The Hopkins School Hawk Squawk

Principal's Updates - 1/26/2020

Updates from the Hopkins' Office

Dear Hopkins' Families,

Every year around this time, I send out a special edition of the Hawk Squawk focused around digital literacy and digital citizenship. Without fail, January marks the time each year where Ms. Babson, our counseling team and I (along with classroom teachers) find ourselves having frequent conversations with students about making responsible technology choices. This issue of the Hawk Squawk is an opportunity to continue the dialogue with the adults of our community. This is a lengthy edition, but please take the time to explore the resources below at some point- our children deserve our attention to this topic!

As a community that places high value on technology education, we are in the envious position of being able to provide a 1:1 digital environment for our upper elementary students. We also always see an influx of students return from winter vacation with new devices- with all the challenges and excitement that accompany the new phone or iPad. ChromeBooks in the classroom, Google accounts, online gaming and "group chats" are all daily realities for our nine to eleven year olds in 2020. As Ben Parker once stated to Spiderman, "With great power comes great responsibility." Certainly, technology fits this statement!

We cannot deny the advantages of living in a digital world- the benefits are immense. However, years as a middle school and upper-elementary school educator (and parent!) makes me well aware of the dangers of such digital connectedness. It is a time of great emotional, social, and physical change and development. Children search for their identities while self-esteem increasingly hinges on acceptance from peers. With the advent of social networking, we are seeing heightened social pressure as children are constantly “on stage”-- where everything they write or post is on display for others to see. While there are certainly qualities that make social networking a useful tool, there are a number of concerns that we have for our students with regard to their use of social networking.

We know it is imperative to partner with families in these efforts. As devices are put into student hands earlier and earlier, adults must address the accompanying issues of inappropriate use. In speaking with teachers and students, it is clear that we must do a better job of educating and preparing our students about the powerful tool that many of them now carry with them twenty-four hours a day. I’ve shared the concept of a“digital backpack” with many of you- emphasizing the importance of adults checking children’s online accounts in the same way that they would look through a backpack.

Unfortunately, when it comes to technology, we typically hand over this “digital playground” with minimal instruction, supervision or guidelines. Children are often left to their own devices with this incredibly powerful and potentially dangerous tool in their hands with little to no supervision. While parents may monitor their children's computer use, Dr. Elizabeth Englander of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center believes that, “many parents turn around and give their child an Internet-enabled smartphone with no education, guidance, rules or monitoring.”

I would strongly encourage you to talk to your child about these topics- frequently. I urge you to carefully monitor your child's activity online. Do you know the conversations that are occurring in text or through social media? The impact of one poorly thought out, split-second post or text can be huge! Our children are living in a world with tools that many of us do not fully understand. The volume of “apps” and the pace of new ones entering the market makes our task as adults particularly difficult as we are constantly playing a game of “catch-up.” Social media connects us to the world- both the positives and the negatives. Instead of being reactive by relying exclusively on filtering, blocking, and screening specific “apps,” we believe it best to engage students in a conversation in which we educate, encourage and set expectations about appropriate use.

In communicating with students, I believe it is important that we convey the following:

  • A sent text or posted image may go beyond the person or persons that they send it to. Group “chats”, in particular, can spread rumors and feelings of exclusion quickly.

  • Nearly everything that we post or send is both public and permanent.

  • A text or image that a child sends or posts using photo messaging applications like Snapchat designed to self-delete can be saved and shared.

  • The importance of “time off”- children, like adults benefit from screen-free time. In our household, the Bilello family uses the “cell phone island” at dinner/game time and overnight to ensure time away from devices.

There are some outstanding guides, supports and resources available on these topics. Right here in Hopkinton, a group of adults have started an initiative called Turning Life On - Hopkinton. Their mission is to unite, inform and empower parents, educators and community organizations to promote healthy technology practices for children and families. I'd urge families to get involved! Several other resources that we find especially useful are Common Sense Media, Smart Social and the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center. The website for the movie, Screenagers: Growing up in the Digital Age, also includes some excellent resources. Below, in the Social Emotional Learning Resources section, I’ve shared additional links and videos on these topics for you to explore!


Vanessa Bilello

Principal, Hopkins School



Please contact us if you have any questions on events listed below.

  • January 30th: 8:20 - 9:20 AM Hopkins School Council Meeting

  • January 31st: Early Release (12:15 PM dismissal, lunch served)

  • February 10th and 12th: 5th Grade Enrichment "Fractional Origamido" with Michael LeFosse

  • February 10th -14th: Hopkins School Random Acts of Kindness Spirit Week (stay tuned for details!)

