A Great School Year According to Kids

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Summer’s end gives way to back-to-school thoughts with traditional articles doling tips and advice to kick off the school year just right.  Usually– no, always these thoughts are derived from the experts, teachers and parents. No one ever asks those who ultimately should get to define that experience.  When asked, kids have their fair share of what would make for a great school year.  Enjoy the thoughts of students from pre-school to senior year of high school, when asked, “What would make for a great school year?”

“Reinstitute recess.  And, I mean, a real recess that the teachers don’t try to control.”  – Charlie, 8th grade

“Elementary school should have more science and experiments so kids can have fun learning.” – Joseph, 5th grade

“No NJASK! It doesn’t count as a grade & it builds too much attention for something that almost means nothing. Prepping for months long is not a learning experience. What did I learn?”  – Shawn, 8th grade

“For writing kids should be able to meet and interview authors to get tips on how to become better authors.” – Joseph, 5th grade

“I want a field trip to an amusement park with lots of roller coasters.  I want to know how they work.” – Caleb, 5th grade

“Some days, I want to be able to scream at the top of my lungs without getting into trouble.” – Nick, 2nd grade

“I would like to do more math and get rid of reading.”  – Justin, 2nd grade

“A great school year has lots of play dough!” – Jessie, Kindergarten

“We need video games, like math video games in every room and a half day of school with recess every day.” – Justin, 3rd grade

“I’m happy to get to go upstairs with the big kids and bubbles.  We should have bubbles.” –  Jasmine, Preschool

“To receive equal respect from teachers.  They are demanding respect from us but it seems like they don’t give it back to us.” – Avery, 12th grade

I wish we had basic life skills being taught to us.  Everything is so academic and I feel like that it really doesn’t prepare me for life.”  – Lily, 12th grade

Also, we learn so much about history that I feel disconnected to what is going on in the world today.  I wish we learned more about current events.” – Lily, 12th grade

I think there should be breaks throughout the day to hang out with friends, better lunches and no homework.  I would rather spend an extra half hour a day at school than do homework.  I just want to be done! “- Phillip, 8th grade

Elementary school should have a baseball team and clean bathrooms, a glass dome with a huge opening so I can sky jump from a private jet right into the building. And, reading, lots of reading, I wish we had more time to read.”  – Michael, 4th grade

My school year would be great with lots of outside time! Did you know my favorite letter is E, like egg, elephant. . . I think we will learn more about the letter E. “– Emily, Kindergarten

Great friends that are there, teachers that support, not adversary and a nice atmosphere. “– Riley, 9th grade

It’s difficult to learn subject matter that is not enjoyable but important.  Wish teachers could make it fun. And, students stop being mean to others that have different interests.  I see kids being mean or just ignoring others because they do not have shared interests.  Wish that could end.” – John, 9th grade

Down with the yellow buses.  They smell disgusting!” – Charlie, 8th grade

The pressure to be more ahead of where you are is insane.  I wish there was an acceptance from adults that not everyone needs to be so advanced.  We should be motivated by our learning experience not always trying to get ahead.” – John, 9th grade

“Having a choice in what we learn would be nice.  We are always told what we should learn but no one asks what we want to learn.” – Riley, 9th grade

Students were incredibly eager to voice their feelings about their education.  Between the bubbles and smelly yellow buses were some profound messages.   I hope as teachers and parents we are listening and willing to have a great school year.

Good luck with the upcoming school year and enjoy the last days of summer.

For more information on the TURNING STONEchoice process please visit www.turningstonechoice.com.

Sammy@TURNING STONEchoice

 

 

 

 

The Recess Queen

recess_queenThis book is a favorite! Powerful insights into playground bullying, school violence, and poor self-esteem.  This book offers wonderful life lessons while weaving through character development traits like responsibility, integrity, courage and leadership.  The Recess Queen is a great teaching tool for guidance counselors, teachers or parents.  This book is a sure hit!

~ TURNING STONEchoice

Signs of Positive Self-Esteem

As we work to understand ourselves and our children, we should strive to make choices that help us achieve long term success and self-fulfillment. When we have positive self-esteem, we can better understand:

  • The reality of our personal abilities and limitations.
  • The importance of understanding that we do not live within a vacuum and must interact rather than react to others.
  • The knowledge of when we are being influenced emotionally by past events which may cloud our judgment in a new situation.
  • The reality that ultimately we only have control of ourselves and no one else, not even our children.

Ultimately, when you have positive self-esteem, you understand the reality of your choice making and are able to maintain an attitude that with careful consideration will allow you to supplement and compliment your efforts and overcome challenges.

MIL_277x277_0006_middle_school~TURNING STONEchoice

 

How to Handle Child Attitude

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The awe and flash of Fourth of July fireworks, replete with cannonade, have drifted into silence, but the significance of independence never fades.

