Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Online Safety: A Fabulous In-Depth Guide

Here is a great  resource which presents a very in-depth article  on child safety online.

It's worth sharing with the families you work with as well as anyone who loves children: 


We see news stories about the impact of technology on our everyday lives all the time these days. Many of us started to think about how technology affects us personally. But how many of us have stopped to think about how it affects our children?
85% of mothers said they use technology to keep their children busy.

Kids are receiving their first internet-capable device earlier and earlier. That same study showed that 83% of American households have tablets, and 77% have smartphones.

Even in school, technology is abundant. Teachers set homework that requires online research and tools and use apps to manage that homework.

Technology is always adapting and it’s here to stay, but many do not think about the safety risk in terms of cybersecurity. A recent study revealed a startling figure: 68% of parents never check their children’s online activity. And that online activity increases year after year.

For a lot of children, the online world is more real than the real world. It is crucial to our children’s wellbeing that we understand what they see online, what is out there, both good and bad, and how it impacts their physical and emotional wellbeing.

The problem, as many of us would eagerly admit, is that we feel we don’t really understand the online world. Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter are bewildering enough, without even mentioning 4chan and TOR. Furthermore, we don’t feel that we have the technical skills to navigate this complex landscape.

The good news is that it’s not that difficult to put certain technical controls in place to protect your children online. Far more importantly, the best thing you can do to protect your children is to talk to them; set clear boundaries for what and when they access online, but also to be there for your children when they make a mistake, or when they have gone too far. Isn’t that what parenting fundamentally comes down to?

In this comprehensive guide, we outlined eight areas that you should pay attention to as you navigate this complex online world. Depending on the ages of your children, not all of it will apply to you. Think of it not only as guidelines for what you should do now but what you should pay attention to as your children grow.

1.  Mobile phones and apps

According to consumer research by Influence Central, the average age that children get their first smartphone is 10 years old. Giving your child a smartphone comes with numerous benefits. A phone is an excellent safety tool; your child can use it to let you know they safely reached their destination, call you for a ride, or call in case of an emergency. You can also use the GPS on their phone to track their location. Knowing that you can always reach your child is a tremendous peace of mind for a parent.
Smartphones, however, can also be misused, and in some situations can make children vulnerable. Because smartphones are personal devices, we don’t often know what our children do on them, or how they use them.

If you’re considering giving your child a smartphone, it helps to have some clearly outlined guidelines in place beforehand, so everyone is on the same page. If your child already has a smartphone, it’s not too late to review the family rules. Demonstrate to them that having a smartphone is a big responsibility.

Implement smartphone rules with your child. Making sure your kids involve you on their phone activities with help keep them safe.

There are many precautions you can take to implement phone safety:
  • Have your kid sign a smartphone contract before you give them one. Print out a list of cellphone rules and stick it in a public place in your home.
  • Download parental controls. Parental control apps for younger children enable you to limit your child’s usage, determine their location, and monitor their calls and messages. Apps also allow you to shut off certain functions at different times. For example, disabling text messaging while driving.
  • Set limits when your child can use a smartphone and for how long each day.
  • Set a personal example for your child. Don’t bring your phone to the dinner table, and don’t text and drive.
  • Set up a charging station in a central location in your home. Phones should stay out of your child’s bedroom and they won’t be in use late at night.
  • You can also install an app to monitor your child’s activity. Keepers is one type of app that alerts parents about harmful, abusive, or suspicious messages, and it includes a tracking device to show your kid’s location in real time.

2.  Streaming content and smart TVs

We like to think back to a time when the whole family gathered around the TV to watch something wholesome together. (In reality, many of us probably had a TV in our rooms, and spent many hours watching TV without much guidance from our parents.)
That being said, streaming content has shot up in popularity, and there are more TV shows and movies available at our fingertips than ever before, much of it not particularly appropriate for kids.

There are, however, some great benefits of streaming services. Many feature great, educational children’s programming and documentaries. Most don’t show any ads, meaning that your kids won’t be bombarded with commercial messaging from all sides like they are when they watch regular TV. You can open up an entire world for your children with streaming content – the key is how you use it.

Most of the big streaming content providers have parental controls, some more robust than others. Netflix allows you to set up separate profiles for you and for your children.

