Family night and websites

Last week my daughter’s school graciously held what they affectionately call Family Night – you may have heard of something similar in your areas. It’s a night hosted by the school where the family of students is invited to explore, participate in some sort of assembly-type presentation (topics vary), and then visit various classrooms that have games and activities for the children. I’m sure you all get the premise here – let’s make an effort to get parents and students involved with learning outside of the regular classroom. GREAT! Except… well it’s never so great. We go to nearly every event like this – I am a firm believer in parent involvement in education and think the more we support our schools the better off our children will be. So on these occasion when I am handed an invitation from a very excited 7 year old I take the opportunity to strut my parent stuff. This invitation (as well as the sign board outside of the school that displays reminders on upcoming events) stated that family night would begin at 5 pm. So being a punctual person we showed up right at 5 pm. Apparently that was more of a suggestion than an actual start time. Now in an effort to make sure we were on time and there was nothing we need to bring, etc. I consulted the schools website. There again – Family night starts at 5 pm. So when we arrived there were some other punctual parents there wandering aimlessly around and wondering, much as I was, were we in the wrong place? Had the time changed and no one told us? The few teachers and volunteers that were there simply stared at us and offered little encouragement or explanation of what was going on. So we went out to the playground and played for a bit – periodically coming into the building to see if perhaps anyone else was going to show up. Eventually they did – 1 hour later. Nothing was even started until 6 pm. Now I don’t know about you but poor planning and tardiness are huge pet peeves I have. If you invite some one somewhere at an appointed time – please note none of the time information I received said 5-ish or around 5 or somewhere between 5pm and the next morning – then I believe you need to be there and ready to roll at said time. Now I wonder why parents don’t want to get involved with school activities? Hmmmm… There was a complete lack of direction, very poor planning, no enthusiasm from the staff and teachers participating. It was pretty much just a humdrum event with all the wonder of a deflated balloon and I was very sadly disappointed – again. You may be wondering why I have websites listed there in my title and by golly I’ll tell ya. Isn’t the goal of a company – in this case the school – having a website to relay information about the organization? Upcoming events? Important things you might want or need to know about the organization? Have you looked at your school’s websites? I do believe there will be an interesting post following to discuss the lack of use of social media to relay information to parents. Do any of you have (or are) teachers that tweet? Update your personal teacher websites on your school’s webpage? Stay tuned…

Specials in the classroom

Music, PE, Art, foreign languages, library – all the fun stuff we get to learn during the school day. I believe back in my day they were called electives in secondary schools and in elementary school they were simply part of the regular school week. Actually we didn’t have to leave our classrooms to do art and we did not have an option to learn another language with the exception of those students who were learning English as a 2nd language. Now kids go to what are called “specials” in our school district. As part of an effort across the four corners to help children keep their “native tongues” alive those children that are identified as Navajo or Hispanic are allowed to voluntarily participate in what is known as bilingual – children spend 45 minutes everyday learning either Navajo or Spanish. They also learn about the cultures and traditions of their people. My daughter is both Navajo and Spanish but she only gets to participate in one language so she is learning Navajo – we can teach her Spanish at home and she will have the option to take that as an elective in Middle School.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if ALL of the children were asked if thy would like to participate in bilingual learning? I’m sure there are lots of kids out there that are not of Spanish or Navajo descent that would benefit from learning another language. According to a study done by the Cornell Language Acquisition Lab, children who learn a second language can maintain attention despite outside stimuli better than children who know only one language. Children are naturals at proficiency in learning other languages since they are activating those language receptors in their brains learning as they begin to learn to speak their native tongues. http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2009/05/learning-second-language-good-childhood-mind-medicine
According to The Benefits of Second Language Study conducted by the NEA in 2007 the teaching children a second language:
-benefits academic progress in other subjects
-narrows achievement gaps
-benefits basic skills development
-benefits higher order, abstract and creative thinking
-(early) enriches and enhances cognitive development
-enhances a student’s sense of achievement
-helps students score higher on standardized tests
-promotes cultural awareness and competency
-improves chances of college acceptance, achievement and attainment
-enhances career opportunities
-benefits understanding and security in community and society
It seems to me that ALL of our children would benefit from learning a second language. Since this skill is already being taught in our schools in the Farmington District and time is being set aside outside of the classroom on a regular basis for some children to attend it, it may just be in all of our best interests to allow those interested in learning but not natively part of a culture to participate in bilingual learning.

Topic of the week #10 – Social Media Audit Masada House

The organization I will be working wih for the end of semester project is called Masada House. this is a non-profit organization located in Farmington, NM. It is transitional housing for women completing or having completed a drug or alcohol dependency rehabilitation program. Masada House allows for a safe environment for these women to learn life skills that will help them be successful in their road to recovery in the “outside” world. The largest impediment to successful recovery for most drug and alcohol users is an inability to separate themselves from the things that were crutches for use in the past – friends, peer groups, family, and sometimes even geographic location. Masada requires participants to work outside of the house, has strict rules as far as curfew and what participants are allowed to do during their stay, and offers counseling, mentoring, and healing mostly done by healthcare providers in the San Juan County area who volunteer their time and skills to help these women be a success. So far Masada has been successful in helping approximately 40% of past participants to achieve their goals of a new life and the goal of lifelong sobriety. Since 2011 45 women have participated in the program. This equates to 18 participants that have thus far been successful with the program. Average rates of recidivism look to be around 51%.
The current social media presence of Masada House consists of a facebook page as well as a website http://www.masadahouse.net neither of which is maintained regularly as the organization has limited resources to employ a full-time social media provider and much of the owrk done around the organization is “off-the-clock” by existing employees. Because Masada House is still relatively young (less than 2 years since their doors opened to the first group of participants) and a non-profit organization there is some understability as to the lack of social media presence. Upping the amount of content available on facebook as well as adding content to the website are going to be my first suggestions as these are easily one and House participants can add greatly to content via facebook. Establishing a blog that is dedicated solely to Masada House will increase awareness and drive traffic toward the organization.
The service Masada House is providing to the four corners community is so extremely imprtant and much needed we really need to get them out there to show people what they do and how they can help.