Brittney Ghezzi's Blog #5 

Who's Controlling your profile?

March 31, 2008 - 2:36 pm

Have you ever been giving a presentation or talking to someone and all of a sudden you say something that makes you stop and think. I do it quite often actually and most of the time these turn into blog posts as is this one. My last session at EARCOS I was all fired up with a standing room only crowd and I was talking about Facebook and having a social presence when this came flying out of my mouth.

"If you don't take control of your social presence, someone else will!"

I had some shocked looks in the room, some wiggles in the chairs, and after the session ended had three people come up to me and ask "How do I register my own domain name?" (I use BTW)

As educators I think it is even more important. Like it or not, your students are out there and they're talking about you! You can either allow them to create your social presence for you or you can take control of it.

I've talked about the power of your social presence before and it is a scary thing if you do not have a gage on what's out there. You can't control what others say about you, but you can try to control what Google and Facebook searches find and rank.

I've also been hard on schools lately who are not controlling their social presence in Facebook. If you are a teacher in a high school go search for your school and see what you find. Then ask yourself:

1) Is this what we want incoming students to know?
2) How could our school harness the power here?
3) What do we want students; Past, Present, Future to find and know about.

(BTW schools...blocking it does not make it go away!)

One school that is getting this, I think anyway, is the International School of Kuala Lumpur. When you do a search for ISKL at Facebook the first group that comes up is their alumni group with over 1300 members. I used this as an example in my presentation and the Alumni overseer of the group was at the conference heard that I had use the site and approached me. The site was started by two past students. The alumni association approached them and asked if they could make this the official site. The school's alumni association now works with the two college students to run the site, keep it updated, and makes sure it correctly represents the school.

Sure, there are other ISKL student ran groups on facebook and I'm sure like most schools they're not all positive, but when a student comes to facebook and searches for ISKL...this is where they start. They start at the alumni page, they join it, know that they can get answers, makes connections, all before heading out to other "sub-groups."

As teachers and schools we need to realize that our customers are in this space, and that if we are not going to take control of our information there, someone else will do it for you. Do you want to leave a high school student in control of your profile? How about a group of say 100 students?

Scary? Yeah....then do something about it!

We can't continue to pretend these spaces don't matter. Especially if you are like most International teachers and you're out looking for a job every 3,5,7 years or so (what's the stat...14 jobs before they're 37?). Because some where, some time, somebody is going to Google you or do a Facebook search for you and what are they going to find? Who are you allowing to represent you?

I also like to show this poll started in 2006 and still active at USA Today.

The only thing this poll shows is that we do not want a law telling us we can or can not search for someone and use that information against them.

We are in a time of change, a time of figuring out how to use this information and when it is appropriate to do so. Until there becomes some "social norms" around this type of employee searching, you need to control what employers might find.

Do you feel like I'm yelling at you? Feel like I'm getting up in your face about this? If so this post is for you. Do something about it, get connected, get social and start talking control of your online presence! Because if you don't.....some day some one else will.

Mr. Utech,

            I completely agree with the ideas and thoughts in your blog. As a college student I am a regular Facebook user. It is nice to keep in touch with old friends and an easy way to contact new friends. I truly don't see any harm in the Facebook or Myspace world. It is the way kids use it that is a problem. When I first went to college, Facebook was only for college students, now there are junior high kids as well as teachers on the Facebook community. I know as a future educator I do not want to see my name portrayed in a bad manner because of a student(s) who did not particularly like me. But just like you said, we can do something about this. We can learn to control and take matters into our own hands. No, we cannot control everything that goes on the Internet but just like you said we can do something about it. I do not want potential employers to look me up on Facebook and maybe not find wonderful things because of something someone else posted. I hope that we can continue to grow with the growth of Facebook and Myspace and learn to take this experience and learn from it.


Brittney Ghezzi

Brittney Ghezzi's Blog # 4

Laws of Simplicity

[Cross-posted at LeaderTalk]

Recently, I read The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda, former MIT Media Lab guru and current President of RISD.

It's a good, quick read that expands upon his 10 Laws of Simplicity. They are:

  • 1. The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.


  • 2. Organization makes a system of many appear fewer.


  • 3. Savings in time feel like simplicity.


  • 4. Knowledge makes everything simpler.


  • 5. Simplicity and complexity need each other.


  • 6. What lies in the periphery of simplicity is denitely not peripheral.


  • 7. More emotions are better than less.


  • 8. . In simplicity we trust.


  • 9. Some things can never be made simple.


  • 10. Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.

