Friday, September 24, 2010

5 Pieces of Advice for Lawyers Trying to Scare Educators Who Think Outside The Ban

I recently shared a post about a Valedictorian who was pissed off because she had spent her years in high school being cheated of a relevant education. I share her frustration as my educational experience was not much different then the irrelevant hoop jumping she endured, but I have been hopeful because I know there are innovative educators out there passionate about making a difference in the lives of children and providing them with engaging and relevant educational opportunities. But, I had a bit of wind taken out of my sails when I heard from a teacher that lawyers were pumping fear into the hearts of principals who like Eric Sheninger were open to thinking outside the ban and using digital tools necessary to prepare students for success.

I was heartbroken to learn from a teacher that s/he was told at a staff meeting that the Principal had just come from a Principal's meeting and shared that "the lawyers" had told the principals:This teacher reached out to me saying, “It seems like we're going in the wrong direction.” and asked for suggestions on how to help administrators “think outside the ban." This teacher lamented that though s/he had been enthusiastic about the school year, “It's going to be a hard sell now that my principal has been scared to death by "the lawyers!”

My advice to any educator who has lawyers telling them how to do their job is this:
  1. Lawyers and educators are inherently at odds. I want to do what is best for my students. Lawyers want to do what is best and easiest for them.
  2. Ask the lawyer to put their advice in writing. Ask them how they feel about being sued for advising schools to engage in practice that is not in the best interest of preparing students for success in the world?
  3. Ask the lawyers why they, rather than educational leaders, are deciding what's best for students and think about if lawyers are really the people who have the best interests of our students at heart.
  4. Ask the lawyers to put in writing why they are afraid to allow schools help students begin establishing their responsible digital footprints.
  5. Share with lawyers and your principal that there are principals who know that banning is the easy way out and connect them to principals like Eric Sheninger who is a Principal who used to block, and now offers guidance to skeptical admins in social media use.
In short, as educators it is our responsibility to rise above cowardice. We can not turn our backs on our students because it makes lawyers jobs easier. Educators got into their field for a different reason than lawyers got into theirs. I would advise my fellow educators to follow their moral and ethical obligations to prepare students for the real world in which they live and not leave them frustrated by the meaningless school experience that high school senior Erica Goldson so eloquently shares.

Students like Erica, myself and Blake Copeland (who developed an iPhone app with no help from his school) should succeed because of school, not despite it. I hope that the readers of this blog are those who will stand up and use their 21st century educator voice to advise these lawyers to think outside the ban and prepare students for success. Our students need you to listen to them not the lawyers who are only providing advice that make their jobs and that of educators easier at the risk of what is best for children.

If schools are not preparing students to operate in these environments, who is? Are we going to continue to pass the buck and say, "not my problem?"

To answer the question of the teacher who emailed me, "Have I heard of lawyers advising educational leaders taking the easy way out?" Absolutely. Would I want to work in a place that made that choice? Absolutely not.

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