Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Hidden Cost of Placating Parents

The amount of time, energy, and resources we waste on trying to make mopey parents feel better, make angry parents happy, and brush problems under the carpet is staggering, but we never seem to want to face the hidden costs.

Teachers who are circumvented, who are ignored, trampled upon, brushed aside, plowed under, and thrown to the wolves burn out. They teach less effectively because they’re under massive stress, and more children suffer because of the parent(s) of one kid.

We insist too often in education on making concrete that which must be fluid. “My child needs X.” “My kid must have Y.” “You’re doing Z when you should be doing A, B, and C.” These adversarial, motto-riddled, emblazoned-in-granite-over-edifice conversations are contrary to any child’s best interest. Collaborative conversations between the primary observers and guardians of a child – the parents – and the trained, experienced professionals in child psychosociology, pedagogy, and development – the educators – can accomplish wonders when they work together, especially when paired with thoughtful paraprofessionals. (And I include specialized, degreed non-educator child experts like psychologists, therapists, and counselors in the “paraprofessional” category.)

But all the best intentions and opportunities in the world are for naught when higher-ups circumvent hard conversations for the sake of convenience. The vast majority of the time, I’ve seen teacher-parent relationships blossom because of mutuality: everyone has the child’s best interests genuinely at heart, and disagreements about style are easily overcome through substance. (Note to professional practitioners: Have your research in line before you walk into the room, or don’t ask me to back your play. You purport to be an expert in children by virtue of sitting on my side of the table. Know your stuff, or find another chair.) However, there are times when it is entirely appropriate to have an adversarial relationship with a parent. Specifically, when a parent wants something that we know beyond the shadow of a doubt to be contrary to the child’s best interests, we have an ethical and professional obligation to say “no.” At best, this leads to clarification and parent education. At worst, this can lead to due process hearings and legal proceedings.

So what? Let it. In short: Go ahead. Sue me.

You heard me. Bring it on. “I’m an attorney, sir…” I’m going to go ahead and stop you right there. Oh, what, you thought there was more? No, I’m really just going to stop you. I have no interest in what comes out of your mouth after you, as a parent, say something like that. If you’re an attorney, you know that our system of laws exists in a naturally-adversarial condition. It’s designed that way. Even “no fault” cases are often heard with plaintiffs and defendants, and involve evidence and process to guarantee that everyone gets a fair say. So I say, bring it on. If I know, in my heart of hearts, what I’m doing is accordant with the law, compliant with research and child science, consistent with best practices, and representative of the state-of-the-art of teaching, bring it on.

You always have a right to leave the public schools if you want what you think is best for your child despite the facts. (In my world, we call doing something you know to be wrong “stupidity,” but hey, I’m just a teacher. What do I know about definitions and meaning?)

See, I think we’ve sold our credibility down the toilet by placating parents. I’m not interested in complacent parents. Are you a parent? Are you pissed off at this blog post? Why? Do you want to be coddled and complacent? Do you want me to ignore the facts of modern child science when doing right by your kid? Or would you rather your child’s school be populated with people that constantly pursue, with unmitigated tenacity and unbridled passion the absolute bleeding edge of what modern psychology, sociology, pedagogy, medicine, and the multifarious content disciplines tell us to be best for your child? I’m not interested in making you happy, parents. I’m sorry if that busts your chops; I really am. I wish you’d believe me when I say I hope it’s a fringe benefit, but as an action, I could give two shakes if you’re “happy” with me as a teacher. What I want, more than anything that involves your ego, emotions, feelings, whims, thoughts, or aspirations, is what’s best for your child. Fortunately, 95% of the time, parents and teachers are on the same page about these things. I’d bet most of you have rarely, if ever, experienced a real confrontation with one of your kid’s education professionals.

But in the 5% of the time when a haughty know-it-all, an egomaniacal fact-flaunter, or a self-appointed homeschool-leaning dilettante decides to act or speak contrary to what we, as professionals, know to be best for the child in question, I say take it to the mat.

