Monthly Archives: March 2012

Proud to be the meanest mom in the whole world

That’s me.

At least according to every one of my daughters at off moments in our relationships. Like when I take away their iPads while they are supposed to be doing homework or walking the dog. When I find them Skyping at 11 p.m. when they were supposed to be asleep. When I react angrily to disrespect. Or when I forbid clothing I deem inappropriate for a 12-year-old.

It’s funny because sometimes I’m also the best mom in the world. Like when we’re cuddling together during family movie night, or I serve their favourite dishes for dinner. When I allow their three best friends to sleep over on a Saturday night and make chocolate chip cookies. Or surprise them with a trip to see Harry Potter World at Universal Studios in Florida (hoping to get mileage out of that one for years!).

Most of the time though, I’m the mom in between. The practical one who expects them do their homework on a Sunday morning so we can all have fun later in the afternoon without it weighing us down. The one who keeps the fridge stocked and picks them up from gymnastics, badminton practice and debating tournaments. The boring stuff that keeps our family on an even keel.

Oddly enough, I take secret pride in the times when I’m the meanest mom in the world. I guess because it doesn’t happen all that often, but recurs just often enough, with a kind of reassuring familiarity. It’s like an invisible badge of honour. It means I’m doing my job properly, setting reasonable limits (to my parental mind, if not to theirs).

It means I’m their parent, not their friend. (Tweet this)

Sure I want them to confide in me, enjoy spending time with me, let me into their teenage minds. And they do. At least so far. But I also want them to respect me and their father. To know we’ve set limits and imposed consequences for going beyond them. That we have expectations of acceptable behaviour, defined by our family’s values and beliefs.

That the seemingly silly courtesies we expect (say, for example, waiting until everyone is seated at the table before we begin eating, preparing your sister’s toast when you are making your own or asking if anyone wants the last potato knish instead of grabbing it for yourself) are part of loving each other.

That there is more to living life that what can be experienced through a computer screen.

That they may need some help controlling impulses. Setting limits. Developing and exercising good judgement.

That a 12-year-old girl who wears THAT when she leaves the house is sending certain messages to others, the possible responses to which she is not yet emotionally equipped to handle.

That the banal chores of daily life (homework, dog-walking, showering, emptying the dishwasher, folding laundry, clearing the dinner dishes) are actually a big part of the stuff of life. And the discipline we develop from doing them properly help us succeed at other things.

That the developmentally appropriate narcissism of childhood and adolescence is nevertheless not the way they will be expected to live the rest of their lives.

That sometimes we appreciate things more if we want them for a while before we get them. Or save up our own money over time.

That sometimes we don’t always get what we want.

Other moms sometimes commiserate with me. They say they are sometimes told they are the meanest moms in the whole world too. This may seem like a contradiction. But I’m thinking it’s entirely possible we can all occasionally be the meanest moms in the whole world, passing the title from one to another like we’re already doing with used baby clothes and kids’ sporting equipment.

As long as there’s some balance with being the best moms in the world, and the regular everyday moms in between, I’d say it’s just one more odd reason to be proud of what we do.



Check it out: Webinar on how schools should teach kids about Internet safety

Educators and concerned parents should check out this upcoming webinar from the wonderful folks at Embracing Digital Youth. Their credentials, grounded approach and passion for teaching creative, respectful use of digital technologies are beyond reproach. Although the content is primarily aimed at U.S. schools dealing with new legislation, the underlying issues and recommendations are certain to be relevant for educators everywhere. This will be worth watching!

Embracing Digital Youth is proud to announce its first webinar. Through these webinars, Embracing Digital Youth will seek to help educators, mental health professionals, law enforcement, and  policy-makers engage in prevention and intervention activities that  are grounded in research insight, focus on influencing positive  behavior and implementing restorative practices, and encourage effective evaluation.

Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act: What Schools Must and Should Do

The webinar will be available for viewing in an archive shortly  after the live presentation. A companion 2-page Issue Brief will provide insight into    implementing the recommendations provided in the webinar.  Materials will be provided to support attendance at this webinar to  obtain Continuing Education Units.

  • What steps must a district take to be in full compliance with the new requirement to receive E-rate funding?
  • How should schools organize their efforts to respond to this new   instructional requirement?
  • What Internet safety issues must be addressed and what other issues should be addressed?
  • How can these issues be addressed in a manner that is effective  —      and does not raise fears that could undermine a district’s transition to a 21st Century learning environment?
  • What important role will school librarians play in the delivery of    professional development and instruction?
  • How should this instruction be incorporated into the school’s    safe school planning with respect to critical issues such as cyberbullying, cyber threats, and digital dating abuse?

The U.S. Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act added a provision to the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requiring that schools receiving E-Rate funding provide students with instruction in  Internet safety, including cyberbullying and social networking safety. School agencies receiving E-rate funding must update their policy so they can certify they are providing Internet safety instruction, beginning with funding year 2012 (July).

This Webinar will provide recommendations on how districts can engage in effective multidisciplinary planning to ensure that the manner in which they will provide Internet safety instruction is grounded in accurate research insight, uses effective approaches to promote positive norms and transmit effective skills, and incorporates evaluation to ensure effectiveness.

Moderator: Nancy Willard, Director of Embracing Digital Youth, a program of  Center for Safe and Responsible Internet use, and author of Cyber Savvy: Embracing Digital Safety and Civility (2011, Corwin Press).


  • Mike Donlin, Program Supervisor in The School Safety Center of the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for  Washington State.
  • Lisa Jones, Research Associate Professor of Psychology at the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.
  • Connie Williams, NBCT, Teacher Librarian, National Board Certified. Petaluma High School, California. Past President of the California School Library Association,
  • Eric Willard, Chief Technology Officer – Community Unit School District 300, Illinois.

