Playing With Fire: Social Media and Communication

photo credit: stayinsavannah.com

photo credit: stayinsavannah.com

Fire.

We’re drawn to it, aren’t we? It’s warm, inviting, and peaceful. It casts a soft glow. We use it for toasting marshmallows and warming our toes after sledding. Fire can help us send signals for help and warning.  It refines and heats and draws us together.

And it’s dangerous. It can spread rapidly, causing destruction and injury and loss.

photo credit: fatwallet.com

photo credit: fatwallet.com

It occurs to me that social media is rather like fire.

We can use it to warm others–and warn others. It can draw us together around a cause, or just for fun. It can connect us.

And, just like fire, it can be dangerous. It can spread rapidly, causing destruction and injury and loss.

Perhaps the most dangerous part is that we can say things online we might not say face-to-face. The internet gives us an imaginary sense of security. But just like tossing a match onto a pile of dry leaves, a fire can start quickly, causing scars that will never, ever heal. And sadly, no smoke detector will warn others, and even copious amounts of water won’t be able to drown the damage.

Today, I’m asking myself, “Will my words cast a warm glow, or will they be a weapon of mass destruction?”

After all, it only takes a spark to get a fire going…

What kind of fire am I building with my words?

photo credit: blog.kevineikenberry.com

photo credit: blog.kevineikenberry.com

 

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“Safety Slims:” a tool for traveling!

Hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving! I’m hoping to post more regularly now…I have missed the back-and-forth of blogging (and I’ve missed all of you!)

I want to share a handy little tool with you today…Those of us who work with kids who have disabilities in school and in church know that safety is critically important for ALL kids. For children who have communication, behavioral, emotional or health issues, however, we often need to plan proactively to ensure safety…especially when we take our show on the road! Traveling with kids requires us to think through the logistics of managing these needs on the road. We want to include students in retreats, field trips and service projects to the greatest extent appropriate; the extra care we take contributes to increased participation.

And so I’ve hopefully made this a bit easier by developing “Safety Slims.”

These safety cards were created using a Word bookmark template. They can be printed and laminated. If multiple kids have special needs, these can be hold-punched and held together with a vocabulary ring. One leader can hold these in a backpack or purse (and it’s always wise to have a duplicate set kept in the bus or retreat center…just in case!) Therefore, in case of emergency, all of the critical information is easily accessible. Hopefully this will lighten the load…these safety cards are easier to carry than large folders of information.

A couple of notes:

  • Be sure to get permission from parents when using any photograph of their children
  • Take care when sharing this information with volunteers and staff. Confidentiality is so critical to building a trusting relationship with kids and families. Be certain that safety information is shared on the foundation of confidentiality and respect.
  • Modify the template to fit the needs of your church, school, program and individual kids! This is just one way to share information…not the only way!
  • Download the template here: SafetySlims

Hope this is helpful, friends!

Be safe…
~Katie

What’s in a Name? {Why greeting students matters in a BIG way}

This summer, I’ve been working with a church staff on their inclusion efforts. It has been a joy to watch the staff and volunteers in action. They plan carefully, arrange the classrooms effectively, and redirect the students in positive ways. As their programs grow, I know they will be ready to include learners with diverse strengths and needs.

As I observed on my first Sunday there, I enjoyed watching the kids bound into their rooms enthusiastically. The hallways were full, and, as is often the case with Sunday mornings, the pace was quick between services. Nevertheless, the Director of Children’s Ministry remained placid. She checked in with each volunteer, helped with administrative tasks, prepared for her large group lesson, and communicated with other staff. However, none of this interfered with what was obviously the most important: Greeting the children.

I watched in amazement as she greeted every single child by name. “Good morning, Michael! It’s great to see you today, Tiara! I’m so glad you’re here, Kieran!” Every greeting–just like every child–was unique. As the students passed, she was able to tell me a bit about them. She knew their likes and dislikes, strengths and needs. She shared information about their families, her fondness for all of them evident in her warm smile. She spoke about their faith development and their progress.

This reminded me of Responsive Classroom’s Morning Meeting. One of the basic components is a greeting. Several schools in which I work use this program, which is designed to create a strong classroom culture. One colleague reflected, “By the end of morning meeting, every single child has heard his or her name spoken aloud. That sends a powerful message that each individual matters to the group.” Clearly, this Children’s Ministry Director understands the importance of this.

In addition, she is modeling something even greater for the students in her program. In Isaiah 43, we hear the Lord say,

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are mine…
you are precious and honored in my sight…because I love you…

By calling her students by name, she models for them the Father’s love.

As I got ready to leave, one of the students with multiple special needs smiled at me, and said, “Goodbye, Katie!”

The Children’s Ministry Director looked surprised. As we walked away, she said, “I can’t believe she remembered  your name! That is really hard for her!”

I wasn’t all that surprised, though. I smiled at the Director, thinking,
This child learned it from her…
who learned it from Him.

He knows our names!
~Katie