Wednesday, February 10, 2016

An Important Time for Teens at Belle Plaine

Each week I share some weekly news and notes with all students at Belle Plaine via email in Werner's Weekly.  Within this e-mail I inform students about upcoming activities, events, or just some advice and ideas about how we can continue to make our school a better place.

Recently, I saw an article on Twitter about "10 Things Teens Should Care About in 2016".  I spoke with my 12-year-old son about several of the items on the list and even he could see the importance of several of the items listed.  When I shared the link with students in my weekly address several students commented back.

The article was originally posted on the Huffington Post:

10 Things Teens Should Care About in 2016

A new year is here and with all the talk about resolutions and new beginnings bigger themes and issues may get lost in the shuffle. Teens should pay attention to the following 10 topics as we navigate our way through 2016 -- Bon voyage!

1. The Presidential Election. An election of firsts - first time that some of us will be able to vote, first time we might elect a female president, first time we might have a buffoon like Donald Trump as a nominee. This is an election that will determine the next four, if not eight, years of our country's direction, the period of time during which we will become adults. Not paying attention would be shortsighted, to say the least. 

2. The Cost of College. It's a constant refrain and it's true -- without a college degree we stand no chance in the workforce of the future. With college on the horizon, the relentless series of articles about student debt make the process of choosing a college extra-harrowing. It's up to us to amplify the conversation about ballooning college costs so that we can get the education we need at a price we can afford.

3. The Environment. In the aftermath of the Paris climate conference, things are looking up for the global environment. It is especially noteworthy that traditional polluters, such as the United States, and emerging polluters, such as China and India, all signed on to the Paris protocols. But, will a flashy agreement based on a shaky consensus be enough for meaningful change? It may be, but only if we do our part to advocate for the initiatives to help save the planet, our planet.

4. The SAT. This spring ushers in a moment of fear and loathing for high school juniors as it marks the debut of the fabled "new" SAT. How will we prepare properly for a test no one has taken? Can we believe claims that it tests real knowledge not just aptitude? Will it be fair? Will colleges show sympathy for juniors who have to make tough choices about taking the old and/or the new test? Students have always had reasons to detest the SAT. This year, we have a few more.
5. The Future of Social Media. As teens, we thrive on everything social media. Yet, we also have short attention spans and are always striving to discover the "new" and the "next." What will happen to Instagram and Snapchat in the coming year - can they remain fresh and relevant to our cohorts? Will Twitch streaming replace Vine (Instagram video pretty much already did)? Will After School continue to boom? Will Wishbone break through? It's vital that we stay up-to-date so that we can retain our thrones as social media kings and queens.
6. Sleep (lobbying to get more of it). Everyone says we need more sleep (8-9 hours to be precise). But they also say we need to do our homework, get straight A's, be a varsity athlete, do 10 extra-curricular activities, cure cancer, and save the world. Who has time for sleep? Will high schools back off the workload? Will parents push for later high school start times (all the evidence points to brain-building benefits). With more and more teens cracking under the pressure of too much stress and not enough shuteye, 2016 could be the year that the discussion over sleep heats up and real action is finally taken. 

7. Mindfulness. Teens are constantly told that mindfulness is amazing. But, who has time for meditating, reflecting, yoga, and tai-chi? As mindfulness gathers steam via apps, classes, and pop culture, teens undoubtedly have a stake in its progression. Is mindfulness a miracle cure or just another way to Americanize and monetize yoga? I guess we'll find out.
8. Virtual reality (goodbye Netflix). The New York Times' experiment with its cardboard virtual reality player proved incredibly exciting. But that was just the beginning. VR is seconds away from being an expected norm, and as avid digital consumers, teens are bound to be at the forefront, demanding more immersive and awe-inspiring virtual reality experiences. In other words, give me 360 degrees or give me nothing.