Do we fight stupid and unnecessary fights in our field? Absolutely. There’s stuff I desperately want to teach teachers is unimportant, useless, and counterproductive. There’s a lot of completely avoidable tribulation in our schools, and I’m neither blind to it nor unwilling to tackle it and make some fairly sweeping culture shifts to ensure we put down our baggage. But there are times when we’re right, you’re wrong, and it’s as clear as day to any objective observer.

The cost of placating parents when they’re wrong is worse than wasting massive time and energy and money that could be better spent helping kids. Make no mistake, tiny fraction of parents that put “winning the fight” ahead of respecting good educational science: you’re hurting your kid and many other kids with your shenanigans. The real cost of placating parents is that it hurts kids.

Usually, the kid hurt the most, is the kid at the center of the situation, and you know me: I will never acquiesce in the face of defending a child.

Disabling Outlook Desktop Alerts

Projecting our email onto a screen in front of kids could be problematic at times, as we may receive confidential information during class. Use the following steps to disable the Desktop Alerts in Outlook:

  1. Open the Outlook client software.
  2. Click the orange File tab in the upper left.
  3. Near the bottom of the menu on the left, click Options.
  4. Click the second options,  Mail.
  5. Under the third heading, “Message arrival,” locate “Display a Desktop Alert.”
  6. Uncheck “Display a Desktop Alert.”
  7. Click OK.

 

Flip Video to DVD (NBCT Portfolios)

Flip Cameras, like those we’ve used for National Boards recording at Yorktown, record video files in a digital format called MP4, which is very popular for mobile devices like Flips and iPhones. However, MP4 format is not generally compatible with many Windows programs, like the ones we want to use to edit for length and burn to DVD.


Step One: Copy Video Files from Flip Camera to Hard Drive

  1. Insert the Flip Camera into your computer. If you’ve never done this before, a program will launch to install the necessary software so the Camera and Computer can talk to one another.
  2. Click the round Start button in the lower left-hand corner of your screen.
  3. Click Computer.
  4. Double-click the Flip Camera, acting as if it is another drive.
  5. Double-click the DCIM folder.
  6. Double-click the VIDEO100 folder.
  7. Select all of the videos you want to use. You can click on one video, or hold down CTRL on your keyboard and click multiple videos to select them.
  8. Right-click the last video you selected, and click Copy.
  9. Minimize all windows until you see your desktop.
  10. Right-click on an empty area on your desktop.
  11. Click New.
  12. Click Folder.
  13. Name the folder something specific, like “Entry 2 Video.”
  14. Double-click the folder you just created.
  15. Right-click on an empty area of the folder window that appears.
  16. Click Paste.

Step Two: Convert from MP4 to AVI

This step requires the Pazera Free MP4 to AVI Converter program. To download it, click the “Direct Download Link” underneath the green button (do not click the green button) on the Pazera download page on C-Net. (Clicking this link will open a new tab.) When you install Pazera, read the screen carefully at each step to avoid installing programs you don’t want. When the screen says “Get any website or document translated…” click “Decline” in the lower left-hand corner. Click “Decline” on the next two screens as well. Then click “Finish.”

  1. Launch the Pazera converter.
  2. In the upper left-hand corner, click Add Files.
  3. Navigate to the Desktop, then into the folder you created in Step 1.
  4. Select the video files you want to convert. (Probably all of them.)
  5. Click Open.
  6. Two items to the right from where you clicked Add Files, now click CONVERT.
This will take some time. You may use your computer normally during this process, but you are encouraged to avoid playing videos or using processor-intensive programs like Photoshop. You should not close or turn off the computer or allow it to sleep during this process.

Step Three, Part One: Edit for Length (Optional)

If you recorded your videos precisely as you want to burn them, skip this step. If you need to trim your video to a specific length, such as “I want to use the portion of this video between 2:45 and 17:45,” then follow these steps.

