END BULLYING NOW!

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Just last week I read an article about a 9-year-old boy bullied for carrying a My Little Pony backpack to school. The administration’s solution was to suggest he leave the backpack home. While they may have been correct in thinking the boy was setting himself up for ridicule, was this not the perfect opportunity to teach students acceptance and the welcoming of differences?

This week I read a clever teacher’s lesson on bullying received an overwhelming response on Facebook. Warm, supportive comments applauding the teacher’s sensitive message to her students were heard from over 104,000 people. While the two apples she used for her lesson looked identical on the outside, the one rejected apple was teased and battered by contemptuous comments and physical abuse leaving the inside permanently bruised. While the children got the message, I can’t help but wonder how long will it prevent bullying? And what must we as the grownups, educators do to put an end to bullying?

We need to teach children to welcome differences and nonconformity, not to tease or fear it. Research suggests we must set rules and policies regarding bullying, build safe environments and educate our schools’ staff. The policy words on paper are a beginning, but consistent vigil awareness must follow. Those colorful anti-bullying posters placed strategically around the schools are encouraging reminders, but they soon blend into the cold cinder block walls on which they are posted. And while sensitivity lessons are encouraging, when bullying actually occurs, not many students are courageous enough to defend the bullied for fear of becoming victims themselves.

We must teach our children to welcome differences and take pride in those differences, not teach them to hide nonconformity as the school did with the little boy and his My Little Pony backpack.

There are some actions we can take to help build stronger, healthier, more accepting students.

Student victims and witnesses of bullying must have an anonymous way to present their feelings in a place where they can be heard without fear of retribution and additional ridicule (i.e. a box, a website).

Rules of tolerance and intolerance should be clearly defined and consequences set for when the rules are broken.

Parents must be continually engaged in the fight to end this abuse. There should be a school action committee comprised of students, teachers and parents where abuses can be heard and appropriately addressed.

In closing I must add, Dr. David Schwartz and others have found that children bullied in elementary school are at increased risk of being depressed when they are 18. It is essential to prevent bullying before it begins. It is our responsibility as parents and educators to protect our innocent children from becoming permanently bruised for simply being themselves.

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WHOEVER SAID PARENTING WOULD BE EASY?

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Rarely do I receive anxious calls from parents of straight A students. But this week I listened to the exasperation of a mother shaking the Honor Roll Certificate her 7th grade son had just received. Yes, she was proud; yes, she considers him to be bright; and yes, she admits he earned his academic achievement on his own. She is not a helicopter parent checking her son’s homework for accuracy or even if he has completed his assignments. She is there to help, she explained, when needed. “I have to bite my tongue sometimes, I want so much to interfere, but I want him to learn responsibility and consequence.”

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What’s creating her angst is the ease with which he is earning these grades. Homework is completed within 30 minutes, less time than spent at sports practice and music lessons. His baseball coach and guitar teacher raise the bar with his growing achievement. He welcomes the challenge that stimulates him to work harder. “But he spends more time on video games and watching TV than he does on school work.”

Exasperated, she contacted me to ask, “So why can’t the school provide more challenge? I can’t afford private school? What can I do?”

Feeling her frustration I began my attempt to defuse her growing alarm. While a private school curriculum might provide more challenge, her son, more than likely would be successful wherever he was in school. She had done a fine job thus far with her hands off policy, but no student could be expected to ask for more challenging work. It was time for her to take a more active role.

What can she do?

First and foremost, keep in mind, the school staff knows only what your child does from 8:00-3:00, Monday-Friday. They cannot be expected to know what goes on outside of their watch unless you tell them. With that mindset, and accepting that it is probably too late in the school year for her son to be moved to more challenging level classes, she can begin to prepare everyone for proper class placement in the fall.

Next, I advise she contact each of her son’s teachers to share her concerns. Ask what they can do now to help raise the achievement bar and to better prepare him for higher level classes for the next school year.

Finally, contact the school counselor about her concerns and desire for him to be placed in more challenging 8th grade classes. Then, before school begins in the fall, check back with the counselor as a reminder and confirmation that the correct level classes have been assigned to her son.

The job is not done yet. Keep in mind, everyone welcomes appreciation. Emailed notes of thanks can go a long way. In the fall, when the new school year begins, I suggest she keep a close watch on her son’s study time and challenge level. Continue to keep in touch with the teachers and counselor for schedule tweaking before it is too late to make adjustments, and of course, to express your continued appreciation.

No one ever said parenting would be easy, but you needn’t go it alone. Remember the school is your partner in your child’s academic success.

THE BEST FAMILY DINING EXPERIENCE

 

AND THE PULLMAN FAMILY GRADUATION

While Jake was soaring and ready to fly solo, his parents had not yet come through with the family dinner plan. And I wasn’t dismissing them until all our goals were met. Today I share with you my family dinner plan that led to the Pullman graduation.

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When my children were young and school age, we used to dine out once a week, someplace inexpensive, but not fast food, where everyone could find something to meet their culinary tastes. But, to attend our family dinner, a ticket was needed – a written news article to be read in advance and ready to be shared with the rest of the family as we dined. The idea satisfied my need to encourage reading, and my husband’s desire for the children to develop confident speaking skills.

