All the talk this past week has centered on Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, who handed down an edict declaring there shall be no more working from home for her company's employees (something that's easier done for Mayer, who had a nursery built next to her office). Many have seen this as a step back for both the Internet company and workers' rights (particularly the rights of working mothers). On the other hand, some bosses of the world have said such a move is necessary to boost productivity (for the record, if you ever find yourself on Donald Trump's side of an argument, you may want to rethink your position. As a dad who occasionally works from home, the absurdity of a blanket statement that all workers are more productive in the office is clear to me. There are far fewer distractions and interruptions in my home office than there are in my office office (no disrespect meant to my lovely colleagues, of course), and as many have said before, my workday at home begins earlier and often ends later.
But I don't really think that's what matters here. The stigma on employees who work from home, either part-time or full-time, has been around for as long as these benefits have been on offer. And while Mayer and the Donald may want to deepen that stigma by painting telecommuters as less than their co-workers, the backlash has actually been able to open up that conversation about the importance of balancing one's home life and work life, and how that can be beneficial for both the company and the employee. That conversation alone, and the fact that Mayer et al seem to be going against the consensus here, is hugely valuable. It is a shame that Yahoo! employees had to take the fall, but here's hoping they take Mayer seriously in her desire to have work and life be completely separate, and turn off their photnes and computers when at home.
When Chicago's own Poetry Foundation created the Children's Poetry Laureate award in 2006, Jack Prelutsky was the obvious choice to hold the title first. The author of more than fifty books of poetry, Prelutsky has narrated kids' lives in verse for decades, and his It's Halloween book is a trick-or-treat staple.
His new book, Stardines Swim High Across the Sky, is a cornucopia of portmanteau, combining two words to create new creatures ("chormorants" are "busy birds that toil from sun to sun," and "fountain lions," which of course are big cats that spray water from their heads). Prelutsky's wordplay is giddy, and kids will find the silliness of animals like "slobsters" hilarious, while learning about the ways language can create and re-create over and again. The illustrations of Carin Berger almost steal the show, too, providing collages, dioramas and shadow boxes to accompany the poetry. The illustrations give readers as much opportunity to linger and puzzle over as do the poems.
Though computers dominate almost every aspect of our lives, the cryptic ones and zeros of programming are still not often taught to school kids. To combat that, tech titans like facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft's Bill Gates—among others—are throwing their weight behind Code.org: a non-profit with a mission to make programming not only more available to students everywhere, but also less intimidating.
Code.org’s initiative attempts to alter society’s perspective on the complexity of coding, presenting it as a skill akin to learning how to play an instrument or playing a sport. The creators of Twitter, Dropbox and Paypal serve on the advisory board. According to the website, Code.org’s founders’ vision is that “every student in every school has the opportunity to learn how to code.” The site itself includes links for teachers and students alike to petition to bring computer technology courses to their schools, and for software engineers to volunteer their services. The organization is working towards integrating coding classes into high school curriculums across the nation, and stressing the importance of coding knowledge in the future job market.
The Second Annual One Earth Film Festival hits the Chicagoland area this weekend from March 1–3. The fest will screen more than 40 films in more than 20 locations throughout Oak Park, River Forest, Forest Park and Chicago. Expect a number of both lengthy and short films that deal with sustainability, climate change and environmental advocacy.
Family-friendly flicks include:
Play Again: a film that explores our rapidly growing relationship with the virtual world, and our declining connection with the natural world.
Soul Food Junkies—a look at the health advantages and disadvantages of Soul Food, which is followed by a demonstration about the nutritional side of American cuisine.
Chasing Ice: This environmental documentary has already raked in more than 20 awards at festivals around the world. Join National Geographic’s James Balog on his journey across the Arctic as he captures a captivating perspective of the earth melting away before your eyes. (Rated PG-13, $6).
On Saturday, March 2, the festival will screen winners of the “One Earth . . . Our Earth!” Young Filmmakers Contest—a competition that encouraged youth to make educational shorts. An award ceremony and discussion will follow. Check out the winner of the high school category “Let’s Talk About Water” above.