In the classroom, we seek to mold independent, critical minds for solving tomorrow’s challenges, and, in the home, we strive to raise confident and self-reliant children.  However, both teacher and parent would relish freedom from the universal, adolescent phenomenon known as “attitude.”

“Attitude,“ as used in this post, is the negative one we experience when a child chooses to express his or her feelings in an inappropriate way.  You know:  rolling the eyes, stomping the feet, invoking a tone of doom, sometimes even throwing a tantrum unrivaled by the most petulant toddler.

Attitude is defined as the way a person views something or tends to behave toward it, often in an evaluative way.  A good attitude makes a student “a pleasure to have in class,” whereas a toxic attitude often serves as the impetus for firing an employee.

Attitude can also be a fuzzy line of self-expression or disrespect.  It’s difficult to pinpoint and even more difficult to address.  Is this child just venting or is he or she being disrespectful to me?  Some of the attitude thrown our way requires looking more insightfully at possible causes and solutions.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  I notice a rise in attitude and complaining at home.  Quick to point fingers and snap about complaining spirits, I, in turn, complain to others about my children’s attitudes.  Huh?  The irony and hypocrisy in that is ridiculous.  If my spirit is irritated and not kind or considerate, perhaps I’m setting the tone.  Additionally, barking directives at my children is such an easy default in my interactions with them.  Solution:  I need to check myself. Being mindful of what is coming out of my mouth and the way it is coming out is brutally challenging, but the solution is to adjust my own attitude.

A fellow parent believes a sibling’s or classmate’s attitude is more influential than that of a parent.  It’s the equivalent of silently saying, “This is acceptable behavior that you have permission to model.”  For example, if a child is allowed to snap and whine with rewarding results, there will be plenty of witnesses who will follow the same lead.  Solution:  Bring attention to the behavior without engaging in a battle.  That takes a moment of self-control on our part, not to react but to pause then interact.  A teacher can simply let a student know, “I do not appreciate the way you are speaking to me,” and move on to the next item of the day.  Totally ignoring a bad attitude is like throwing gasoline on a flame.  It has the potential to get bigger, blow-up, and spread to others.

Unmet expectations!   This one is huge and is the bottom line of most attitude problems.  When a request gets denied, there, typically, is a response.  It could be a repeating of the same request.  [I must have not heard the request right the first time and my “no” really must have meant something else.]  Or the silent treatment, sulking, body flopping, a resounding, “COME-ON!”, and “Pleeeeease,” could all be possible follow-ups to a denial.

I realize those are all forms of coping with disappointment and expressing feelings, but there is no benefit to a child who gets his or her way when using any of these techniques.  She or he will be the one getting fired in the future for trying to use the same techniques with his or her employer. Solution:  Never “change your mind” when a student or your child engages in a poor attitude.  If we cave [I know, I have], then we have just trained this child to respond accordingly to get his/her way.

Attitude adjustments do take time, effort, and a dash of humor.  Stay consistent, stay strong, and keep in mind the wise words of Captain Jack Sparrow when addressing attitudes in the home or at school, “The problem is not the problem.  The problem is your attitude toward the problem.  Understand?”

For more information about TURNING STONEchoice please visit www.turningstonechoice.com.

 

Have a happy & healthy summer.

Sammy @TSC

 

The Five-Second Rule

 

lollipopHave you ever had those incredible moments of frustration that make you want to run, screaming, down the street?  Sure, you have, if you are a teacher, parent or both.  Your role is typically challenged by moments that require every ounce of maturity and wisdom to get you through the day.  Sometimes, it takes a sweet treat to help work through that frustration.

I am reminded of a sticky lollipop falling to the floor and tiny hands rescuing it from the grimy kitchen surface.   With a resounding pitch, my seven-year-old claimed it: “Five-second rule!”  Then, he quickly popped it into his mouth and went about his business.

Yes, the “five-second rule” still lives on, my friends.  I hadn’t heard it in some time, and, at that moment, I thought: What if I took five seconds not to react to people or circumstance? It takes mental awareness and self-control not to lash out when people, places, or life irritates me.   What if I stopped and took five seconds to breathe, or five seconds to be still or five seconds to think about my next course of action?

It’s a simple technique to engage our critical thinking skill set and bring us to a place of interaction vs. reaction.   Modeling this behavior reinforces the developing process that we teach our charges.  When we “walk the talk” our actions carry a stronger message over the words pouring out of our lips.

Sometimes taking five seconds is the difference between enjoying the lollipop or crushing it mercilessly, so the next time you find yourself on the brink, think: Five-second rule!

For more information on the TURNING STONEchoice process please visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com

Sammy@TSC

 

 

Teacher Appreciation

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“When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” ~ Maya Angelou

It’s time to thank the dedicated teachers for all their sacrifices and support for children throughout the year.  Teachers play a key role in student success and feeling valued lets teachers know their efforts are not going unnoticed.