Using these tools, you can ensure that your kids only have access to age-appropriate content. Because Netflix’s children’s menu features a different color scheme than the regular menu, you can easily see whether your kids access the content permitted to them or not. However, this doesn’t stop kids from moving over to your profile, so you still have to be vigilant.

iTunes and Apple TV allows parents to set rating levels for the content their children watch. By contrast, Amazon Prime features no parental controls, so the only thing to do is to logout of your account and not share the password.

All of these tools, however, do not replace having frequent conversations with your children about what they watch.

Monitor TV time infographic

Monitor TV time by limiting the number of hours they watch per day, incorporating parental settings, talking to your child about the content they watch, and spending TV time as a family.

3.  Gaming consoles and online games

According to the NPD group, 91% of American children aged two to 17 play video games. Gaming consoles have long been a focus of fear and concern for many parents. With so many games featuring violent or sexual content, it is important to be careful about the kinds of games your children play.

In addition, console games that have a multiplayer component, or games that are entirely based online, are open to abuse from other players. Many games allow players from all over the world to chat with one another, potentially exposing kids to harassment and cyberbullying. Kids may also form relationships with other players and may give away their personal information.

Games are also a great way for kids to develop a variety of skills. They help children develop problem-solving skills, learn how to commit to long-term goals, and how to work as part of a team. They can also be a great opportunity for family bonding. Luckily, most gaming consoles provide robust parental controls, so parents can monitor their children’s gameplay.

Monitor and encourage safe play infographic

Encourage your children to discuss the games they play. Make sure your child profile is set to private. Consider keeping the gaming console in a shared, social space. Study the age rating of the games. Use parental controls to set up profiles. Limit the type of people your child can speak to online.

4.  Social media

While the format has changed, parents have worried about their kids’ TV shows and video games for years. Social media, on the other hand, is a new worry to add to your plate.

Social media usage is now ubiquitous amongst US teens; 71% use more than one social platform. Children nowadays also spend an enormous amount of time on social media. A survey by the non-profit group Common Sense Media showed that 8 to 12 year-olds were online six hours per day, much of it on social platforms, and 13 to 18 year-olds a whopping nine hours!

According to a recent Harvard study, even though most social media platforms require users to be 13 years of age to sign up, 68% of parents surveyed had helped younger children set up an account.

Social media can be particularly addictive for tweens and teens. It also opens the door to a variety of different issues, like cyberbullying, inappropriate sharing, and talking to strangers (more on those below).

Access to social media is also central to teens’ developing social identity. It’s the way that they connect to their friends, and it can be a healthy way to hang out. The key is to figure out some boundaries so that it remains a positive experience.

Safe rules for social media infographic

Enforce a safe environment. Do not let your kids on social media until they’re old enough. Keep the computer in a public location. Limit the amount of time spent on social media. Block location access to all apps. Adjust the privacy settings. Monitor your child’s online activity.

5.  Cyberbullying

Our children’s lives have moved online. Unfortunately, their bullies have moved online too.

Cyberbullying is frequently in the news, with reports of teen suicides due to online harassment.

Cyberbullying occurs across all of the platforms we have outlined above, and it comes in many forms: spreading rumors and sending threatening messages via social media, texting, or email, pretending to be another child and posting embarrassing material under their name, forwarding private photos without consent, and generally posting online about another child with the intent to humiliate or degrade them.

Cyberbullying is particularly harmful because it is so public. In the past, if a kid was bullied on the playground, perhaps a few of his peers saw. Now, a child’s most private information can be splashed across the internet and is there permanently unless reported and taken down.

Cyberbullying can negatively affect the online reputation not only of the victim, but also of the perpetrator, and have a deep impact on that child’s future, including college admissions and employment.

It is also extremely persistent. If a child is the target of traditional bullying, his or her home is more often than not a place of refuge. Because digital platforms are constantly available, victims of cyberbullying struggle to find any relief.

It’s often very difficult to tell if your child is being bullied online. It happens online, so parents and teachers are less likely to overhear or notice it. Fewer than half of children bullied online tell their parents or another adult what they are going through, according to internet safety organization i-SAFE. In fact, according to a US government survey, 21% of children aged 12 to 18 have experienced bullying, and an estimated 16% were bullied online.

The best way to prevent cyberbullying or to stop it in its tracks is to be aware of your child’s behavior. A number of warning signs may present themselves.

A child who is bullied may shut down their social media account and open a new one. He or she may begin to avoid social situations, even if they enjoyed being social in the past. Victims (and perpetrators) of cyberbullying often hide their screen or device when other people come into their vicinity and become cagey about what they do online. They may become emotionally distressed or withdrawn.

