Tag Archives: empathy

If today was 1989


I have to think that, for some very unconscionable reason, that a motive to be a high school teacher is that I really enjoyed my time in high school. I enjoyed the sports teams I played on, I loved my friends that I shared time with, and I can honestly say that the classes I took were fun (not all the time). I was blessed to grow up in the time and space of upstate NY where I was able to experience pretty much everything that I could have imagined.

Sitting around and playing with all the creative tools that make visual literacy happen in the world, I began to wonder what I could have done with such innovations such as the ipod, the smartphone, the laptop computer and it dawned on me that kids today aren’t really tapping the true potential of existing technologies for both academic and personal use. I am going back to 1989 and I’m going to show how these technologies could have significantly enhanced my teen years.

Here are some ways that the 1989 me would have utilized the 21st century tools:

1. love letters

I am assuming that email has replaced the love letter but that lacks creativity and imagination. I am wondering what teen boy with a crush on a girl has created the romantic powerpoint or prezi that shows they really want a date.

2. parent communication

I really want to go to that Bon Jovi concert or need $20 bucks to go see Pretty Woman with that girl I sent the awesome “love powerpoint” to. Prezi may work here to convince parents of the difficulties of adolescence.

 3. my friends

Facebook right. No, wrong. Friends require more effort. They require information and a personal touch that appreciates the time they covered for me when all the gin in Dad’s cabinet went missing or they are in a jam with the school bully.

That’s kind of lame I guess. Here are some other augmentations I would have made in 1989:

  • Instead of mixtape……play list to here my Vanilla Ice, Arrested Development, and Madonna, and Skid Row.
  • Evernote to run the 8,000 Sunday Errands my mother had me do like clockwork.
  • Slingbox to watch football while at my cousins horse shows and WKRP in Cincinatti
  • Flip video to refine my hitting in baseball
  • Twitter to really understand the events around the collapse of European Communism and Operation Desert Storm
  • Voicethread to ask girls out
  • Livebinders instead of Trapper Keepers
  • Youtube to get a laugh when ever a teen crisis kicked in.
  • Ebay to sell stuff if i needed some quick cash to shop at Chess King.
  • Google maps to find carnivals in the region to hone my skills at winning stuffed animals.
  • How Stuff works to get better at playing pool in my friends house or to distill my own spirits.
  • Shaving, typing, and spanish speaking tutorials
  • Self defense training
  • Visual and data collection for use in competitive swimming and Bell Biv Devoe analysis
I’m sure there are more but I have to get back to my wife and kids in 2011.


Learning Dilemmas of the 21st century (it’s not all bad)

Teaching internationally has excellent benefits and, at times, heart-wrenching costs. There is a high degree of stress that comes with the wide-range of responsibilities shared by faculty and staff that make weekends feel short and workdays stretch. Educational historians may look back at the initial decade of the 21st century as the “dark times” prior to an even larger paradigm shift in formal secondary education. A time when collegiality was replaced with cynicism; a time when break room conversations turned vitriolic regarding the changes that all could see coming. There are those that distrust emerging tools and 21st century approaches to education, and others ready to ‘storm the barricades’ in it defense. In the international community, where reputation and professional growth are the driving factors behind successful postings, teachers have rare opportunities to be mavens in education by escaping the standardized testing climate of home. International teachers are not interested in things like tenure because they are impractical; we are interested in “what’s new?” or “what’s coming?” and how can this help me both professionally and personally.

The topics covered in Coetail #2 have really provided context in understanding the values that will likely drive formal education in the future: the importance of sharing and having empathy. With proper use of intellectual material and protocols to use materials, content will continue to proliferate and the opportunities to create shall be a visible force for change. Blogging about cyber-bullying, in the shadow of the death of young boy who took his own life as a result of bullying, hit me very hard as a teacher and father. Standardized tests didn’t help that young man and I’m sure that is what all of his teachers focused their attention upon. The situation is as much sad as it is criminal.

The Coetail 2 project our group developed is a very elaborate and engaging lesson plan for teaching proper use of intellectual property and the thinking that drives Creative Commons. Our group from Ruamrudee International School collaborated and commented one another’s contributions and tailored the lesson toward students with options for informing parents. Students will take a short assessment that will email them the results. The lesson will be useful to any program teaching digital citizenship or relying heavily on visual media.

I would like to say that the face to face time in the cohort has gone way beyond any classroom experience I’ve ever encountered as a student. The case studies and engaging opportunities are great, but the large group discussion with so many fine teachers and fine people have been excellent. We do have a great cohort with great ideas (as the blogs indicate), articulation, and visible passion for teaching.

