It’s always nice to have a week off, and my kids are just as excited as anyone might be about the possibility of sleeping late, eating cereal in front of morning cartoons, and fighting each other for computer time. Truth be told, I’m excited about all of these possibilities as well, but my “break” will come to an end tomorrow morning. I love working when schools are out of session. In my profession, this means a quiet office, slow email, and plenty of time to catch up. I’m needing this….at work and at home lately too.
My daughter Laura is devoting some of her break time to blogging. As some of you know, Laura blogs at Twenty Five Days to Make a Difference. This online service project was inspired by the New York State PTA Reflections contest, which Laura has tried to enter every year. This year’s theme was “I can make a difference”, and Laura chose to address that theme by doing a good deed a day and blogging about it throughout the month of December in memory of her grandfather, who passed away several years ago now.
When Laura said she wanted to blog about this, I was thrilled. When her blog attracted a thousand visitors within the space of twenty four hours? I was not so thrilled, I must admit. I was rather terrified, actually. But! We didn’t take the blog down. Instead, we put a sitemeter up, I began moderating all of her comments, and we began thinking carefully about the sorts of photos we wanted to put up there, if any. Five months and over 26,000 visitors later? We haven’t had a single inappropriate comment or any other problem. In fact, all of Laura’s experiences have been incredibly positive, and her experiences relevant to this project, on and off line, have been invaluable.
I guess you could say that Laura’s blog has changed our lives in some fairly significant ways. Who expected that to happen? Certainly not us.
After the holidays were over, Laura decided that she wanted to focus on a different charity each month. She chose causes that do not get a significant amount of attention, and she decided that her efforts would really be about service rather than fundraising. Still, Laura has already raised over $800 for various local charities. She’s also attended a variety of events, headed up a pajama and book drive, and provided other services to these organizations as well.
When she asked if she could spend all year supporting these groups? My heart began to race. I envisioned complete madness and insane schedules. It hasn’t been that way at all, though. The net makes it easier to do the work, to spread the word, and to find support from other like-minded folks. Laura’s favorite part about blogging is the way that it connects her to people she has grown to adore. I think of people like Sylvia Nadler and Michelle Moore at Compass House, who make her feel welcome and needed. I also think of Roger Carr and Beth Kanter, who encourage her tiny efforts, include her in their growing online network, and who serve as tremendous examples for her as well. I also think of my sister in law, who asked Laura to speak to her Confirmation class early this year. It was inspiring to watch this group of kids begin to understand exactly how the internet can be used to serve others.
Tomorrow, Laura will be taking part in her very first Skype session with students from Florida. Andrea Hernandez has encouraged her students to make a difference as well, and Laura is beyond thrilled to have connected to all of the kids from 17 Chances to Help. As her mom, I’m really excited to see her connecting with other kids in valuable ways. As an educator who works to promote the use of technology in classrooms, it has been beyond eye-opening for me to see how children can use the web to promote important values and create a network around good things.
Laura is teetering on the edge of adolesence. She’s already texting her friends and obsessed with instant messenger. I know that she might eventually do some things online that will have her dad and I less than pleased. Just last week, she walked to school without permission, blatantly disobeying us in a big way for the very first time. The fun has already begun, and I’m not looking forward to losing my eager-to-please first-born to the turbulence of teenage angst. But for now, I’m taking comfort in the fact that her first exposure to the net was for all of the right reasons, and I’m hoping that this frame of reference will continue to be one that she works from.
I have learned so much.