John Dodig


John Dodig, Staples High School Principal talked to the Y’s Men about the effect of technology on students today and some of the challenges facing today’s educators.

 He began his talk with reminiscences on his own high school days with the teacher presenting a series of dates and facts and requiring students to memorize them in order to pass the course. 

But in the intervening years between those days and today things such as the iPhone, GPS and the book, The World is Flat were harbingers of the technological age.  Now all students, especially those in high school, have at least one device that connects with the Internet.  Memorization is no longer a pivotal skill.  Facts are available at the click of a button or mouse.  Now students at Staples are taught in accordance with a four part program that includes: thinking critically; thinking creatively; learning to communicate your thoughts; and global thinking, or where the student’s thinking places him or her in the world’s fabric.  This approach gets students more involved than the old listen, memorize and regurgitate method.

But this technological age also has downsides.  Backstabbing, libel and reputation trashing are everyday events for the modern student.  Anonymity is one of the most dangerous things to bestow on young people.  Now, with the aid of technology, a student can say or publish anything such as a sexting photo and disgorge it to the world for all time without any ability to take it back or erase it.   Notwithstanding the difficulties involved in dealing with this, schools and teachers have to try and combat it as it affects student attendance and education. 

Other added responsibilities facing educators are:

       The Americans with Disabilities Act – while this helped correct many injustices, it now consumes about 25% of the school budget

       Section 504 – designed to remediate leaning problems, some parents now try to extend test times for their non, or minimally problem affected children

       Sexual harassment prevention – requires extensive form filling within a 48 hour time limit

       Blood borne pathogens – requires training and equipping all teachers

       Child abuse – non –reporting can result in an arrest so teachers must err towards reporting any incident or observation that seems unusual

       Bullying – any bad word or action results in the need for an extensive investigation and report, which must be done within 48 hours – most of these are not bullying, but a poor  choice of word or deed on the part of a student

       Assessing students without quizzes – technology makes it too easy to pass on answers to other students who have yet to take the quiz

Questions and Answers

Q. How susceptible is the educational process to right wing changes?

A.  Things can get political, but Westport is too sophisticated and liberal to accept notions like creationism rather than evolution.

Q.  How do you deal with kids that are not college bound?

A.  We have culinary programs and building programs among others that are well suited to these students plus we recognize their achievements to the same degree that we recognize scholastic achievements.

Q.  How do you deal with the assassin’s game?

A.  This is a game originally designed for advanced placement course kids.  But it triggers problems for the police and the community when kids start acting like assassins so it is not sanctioned by the school.  We just have been unable to stamp it out and it goes on all over the country.

Q.  Are you making adjustments to deal with the latest revelations concerning football injuries?

A.  We now better understand concussions and how to treat them.  Staples has a committee dedicated to this problem plus a doctor on call.  We also have the latest and best equipment and follow the latest concussion guidelines.

Q.  What new security measures are you taking?

A.  We have cameras on all doors and windows plus materials in place that resist any forced entry.  All locks are always locked during the day plus we are in the process of obtaining walky-talkies that will be connected to the police and fire departments.  But the most important measure is knowing your students and recognizing when one has a problem. 

Q.  What about helicopter parents?

A.  We now call them bulldozer parents because they attempt to remove any and all obstacles faced by their children.  These parents do their children no favors because the children need to learn to be resilient and handle occasional failure.