9. The Meaning of Life. It's becoming trendy to label driven, high-achieving high school and college students as "excellent sheep," individuals motivated purely by success who are living a life devoid of meaning. Is this accurate or mere slander? 2016 will undoubtedly bring continued conversation about the topic and it is up to us to be thoughtful about where we stand and whether we are crafting meaningful lives.

10. Being Gen Z. Teens are caught between generations, but recently we've been identified as part of a new generation, "Generation Z" or "The Founders." Millennials have been co-opted by the relentless march of time, but Gen Z has already been labeled by Time magazine as "overly polite and unoriginal." As 2016 unfolds, it's up to Gen Z to take charge of the narrative while it's still being written -- to stand for something, to speak loudly about our preferences, and to begin to play our role in steering the country toward greatness.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Internet Safety for Belle Plaine Students

It’s been quite a while since my last posting and one of my goals this semester has been to do a much better job with regular Blog posts about what is happening here at BP with our students and staff.  I also want to use Twitter more to promote the positive and unique learning experiences that occur here daily.

For my first post of 2016, I’d like to focus on Internet Safety, which was something that was a concern recently at BP and should be something all of us are more aware of.  A Juvenile Court Officer I’ve worked with in the past stated to me on numerous occasions that it is vitally important to be aware of the internet activity of your child on a regular basis.  She had experienced first hand the ease in which predators and other individuals can obtain personal information and find ways to make contact with minors they find on the internet.

All parents should routinely check on the internet activity of their kids and look at the social media sites they frequent.  Ask to see you kids Facebook, Snapchat, or Twitter accounts to see who they are interacting with and what the topics are that are being discussed or shared.  Just a few weeks ago there was a Twitter account called the SICL S@#*talkers.  It contained many post about kids from all over the SICL Conference.  When we were first made aware of the site, there were 55 students from Belle Plaine following the account.  Postings were verbally abusive and harassing about many kids from numerous schools.  Thankfully, the site was shutdown, but others have popped up after one is taken away.  Please take the time to look into the Internet habits of your child.

The information below is from a site title WebMD.  It contains some good tips about internet safety for teens.

Teen Internet Safety Tips

Spend much time surfing the web? If you do, you need to be wary of things that lurk on the dark side of the Internet. Not only are there viruses, hackers and spammers -- online predators and a bunch of evildoers are out there just waiting to pounce on teens in the digital world.
You have probably heard of someone’s computer being hacked, his or her identity being stolen online, or even having some embarrassing pictures posted online.
“Nah, it can’t happen to me,” you think. Well, if you use the following Internet safety tips, you have a good chance of being right.
1. Keep Your Online Identity Secret
Don’t tell anyone your real name and address or what neighborhood you live in. Here’s the general rule: Don’t give out any information that a predator could possibly use to find you. The Federal Trade Commission says that even “small clues” like what school you attend or the name of your athletic team is enough for a predator to figure out your identity. You wouldn’t tell some 40-year-old man or woman you met at the mall your name and where you live, would you? So why would you tell CoolGuy985 or HotChick16 from the chat room?
2. Your Username and Password Belong to You … And Only You
Don’t give your username or password to anyone. It's just that simple. What if a friend logs on and pretends to be you, and then says something really awful and gets you in trouble? Sure, it might seem funny to the “former” friend, but it’s serious and it happens everyday. With your username and password, someone can post language that gets you expelled from school, in trouble with your parents, or even in trouble with the law. Keep your name and password private.

3. The Internet has a Great Memory … So Keep Its Memory of You Clean
Just because the Internet is so massive does not mean that embarrassing or risqué pictures, rude or mean comments, or illegal activities will disappear forever. Watch what you post about yourself or others -- or allow your friends to post about you -- because you may have to live with it for a long, long time.

4. Be Good Online … Just Like You Are Offline
Writing “hate” emails, hacking into other people’s computers, illegally downloading music or movies and making online threats are just as illegal on the Internet as they are in the real world. You cannot hide behind a screen name and get away with it. Watch what you write -- because someone else is watching what you write!