“Ideal teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross, then having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own.” ~ Nikos Kazantzakis

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Parent Teacher Partnership

parent teacher crossword Although there are only a few months left in the school year, it is never too late to foster a partnership between parents and teachers. Parent-teacher partnership refers to parents and teachers working collaboratively together to enhance student achievement and to ensure student success. One of the most frustrating trends in schools is how the level of parental involvement decreases as a child’s age increases.  It is an extremely discouraging fact because children of all ages would benefit if their parents would stay involved.  Parent-teacher partnerships and relationships are essential, no matter how old the student. The relationship between parents and teachers remains as important for high school students as it is for middle and elementary school students. There are many benefits to a parent-teacher partnership:

  • When parents and teachers work together it sends a clear, consistent, and positive message to students that school is important, that learning is important and that achievement is expected.
  • Parent involvement can free teachers to focus more on the task of teaching children. By having more contact with parents, teachers learn more about students’ needs and home environment.  Teacher morale is also improved by having parents who are involved.
  • Research proves that parent involvement benefits students by raising their academic achievement, increases motivation for learning, improves behavior, and promotes a positive attitude towards school in general.

An important aspect of building this relationship includes a teacher’s understanding of a parent’s perspective. Having a better understanding of the families’ work demands, needs of other children and individual beliefs and goals for educational success help educators determine the best way to engage and communicate with parents.

Family and school represent the primary environments in which young children grow and develop, and good schools value parental involvement. The foundation for good parent-teacher relationships is frequent and open communication, mutual respect and a clear understanding of what is best for each individual child.

Share your thoughts on how to enhance the parent-teacher relationship in the comment box below.

For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and our programs please follow www.turningstonechoice.com.

Grit

Fall and get up

With over ten years of back-yard observation, I have witnessed scores of children “wipe out” a gazillion times. There is the simple trip-and-fall, the oh-that’s-gotta-hurt, and the paranormal tumble, with its subsequent ride to the ER. What has impressed me most throughout my years of observation is the one kid–no matter the classification of wipeout or injury—who stands up, brushes himself or herself off, and keeps on going. That is the kid who has “grit.”

Parents and teachers easily spot grit in a child. It’s the “thing” that gives you some assurance that this kid will be all right in life, because he or she can take the hard knocks and persevere.

How important is grit? Some researchers claim grit is a better predictor of success than I.Q. A 2013 report from the Department of Education claims that kids are learning to “do school,” but aren’t learning the skills they need in life– skills like critical thinking and positive-choice making, which are crucial to every area of life.

However, schools across the nation are becoming more proactive in recognizing the value of determination, effort, and hard work and are providing additional resources for the development of critical thinking skills, which improve self-confidence. One can argue that grit is just a byproduct of confidence, but, although we may see grit as a natural way for some, and not for others, researchers are hopeful that the qualities that define grit, like persistence, tenacity, and resilience, are teachable. The difficulty is trying to quantify the unquantifiable.

How can we develop grit? As parents and teachers, we can simply back off and let the struggles and natural consequences of life occur. Think of a butterfly working its way out of the cocoon. Without the struggle to free itself from the cocoon, the butterfly cannot develop the wing strength to fly, and it will die. It is a test of personal restraint, not to rescue students by giving hints to questions that may prove to be challenging or to take over tasks at home with which kids may struggle. Through every struggle, our children will develop persistence, resilience, and, finally, grit.

What are your “gritty” experiences as parents and teachers? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

For more information about our programs for parents and educators please follow http://www.turningstonechoice.com

Sammy@TURNING STONEchoice

Teacher: The Real Four-Leaf-Clover

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Teacher, I know you have those marvelous kids in your class who struggle against unfathomable life circumstances, the ones you see trying to survive and attempting to get an education, but, at every turn, something or someone is blocking their efforts. And, you think, these kids deserve a break. It’s not their fault. They just need a little luck. At least, that is what has been on my mind and heart recently, with St. Patrick’s Day inching closer—Luck. However, I learned recently that the four-leaf clover, a symbol of good luck, actually represents much more, including Faith, Hope, and Love.

I can’t even begin to advise, in a quick article, on the way to reach and help those kids for whom our hearts ache. Circumstances can be tragically different from one student to the next. And, I know this can be depressing and discouraging, with a tinge of guilt in between.

This much I can tell you, teacher-friend. You are their good luck, Monday through Friday. You show up in their lives and present them with opportunity, encouragement, knowledge, care, and, for many of you, a whole lot of love. You are the symbol of the four-leaf clover, having faith in their abilities, hope for their futures, love for the unique individuals that they are, and crossed fingers for luck to come their way.