None of these ideas, taken separately, are rocket science, but when put together, they have a lot to tell us. If we were to simplify the entire book down to one sentence, I'd say it's this:

Life is complex; simplify everything you can so that you can devote yourself to the things that are most complex.

Think about that concept applied to our schools... how many of the processes that we as administrators go through are much more complex than they have to be, usually because of fear of a lawsuit or because a process that was once simple has gone through one or two too many committees and now bears no resemblance to what it was once supposed to be.

Schools are some of the most complex institutions in our society. We should be spending our time on the things that matter most -- helping students navigate our world... working with teachers as they work on their craft... and yet, so many principals spend their time figuring out who they vendors they have to use are or making sure that payroll is in the proper format... or dealing with any number of budgetary issues that are harder than they have to be.

We need to examine every process in our schools and ask ourselves, "What do we really need? What do we have to do? What is just a CYA process that we could solve in other ways?"

Every one of Maeda's laws could and should be applied to education. What process in your school would you simplify?


My Response:

Mr. Lehmann,

            This is the first I have ever heard of the Laws of Simplicity, but I absolutely love them. I try my hardest to simplify situations and activities in my life. It may not always work, but at least I try. As I am approaching the end of my Junior year at Illinois State University, my life seems to get more complex each day. I have been really trying to focus on the positive aspects of my life and stay I can stay simplified. I hope that when I finally get to my goal of being a high school teacher I can simplify the classroom. I want students to realize what can be simplified and what cannot. There are things that you need to put a lot of time and effort into and there are others that you can make pretty easy on yourself if you just try. I will try my hardest to focus on what is important, and that is educating. Hopefully I will learn that being an educator is what I came to do, and worry less about little things as you said. I hope I can stay simplified in this complex world and teach my students to do the same.


Brittney Ghezzi


Brittney Ghezzi's Blog #3

Letter To A Young Teacher

I don't remember where I read it, but I was reading another article that mentioned the oft-quoted stat about how many teachers leave the profession within the first five years, and I was thinking about how many really amazing young men and women I've known in my career who fell into that category, and I was thinking about a conversation I had with an old colleague at Beacon and how she said, "Yeah... that year three or four mark, that's a dangerous time, because that's when you think you know so much more than you actually do." And I was thinking about my own progression as a teacher and how true that was... And I was thinking about some of the things people who stayed with the profession seemed to embody that the ones who left didn't. I was thinking about what I want to say to all those teachers who, right around year three or four, start to leave the profession...

Dear Young Teacher Thinking of Leaving,

You've stuck with this job for a few years now. You have made it past the hardest few years, but it's still a really hard job. And you're at a point where you know a lot about the job, but there's still a lot to learn. And the things you haven't learned yet are the some of the things you need to stay with this job. I don't know for sure that you should stay; after all, people switch professions these days. But here are some of the things it takes longer than three or four years to really, really learn. Some of these are things I've had to learn the hard way, some of these are things I've seen others learn the hard way, and a lot of these ideas are things that I keep having to relearn all the time.

This job is a marathon, not a sprint. As much as we don't like to admit it, we have to acknowledge our need to pace ourselves.

However, you learn something in time that makes that easier. You aren't their only teacher. You aren't the only adult in their life. And even if you were, you can't be everything to every kid.

You learn that perfection is a lousy goal because it is unattainable.

You learn that excellence is a better goal, but even that is a moving target.

In other words, you learn that the perfect really is the enemy of the good.

You learn that it's just not about you. And it's just not about the kids either. It's about the space between where the meaning happens.

You learn that you can't reach every kid. And you never really learn to be o.k. with that.

You learn that you know a lot less than you think you do.

You learn that your colleagues know a lot more than you think they do.

You learn to find the teachers who can prove to you that you can do this job for thirty years, and you learn to go sit in their classroom when you need to.

You learn that you don't have to be young to relate to the kids.

You learn that teaching is both an art and craft, and that it is something you get better at.

You learn that the more you document what you do, the happier you are the next year.

You learn that retooling a unit takes less time than creating one....

You learn that the more you get good at the basics, the more you can experiment with new ideas.

You learn that you can't grade everything.

You learn where you can compromise and where you can't.

You learn that not every kid is going to major in your subject and you accept that that's o.k.

You learn that you aren't perfect... and neither are the kids, and sometimes the best thing you can do is forgive... yourself and the kids.

You learn that taking care of yourself is important... and that the kids know when you do... and want you to.

You learn that you shouldn't idealize other jobs.

You learn that the worst thing you can do is think of yourself as "just a teacher."

You learn that the second worst thing you can do is think that being a teacher is the hardest job in the world.

