What time should school start?

I work with kids that are habitually late to school.  Some start at 8:30, some at 9:15 and some at 10:00, ironically they are ALL late.  So much research has been done on start times and the thought is that there will be deeper learning and kids will be more engaged with a later start time.  I can’t help but argue with that.  Starting later just means that they will end later, and then they will be up later doing homework.  They will end up getting the same amount of sleep, it will just be at different times.  And then how are we teaching the kids to be productive citizens in the real world?  Their college classes will not be tailored to their specific sleeping patterns and their jobs definitely will not be worked out for them.

Berkowicz, Jill, and Ann Myers. “School Start Times Can Leverage Deeper Change.” Education Week – Leadership 360. Accessed December 8, 2014. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/leadership_360/2014/12/school_start_times_can_leverage_deeper_change.html?cmp=SOC-SHR-FB.

10 things every boy should know before they are 10

I recently came across this article written by fellow blogger, Lindsey Mead Russell, and I could feel the content in my heart.  As a mama of a crazy little 6 year old, there is so much that I do on a daily basis to question myself.  #10 made me cry…I can’t help but feel that I am the only one messing up and it makes me feel good to know that there are more out there!

1. Treat other people with respect. Women and men both. The headmistress of your school and the homeless man outside the subway station are both equally deserving of your kindness. You do this already, instinctively, but please, never stop.

2. Rowdiness and physical activity are both normal and fun. Roughhousing is OK. I know I sometimes shush you more than I should, because my personal preference is for quiet, but I’m working on that, because being physically active and even rambunctious is totally fine. There is a line, however — because violence is not OK. Learning where this line is is crucial.

3. No means no. Period. No matter who says it and in what context.

4. Don’t hide your sensitivity. You feel everything tremendously deeply: time’s passage, memory, wistfulness, love and loss. Don’t let the world convince you to stuff this down. You can be strong and feel a lot at the same time. In fact, feeling a lot makes you stronger. That’s true regardless of whether you’re a boy or a girl.

5. You can’t make another person happy. Nobody. Furthermore, that’s not your job. I know this — we all do — and I hope you always remember it. You are responsible for your own self and for the way you treat others, which can surely impact their moods. But nobody should ever make you feel responsible for his or her happiness. What makes me happy is knowing that you are thriving, challenged, enthusiastic, joyful, aware.

6. Pay attention to your life. There is so much to notice in the most everyday moments.

7. Find your passion. It doesn’t matter what it is, but “I’m bored” isn’t something I want to hear. Ever. You are surrounded by interesting things to explore, learn about, and experience. I’ll support you in whatever you want to pursue, if it is hockey or coding or violin — or all three! — but you do need to find something that you want to throw yourself into.

8. Entitlement is the absolute worst. I am a strict mother and often feel badly about discipline or sharp language, but one thing I’ll always react to (without regret) is the display of even a whiff of entitlement or brattiness.

9. Even if you don’t start something, you can be wrong. I think always of MLK’s line about how the silence of our friends hurts far more than the words of our enemies. The ringleader is at fault, but so are those who go along with him. Please have the courage to stand up to the popular kids when circumstances arise where they’re doing the wrong thing. They haven’t yet, but I know they will.

10. I love you, no matter what. Messing up is a part of life. The point is learning to let go and start over. This I know I’ve modeled, probably too well: you are being raised by a mother who’s not afraid to show you her flaws and demonstrate failing, apologizing, and beginning again. I will always love you, even when you do behave in ways I don’t love. But I also expect you to keep showing me that you know the point is to learn from our mistakes, recognize and acknowledge when we’re wrong, and begin again.

Mead, Lindsey. “10 Things I Want My Son to Know Before He Turns 10.” Huffington Post, December 1, 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lindsey-mead-russell/10-things-i-want-my-son-to-know-before-he-turns-10_b_6247684.html?ir=Education&ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000023.


Are boys meaner than girls?

Movies are made about girls being mean and nasty and bullies to other girls.  But not much is said about boys.  Studies have shown that there are more incidents of bullying with boys than girls recently.  In my job it seems that we have more interventions for girls than boys.  I have a weekly girls group sponsored by a women’s group for my female students and recently I took a group of girls to young women’s conference.  It would seem to me that boys are missing out on resources necessary to balance them out
Klein, Rebecca. “‘Mean Boys,’ Not Girls, May Be The Bigger Problem In Schools.” Huffington Post, December 4, 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/04/mean-boys-study_n_6269960.html?ir=Education&ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000023.

Social and Emotional Lessons for the Adults that work with the students

As much as I am in favor of integrating social and emotional curriculum into the daily studies of kids today, I must stop to wonder how I can expect kids to learn from a teacher that hasn’t been trained themselves?  That would be like asking me to teach science or something horrific like that 😉

Transformational Leadership Coach, Elena Aguilar states that there are 5 simple lessons that can be used during staff developments to help deepen their understanding of social emotional learning.

Lesson 1: Practice Recognizing Emotions

Spend a day or an hour observing your emotional responses. You might, for example, notice yourself arriving at school and feeling anxious about getting everything done before kids arrive. Just notice this, and say to yourself, “There’s anxiety.” You might notice that when you pass a particular colleague’s room, you feel content because she’s a friend. Notice this, “There’s contentment.” The key is to notice and name without attaching judgment. If you like you can take notes or journal so that you can keep a log of your emotional journey over a period of time. There might be moments when you don’t know how to name what you’re feeling, and that’s okay. Jot down all the words that come to mind.