Don’t miss out on this highly interactive webinar that will provide high quality, multidisciplinary insight for educators!

Our next webinar will be:

Positive Peer-based Approaches to Address Cyberbullying      

This webinar will take place on April 26th at 7:00 P.M. Eastern Time.

Guest post: Why Schools Need to Teach Technology, Not Ban It

I’m really excited to feature today’s guest post by Tanya Avrith, educational technology consultant and former teacher. As she describes below, she’s put in her classroom time and seen first-hand the way technology use has changed the way kids communicate and learn. As one of the brains behind the Lester B. Pearson School Board’s innovative Digital Citizenship Program, she is better positioned than most to argue for a thoughtful embrace of technology by schools.


Boy with TabletDuring my last seven years as a teacher and consultant, I have borne witness to the technological digital shift in education. When I began my education career in 2005 at the tender age of 23, I had little idea what I was about to face.  I was given an unheard of mixture of classes and was thrown to the sharks wearing my new heels and best “teacher” clothes.  NaÏve and idealistic, nothing had prepared me for the challenges and incredible joys I would face in the classroom. Nor did I realize that a revolution in education and social media was under way.

Looking back to when I began teaching, I can now appreciate what was developing. It was at the very the beginning of what we’ve come to call the “Web 2.0” student generation. My students that year were not yet posting constant status updates on Facebook, nor were they tweeting, sharing videos on YouTube or bringing smartphones to class. Boy, were things about to change…

By my second year of teaching I had become the media teacher (along with a long list of other subjects) and was introduced (by a student of course) to Facebook, founded only a few years before. I still remember the first time I logged on. I was ignorant to the etiquette of status writing and posting pictures as well as privacy issues and how they could affect me later in my life. Like most of today’s first time users, I made many mistakes when using social media because I didn’t know any better.

As an educator or parent it is easy to forget how quickly things changed in those few years. From one day to the next, the way our students/children socialized and communicated was turned upside down. Teachers and administrators are still trying to figure out what their roles are when it comes to dealing with the use of social media, both in and out of the classroom. We are at a crossroads in education where we need to figure out how we should be dealing with the issues that arise from this new “digital” generation of students.

Where do we go from here? Do we ban? Block, filter, take away, confiscate. All adjectives used to describe the current policies in many schools. Early on, like many of my colleagues, I feared technology, and my knee-jerk reaction was to agree with this type of policy. Isn’t it human nature to try to repress the things we don’t understand?

The problem with this approach is that it does not work. It turns teachers and administrators into the “cell phone and Internet police.” We scour our classes and manage confiscated devices. We block everything on the Internet that we don’t want to deal with. We investigate, punish, give detentions, and spend many hours dealing with the issues that arise when things go wrong.

What are we really accomplishing with this approach? We are missing many opportunities that these complex devices could bring to the classroom. For example, many of our students have access to 3G networks on their smart phones where they are always connected. These students have the potential to have a computer, video/digital camera, access to the Internet, and online books at their fingertips… And what are we telling them to do? Put them away! The irony is that we find school boards discussing the need to find resources to put technology into those very same hands.

Do we educate?

What we do need is a coherent plan to teach digital citizenship in schools. Digital citizenship addresses the appropriate use of technology. It is not about the technology itself but rather about the effects that arise from its usage. It’s an interesting approach that focuses on teaching about the ethical usage of technology.

Many teachers admit that they feel intimidated with the use of technology in the classroom because they worry their students know more than they do. What is important to understand is that students may use the technology more, however, they are primarily using it to socialize and/or play games and do not always have the metacognitive skills to use it as a learning tool. Furthermore, they are not equipped with the understanding how to use the technology safely and appropriately. The teacher offers the wisdom of how to learn and the ethical direction needed to manage technology creatively and productively. We need to make the most of this symbiotic relationship between the teacher and student. Imagine the possibilities of partnering with our students to learn from each other.

We are not asking that teachers change what they are doing but rather adapt their teaching to include elements that are relevant to how our students are learning today. With digital citizenship education there are many educational opportunities that would not be possible if we continue to ban the technology in our schools.

What does digital citizenship eduction look like? Teaching about digital citizenship should not be viewed as an “add-on” but rather complement what is already being taught in the classroom.  For example, a teacher who is introducing a research topic in class would discuss how to evaluate websites, and teach the students appropriate searching strategies. The teacher would also discuss copyright and how to properly share information.  The Lester B. Pearson School Board DCP offers a curriculum for Digital Citizenship with many examples of what digital citizenship looks like in the classroom. A few great resources that address digital citizenship include:

  • The Lester B. Pearson School Board DCP (Digital Citizenship Program) provides teachers with teachable topics  that are age appropriate. It provides easily organized subject and grade level resources as well as resources for parents.
  • Commonsense Media: An incredible resource for both educators and parents that has many resources that focus on digital citizenship.
  •  Digizen: Another great resource that provides interactive activities for students to learn more about digital citizenship.
  •  The door that is not locked: A bilingual Canadian resource great for parents, educators and students.

Tanya AvrithTanya Avrith is a mother of two and a former high school teacher. Currently on maternity leave, she works for the Lester B. Pearson School Board in Montreal, Quebec as an educational technology consultant with a focus on digital citizenship education. Tanya was one of the driving forces behind the development of the Digital Citizenship Program for the LBPSB. She also provides seminars on digital citizenship education and workshops on how to adapt the classroom to include various technology tools (iPads, 1:1 programs, SMARTboards…). Tanya holds a Masters Degree in Educational Technology from Concordia University.