  • February 17th - 21st: NO SCHOOL (February Vacation Week)

  • March 9th - 13th-: Gr. 4 Understanding our Differences Enrichment: Blindness & Low Vision

  • March 10th: 7PM Gr. 5 Spring Music Ensemble Concert at HHS

  • March 12th: Hopkins School Community Reading Day

  • March 13th:Term 2 Report Cards Open in PowerSchool Portal

  • March 16th - 20th: Gr. 5 Understanding our Differences Enrichment: Learning Disabilities

  • March 20th: Early Release (12:15 PM dismissal, lunch served)

  • March 20th: 6PM @ HMS - Hopkins' Annual Grade 5 Talent Show


April 28 - Gr. 4 ELA

April 29 - Gr. 4 ELA

April 30 - Gr. 5 ELA

May 1 - Gr. 5 ELA

May 11th- Gr. 5 Math

May 12th- Gr. 5 Math

May 13th- Gr. 4 Math

May 14th- Gr. 4 Math

May 18th - Gr. 5 STE

May 19th - Gr. 5 STE

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Social Emotional Learning Resources for Families

Would your kids respond in the same way as these kids? Raises an interesting
Connected, but alone? | Sherry Turkle
Empowering Kids to Rise Above Technology Addiction | Lisa Strohman | TEDxPasadena

Navigating the Digital World with Children

The suggestions that follow are compiled from several sources including, Common Sense Media, Yoursphere,Smart Social, Middlesex District Attorney’s Office and Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center.

#1: Set and Obey Age Limits

The minimum age for online apps like Tik Tok, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter is 13. While easy for children to falsify their ages to get onto these apps and programs, consider the message that you send by permitting your child to provide a fake age to gain access to these programs. Of course, children can create an account on their own without parental permission, but that is very different than breaking a rule with parental consent to do so.

#2: If You Wouldn’t Do It in Real Life, Don’t Do It Online

Remind them not to state mean things to others. Tell them not to share anything that could hurt or embarrass themselves or others. Encourage them to tell you or an adult at school immediately if they or someone they know is being treated inappropriately. Talk to your child and clarify all their doubts; make them aware of the darker sides of the colorful-looking apps and the dangers of communicating (messaging, texting, posting) with strangers.

#3: Think Before You Reveal

Tell your child how dangerous it is to give personal information online, and how they can be misled by someone they do not know. Remind your child that all private information can be made public: posts on friends’ walls, private instant messages, and text messages can be copied and distributed to others. Similarly, images and photos can be saved by taking a screenshot which can in turn be shown and/or distributed to others.

Although not always fair or accurate, this is a reality of growing up with a social media “identity.” Be aware of “geo-tagging.” By having this feature on, detailed location information about your child’s (and your family’s) location can be revealed to anyone with access to your child’s photos, videos, or images.

#4: Monitor Your Child’s Activity

While we realize that there is a fine balance between respecting your child’s privacy and independence, we encourage you to find out what apps they are using, what they are sharing, and with whom they are sharing. Ask to “follow” or “friend” your child on his or her sites. Parental control filtering software is an option that many parents utilize, but you should not rely solely on these tools.

By default, most apps (including Instagram) default to sharing with anyone. In other words, your child’s profile and photos are available to anyone unless he or she has taken the step to make it private. Many students neglect these privacy settings, which open up their profiles and information to the world.

#5 Establish an Understanding and Rules Around the Phone

All of the major phone carriers have online resources available for you to review content on your child’s phone. Beyond monitoring, consider limiting your child’s phone use during evening hours by charging cell phones in a common area of your house rather than your child’s bedroom. A wealth of studies has been published showing sleep deprivation and poor mental health among teenagers who take their cell phones to bed: “Research has found that major cross sections of the brain become surprisingly active during downtime. Private time without stimulation allows the brain to synthesize information, make connections between ideas and foster development of a personal self. We have provided our teens with a high tech world of endless connectivity; we must also insure for them the ingredients of privacy, balance, space and time to make it safe as well as vital” (Suzanne Phillips, “Teens Sleeping with Cell Phones: A Clear and Present Danger”).

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Hopkins' Staff 2019 Goosechase

Important Links for Families

Hopkins School Website

Click here to visit our school website.


Our school website has static information, but it is also updated with current news, photos and bulletins. Every other week, you can expect a school-wide update from the Principal’s Office, the Hawk Squawk. This is distributed to families via email and can also be found on the school’s webpage. You can also follow us on Twitter: @hopkinsschool, Instagram (hopkins_elementary), and Facebook (HopkinsElementarySchool). Ms. Babson sends out the Hopkins Herald newsletter every other month. This includes articles written by staff and students at Hopkins, as well as many pictures from our hallways.

In addition to the above school-wide methods, please communicate openly with your child’s teacher(s). Each teacher has an email address and voice mailbox. Many also utilize Google Classroom, a website and/or Twitter to share news. You can find their contact information on our school website or you can call (508)-497-9824 to reach teachers’ voicemail.
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