5. Be Extremely Careful about Meeting Someone in Person
The FBI gives an all-out blanket warning: “Never meet anyone in person that you meet online.” That said, many teens do make good friends online. You just have to be super-cautious and make sure other people you know and trust also know this “new” online person.
If you do decide to meet the new person, bring your parents with you. All of you meet together in a public area like a mall where there are tons of people around. Ask that the person’s parents come, too. If the situation feels creepy, it probably is creepy! Just like in the real world, trust your gut instincts -- and walk away.
6. Your Parents Are Ultimately Responsible for Minors Online
Even if your parents don’t know much about the Internet, tell them what types of web sites you go to. They will probably be interested and impressed with your Internet skills. They may also help you avoid potential problems if a web site or new "friend" looks sketchy.

Some Extra Words of Caution
Almost Everything on the Internet Is Traceable
Every search, web site visit, online posting and email is registered or recorded somewhere on the Internet. Once you send something out on the Internet, it's almost impossible to take it back. You have to be careful -- not impulsive -- when you write email or go to chat rooms.
People Live in "Fantasyland" Online
Even though someone writes, “Hi, I’m a really cool 15-year-old guy from New York City,” in reality that guy may be a 60-year-old man or even your next-door neighbor. Use scrutiny and caution. 
Your Information Can Be Sold to Others

Every web site has this thing called a “privacy policy.” It will tell you how that web site uses all the personal information about you, like your name. In some cases, though, when you’re not looking, some web sites ignore their privacy policy and sell your email address to other companies. When you open your email one day, you might have 150 spam emails in your inbox as a result. If a web site is asking for too much information about you, take control and leave the site. (Again, would you give this information to some older stranger at the mall? Probably not.)

Friday, September 25, 2015

Cornell College Making ACT/SAT Optional For Admission

Cornell College making test scores optional for admission

September 14, 2015
Cornell College has started a three-year pilot program that makes submitting standardized test scores optional for admission, a move that administrators say will broaden the reach of the college and attract more students.

The new option will allow for greater flexibility and creativity on the part of students, and is designed to appeal to motivated students who might not have otherwise considered Cornell College, said Cornell President Jonathan Brand.

“We want strong students from a broad range of backgrounds—regardless of their standardized scores—to know that we’re interested in them and that they may be a good fit here,” he said.
Students applying for admission for the 2016-2017 academic year will have three options: completing the Common Application, which allows students to choose from among 400 colleges; a Cornell College-specific application that requires an essay and standardized test scores; and an alternative Cornell-specific application that asks students to submit a portfolio of work and complete two short-answer essay questions.

In lieu of test scores, students can represent themselves through video, photo journal, writing, art/music, or other creative content—or they may create a profile page using ZeeMee, a free service used by students to showcase themselves for college admissions and scholarship opportunities. The ZeeMee option is also available to applicants sending in their test scores.

More than 150 top-tier liberal arts colleges are now test optional or test flexible. Within the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, to which Cornell belongs, Beloit College has recently joined the test-optional group, and Knox College and Lawrence University have been test-optional or test-flexible for about 10 years.

Analysis conducted by Cornell College statistics Professor Ann Cannon concluded, “The bottom line is that while both SAT and ACT are of some use as predictors of success at Cornell, there is a lot of variability among students and these test scores are only a small piece of the puzzle.” Instead, she said, that determining a student’s fit with Cornell and their overall work ethic would be as good or better at predicting success.  A separate analysis conducted by psychology Professor Melinda Green concluded, “Consistent with past research on predictors of collegiate success, the multiple regression analyses conducted on Cornell data indicate high school GPA is the strongest predictor of grade point average at Cornell College.”

National studies have also pointed to the need for more flexibility for students when applying to college. A study conducted by the University of California at Berkeley found that high school grade point average was the best predictor of student success.