Each week the younger ones scrambled through kid-friendly magazines (It was the 80’s), while the older ones scoured the Washington Post for news that interested them. There were no restrictions. While there was some grumbling during the week, and last minute rummaging for news, the plan worked better than either my husband or I imagined.

Not only did we enjoy the dinner together, but the children actually listened to each other, responded, asked questions and sometimes even went home inspired to write letters to appropriate sources in response to what they had learned. I remember one very animated discussion about the killing of animals for the fur coats industry.

 

TEACHERS, PARENTS,  GET INSPIRED!

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Bring a  news ticket (internet search is now quite acceptable for the new generation of children) and share a meal. Build children’s speaking and listening skills while enjoying a favorite cuisine. And best of all enjoy one another.

 

Don’t Miss This Latest News By The Donald!

Did you hear, if Donald Trump becomes president, he will change New Year’s Day to June 14, his birthday, and call it Trump Day, a day to outdo any other?

 

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Read the origin of the holiday before you think the idea too foolish to happen.“The most common theory about the earliest April Fools’ celebrations goes like this: In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII issued a papal bull decreeing a new standard calendar for Christian Europe that would take his name and centuries later become the standard internationally in the 21st century.Prior to the 15th century, Europe’s nations and city states operated using the Julian calendar. The Gregorian calendar moved the date of the new year from April 1 to January 1, among other changes. Catholic monarchies were naturally its earliest adopters, though Protestant nations later followed suit.

Given the nature of the reform, both in terms of communicating such a fundamental change to a large population and dealing with critics of the new calendar, some Europeans continued to celebrate the new year between March 25 and April 1. April fools were those who still celebrated the holiday in the spring, and were the subject of pranks and ridicule by those who observed the new year months ago.” by  TALAL AL-KHATIB

 

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Another weekly tip to inspire students:

Teachers, parents ask your children to make up their own idea of the origin of April Fools’ Day before sharing the history with them. Depending on their ages, encourage them to write creative stories or draw pictures to share their thoughts. I welcome their creations at http://www.barbarahurwitz.com

THE BEST TIPS TO INSPIRE STUDENT MINDS

 

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This past weekend I read the  Bam Radio 10 Education Ideas tweet filled with education related inspirational platitudes offering no methods, ideas, suggested teaching techniques. Sure children can be compared to snowflakes, each uniquely different, but unlike snowflakes children have minds, minds that welcome inspiration, creativity and love. And to inspire those minds teachers themselves must be inspired. Those that are open to new ideas and welcome challenges, new adventures, “novel” explorations are the ones who best inspire our children. I encourage teachers to never stop learning, creating and exploring and to share those goals with their students with more than words but with actions. Each week I hope to share a 5-10 minute warmup to help open minds to new adventures in learning.

This week I suggest reading a short poem aloud and encourage students to illustrate their thoughts through words or pictures. Join me by sharing your ideas with me and my readers. Those little “snowflakes” are ours together to help grow into a blizzard of inspiring thoughts and creative ideas and actions.

JAKE PULLMAN & THE MAGICAL TIMER

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With an organization plan set in place, and time management under control, Jake and I embark on my third and final element to success – focus time.

By now I have learned that reading is most fatiguing for Jake. And because it is slow and arduous, his attention drifts easily. While his parents are complaining of the number of hours spent on homework, I can see the number of hours lost fruitlessly staring at pages while his thoughts are somewhere else. What we need is a new plan, something I never run short of.

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Today when Jake I met I suggested we begin by reviewing the night’s reading assignment, quickly scanning the first 20 pages of Gary Paulsen’s novel Hatchet. Then while setting my stop watch, I asked Jake to read only until he felt his attention drift. After ten minutes, I saw his eyes lift from the book and follow a squirrel running through the yard.

“Stop,” I told him and slipped the book from his hands. When I saw he had read only seven pages, I knew there was room for improvement, but I was pleased, when checking, to find his comprehension was good.

“Okay, this is great,” I told him, but his raised eye brows spoke doubt of my encouragement. “No really, it’s really good. You can finish this assignment in only 20 more minutes if we break it up into two more reading segments. In between, you can have a snack, shoot some baskets, or play an active game, just no video games or texting.”

He welcomed the plan, but added, “My parents will never buy this.” They like many parents, want him sit until all his work is done.

I understood this concept. I was raised on it and have heard the same complaint from too many of my students. But if I could show the Pullmans that Jake would be done with his work at a reasonable hour following this plan, I was hopeful they’d buy into it as so many other parents have.

There’s something magical about working with a timer. It helps keep students focused and even when they drift, it’s only to check the timer, which with it’s diminishing count down, always reinforces the return to the task. With Jake it was no different. He was able to complete the reading with relative ease and maybe even some enjoyment.

As we continue to work together in the next few weeks, we’ll begin to adjust the timer upward until Jake reaches an age appropriate attention level. Because I like to encourage student decision making, in the future I ‘ll always ask Jake to decide the number of reading segments and number of minutes to set on the timer.  I’ve found the the beauty of this method is students like to challenge themselves increasing their focus time  without much if any encouragement from me. Here’s hoping Jake follows the pattern.

 

Note: All characters are fictitious and resemblance to anyone is purely coincidental.