Cyberbullying infographic

Talk to your child about cyberbullying.

6.  Privacy and information security

As parents, we are most concerned about the effect of the online world on our children’s emotional and physical wellbeing. Children are susceptible to information security threats that can cause financial harm. These are the exact same threats that adults face: malware and viruses, phishing scams, and identity theft.
The issue is children are far less experienced and are generally far more trusting than us cynical adults. To kids, sharing their personal details, like their full name or where they live, may not seem like such a big deal. They may even be tricked by a malicious third party into sharing your credit card details.

There are a number of ways that hackers and thieves can get information out of children. Free downloadable games, movies, or even ringtones that market themselves to children can place viruses onto your computer and steal your information.
Hackers posing as legitimate companies like Google send emails purporting to ask for your child’s password. Or, they may pose as one of your children’s friends.
What should you communicate to your child?
  • Have a discussion with your kids about the big threats online today. Make sure they know what a phishing attack and a disreputable games website looks like, so they know not to fall for these scams.
  • Make sure they keep all of their information private and that they never publish their full name, phone number, address, or school they attend in a public place.
  • Talk to your kids about passwords. Having a strong password is the first and best measure to prevent hacking and identity theft. Using a secure password generator like the one we created is great for this occasion, and trying out passwords together is a fun way of ensuring your child’s password is as strong as possible.
  • Tell your kids to avoid using public wifi – this is an easy way for hackers to get into their devices.
What you can do to create a safe environment:
  • Install a strong antivirus program on your home computer and the devices of all family members.
  • Think about installing a VPN on your computer. A VPN, or virtual private network, encrypts your connection and anonymizes your web browsing. This makes it far harder for hackers to access and steal your private information.
  • If you and your kids use a lot of different devices around the house, consider installing a VPN on your router. That way, all internet traffic that goes through the router will be protected, without having to install the VPN on every device.
  • Install an ad blocker so your children won’t have to face deceptive advertising that encourages them to download malicious programs onto your computer.
  • If your kids have smartphones, make sure that their security settings are set to maximum.

7.  Viewing inappropriate content online

Because the internet is so open and public, it is also a place where kids can stumble upon content intended for adults, content which they may find upsetting, confusing or distressing. “Inappropriate content” can mean many things to many different people, from swearing to violence to sexual nature.

It’s not easy, but eventually, you will need to have a conversation with your children about what they might see online. Many children don’t go to their parents when they see something they perhaps shouldn’t have seen, for fear that their parents will be angry at them, and take away their devices or internet access.

If your child comes to you with this type of issue, the best thing to do is to respond calmly and be open to discussion. If the content under discussion is sexual, your child will likely be embarrassed already, particularly when talking to their parents about these kinds of issues. Let them know you are there for them and are ready to answer any questions without judgment.

Young people may see sexual content online for all kinds of reasons. They may have seen it by mistake, a friend might have sent it to them, or they may have sought it out themselves out of natural curiosity.

It helps a great deal to talk to your kids honestly and frankly about sex, and a discussion about online pornography is a crucial part. A lot of research has shown that pornography can have a detrimental effect on young people, giving them distorted and unhealthy notions about sex. Pornography can also lead people to think of others as objects, rather than people with thoughts and feelings. At the same time, it’s totally normal to be curious about sex and relationships. This conversation is a great opportunity to direct your kids to positive resources about sexuality.

There are also a number of steps you can take to try to prevent your kids from being exposed to content they’re not ready for, like setting up parental controls on your internet connection. Remember, though, that technical fixes can’t replace open communication with your child.

Communicate with your child:
  • Let your kids know that they can always come to you if something is bothering them, or if they have questions about anything they have seen online.
  • Let them know that it’s totally normal to be curious about sex. Direct them to positive online resources like Brook and Thinkuknow. Thinkuknow is particularly good for younger children, and it includes different, age-appropriate sites for different age groups. You may find it helpful to look through the site together and discuss some of the issues.
Steps you can take to block inappropriate content:
  • Set filters to block inappropriate content like pornography. Your ISP (internet service provider) should provide free parental controls, as should most gaming consoles. These are usually pretty easy to set up.
  • Set Google to “safe” mode so that your children won’t inadvertently see inappropriate content in search results.
  • Install an ad blocker to prevent viruses that might have inappropriate content.

