That’s 50 damn years of having to adjust meds and take trips to the doctor for blood tests and dealing with the worry that I might go blind! This is not appealing.

Of course, that’s a couple of blood tests down the road. In the meantime, I will continue to find ways to work around the fatigue and other things so I can live my life. I’ve got stuff to do, after all! Nobody living my life has time to be tired all the time!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Monday Meditation: The Freedom of Interdependence

Today I’m thinking about these two quotes:

“Interdependence is a fundamental law of nature. Not only higher forms of life but also many of the smallest insects are social beings who, without any religion, law, or education, survive by mutual cooperation based on an innate recognition of their interconnectedness. The most subtle level of material phenomena is also governed by interdependence. All phenomena, from the planet we inhabit to the oceans, clouds, forests, and flowers that surround us, arise in dependence upon subtle patterns of energy. Without their proper interaction, they dissolve and decay." --Dalai Lama

"A human being is part of a whole, called by us the 'universe', a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest -- a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affectation for a few people near us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." --Albert Einstein

To truly recognize that “I” am not really here, independent and separate of anything else, is a scary concept when looked at in a certain light. And yet, I’m finding a wonderful comfort in considering that I am not just here, but that I affect and am affected by everything else in the cosmos. I need not, therefore, seek reality outside myself because I am reality. True, I do not exist by way of my own character. For all that I can make choices, I am not self-powered or autonomous. Ultimately, all things -- including me -- exist in dependence upon causes and conditions. And yet, this is not a limiting or exclusive concept to my mind. In fact, I find it helps me to see with more clarity the universe and my place in it (such an oxymoronic phrasing that).

What does this mean to you? Is this a scary concept? Is it empowering? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Recovery Mode

I apologize for taking the week off from this space, but I’ve been having trouble getting out of a busy, hectic, draining funk, and I just needed to focus on doing that. I feel better, but I’m still awfully tired. I feel like I could sleep for days.

I’m trying not to get annoyed at the fact that I’m in this place; it just gives the negativity power, but I’ve missed the time to go to the gym or ride my bike or chill with people I love -- or do anything except grade papers, wring my hands over school stuff and try to stay ahead of the laundry and the dishes. To be fair, it isn’t a matter of physical time so much as the ability to find a mental and spiritual harmony in all that’s going on. I don’t multitask well and when there are too many balls in the air, like has been the case during the last week, it becomes a challenge to keep everything feeling like it’s working together. Sometimes, I can go into Emergency Mode for a short while to keep things from crashing to earth. Sometimes it happens that it all comes crashing down anyway, and Recovery Mode kicks in. That was last week.

I feel a little better about it all but I’m still in Emergency Mode, at least as far as school goes. Even though I have a week to go before April Break, I’ve got a lot of teacher work to do before then. Parent conferences are Wednesday and, while I actually look forward to talking with parents about their kids, there is much prep work to do beforehand if I’m to talk objectively about their performance, as well as compassionately about how to support them through the rest of the year. I have a unit on translation software for my Spanish II class that I realized late last week needs to be rebuilt and my first-year students have just handed me the outlines for their research papers -- all of which need to be reviewed by Wednesday so they can get their papers written by the time they get back from vacation.

I truly do not mind this work. It is part of a job I love deep in my heart (and yes, Mia, I really do love this stuff). When it competes with other parts of my world -- training, play time with my family, big picture thinking, the Community School -- the effort required to keep a harmony in all these endeavors can just prove too much even for Emergency Mode.

And so we will continue with Recovery Mode for a while. The good news is that eventually everything that was being juggled before will fall to the ground and I can start again.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

8 Words.

Grading. Laundry. Heavy reading. Email. Car repairs.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Weekend in Quotes

“I know.” (NiNi, after Papa said, “You’re pretty.”)

“¡Cada vez!” (A Latino disc golfer, after hitting a tree -- apparently not for the first time)

“I’m first in my division!” (An older man, running along the beach today as I was passing him -- not as quickly as I might have wanted).