You learn that the best things that happen in your class weren't wholly because of you.

But you learn that the worst thing things weren't wholly because of you either.

And you learn that, in both cases, your presence did matter.

You learn that every time you are feeling like really know what you are doing, it's important to find the thing about the job that humbles you.

You learn that every time you feel like you have no idea what you are doing, it's important to find the thing that reminds you how much you have learned.

You learn how to ask yourself, "Did I give what I had to give today?"

You learn how to look at that question over time.

You learn that life is hard... that the teaching life is hard... that the movies rarely get it right... and that being a young teacher means being the adult in the room, and that's o.k.

You learn to find that teacher's voice inside you that is real, authentic and effective.

You learn how much good you can do... and how important it is to find ways to do that much good over a whole career, not as a martyr to the job, but as a healthy, clear-eyed teacher.

You learn patience.

You learn how much you have to keep learning.

Most of all, you learn that once you stop trying so hard, you can listen better, and then you can hear what the kids are saying back to you. And then you can learn that they change you as much as you change them.

It's a hard job, it's a frustrating job, and the vast majority of our schools are underfunded, understaffed and swimming upstream to teach the adult values of hard work, sustained effort and sustained focus when there is very little else in teenage life that reinforces those values. And you realize that the kids are hearing your message, even when you think they aren't.

Our schools need so many more of those early-career teachers to stay in the profession so that they can become the master teachers of the next generation. We need you to stay and figure it out. It's never easy, but it does keep getting better as long as you are willing to continue to learn.

And you do learn that, in the end, so many of us love our jobs more than the rest of the world does.


My Response:

Mr. Lehmann,

            Wow! Reading this blog I caught myself with the goose bumps several times. I will be student teaching next year, and then on to reality where no one is holding my hand any longer. I have often thought about some of the things you have written about. Whether I will be good enough? Can I handle it? Will the kids like me? Will my knowledge that I am teaching the students be good enough? I don't know any of these answers and I probably never will. Just like you said it will be something I have to stick with long enough to find out. My whole life I have wanted to be a teacher, I feel it is my passion. I hope I can say the same thing in five years. You blog was very inspiring to know that I am not alone in uncertainty. It helped me realize that it won't always be easy and fun, but frustrating and hard. But that is okay, because it will all be worth it. I may not have an impact and be able to change every kid. One will be good enough for me. If one student can later go on to college and write about me as an impact on his life, or influential I will be satisfied. With your letter I feel like that is enough. So...thank you!

Thank you so much!


Brittney Ghezzi


Brittney Ghezzi's Blog #2

When we only see 1/3

February 14, 2008 - 3:24 pm

Too often technology is an iceberg within our schools. It is easy to focus on the one-third sticking out of the water. The part that is beautiful to look at, that draws us in and makes us go WOW: the Internet, the laptops, the LCD projects, the SmatBoards. Yes from on top of the water it looks amazing. How can all of this stuff not affect learning because it looks so cool!

We often have prospective parents walking through our school and I wonder what they see. There is a teacher computer in every room...some even have laptops. In some classes there are students working on laptops, there are computer labs throughout the school, LCD projectors hanging in most of our classrooms, and if you walk through common areas you'll usually see a couple of students working on their own personal laptops they've brought from home.

However, when we only focus on this top third we end up with articles like this one found in the Washington Post. Once we get past the amazing sights and sounds and we are forces to look below the surf to see if anything really has changed, is when things get complicated.

What we do not do enough of in education is venture below the surface. It's dark down there, it's cold, and if you do not have support you will soon find yourself in a state of hypothermia. The only person around your school looking at deep change and the effects that top third can have on education beyond the WOW factor.

Will Richardson asks these questions: do we help schools and districts to begin to reshape their culture around learning in more collaborative, connected environments? How do we get to the point where we're not just seeing individual teachers and classrooms make the shift, but where we are seeing schools as a whole beginning to shift as well?

We get there by looking at the two-thirds that is under the water. We must start to look at change deeper then the classroom, deeper then the individual teacher.

If we want shift within our schools we need to embed these collaborative, connected environments for learning within the school culture. It has to become "just what we do".

What do we do in schools? We teach curriculum and the curriculum is part of the culture of our schools. Our curriculum is based on our standards (skills) we want students to learn. If we want the culture to shift within our schools we have to look deep at the curriculum in which we teach and the pedagogy in which we employ to teach it.

When was the last time a subject curriculum was reviewed at your school?

When was the last time a subject curriculum was reviewed at your school with the NET standards for students being a part of the conversation?