8.  Online predators

In our last section, we take a look at the darkest and scariest online threat of all: online child predators. According to the US Department of Justice, 13% of young people with internet access have been the victims of unwanted sexual advances, and one in 25 children have been solicited for offline contact. 

Predators engage in a practice called “grooming”. In other words, they attempt to form a relationship with a child with the intention of latter abusing them.

The internet has made life a lot easier for child predators. Predators target their victims through any and all online mediums: social media, email, text messages, and more. By far the most common method, however, is via an online chatroom: 76% of online encounters with sexual predators begin in a chat room.

13% of kids with internet access are victims of sexual advances

Predators often create multiple online identities, posing as children to trick kids into talking to them. They discover as much as they can about the children they are targeting by researching those children through their social media profiles, and what they have posted on chatrooms.

They may contact a number of children at once but tend to concentrate their efforts on the most vulnerable. These predators aren’t satisfied with merely chatting with children online. They frequently trick or coerce their victims into online sexual activity, via webcam or by sending sexual images. They may also attempt to meet and abuse their victims in person.

It’s not always easy to tell if a child is being groomed, particularly because most keep it a secret from their parents. There are a number of warning signs: children who are being groomed by predators may become very secretive because the predator often threatens the child not to share information with their parents or friends. Children can also become sad and withdrawn, distracted, and have sudden mood swings. It is absolutely crucial to let your child know that you are there for them and that they can talk to you about anything.

What should you communicate to your child?
  • Have a discussion with your child about the risks of online predators. Make sure they know to be careful about who they talk to online, and not to share any personal information with strangers.
  • Tell your kids that they can come to you with any problem, no matter what it is.
  • Think about working through some educational content with your children relating to this topic, like the excellent videos at Thinkuknow.
  • If you think that your child is at risk, seek support from their school, a social worker, and the police.


There are lots of different technical tools available out there to help keep your kids safe online. These vary from VPNs and antivirus software to internet filters and parental controls. But none of these are really enough to help keep your child safe.
As we’ve repeated over and over in this guide, the key isn’t mastering a set of complicated technical tools. (In fact, most are very easy to set up, so don’t let a lack of technical ability hold you back). It also doesn’t mean you have to master the latest internet fad every time one pops up – believe us, you will never keep up!

The far more important, but also far more difficult task, is to have frequent, open and honest discussions with your children about their lives. Remember, internet companies, social media networks, gaming providers, and everyone else in the online space may be able to help you set content limits, but they don’t necessarily have your child’s best interests at heart.

The very best person to keep your child safe online is you. Talking about how to stay safe on the internet is an excellent conduit to build a trusting and positive relationship with your child.

Internet safety needs to be a priority for every parent and caregiver. If you have found this guide useful, consider sharing it with friends and family via Facebook and Twitter.

Feel free to share and copy this post or parts of it to your site, blog, or social networks. All we ask is that you attribute it to us. We want to keep kids safe, and your help to spread the word is important.  


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Rude vs. Mean vs Bullying: An Excellent Article With Resources