“Can I have some of my Easter candy?” (Both children, repeatedly, during the day until they were told what would happen if they asked again).

“Can we go into the hot tub?” (Both children, repeatedly, during the weekend while at Nana’s, until they were told what would happen if they asked again).

“Can we watch Harry Potter?” (Both children, repeatedly -- you get the idea).

“Will you do the thing with the thing when we get the thing?” (Mackenzie, who said enough in one class Friday to fill this post, but of which I can only remember this one quote.)

“Oh, we’d better just end this conversation right now!” (Rick, after I said that Boondock Saints was just not that good a movie).

“Do boxers try to hurt each other?” (SiSi)

“If you promise to stop making the [chat window] popping up, I will do all my make up work. Well, most of it. Maybe.” (Maeve, while accusing me of being responsible for Facebook’s idiosyncracies).

“Next year, the Easter Bunny should make a map.” (The Easter Bunny, after yet another year when not all the eggs were found).

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Poem for an Idyllic Saturday

I stand at the tee, disc in hand.
The park around me full
of life and warmth
cheerful in observance
of a holiday
without duty or obligation

Excited squeals
Of children frolicking
Finding frogs, chasing geese
Clangs of baseballs on aluminum bats
“Hey batta, batta! Swing batta!”
Lovers for many years walking, holding hands
Lovers of just a season luxuriating in each other
Under the gentle, welcoming sun

I close my eyes.
Deep breath in, deep breath out.
Three steps, uncoiling,

And I let the disc fly.

Friday, April 2, 2010

What do you do on Friday...

...when your students have finished their exams and it’s a glorious sunny spring day with temps around 75°F?

Send them outside for recess!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

This is My Choice

I received this via email this morning. It has been edited to remove identifiers.

Last evening at a high school, I attended an internet safety/cyberbullying workshop led by a member of the regional DA's Office. The most immediate issue I wish to share is about Facebook and other social network sites. The workshop leader informed me that school personnel are being fired and losing licenses for not reporting (as mandated reporters) any information they see on Facebook about minors. Personnel are also being fired and losing licenses for associations with minors who may be indicted for internet criminal activity. I personally panicked, went home and chose to use Facebook ONLY for family and old high school/college friends. I defriended everyone else (sorry that means many of you as well). I want you to have this information so you can make your choices.

Here is my choice:

I choose not to live my life based on fear and I refuse to allow the threat of spurious litigation to intimidate me into hiding behind some misguided political definition of professional decorum. My teaching is first and foremost about relationships, so I choose to be open and transparent about my work and my interaction with students. I choose to take the opportunity presented by Facebook and other online tools to model responsible and respectful behavior, and use them for what they are -- tools for communication, and for building and cultivating quality relationships. I am a conscientious individual, and I take precautions to keep myself and those in my world safe from harm. I keep transcripts of all the online communications I have between students. I make sure parents are aware -- and approve -- of the fact that their children communicate with me. I don’t have a problem saying that something is inappropriate, or talking openly about how something might be construed. I do not tolerate bullying in my world in any form. If I see it going on, I *will* say something. If I see someone being threatened, I *will* come to their defense. This is as true online as it is in real life, for there is no difference between the two, and it is one of the foundations upon which my teaching practice is built.

If you are afraid to be open about who you are to your students, if you live a life outside of the classroom that you don’t feel you can appropriately share with them, and you don’t feel like you can be a part of your students’ lives in any other way than in a classroom, then you should absolutely avoid them in cyberspace. You should also avoid them in the mall or on the street or on the phone, for all these carry the same risks. I choose not to do this, but to wave enthusiastically and smile and take their hugs when they offer them and ask them how they are and really listen to the answer.

I choose not to be afraid. I choose to treat my students as important members of my personal, as well as my professional, world. I honor their work as adults-in-the-making and I respect their ways of communicating. I choose to work with them to teach them how to be responsible, respectful, thoughtful members of the online world, and to take care of each other as vigilantly as I would take care of them.

This is my choice. What would yours be?