“Our admission process has always been holistic,” President Brand said. “This pilot allows us to make the process even more flexible, and consider a student’s portfolio, high school grade point average, and the strength of his or her core curriculum. It also lets us look at an applicant’s motivation and fit at our residential liberal arts college distinguished by our One Course At A Time curriculum.”

Thursday, September 24, 2015

New Year at Belle Plaine

It's been quite sometime since my last Blog post and now that I feel like I'm starting to catch up to everything the start of the year brings.  That means it's time to start sharing news and information that is relevant to Belle Plaine Schools, our students and staff, and education in general.

The year has started off good and I think the students and staff are now settling into a good routine.  Some things students may notice teachers doing differently this year include incorporating more technology into their lessons, using pre-testing to more efficiently plan and provide instruction, ongoing assessments, and being more deliberate about what the learning goals and objectives are within each lesson of the day.  The ultimate goal is to improve the levels of learning among all students.  This process takes time and hard work.  The good thing is we have a dedicated staff, great students, and a supportive group of parents and community to assist with this process.

I encourage you to come out to Belle Plaine Jr./Sr. High School to see the exciting things our students and staff are doing.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Plainsmen Pride Night

Belle Plaine All-Sports
Athlete/Parent Night
Featuring- Dan Gable

Friday, August 14
Belle Plaine Jr./Sr. High School

Meal provided by Belle Plaine Athletic Boosters
6:00-6:30 (Cafeteria)

Program starts @6:30 (HS Gym)
  • ·      Introduction of Coaches
  • ·      BP Weights/Conditioning
  • ·      Policies/Academic/Good Conduct
  • ·      Athletic Boosters

All 7-12 athletes/parents who will be in an activity during the 2015-2016 school year are encouraged to attend.

Monday, June 15, 2015

June at Belle Plaine

It's been quite some time since my last post to this Blog and a lot has occurred in this time!  Since my last posting at the end of March we've:

  • Ended the school year
  • Graduated the seniors
  • Won a SICL Girl's Golf Title
  • Won a 2nd straight Boy's SICL Track Title
  • Placed 11th at the Boy's State Track Meet
  • Placed 6th in State in the Girl's Shot Put
  • Held Service Learning Day
  • Iowa Assessment Reading Score- HS- 83.2%
As you can see there have been many positive things occurring at Belle Plaine this spring.  Each of these our students, teachers, and coaches should feel very proud of.

Now that June is here the softball and baseball teams are in full swing.  The baseball team had an exciting last at bat, 2 out, come from behind victory over East Buchannon at Kernels Stadium in Cedar Rapids and the softball team has shown good improvement.  Many athletes are working hard in the weight room and future drivers are fine tuning their driving skills and knowledge with Mr. Walton and Mr. Dodd.  

In the offices Mrs. Koch worked very hard in the days after school was out to complete the scheduling process.  It proved to be quite difficult this year, but I think we have everyone placed where they need to be for next year.  Dawn and Christie completed all the end of the year items and have now switched to summer duties at home.  Christie worked hard on one of the State Reports and I have been working on a few others as well.

Updating and revising changes to the student handbook is next on the list.  One area that I will spend more time is in the area of cell phones.  Cell phones did become somewhat of a distraction at times and there will most likely be some additional language in the handbook that gives teachers the authority to control cell phones within the classroom.

I hope you are all enjoying your summer thus far!  Check the school web-site for the baseball and softball games and try and come out and support our Belle Plaine athletes.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Boy's Basketball Coach Justy Northrop Gazette Coach of the Year

A special congratulations goes out to Plainsmen Boy's Basketball Coach Justy Northrop who was named the Cedar Rapids Gazette area Coach of the Year for the 2014-2015 winter season.  Led by Northrop the team had a record setting year capped off wight the schools first ever appearance at the Boy's State Basketball Tournament in Des Moines.

CR Gazette Article