If we believe that these standards are what we focus our teaching on, then let us review them with 21st Century Literacy in mind. Every discipline (math, history, language arts, etc) should be reviewed with a copy of the NETS or other adopted standards for technology and 21st century literacy skills being a part of the process.

What we need is a new curriculum. We need to expand our thinking on what skills our students need in math, the knowledge they need in history, and the writing they need to produce in English class.

If we can get these standards embedded into the curriculum it makes jobs like mine a heck of a lot easier. I'm no longer trying to find ways to teach technology standards I'm truly supporting teachers as they teach subject standards. Once we have these standards embedded, we focus the conversations around how to best meet those standards and teach the curriculum, which brings us to pedagogical discussions and therefore changes our culture within the school.

We cannot continue to look at the top one-third and go WOW. We cannot continue to look at the surface were early adopters are struggling to go deeper without support. No, if we want to change the culture of our schools, we need to look deep, in cracks and crevices that we may not feel comfortable looking into. But we need to, ‘cause this iceberg is moving north and as it does it's going to melt. When that happens, we will find ourselves much like the school in the article above. A cool looking school with no real change from within. No, we must change the culture of our schools; we must look at the bottom two-thirds and start changing at a much deeper level.


My response:

Mr. Utech,

            My name is Brittney Ghezzi, I am currently a student at Illinois State University with a major in Family & Consumer Science Education. This blog caught my eye for several different reasons I feel I can relate to. I hope as a future educator I can teach my students to see the whole picture, and that is always something I have wanted. I think it is not only about the curriculum we are given to teach but also about how we can expand it ourselves and still meet the necessary standards. In the role of an FCS teacher we are taught to teach a lot of hands-on activities, as well as technology enhanced projects. Technology is the new way of learning and that is truly looked past as we don't even acknowledge it in most of our curriculums. I hope that one day I can teach my students to utilize all that they have, hopefully technology included. I want them to walk away with not only knowledge from the course but true life skills that they may hold forever.


Brittney Ghezzi


Mr. Utech's Response Back via Email =)

Hi Brittney,

The key is to not allow technology to be "something that we have to do" or
have it be something you do on top of the curriculum. It needs to be just
what happens, which means. It needs to be in the curriculum....embedded in
everything that we do in school. Only then will we truly see the impact
these new tools have on learning.

Glad you have the opportunity to be exposed to these tools at your
university. You will be ahead of the curve as many under-grad programs have
yet to embrace these tools as part of their standard curriculum.

Thank you for the conversation,



What About Other Days?


Conversations can cause epiphanies, sometimes...

I was in a conversation with some administrative colleagues the other day, and the subject came around to standardized tests. We were talking about different ways to measure learning, and I, quite predictably, was talking about performance-based assessments.

I talked about how every different assessment tool privileges different things, and I said, "I've come to realize that, as an educator, I am more interested in what kids can do as opposed what they know." Now, that, to me, is a continuum, and clearly, kids have to know stuff to do stuff, but I'm realizing that that dichotomy is at the heart of the disagreement between traditional education and project-based learning. And what I really like about Understanding by Design is that with understanding at the top of the way they frame their hierarchy of teaching and learning, you really can look at both of those things. But all of this is really something I want to explore more in another post... the epiphany came with what my colleague said next.

"Chris," he said, "We have to teach the kids to take tests... the SATs, the LSATs, the MCATs, these are serious tests and serious days that can forever alter the path of a person's life.'

It's a good point, and certainly, it can be the tip of the sword in the argument for schools like SLA. But something popped into my head...

"Yes, they are, and we cannot ignore those tests, and we should prepare kids for them but those are three days in a person's life. What are we doing in our schools to prepare kids for the other 20,000 days of their lives?"

And I realized that's the question we should really be asking. That's the answer to all those who say the tests are paramount.

What are we doing to prepare kids for all the other days of their lives?

That's why authentic, relevant teaching, learning and assessment is so important.


My Response:

Mr. Lehmann,

             I am currently a student at IL State University majoring in Family & Consumer Science Education. Your writings definitely caught my attention. School and learning should be based on so much more than a few standardized tests. What about the kids who completely understand the material and know everything they are reading but just are not great test takers. In FCS there is so much more to know then what can even be questioned on a test. It is more of a hands-on-learning in many subjects of FCS. I think it is somewhat absurd that some places (colleges) actually only look at your ACT/SATs instead of everything else that you have accomplished at your life. I think as educators we need to teach students more than standardized tests. You have it right on target about the 3 days of testing, and forgetting about the other 20,000 days. Your future should be so much more than that.


Brittney Ghezzi

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