A Mighty Girl
Signe Whitson, a child and adolescent therapist, has a timely message for parents and educators: “there is a real need to draw a distinction between behavior that is rude, behavior that is mean and behavior that is characteristic of bullying.”In a HuffPost article, she clarifies the way she identifies the difference and asks adults to remember that distinguishing between them allows “teachers, school administrators, police, youth workers, parents and kids all know what to pay attention to and when to intervene.”
Whitson’s article was prompted by an encounter with a parent, who told her, “Last week, my daughter was bullied really badly after school!" and then went on to describe what Whitson characterized as a benign encounter between playful children throwing leaves. She writes, “While I always want to be careful not to minimize anyone's experience... if kids and parents improperly classify rudeness and mean behavior as bullying -- whether to simply make conversation or to bring attention to their short-term discomfort -- we all run the risk of becoming so sick and tired of hearing the word that this actual life-and-death issue among young people loses its urgency as quickly as it rose to prominence."
So how does Whitson define the differences? Rude, she says, is “[i]nadvertently saying or doing something that hurts someone else.” In children this takes the form of social errors like “burping in someone's face, jumping ahead in line, bragging about achieving the highest grade or even throwing a crushed up pile of leaves in someone's face.” The critical factor? “Incidents of rudeness are usually spontaneous, unplanned inconsideration, based on thoughtlessness, poor manners or narcissism, but not meant to actually hurt someone.”
Being mean involves “purposefully saying or doing something to hurt someone once (or maybe twice).” Unlike unthinking rudeness, “mean behavior very much aims to hurt or depreciate someone….Very often, mean behavior in kids is motivated by angry feelings and/or the misguided goal of propping themselves up in comparison to the person they are putting down.” And while Whitson agrees that both rudeness and mean behavior require correction, they are “different from bullying in important ways that should be understood and differentiated when it comes to intervention.”
Bullying is “intentionally aggressive behavior, repeated over time, that involves an imbalance of power….Kids who bully say or do something intentionally hurtful to others and they keep doing it, with no sense of regret or remorse -- even when targets of bullying show or express their hurt or tell the aggressors to stop.” Whitson gives examples of multiple kinds of bullying, including physical and verbal aggression, relational aggression (like social exclusion, hazing, or rumor spreading), and cyberbullying. The key aspect to all of them is the ongoing nature of the behavior, which leaves the victims feeling powerless and fearful.
Whitson is pleased that, in the past few years, “Americans have collectively paid attention to the issue of bullying like never before; millions of school children have been given a voice, 49 states in the U.S. have passed anti-bullying legislation, and thousands of adults have been trained in important strategies to keep kids safe and dignified in schools and communities.” As we continue to improve our response to bullying, she asks all adults who interact with children to remember that “a child's future may depend on a non-jaded adult's ability to discern between rudeness at the bus stop and life-altering bullying.”
Signe Whitson is the author of the bullying prevention book for parents and educators, "8 Keys to End Bullying: Strategies for Parents & Schools" ( -- and an excellent guide for kids ages 8 to 12, "The 8 Keys to End Bullying Activity Book for Kids & Tweens" (…)
For a helpful parenting book focused on relational aggression and bullying among young girls, we highly recommend “Little Girls Can Be Mean: Four Steps to Bully-Proof Girls in the Early Grades” at
For a fantastic resource for children that addresses bullying of all types and helps kids learn how to stand up for themselves and others in a positive, productive manner, we recommend "Stand Up for Yourself and Your Friends" for ages 7 to 12 at…
For many bullying prevention books for children in preschool and early elementary school, check out our blog post, "The End of Bullying Begins With Me": Bullying Prevention Books for Young Children," at
For books on this topic for tweens and teens, check out our recommendations in "Taking a Stand Against Bullying: Bullying Prevention Books for Tweens and Teens" at
And, for books to help teach children how to be a good friend, check out our blog post: “Making and Keeping Friends: 50 Mighty Girl Books About Friendship” at

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

When Bad Things Happen: Tips for Parents and Educators


When Bad Things Happen

Tips for parents and educators on talking to kids about the unthinkable and inevitable events in life

