Attention Parents: MamaBear is an App You Need to Check Out

Raising children these days exposes parents to so many more challenges than the ones faced by our parents. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying it is more difficult. I’m just saying it is different. While we face so many challenges that have arisen due to the increase in technology, we have also gained a number of tools that can make things easier…if we know what they are and how to use them. Today, I’m going to introduce you to one that I think is amazing.

Let me begin by saying that when it comes to parenting, I don’t mind being the bad guy. My three children are 13, 11, and 5. The 13 year old is the only one with a phone (and at this point, the only one who spends much time away from us). We made it clear to her that we would monitor her phone – not because we didn’t trust her, but because we didn’t trust others.

The app I am talking about is called MamaBear. If you would like to know where your child is without having to call or text and ask….if you are concerned about what is happening on his or her social media accounts…if your child just started driving and you want to make sure he or she is not speeding…if your child rides with other teens and you want to make sure they are not driving too fast with your child into the car…if there is a particular place you want to make sure your child does not go…if you just want to know when your child arrives safely at school each day and you know they won’t remember to text you…this is the app for you. If you are worried about offending your child, this is not.

I have the feeling that most teens would be a little aggravated if you told them you were installing this app on their phone. Luckily mine was not, but let me be clear – I would’ve put it on her phone even if she was. I take this parenting thing seriously, and my number one priority is her safety.

I first learned of this app from my brother. He lives in Knoxville, and his son drives himself and his brother to school each day. I was at their house for a visit, and my brother received a text telling him that his son had arrived at school. I asked how he got the text, and he explained the basics of his app to me. I knew right away that I had to have it.

Let me explain some of the awesome features. First, you can view on a map where your child is at all times. The map is like Google maps – you can zoom in and view a basic map, or a satellite or hybrid view. You can then name the place as a “safe place” and receive alerts when your child arrives at or departs from the place. You can also send a message to your child using the app. When he or she replies, it will give you the street name of his or her location. I love the idea that I can click the app at any time and see exactly where my child is.

The app also gives you the ability to monitor quite a few social media accounts. It can monitor Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can have it alert you if your child adds friends/followers, if anyone tags or mentions them, if they upload a photo, and you can list restricted words to watch for and receive an alert if they mention any of those words in a post. If your child has an android phone, you can even use it to monitor texts.

The last feature that I am super excited about is the driving feature. You can set a speed limit for your child (whether they are the driver or a passenger with someone else driving) and receive alerts anytime they exceed that speed limit.

I realize this app is not for everyone. Many of you will feel like this is an invasion of your child’s privacy and that is certainly your decision. We each get to approach this parenting thing in the way that we feel works best for us.  I am simply sharing this information for the other parents like me who would find this useful. Ithis a free app, so if you think this might be something you would like, go check it out on the App Store.

If you already use it, let me know what you think. Do any of you use a different app that has similar features? I would love to hear what others are out there and what you think of them.

 

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What Should Kids Learn in School?

 If you have children, have you ever  thought about what you would like for them to learn before leaving high school? That sounds silly, doesn’t it? Of course in the beginning you want them to learn the alphabet and numbers. You want them to learn to write their names. Later, you want them to learn their colors and eventually how to read. You want them to learn the rules of grammar and how to write neatly, and you also want them to learn how to “do math” well. Finally, throw in a little science and history/government for good measure. You might even say that you’d also like for your kids to learn to appreciate good literature or to learn basic business skills or to study the Bible. Few of your lists would offer many more details than those (unless you knew that someone would later critique your list), but I think this is a question that more parents need to actually sit down and ponder.

If you don’t know exactly what you want your children to learn, by which standards will you evaluate their learning experiences once they have finished? I have taught for enough years to know that, if questioned, almost every parent out there would gladly offer his or her opinion of the school system his or her child attends. I would like to better understand the criteria on which the schools are being judged by the public. I teach in Mississippi, and in our state, we have a teacher evaluation tool called M-STAR. It is a 20 page rubric by which teachers are evaluated twice per year. Here is a brochure, produced by the Mississippi Department of Education, outlining the basics of M-STAR. The goal of M-STAR was to increase teacher performance and student learning. This brings me back to the question I started with, however. What do parents want their children to learn?

As a teacher, I want to make a difference in the lives of the students in my school. Most teachers have this goal. However, I believe that in order to make a difference, we have to teach much more than what is found in the curriculum. The things that students learn from observation will often carry much more weight in their lives than the things on which they are tested while in school.  This is where I think teachers make their greatest impacts upon students’ lives.

Have you ever noticed how a negative attitude can spread like a forest fire? Imagine a classroom full of smiling, happy faces. One student is missing, however. Johnny is running late today. A few minutes pass with pleasant conversation as the teacher begins the lesson. Suddenly, the door opens abruptly, slamming into the wall with such force that the Parts of Speech poster is knocked to the floor. Sally lets out a quick scream and the flying poster hits Susie in the leg, causing her to yell at Johnny. He stomps to his desk, slamming his bag onto it so hard that it tips forward. Billy, sitting in front of Johnny, turns to yell at him. At this point, the room has turned to chaos. The teacher has a choice… she can get angry and escalate the situation, or she can remain calm and diffuse it. The students are all waiting for her response, and although it is not in the curriculum, this is a teaching moment.

Students observe teachers’ attitudes toward their peers and administration, as well. If teachers constantly complain about those around them, the students will begin to view this as acceptable workplace behavior, but when the teachers continue to “put on a happy face” no matter the situation, we can teach a valuable lesson that will help our students in their future careers. Being able to adapt to changing management and workplace standards is a necessary skill in almost any profession. We, as teachers, have a great opportunity to model appropriate behavior for our students.

When we are faced with new principals, changing testing requirements, updated teacher evaluation models, and all the other curveballs that continue to be thrown our way, reacting in a positive manner (at least in front of the students) is an excellent way to teach them to deal with adverse situations in life. Students need to learn to coexist peacefully with people who are not necessarily “like” them. The world, just like our workplaces, is filled with people with differing opinions and lifestyles, and the better we are at getting along with one another, the more peaceful it will be.

Learning the curriculum is important, as is performing well on tests – especially if a student’s path is leading him to college. Higher grades and higher test scores certainly lead to more scholarship money and opportunities for acceptance to “better” schools. Students definitely need to learn to read and write, to perform a variety of mathematical operations, to understand how the body works and the science behind the world surrounding us, and to understand the ways in which our government is run and the historical path which led us here. These are not the only lessons students should walk out of the doors of high school with, however. Of equal importance are all the other things that are not in the curriculum.

In my next post, I will share with you twenty-five things that are not in the curriculum that I hope I am teaching my students, but in the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts on what you think children should learn in school.