Lesson 2: Notice Physical Responses

Honing the ability to recognize how your body experiences emotions is another step. Our bodies often manifest feelings and if we can become conscious of our responses, we may gain useful information. For example, you might notice yourself smiling authentically when a parent drops off her child — and then you might notice the underlying emotions — “Gratitude. This mother is always so positive.” Or you might notice that when you talk to an administrator your shoulders tense, your belly tightens, and your breathing gets shallow. And then you might be able to recognize the underlying feelings, “Defensive and anxious.”

When we gain awareness, we can make decisions about how we want to behave. For example, if we notice we’re feeling anxious when talking to an administrator, we might just take a deep breath or drop our shoulders. Noticing and naming our emotions means we move away from operating on autopilot. It’s usually a more empowered place to be.

Lesson 3: Get Curious

Once you’ve started noticing and naming your emotions, get curious about them. Investigate. Explore. You might notice anxiety when talking to an administrator and reflect on this: “Have I always felt this way? When did it start? How do I feel when talking to my other administrator? What does this one trigger in me? Where did that come from?” The purpose in doing this isn’t to dig deep into your own psychological history, it’s to infuse the experience with questions, wondering, and curiosity. This can loosen the grip of the emotions and also illuminate something about the experience that might be helpful.

Lesson 4: Observe Your Emotions

We are not our emotions. If we can practice observing them — seeing ourselves experience emotions from 10,000 feet above earth — we are more likely to make decisions that don’t emerge from them. We might notice that sometimes they’re powerful and gripping, and sometimes they’re lighter and less sticky. It helps to practice non-attachment to emotions. They’re just emotional states and they come and go — and remember that we have some control over these states. Sometimes I visualize my emotions as weather patterns: There are storms and calm skies, heavy rain, and light winds. They always change. I visualize myself as a tree experiencing these emotions that come and go.

Lesson 5: Notice the Impact of Your Emotions on Others

Without getting into self-judgment, start noticing how your emotional states impact others. The key is to think like a scientist and make comments to yourself such as, “Oh, that’s interesting! I never noticed that. Wow, look at what happens to X when I am feeling ______.” For example, you might notice that you always greet one of your students with big smiles, warm welcomes, and that you feel really happy when you see him. You might then notice, “Wow, after I greet him that way, I see his face relax, his smile widens, and he calmly sits at his desk.” Or you might notice that when you were feeling tired and anxious and you curtly asked the school secretary for a form, that her shoulders hunched up and she was snappy in return. As you do this noticing, try again to refrain from self-criticism. Just notice. Name. Observe.

“5 Simple Lessons for Social and Emotional Learning for Adults.” Edutopia. Accessed December 8, 2014. http://www.edutopia.org/blog/five-social-emotional-learning-lessons-for-adults-elena-aguilar.

Thank You teacher for noticing…

How many times do our students act out and we automatically want to punish them?  Send them to detention…send them to the office on a referral?  We have so many students that we work with on a daily basis that it is so frustrating to deal with the behavior issues, so why keep them in class, right?

Unfortunately if we just kick them out, if we don’t take time to really get to know them and take the time to try to unravel them and get to the root of their issues, we are not really helping them.

The kids have so much more going on with them.  Take the time to get to their hearts, they can’t learn with a broken heart.

“Dear Teacher, Thank You for Taking the Time to Really See Me.” The Huffington Post. Accessed December 3, 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/lori-gard/caring-teachers_b_6104014.html.

Kids get stressed too…how we can help

Since I started in this crazy business, I have said “these kids can’t get to the ABCs and 123s if they can’t get through the garbage that they bring with themselves to school.”  The reality is that my students have encountered crazier obstacles in their lives than I can ever imagine.

Since I have recently been introduced to infographics, I was really excited to come across this simple visual on how we can help our kids when they are stressed.

Jain, Renee. “The #1 Thing Kids Want When They’re Stressed (INFOGRAPHIC).” Huffington Post, November 24, 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/renee-jain/the-1-thing-kids-want-when-theyre-stressed_b_6100698.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000020&ir=Education.

Standing up to Learn

So as an educator and a parent, I read every article with two different sets of eyes.  I see it from years of experience with my students and then how I can help my very energetic 6 year old be an academic success.

There is a lot of research out right now about giving the kids the ability to stand up while working, as an educator this first kinda freaked me out.  I couldn’t help but feel I might lose control of my already sometimes out of control at-risk kids.  But then as I observe my little guy at home, I can really see how this may be the answer for a certain breed of kids with a crazy amount of uncontrollable energy.

My son does his homework half standing/half sitting, the more I sit there and try to fix his posture and sit him “correctly”, the more uncomfortable he gets and somehow shuts down to the whole educational process.  When I let him just work as he is comfortable, I see him engaged and excited to learn.

I have started letting my students walk around if they need to and stand if it makes them comfortable, and you know what, they are learning…go figure!

“How Standing Desks Can Help Students Focus in the Classroom.” MindShift. Accessed November 25, 2014. http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/10/how-standing-desks-can-help-students-focus-in-the-classroom/.

Ted Talks

As an educator, I have used different Ted Talks videos as learning tools over the years.  I find that the speakers give a different sense of the topics. Even as a student, we have watched a plethora of talks that relate to the subject matter.

But what I haven’t really considered is what goes into being a facilitator.  These people are “experts” in their field, but what research went into their ability to put on such an amazing talk that we use them in our curriculum.

And now that there are TedX talks, with kids giving talks on what is important to them, I am even more amazed.  They are researching and sharing their data with the world in a way that makes it fun and interesting, and most importantly, they are engaging their minds in learning…amazing!

“What Students Can Learn from Giving TEDx Talks.” MindShift. Accessed November 25, 2014. http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/11/what-students-can-learn-from-giving-tedx-talks/.