To finally arrive at the point of the title of this entry, I do see the problems in education as something that can be fixed (in order to make room for new problems). We have awfully intelligent students who are on the average smarter now than any generation before them. They are doing things much earlier and with higher expectations of results. So what is the PROBLEM? Maybe it’s us as teachers always trying to solve something or sensationalizing the issues because at least then we have something to make a crusade about. I guess there is always something to complain about. Even in a world that’s pretty damn awesome.

My concern: my pre-school aged daughter will be a member of the Class of 2026. I am inclined to ask her teachers (many are younger than I am) what they believe the world will be like in 2026 and are they really preparing my child for that kind of environment. That should be a driving question for all educators.



A-tempting Virtual Environment


If there is one day that I can go back to and say, “I became a different teacher,” it would be the day my son was born. I would argue that the moment I became a father, my teaching fundamentally changed in a way that allowed me to understand how parents of the children I had been servicing for over a decade struggled with: when to be involved and when to “let it alone.”  I can honestly say that I started to see my students as people with needs and that parents put enormous amounts of trust in us to be fair, encouraging, responsible professionals. Oh yes….we should be human as well.

I make this initial point in relationship to the onset of cyber-bullying as a 21st century phenomena that for the first time allows an adolescent to be reached by a bullying behavior in their home. Technology has made bullying behavior pervasive and mobile. The implication here is that without a safe-haven for those victimized by bullies, the teen mind is threatened and faced with limited choices. The teen mind, as it has been studied in the 21st century, thrives on risk-taking while in the midst of identity formation. The sense of “self,” a construct based on one’s interpretation of how others “see me,” emerges along with significant physical changes that can be used by others to draw attention away from their own obvious changes. Here is the heart of adolescent harassment as a behavior rooted in image, self-esteem, and identity. To address bullying behaviors, it seems practical to employ a number of approaches that would involve all of the major relationships connected to this stage of development and embed within secondary schools alliance systems, collaboration, and exploration, rather than systematic approaches that encourage competition and zero-sum experiences. To support this type of shift, the parent role must also be re-examined including their understanding of the teen brain, their knowledge of their own child, and of course, knowledge regarding technology. Teens need their privacy, however, building a trusting environment is a two-way road with all being responsible for their agreements. One recent understanding of the bullying cycle is the theory that a majority of bullies are intelligent enough to identify the people they can easily harass. Confidence and communication are key elements. Eating family meals and allowing for open discussion lays a strong foundation for developing confident young adults.

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Here are Essential Tips for Parents to consider if you believe your child is a victim or victimizing another. The general feeling from experts in child psychology is that students in both roles are suffering and need support.  Without looking though I am going to make some essential tips for teachers to consider based on experience and understanding of the teen-age mind.

Tip 1: Allow for students to talk more in class. Talking and critical thinking discussion work the frontal lobe, the seat of executive function and verbal abilities. Verbal skills and articulation help build self-efficacy, the holy grail of self-esteem.

Tip 2: Role play, Show video, Blog, or conduct readings focused not on bullying but on empathy….actually with HS students I would bring in 4-5 books from the elementary library and look for examples of “thinking of others.”

Tip 3: Use teachable moments and relevant events to show how dangerous thinking can affect the teenage mind. It is sad when you open the paper and read about a destructive or negative outcome that is related to bullying. But it is an opportunity to send a clear message about the phenomena and learn from others.

Tip 4: Find out as much about the brains of your students and work in class time on building a positive sense of “self.”

Tip 5: Educate your students parents. Blog, send notes, use Facebook or Twitter…..appeal to your student’s parents sense of responsibility and let them know that if they love their children they will be benevolent supervisors who monitor their children’s connectivity and be active guardians of their child’s lives.

The world may be a scary place, but the virtual world conjures a more sinister environment for harassment, exploitation, and defamation. Like many significant changes that have occurred through time, I feel there are strategies and lessons to be used to teach empathy in school, and more importantly, educate parents on the dangers their kids face and the dangers they may present. Since this issue encompasses physical development, cognition, and social development, the programs for ending bullying in all forms must address all three levels of Psychology and developing person.


The tragic death of Jamey Rodemeyer due to bullying behavior and hate has galvanized public sentiments urging lawmakers to begin taking a more policy-driven role in bringing empathy into the classroom. I encourage people to view this video from Jamey and consider his message that has reached over one million people, probably many of them teens.

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I encourage people to sign the Stop Bullying Petition, as if anything, it is a symbolic gesture to marginalize a real threat to the well-being of children everywhere.