This step requires Windows Movie Maker 2.6. To download it, click here. (Clicking this link will open a new tab.) You must be using Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8 to use this program. Click “Download” on the page that opens, and install the software.

  1. Launch Windows Movie Maker 2.6.
  2. If you see the “Show Timeline” button in the bottom right area of your screen, click it. If you see the “Show Storyboard” button there, leave it alone. The bottom of your screen should look like a light blue film strip that says “Drag media to the timeline to begin making a movie.
  3. Click File then click Import into collections
  4. Navigate to the Desktop, then into the folder you created in Step 1.
  5. Select the video files you want to edit. (Probably just one entry’s converted video.)
    1. Note: It’s important you select the AVI file you created in Step 2, not the original MP4 file you downloaded in Step 1. They may have the same name, but when you mouse over the files, only one of them will say “MP4.” That is the wrong file.
  6. Click Import.
  7. From the drop-down menu in the top center of your screen, find and click the Collection containing the imported video file you want to use.
  8. Click and drag the video clip from the center Collection window to the light blue Timeline at the bottom of the screen
    1. Note: For the next steps, you may need to use the Zoom In and Zoom Out buttons on the left hand side of your timeline. They look like small magnifying glasses with + and – icons.
  9. Place your cursor over the video clip that you just added to your timeline. You will notice when you keep your cursor still that a timestamp appears. Locate the timestamp you want your finished video to start with. In our example, that might be 2:45, so you’d move your cursor until you were hovered over 2:45. Left click once to place your cursor, which will add a black vertical line to your clip.
  10. Click Clip at the top of your screen.
  11. Click Split.
  12. Repeat Step 9 for the timestamp you want your finished video to end with. In our example, that might be 17:45, so you’d move your cursor until you were hovered over 17:45. Left click once to place your cursor again, which will add a black vertical line to your clip.
  13. Click Clip.
  14. Click Split.
  15. Use the horizontal scrollbar along the bottom of your screen to go back to the beginning of the timeline, all the way to the left.
  16. Click on the video clip at the beginning (leftmost) of your timeline. This is the beginning of the original video, which you do not want included.
  17. Press the Delete key on your keyboard to remove it.
  18. Use the horizontal scrollbar along the bottom of your screen to go to the end of the timeline, all the way to the right.
  19. Click on the video clip at the end (rightmost) of your timeline. This is the end of the original video, which you do not want included.
  20. Press the Delete key on your keyboard to remove it.
  21. You are now left with a finished video of the length that you desire, starting and stopping in the correct place.
If you are pleased with the audio level of your video, skip to Step Three, Part Three.

Step Three, Part Two: Increase Audio Level (Optional)

The NBPTS allows portfolio entry videos to be cut for length and to be amplified for volume. You cannot edit the videos in any way, but audio amplification is not considered editing. Click here for an official statement by NBPTS confirming this is true. (Clicking this link will open a new tab.) You should not amplify the audio unless you have to.
To the left of your timeline, you will see the word Video. To the right of the word Video is a small box with a + sign inside it. Click the + box.
You should now see two new rows, the last of which is called Audio, and looks like a white bar with light blue shapes inside of it.
  1. Right-click on the Audio track.
  2. Click Volume.
  3. Click and drag the Adjust volume level slider one mark to the right to increase the volume.
  4. Click OK.
  5. Press the Play button in your preview window (the media player all the way to the right) to check the audio level.
  6. If you need to adjust the level up or down slightly, go back to Step 1 of this section and repeat until you are satisfied with the audio level.

