On not blogging on Bieber

Last week, our family went to New York. It was the first time our children had visited the city, and it was thrilling to imagine showing them the highlights of culture, attractions, and food. In the taxi from the airport, we learned that Justin Bieber was in town. Jacob will tell you that he wanted nothing to do with it, but after some discussion, we all agreed that we had to do this – we were in New York after all. The Kee family caught a case of “Bieber Fever”.

Bieber was at Macy’s promoting his new perfume (correct: not cologne, but perfume) and he was to greet the crowd at 2:00 pm. So along with over 2000 other fans, we stood and waited – twice it rained – for over two hours. After hour one, Kevin and I gave each other those ‘what are we doing here?’ glances, but it was an adventure only to be had in New York, and the crowd’s excitement grew to be contagious.

As you may have heard in the news, Bieber did come out of the store, but it lasted less than a minute. Kathleen and Jacob were in the front row and saw the “attack”, which was really an undercover cop trying to protect Bieber when the barricade fell over. From where I stood, I saw only raised hands with cameras.  But we were there.

As I stood there in the sometimes pouring rain, I thought to myself: for sure I will blog about this. But here’s the thing: I was on vacation. And I don’t want to be one of those people who ruins a vacation by thinking about work. I remember when Kevin and I were in Africa on a safari, and a leopard was approaching our jeep.  I had my camera out, along with a bunch of others, and our guide quietly critiqued: “There is a leopard very close to you. Put your cameras down and enjoy the moment.”

I love my job, but there I was in New York with my family exploring the city with Kathleen and Jacob for the first time.  We had four days of ‘moments’.

So I will not wreck my vacation by coming home and blogging about Bieber. Instead, I will offer my best advice:  Enjoy every moment of your summer vacation.

That’s Private

We are now officially a Netflix family, and on the weekend I wanted to see what everyone was so excited about. It began badly – I couldn’t even turn the TV on by myself and then had to learn how to work a fourth remote. But then I loved this world of clicking. I flipped through all the options, watched previews, read the ratings, and followed through all of the “Viewers also rented.” It was addictive – fast, and full of information and choices. I felt like I could click the whole afternoon away but I was determined to make a decision and settle down.

But I was intrigued by the option “Suggestions for You.” Seemed a bit creepy that there is data somewhere on my family’s TV viewing habits. Not that I needed confirmation that the kids watch iCarly and Kevin watches Arrested Development… but I didn’t appreciate that Netflix was suggesting these for me.

What gives Netflix the right to collect this data on me? Did we sign a Privacy Statement allowing it to be collected on the Kee family? Can our data be shared with others?

Issues of privacy have been on my agenda these last few weeks. Our lawyer drafted a new CAIS Privacy Policy and updated all of our National Tracking Project documents (they will be sent to participating schools this week). At the National Tracking Project meeting, chaired by Kim Tulloch of Montreal, 20 educators gathered from six provinces to ensure that we are collecting the most strategic data and following proper procedures to protect our students. (Note: we are.) The NTP has been running for five years, and the goal of the meeting was twofold: to share the ways that schools are using the NTP data to improve their programs and make connections with universities; and to evaluate how to improve our use of data.

As an organization, we are completely up-to-date on effective practice in the area of respecting privacy of information we collect. But on the weekend, I realized that as an individual, I should give more thought to the information I give to others.

Saturday’s Globe touched on the serious consequences when students make huge mistakes and then carelessly share their actions on social media. In The sad, painful truth about the Vancouver rioters’ true identities, Gary Mason writes: “A teacher at an area high school told me Friday that students were abuzz over shots posted on Facebook of classmates riding home on the Canada Line holding items obtained during the looting.”

For a long time, we have been focused on helping kids to understand that data is permanent and can be broadly and instantly shared with anyone, including parents, university admissions offices and police. In the case of Vancouver, social networking has been critical in understanding who was responsible for much of the violence that we witnessed. The fact that so many ignored issues of privacy means that we are closer to seeking justice.

But it also raises the serious question for all of us law-abiding citizens – what is the future impact of the many data banks that companies around the world are collecting on us?

On the weekend, I decided that I should watch a bunch of documentaries so that Netflix can suggest something of substance to my family…maybe once I figure out how to turn it on, I can program it to do that.

Ten more days

Last week, I sat on Jacob’s bed to say goodnight and felt a bit of water on the carpet next to his bed. I immediately jumped to the conclusion that he had spilled his water and hadn’t bothered to clean it up. Rather than launch into my usual rant about his messy behaviour, I asked: “Why is there water on your floor?”

His response shocked me:  “I actually put it there.”

“What? You need to dry up spills. It’s a carpet – you can’t leave water there.”

“Uh…. I did it on purpose.”

“You poured it?”

“Well… not exactly. I actually spit it.”

“Are you for real? You don’t pour – or spit – water on the floor!!! What were you thinking?”

By this point, Jacob was kind of smiling, but he was sincere.

“I hate it when my feet are hot at night. So I thought if I had a little puddle next to my bed, I could dip them in and keep them cool.”

I had to laugh. What do you say to something like that? When I told our friend Steve, he suggested that Jacob might be on to something: “Not that spitting water on the carpet is okay, but maybe a bowl or something like that makes sense.” When I told Geoff Roberts, Head of Crescent School for boys, he shrugged, “He’s a boy.” Clearly this is beyond a woman’s comprehension.

What I said to Jacob, that night on the bed, after I stopped laughing, was my best advice: “Do me a favour and don’t tell anyone.”

At that point, with perfect timing, his younger sister walked in. Kathleen didn’t miss a beat: “I will tell EVERYONE.” I don’t need to describe the sibling squabbling that ensued.

So with ten days left of school, and two long summer months ahead of us, I am feeling a bit anxious about my ability to manage these kids without the assistance of school.

They’ll be away some of the time – two weeks at Camp Onondaga and one week in Algonquin with their Dad and cousins. (The house alone is a cherished opportunity – there is a special place in heaven for Dads who take kids away without Mothers, especially when it involves sleeping in tents.)

But I’m actually really looking forward to time together too. Maybe your household is the same, but ours is a pretty rushed place and we are trying to calm it down. I believe the summer should be a time to hit pause….see what comes of a day.

I often remind myself of this – any frustration with kids never lasts. The spills, spits, and squabbles build the growing repertoire of family stories told around around the table, and better yet, around the campfire.

ps – As always, I checked with my kids before publishing this. Jacob said, “Why would I mind? Two men agreed with my idea – and one of them is a Head of School.”

pps – In case you missed Saturday’s Globe, there was an article about our boarding project.