April 16, 2015
A small girl holds onto a teddy bear
How might you convince your 8-year-old that it’s safe to return to school the day after a bomb scare? Or persuade a slightly older child that their risk of contracting Ebola is slim to none, despite what they’ve heard from peers at school?
Worse yet, how do you assuage a child’s fears in the wake of a horrific event like the Boston Marathon bombing — the kind of story that dominates local news and traumatizes not just children but entire communities? 
“These can be complicated, tough conversations to have, but they’re essential,” says psychologist Richard Weissbourd, a senior lecturer at HGSE and HKS and co-director of the Making Caring Commonproject.
Our 24/7 news culture — in conjunction with easily accessible iPads, cell phones, and televisions — provides a window to events that both children and adults grapple to understand. And when bad things happen on the world’s stage, such as the attacks of September 11 or the Marathon bombing, Weissbourd says it is very natural and healthy for children to bring up questions at home or in the classroom.
“I think when events happen like the Marathon bombing, children, like the rest of us, need to wrap their minds around it,” says Weissbourd. “They’re seeing images and hearing stories that are hard to absorb.”
Decisions about what to say, and what not to say, should be guided by a child’s developmental age, says Weissbourd. Among his tips for parents and educators:
  1. It’s important to listen to children to begin to understand how they understand the trauma. “What you’re scared about, as an adult, may not be what they’re scared about … and this is likely to be different for children at different developmental ages.” In a classroom setting, Weissbourd says having a school therapist present can also prove helpful.
  2. Prepare to answer the “why” questions that will inevitably come. Weissbourd says children are inclined to ask, for example, “Why did these Marathon bombers do this?” They’re owed an explanation, he says, but the answer should be tailored to a child’s age. “It’s hard for a 4- or 7-year-old to understand terrorism, but an adolescent can have that conversation. For a 7-year-old, you might say, ‘There are bad people in the world, but there are lots of people who are protecting us from bad people.’” Weissbourd's message is further reinforced within parenting resources available on the Mr. Rogers website, including a quote from the late Fred Rogers: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of  ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.” 
  3. Protect your child from seeing traumatic visual images over and over again. “You don’t want your child to get re-triggered,” says Weissbourd, mentioning the extensive, recurrent footage after 9/11 of the airplanes hitting the World Trade Center in New York City. This goes for adults, too, who should also “protect themselves from being re-traumatized.”
  4. Develop a safety plan with your child, or for your classroom. Weissbourd uses the example of the Boston Marathon bombing and its potential impacts. “If a child is scared about being in crowds or being in downtown Boston, try to think about how a child might do these things and still be safe.” Among his suggestions: talk to the child about safety in groups, or provide a phone number to call should they need encouragement when facing a situation that may trigger fears.
  5. Self-soothing techniques can pay off in dividends. “If kids are feeling really stressed and worked up, deep breathing, getting exercise, listening to music and other strategies for calming down and managing anxiety can really help,” says Weissbourd.
  6. Modeling how you manage through tough times also helps to build resilience in children. “Your kids or your students will watch how you respond to scary events, and they take cues from you,” says Weissbourd, “So often events that are scary for kids are scary for adults, too. As parents and educators, we also have to take care of ourselves.”
What should you not say? Weissbourd says the guiding principle is to talk to kids in ways they understand, while being careful to not provide too much detail to a younger child.
“When children can understand why, when they can make a scary event coherent, they are better able to trust again,” says Weissbourd. “Spend some time thinking — and talk to other adults you trust — about how to talk to your child in a way that will help them understand and make sense of events that may otherwise feel unpredictable and overwhelming.”

Additional Resources

Additional Reading by Richard Weissbourd

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Becoming a School Leader by Lesley Alum, Sarah Reeves Young, '05


Becoming a School Leader

By Sarah Reeves Young, 


Find ideas for expanding your professional development and career from a Lesley alum who is now a state-level education coordinator.

How to Have an Impact Beyond Your Classroom

You’re doing great work in your classroom, and that can often be enough. But expanding your reach can give you an opportunity to have a greater impact, both on your classroom and your career.
Here are some ideas on how to become a school or educational leader, based on the work of Lesley alum Sarah Reeves Young ’05, current Digital Teaching and Learning Coordinator for the Utah State Office of Education.
  • Take pride in your classroom. Become a confident teacher by doing self-assessments on your lessons, finding good teachers at your school, and asking for help when you need it. This allows you to hone your skills and, therefore, your confidence.
  • Become a coach, or perform community service. Coaching (both sports and academics) and community services allows you to get to know students, other teacher and coaches, and community members.
  • Volunteer for committees. Let your lead teacher, principal, or department chairs know you are interested in helping. Getting to know how a school operates can be valuable knowledge.
  • Professional development. In your professional life, model the learning and risks that you ask of your students. Don’t let your development stop with required events—search for events and opportunities that interest you.

    Some good sources of PD are teacher association groups (e.g., National Council of Teacher of Mathematics, National Council of Teachers of English, or National Science Teachers Association); listservs for specific content areas (e.g., American Institute of Physics, Folger Shakespeare Library); libraries, zoos, and art institutes; and research institutions. Sign up for their Facebook or other social media sites, so you get news of new opportunities.
  • Communicate what you've learned. When you've completed professional development activities, educate others in your school. Make a short presentation at a faculty meeting or professional development day. See if you can present at the district or state level.

    If you’re nervous as a first-time presenter, present with someone else, use handouts, and ask those in the audience to share their ideas and feedback. You'll become more comfortable as you do more.
  • Share with a wider audience. Write for national journals and trade magazines; publish curriculum on a personal website or on social media; offer your classroom for observation by new student teachers; connect with your state’s curriculum development office.
  • Apply for opportunities. Put yourself out there for experiences, even those you might think are beyond your reach: scholarships and grants, conferences, awards, employment.

What Kinds of Leadership Positions Exist for Teachers?