(And in case you were wondering: Earth Day is April 22).
With 129 Chicago neighborhood schools still wondering whether their doors will be shut, the Chicago Public Schools board has announced it will close two underperforming charter schools, and put six more on a warning list. Many critics of the schools' utilization program have held the district's feet to the fire over what they see as a loose leash on charter schools. According to the Tribune story:
"Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said the newly instituted 'warning list,' which includes six charter schools, will allow officials 'an opportunity to look at charter school performance on an annual basis and to act immediately if a charter school is not performing, rather than to wait for a renewal cycle.' If the schools fail to improve by September, when new test data are received, an improvement plan will be put in place. If the school fails to raise grades by the following spring, a process will begin to close the school, officials said."
In the past, when charter schools proved to be underperforming, the district simply allowed the school to bring in new staff and revamp the school. Its' certainly heartening to see charter schools held accountable in the same way public schools are, and no doubt many will be happy to hear the district finally imposing sterner measures.
With charter schools, the threat makes more common sense, particularly for the for-profit charters: No schools, no profit. But the trend in CPS's thinking—that closing schools is the most efficient way of improving education in the city—is disturbing, and should at least give pause to some who are happy seeing charter schools receive similar treatment. At some point, don't we have to address the fact that CPS's default means of improving schools has become to close them?
Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said the newly instituted "warning list," which includes six charter schools, will allow officials "an opportunity to look at charter school performance on an annual basis and to act immediately if a charter school is not performing, rather than to wait for a renewal cycle."
If the schools fail to improve by September, when new test data are received, an improvement plan will be put in place. If the school fails to raise grades by the following spring, a process will begin to close the school, officials said.
- See more at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/education/ct-met-cps-board-meeting-0228-20130228,0,1427902.story#sthash.ASTjYnsy.dpuf
These kinds of moments don't happen much outside of movies, but we're so happy when they do. Watch as a coordinated effort between two high-school basketball teams—rivals in Texas—ensure a happy ending for Mitchell Marcus, the Thunderbirds' team manager, who has a developmental disability. Kleenex, please.
Know a dad who might need a tip or two about what sort of gear might make his life a little easier? Check out this clip of our editor-in-chief, Amy Carr, chatting with Sylvia Perez and Linda Yu of ABC 7 Chicago. All of the items shown on the television box are also in our story about cool stuff for dads. And what's even better, you can win some of the gear by sending us a photo for our "hot dads/cute kids" photo contest.
And if you watch the clip above, you can marvel at how un-creepy I seem while maneuvering a baby doll in and out of a Baby Bjorn. On television. Enjoy!
There’s rock for all ages at Neighborhood Parents Network’s fifth-annual “Wake Up & Boogie Down” rock & roll–themed family fest. Parents encourage kids to get the Led out and groove at Saturday's FUNdraiser/dance party at the Cubby Bear. We suggest you indulge in a rock-star makeover (go for a hair metal vibe) and pose for the paparazzi on the red carpet with your miniature Mötley Crüe. There’ll be plenty of chances to dance, move and play with live music performances, arts and crafts, and games. Healthy snacks are provided (you don’t even have to request them in your rider!), as well as opportunities to win raffle packages and giveaways. Use the day to introduce kids to your favorite music—they might still prefer “The Wheels on the Bus,” but you can’t say you didn’t try.
Boogie Down on Saturday at the Cubbie Bear, 1059 W Addison St (773-327-1662, npnparents.org) Sat March 2. 9:30am–12:30pm. For members: $20 adults, $10 children, $50 for family four-pack. Non-members: $25 adults, $15 children, $65 for family four-pack. Children >1y/o enter free.
Dogs of all shapes, sizes and breeds were unleashed at McCormick Place this weekend, in attendance (with their owners, naturally) for the annual International Kennel Club of Chicago Dog Show. The canine competitors showcased their looks and talents, with each pup vying for the prestigious title of best in show.