School Begins

My three year old daughter Soleil began her long journey through school last week. Her first day of Montessori was on Wednesday the 8th, and today completes her first full week.

It’s kind of amazing really.

I am sure most parents feel this way, but the first time you drop your kid off at school just bowls you over. And yes, I teared up.

I am so thrilled for her. Soleil’s meeting new kids, and painting everyday. She even has a friend named Johnny, who’s real name she doesn’t know. But depending on the day she calls him her boyfriend. Today she said, “He’s not for me.” I need to meet this boy.

Her vocabulary is rapidly improving in just a week and a half, and of course, she is picking up some mannerisms from the other kids. For example, Soleil likes to comment on her hair all of the sudden. “It’s so crazy,” she said after her bath earlier this week. Then for the first time, she asked me to brush it. The poor kid has a double cow lick and a small dose of Daddy’s curls (that was before I went bald).

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She cries or whines about going to school most days. Then she comes home and says she had fun!

Soleil’s sense of responsibility is picking up, too. We definitely encouraged her to put away her dishes and clean up beforehand, but the Montesori regimen (and seeing her peers in action) is kicking in. It’s great to have a little helper.

All in all, it’s a magical experience to watch.

Thoughts on New Mexico

This week the country experienced two more school shootings, most notably a 12 year old who opened fire on his fellow students with a 20-gauge shotgun in Roswell, NM. I am sorry to bring it up, but the danger of such an incident occured to me as we helped Soleil through her first days of school. It was not an overriding fear, just a tiny shadow.

It seems like every month there is a school shooting now. It’s hard not to think about this rash of senseless violence.

You probably noticed in the picture Soleil is wearing a private school uniform. There is a lot to say about private versus public school. For starters, the results tend to be better for the kids. But given that some of the public schools in our neighborhood are very good I cannot say that Soleil will always attend a private school.

Certainly, it is more expensive. I suddenly find myself taking my lunch to work. And as someone who went to public school, I have my own preconceived notions about private schools.

Private school also feels safer to me. They rarely experience the type of violence that you read about in the papers at public schools, and in particular the disgusting rash of shootings that are occuring at public schools.

I can’t imagine picking up the phone and having to pick up my child after a school shooting. Then there is the horror that dozens parents across the country have experienced on the past few years: Finding out your child is wounded or dead.

Private school is not a silver bullet to avoid violence, but it does reduce the risk. And I realize that it is impossible to shelter Soleil from everything.

Do we really have to consider our children’s lives are at risk when we send them to school? We live in a country where a school shooting happens almost every month. Yet our lawmakers won’t take the necessary steps to protect children. Insane.

Whatever education path we choose for Soleil, I hope that she and all of the other children across the country never have to face this kind of tragedy.

The odds of it happening are minute yet that tiny gnawing fear remains. May the madness stop.

Beating the Algorithm

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Image by MUMA Monash

In the old days of “influencer relations” (you know way back when in 2009), PR professionals targeted the magic middle and top tier bloggers, which triggered larger blog coverage, and then more often than not traditional news media.

Since then digital media companies straddled the space occupied by both traditional journals and the top tier of bloggers. They use algorithms to detect hot news stories before they trend in the blogosphere, then break the news before traditional players and bloggers alike.

Specifically, Mashable, the Huffington Post, Forbes, Google and the others use algorithms listen to chatter on the social web. When hot trends bubble up they source the content provider, assign a reporter, or in the worst cases use narrative science — computer-based news writing — to break the story first.

This effectively takes power away from PR executives to affect the news cycle through traditional influencer outreach, and in turn, empowers the crowd to determine stories.

Some news outlets use the crowd to validate top stories, too. Validation is embodied by shares on social networks and comments.

For example, USA Today features stories on its web properties based on the posts that get shared the most. The old assignment editor loses weight in these scenarios.
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