Young suggests exploring some of the following:
  • Within your or another school system: Positions such as department chair, curriculum chair, lead or mentor teacher, academic coach, dean of students, or principal
  • At the district or state level: Positions within your district's or state’s department of education
  • In higher education: Methods professor
  • For the information education and industry: Educational policy input and educational programming

Final Thoughts

Sit down and make a professional development plan with goals for your classroom, your own learning and professional development, and ways to move into leadership positions. Create a professional learning network with colleagues and other people in your profession, both in person and through online sites such as LinkedIn. Get business cards made. Create opportunities!
Alumna Sarah Reeves Young, standing outside by school building
Sarah Reeves Young ’05
Prior to working for the Utah State Office of Education in her current role, Sarah Reeves Young was the state’s K-12 STEM Liaison and science coordinator. She was selected to be the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow the National Science Foundation 2011-2012. She is also the author of Gourmet Lab: The Scientific Principles Behind Your Favorite Foods. She graduated from the Master of Education in Middle School Education at Lesley.

When Students are Traumatized, Teachers are, too

From the great folks at Link to Edutopia

When Students Are Traumatized, Teachers Are Too

Trauma in students’ lives takes an emotional and physical toll on teachers as well. Experts weigh in on the best ways to cope.
Alysia Ferguson Garcia remembers the day two years ago that ended in her making a call to Child Protective Services. One of her students walked into drama class with what Garcia thought of as a “bad attitude” and refused to participate in a script reading.
“I don’t care if you’ve had a bad day,” Garcia remembers saying in frustration. “You still have to do some work.”
In the middle of class, the student offered an explanation for her behavior: Her mom’s boyfriend had been sexually abusing her. After the shock passed, the incident provided an opportunity for the class—and Garcia—to provide the student with comfort, and to cry.

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When Garcia first started teaching, she wasn’t expecting the stories her students would share of physical and sexual abuse, hunger, violence, and suicide. The stories seemed to haunt her all the way home, she says, recalling nightmares and sleepless nights spent worrying about her students. They also dredged up deep-seated memories of her own experiences with abuse.
“When you’re learning to be a teacher, you think it’s just about lesson plans, curriculum, and seating charts,” said Garcia. “I was blindsided by the emotional aspect of teaching—I didn’t know how to handle it. I was hurt by my students’ pain, and it was hard for me to leave that behind when I went home.”


35% of children have experienced more than one adverse childhood experience.
Data shows that more than half of all U.S. children have experienced some kind of trauma in the form of abuse, neglect, violence, or challenging household circumstances—and 35 percent of children have experienced more than one type of traumatic event, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can have impacts that extend far beyond childhood, including higher risks for alcoholism, liver disease, suicide, and other health problems later in life.
Trauma in children often manifests outwardly, affecting kids’ relationships and interactions. In schools, the signs of trauma may be seen in a student acting out in class, or they could be more subtle—like failure to make eye contact or repeatedly tapping a foot. (To learn more about how trauma impacts students, read “Brains in Pain Cannot Learn!”)
For teachers, who are directly exposed to a large number of young people with trauma in their work, a secondary type of trauma, known as vicarious trauma, is a big risk. Sometimes called the “cost of caring,” vicarious trauma can result from “hearing [people’s] trauma stories and becom[ing] witnesses to the pain, fear, and terror that trauma survivors have endured,” according to the American Counseling Association.
“Being a teacher is a stressful enough job, but teachers are now responsible for a lot more things than just providing education,” says LeAnn Keck, a manager at Trauma Smart, an organization that partners with schools and early childhood programs to help children and the adults in their lives navigate trauma. “It seems like teachers have in some ways become case workers. They get to know about their students’ lives and the needs of their families, and with that can come secondary trauma.”
When you’re learning to be a teacher, you think it’s just about lesson plans, curriculum, and seating charts. I was blindsided by the emotional aspect of teaching—I didn’t know how to handle it.
Vicarious trauma affects teachers’ brains in much the same way that it affects their students’: The brain emits a fear response, releasing excessive cortisol and adrenaline that can increase heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration, and release a flood of emotions. This biological response can manifest in mental and physical symptoms such as anger and headaches, or workplace behaviors like missing meetings, lateness, or avoiding certain students, say experts.
Yet many teachers are never explicitly taught how to help students who have experienced trauma, let alone address the toll it takes on their own health and personal lives. We reached out to trauma-informed experts and educators around the country to get their recommendations for in-the-moment coping strategies and preventative measures to help teachers process vicarious trauma. We share their tips below.