Step Three, Part Three: Exporting the Finalized WMV File

Windows Movie Maker 2.6 will save your cut-for-length, audio-amplified video as a WMV file, which we can use to burn the DVD.
  1. Click Tasks at the top of your screen.
  2. In the Movie Tasks menu that appears on the left, expand Menu 3, Finish Movie.
  3. Under Finish Movie, click Save to my computer.
  4. Next to Item 1., give your movie a unique name, like “Entry 2 Finished.”
  5. Next to Item 2., be sure you are saving to a location you can find, such as your Desktop or the folder you created in Step 1.
  6. Click Next.
  7. Be sure Best quality for playback on my computer is selected. It usually is, by default.
  8. Click Next.
This will take some time. You may use your computer normally during this process, but you are encouraged to avoid playing videos or using processor-intensive programs like Photoshop. You should not close or turn off the computer or allow it to sleep during this process.

Step Four: Encode and Burn to DVD

This step requires DVDFlick. To download it, click here. (Clicking this link will open a new tab.) You must be using Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8 to use this program. Click the yellow “Download DVD Flick” button on the page that opens, and install the software.

Insert your blank DVD-R in your DVD burner drive. Do not use a DVD-RW.

  1. Launch DVDFlick.
  2. On the far right, click Add title…
  3. Navigate to the Desktop, then into the location of the video you want to burn.
  4. Select the video file you want to burn.
  5. Near the top of the screen, click Project Settings.
  6. Click Burning.
  7. Add a checkmark to the box that says Burn project to disc.
  8. Add a checkmark to the box that says Eject tray when done.
  9. Click Accept.
  10. Near the top of the screen, click Create DVD.
  11. If you are presented with a red warning that says that the destination folder already exists, click Yes.
This will take some time. Unlike other steps above, you should not use your computer for other tasks during this step. You should not close or turn off the computer or allow it to sleep during this process. When burning a DVD, do nothing else with your computer.
When the process is complete, your disc will be ejected. Use a felt-tipped permanent marker to label your DVD neatly. For the NBCT process, you will receive labels to place on the DVDs as well.

Genealogy Updates

I am pleased to announce that I have significantly updated A Greyhound Sejant: Reeves and Their Relations, my online repository of my genealogy work. I am beginning a comprehensive photograph archive as well, which I will hopefully tie into the existing HTML resources.

Additionally, I’ve converted from Family Tree Maker 2006 to Family Tree Maker 2012, which enables realtime uploading to Ancestry.com, where I will mirror my research for convenience’s sake. This should allow an entire new audience of genealogists and family historians to access my work.

Yorktown Update: January 6, 2012

If you’re not already familiar with the platform, Xtranormal.com is a web-based resource that allows your students (or you) to create 3D digital animation videos without any prior programming knowledge. By simply typing text and dragging icons, you can render pretty decent 3D animation.

As an example, I’ve created one starring a little digital ITC and a little digital Technician! This little video describes the difference between the ITC and Technician roles!

ITC and The IT Guy v2.0
by: reeveskd

A New Chapter Begins

It’s with great excitement and anticipation that I join the Arlington Public Schools and the outstanding, accomplished team at Yorktown High School as the Patriots’ newest Instructional Technology Coordinator. This is a high-standards, high-performing school with great expectations and opportunities.

I plan to continue blogging regularly here about issues, tools, projects, and opportunities that are salient to student performance, pedagogy and curriculum, and instructional technology, as an ongoing and collaborative resource for professionals both here and abroad. This is still my private blog, but I plan to post information that’s relevant to both my school and yours!

Sonnet: Upon a Computer Lab Request

I this morning received a request for a computer lab for a teacher engaged in researching Shakespeare with her students, and I responded thusly:

From thy request, borne unto my machine
by traipse of light and hot electrons thrown
directly ‘neath mine eyes enrapt in scene
hadst seen thy author’d words afore me thrown,
a solace do I take in knowing yet
another mistress of instruction in
our happy midst and circumstances that
compriseth this, our halls of learned kin,
has reach’d aloft and touched the deus ex
and seized the bolts of Zeus within the keys
and screens’ bright pixelated gleaming flecks
to give unto her students pow’r of these.
For thy unceasing striving e’er improved
thou canst consider thy request approved.