Saturday, January 28, 2012

Staring Down the Barrel of a Walkie Talkie

During the school year I teach Music and Movement classes to preschoolers with special needs in the Howard County Public School System. But last summer I traded my "Hot Potato" and "Hokey-Pokey" for a different tune altogether. As a Para Educator in Howard County's Comprehensive Summer School, my song went more like this:

“Hat off, headphones off, put your phone away. Hats off, headphones off, and pull…up…your…pants!”

My transition from Early Childhood to Adolescence was made possible by the supportive and knowledgeable Summer School team at Long Reach High School. At the heart of this team was the partnership of Rick Robb, CSS Principal, and Mr. Richard Ebb, Director of Security. They made sure that all of the Para Educators understood exactly why we were there:

The mission of the Howard County Public School System is to ensure excellence in teaching and learning so that each student will participate responsibly in a diverse and changing world.
Goal 1 - Each child regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, disability or socio-economic status, will meet the rigorous performance standards that have been established. All diploma-bound students will perform on or above grade level in all measured content areas.
Goal 2 - Each school will provide a safe and nurturing school environment that values our diversity and commonality.

Recognize it?  Those are the mission and goals of the Howard County School System.  Every employee on the Summer School staff was working to support those goals. I soon learned how important Goal 2 was in assuring the achievement of Goal 1. We worked in cooperation with Mr. Ebb and the School Resource Officer to make sure that the school buildings and grounds were a safe and nurturing environment.

Recently the school system and the Howard County Police Department have announced the introduction of a pilot program to station School Resource Officers in six middle schools. Some of the reactions I have been reading have been inflammatory and far from accurate.  Schools are not being turned into penitentiaries. Officers are not one step away from taking away students' civil liberties. School Resource Officers are not deployed merely to break up fights. 

This is what you need to know:

"A school resource officer mentors students, conducts instructional classes and handles disturbances and arrests." (

What does that mean in plain language?  It means that a full two-thirds of an SRO's job is devoted to communication. And that's where the walkie talkie comes in. While it may seem natural to focus on the officer's gun, it is the walkie talkie that best symbolizes the role the SRO fulfills within the school.

Officers build relationships with students, communicate with staff, reach out to parents and the greater community. School Resource Officers are working in middle schools in an effort to reach out to At-Risk students--as defined by attendance, referrals, and grades.  In some cases they are running after-school programs as well. (I didn't know that, either. Check out their website.)

Yes, enforcement is also a part of the job.  The officer, like everyone else in the school, is charged with helping to provide a safe and nurturing environment. Parents need to be able trust that their children are safe within the school, and protected from community issues that might spill into the school. Students learn best when they feel safe. We all do. 

A good way to describe how this really works within the schools is an anecdote about a high school student who declared he "hated cops."  "I don't like the way they look, don't like them hanging around. But Officer D., he's different.  He's alright."

So, now you know.  And please--will you just take your hat off and pull up your pants?  Thanks. 


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Showdown at the C.A. Corral

There are noises in the air:  the jingle of spurs, the nervous whinny of a horse. Is that the sound of someone adjusting a gun in its holster? Or perhaps just tumbleweed rolling by in the breeze? The air is tense, crackling with animosity.  The Wild West lives again.

Right here, that is.  At the Pre-Submission Community Meeting.

One wonders if those GGP folks knew to expect The Paumier Gang to ride into town.  They might've suspected, but who could truly be ready for that relentless onslaught?  Even Miss Cindy, the Dance-Hall owner, took her best shots.  It was like shooting fish in a barrel.

I can almost hear the heavy footsteps approaching.  "There ain't enough room in this town for the both of us, kid. I designed most of this town, and I don't 'low no competin' nor collaboratin'--you know what I mean?"

In the Western showdowns of old, women and children knew to hide when danger was afoot.  They knew what was coming.  But, our Main Street is deserted for another reason. Long years of apathy brought on by lack of communication, and years of backward-looking management have left our town square barren. To some, that looks mighty tidy. 

So, few people witness this Wild West style of shooting down opponents with differing opinions. They aren't there because they don't know, don't care, don't know why it is important to care.  And that's what makes this sort of behavior possible--rudeness, bullying, selfish behavior--because so few people are watching. If a shootout happens and there are no witnesses, how can we say for sure that it really happened?

No witnesses, no involvement.  To some, that looks might tidy.

I reckon we need a new kind of Sheriff to clean up this town.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

First Words About Last Words

As I hop around the hocoblogs neighborhood, I see how each blog creates its own little island for commentary and discourse. And some days I wonder if perhaps it isn't about the blogs at all, but about the comments.

Why do some blogs produce good-natured give and take, while others bring out rude and ignorant trolling? Some blogs foster a gentle and supportive tone, some, a humorous one. And then there are the blogs which produce (insert ominous music here.)

Is this something to be feared? Are comments the mark of popularity or influence? That's a matter of personal preference. But, if blogging is seen as an open-ended form of communication with the reader, then a lack of comments can seem like living in a ghost town.

Now, some bloggers take a blustery, pugnacious tone that may dissuade readers from making any comment. "Disagree with me? I'll bite your nose off!" But there are some blogs, and they can be quite good, that get little or no comment. Why?

I am beginning to think that readers may place a hierarchy of value on blogs, some perceived to be the "real stuff", others seen as "soft", not worth putting one's mark on. Could it be that the hocoblogs neighborhood has its cool kids, outcasts, wild ones, and "invisibles"?

In this world there are some people you want to be seen with, because their popularity just might rub off on you.
These are the people whose parties you want to attend, because something interesting is bound to happen. And you want to be seen with the "in" crowd.

I learn a lot from our local blogs and bloggers. And I enjoy hanging out in a variety of venues. I don't always enjoy leaving comments because the rules of engagement vary so widely. (I'm a lover, not a fighter.)

I guess I am asking: why do we promote whom we promote? And, why do we validate whom we validate?
What is the force at work here, and is it based on good writing, meaningful content, an engaging tone? Or, is it just like high school and the law of the lunchroom: in order for a few to be celebrated, many must be ignored.

You'll see I've added a blog list in the sidebar. It's time I shared the places I like to hang out in the neighborhood.