Garcia, now a teacher of eight years, says she’s found that confiding in others—either a therapist, her boyfriend, or colleagues—helps her process students’ trauma and her own emotions. 
Connecting with colleagues to talk through and process experiences can be invaluable for teachers coping with secondary trauma, according to Micere Keels, an associate professor at the University of Chicago and founder of the TREP Project, a trauma-informed curriculum for urban teachers.
“Reducing professional isolation is critical,” said Keels. “It allows educators to see that others are struggling with the same issues, prevents the feeling that one’s struggles are due to incompetence, and makes one aware of alternative strategies for working with students exhibiting challenging behavior.”
It doesn’t serve anybody to pretend that we’re teacher-bots with no emotions, which I think sometimes teachers feel like they have to be.
Finding a wellness-accountability buddy—a peer who agrees to support and keep you accountable to your wellness goals—or using a professional learning community as a space to check in with other teachers are also ways to get that support, offers Alex Shevrin, a former school leader and teacher at Centerpoint School, a trauma-informed high school in Vermont that institutes school-wide practices aimed at addressing students’ underlying emotional needs.
At Centerpoint, time for a monthly wellness group—where teachers, administrators, and social workers support each other on their personal wellness goals like exercising and creating work-life balance—is built into the professional development schedule. Staff also use in-service time to focus on taking care of their health together, by hiking, biking, going to the gym, or even learning to knit.
“If I had one wish for every school in the country, it would be that they made time for teachers to really sit down and talk about how they’re feeling in the work,” said Shevrin. “It doesn’t serve anybody to pretend that we’re teacher-bots with no emotions, which I think sometimes teachers feel like they have to be.”


Students affected by trauma can have combative personalities and learn which buttons to press to upset you in class, says Garcia. When a student acts out in class, Garcia takes a few deep breaths, drinks coffee, or goes to a different part of the classroom to help another student.
“If I get upset, it never goes anywhere,” Garcia said. “When you try to have a battle in class, you automatically lose as the teacher.”
That’s a good approach, says Keck, who suggests developing proactive coping strategies to address stressful situations in advance. A strategy may be counting to five, visualizing a calming place, or responding with an opposite action—like talking to a student quietly when you want to yell. Waiting until you’re actually in a stressful situation means you’re likely to overreact or to say or do something unhelpful.
Keck also recommends mapping out your school day and taking note of the times of day you feel most stressed, and then integrating scheduled coping strategies into your daily routine. If you feel stressed when students start to lose focus midday, for example, guide your students in a quick group stretch and some deep breathing to shift energy before getting back to work.
“Look at your schedule. If you see a stressful pattern, don’t wait for it to happen. Don’t wait to feel overwhelmed and stressed,” urges Keck.
The important part is customizing the strategy to meet your needs.
Garcia applies this strategy when she’s at home. She knows that after she puts her daughter to sleep, the worry for her students creeps in—so she makes sure to take time for  things she enjoys, like watching movies and playing video games.
While many teachers say they don’t have time for self-care, experts insist that it’s necessary to develop long-term self-care practices—and stick to them—to build up your overall well-being and resilience. These self-care activities could be going for a walk, reading, watching a movie, practicing mindfulness, or talking with a friend—whatever invigorates you.
© Mikhail
Some teachers incorporate walking into their self-care routine.


It can be hard to leave work at work, but to address vicarious trauma, teachers need to create clear boundaries between work and home life. Part of that can be developing a ritual or routine that signifies the end of a work day, either before you head home, on the way home, or at home.
“For me, sometimes it’s just as simple as turning off my work phone before I go into my house,” Shevrin says. “I hear the sound of my phone turning off and then I know that I’m home."
After an emotionally difficult day, many teachers will write about their experiences before they leave, or sit down with a colleague to help process it, Keck told us.
Others organize their desk or create a to-do list for the next workday so they can let go of worry before heading home. While driving home, teachers listen to audiobooks, call a friend, or sit in silence to decompress. A ritual could even be as simple as changing clothes or taking a bath once you get home.
For Garcia, it’s about putting her daughter’s needs first and making the most of the time she has with her.
“It’s very easy to get overwhelmed and let the job consume you. But teaching is about balance,” she said. “When I come home, I try to just focus on my kid so she gets as much of me as she can. It’s not always easy, but I’ve learned to put my life and my daughter’s life first.”