Good fortune may or may not chance upon them, but, because you show faith, perhaps they believe in themselves a little more; because you dare to hope for them, they begin to dream; and because you love them as they are, hurting and broken, they begin to love themselves. Perhaps, learning about themselves in this way empowers them to create their own luck.

Remember: You are someone’s good fortune. Thank you for being that teacher! Pass this along to your fellow four-leaf clovers.

Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com

image from http://getbarmax.com/bar-exam-luc/

Share This with All the Schools, Please

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One of the BEST stories I have had the privilege to read this year. A touching story of a teacher and her passion for the lost hearts of children, written by Glennon Doyle Melton from MOMASTERY on Jan 30th. Be inspired, encouraged and pass it on! Sammy@TURNING STONE choice

A few weeks ago, I went into Chase’s class for tutoring.
I’d emailed Chase’s teacher one evening and said, “Chase keeps telling me that this stuff you’re sending home is math – but I’m not sure I believe him. Help, please.” She emailed right back and said, “No problem! I can tutor Chase after school anytime.” And I said, “No, not him. Me. He gets it. Help me.” And that’s how I ended up standing at a chalkboard in an empty fifth grade classroom staring at rows of shapes that Chase’s teacher kept referring to as “numbers.”
I stood a little shakily at the chalkboard while Chase’s teacher sat behind me, perched on her desk, using a soothing voice to try to help me understand the “new way we teach long division.” Luckily for me, I didn’t have to unlearn much because I never really understood the “old way we taught long division.” It took me a solid hour to complete one problem, but l could tell that Chase’s teacher liked me anyway. She used to work with NASA, so obviously we have a whole lot in common.
Afterwards, we sat for a few minutes and talked about teaching children and what a sacred trust and responsibility it is. We agreed that subjects like math and reading are the least important things that are learned in a classroom. We talked about shaping little hearts to become contributors to a larger community – and we discussed our mutual dream that those communities might be made up of individuals who are Kind and Brave above all.
And then she told me this.
Every Friday afternoon Chase’s teacher asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom they’d like to sit the following week. The children know that these requests may or may not be honored. She also asks the students to nominate one student whom they believe has been an exceptional classroom citizen that week. All ballots are privately submitted to her.
And every single Friday afternoon, after the students go home, Chase’s teacher takes out those slips of paper, places them in front of her and studies them. She looks for patterns.
Who is not getting requested by anyone else?
Who doesn’t even know who to request?
Who never gets noticed enough to be nominated?
Who had a million friends last week and none this week?
You see, Chase’s teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or “exceptional citizens.” Chase’s teacher is looking for lonely children. She’s looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She’s identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class’s social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed by their peers. And she’s pinning down- right away- who’s being bullied and who is doing the bullying.
As a teacher, parent, and lover of all children – I think that this is the most brilliant Love Ninja strategy I have ever encountered. It’s like taking an X-ray of a classroom to see beneath the surface of things and into the hearts of students. It is like mining for gold – the gold being those little ones who need a little help – who need adults to step in and TEACH them how to make friends, how to ask others to play, how to join a group, or how to share their gifts with others. And it’s a bully deterrent because every teacher knows that bullying usually happens outside of her eyeshot – and that often kids being bullied are too intimidated to share. But as she said – the truth comes out on those safe, private, little sheets of paper.
As Chase’s teacher explained this simple, ingenious idea – I stared at her with my mouth hanging open. “How long have you been using this system?” I said.
Ever since Columbine, she said. Every single Friday afternoon since Columbine.
Good Lord.
This brilliant woman watched Columbine knowing that ALL VIOLENCE BEGINS WITH DISCONNECTION. All outward violence begins as inner loneliness. She watched that tragedy KNOWING that children who aren’t being noticed will eventually resort to being noticed by any means necessary.
And so she decided to start fighting violence early and often, and with the world within her reach. What Chase’s teacher is doing when she sits in her empty classroom studying those lists written with shaky 11 year old hands – is SAVING LIVES. I am convinced of it. She is saving lives.
And what this mathematician has learned while using this system is something she really already knew: that everything – even love, even belonging – has a pattern to it. And she finds those patterns through those lists – she breaks the codes of disconnection. And then she gets lonely kids the help they need. It’s math to her. It’s MATH.
All is love- even math. Amazing.
Chase’s teacher retires this year – after decades of saving lives. What a way to spend a life: looking for patterns of love and loneliness. Stepping in, every single day- and altering the trajectory of our world.
TEACH ON, WARRIORS. You are the first responders, the front line, the disconnection detectives, and the best and ONLY hope we’ve got for a better world. What you do in those classrooms when no one is watching- it’s our best hope.
Teachers- you’ve got a million parents behind you whispering together: “We don’t care about the damn standardized tests. We only care that you teach our children to be Brave and Kind. And we thank you. We thank you for saving lives.”
Love – All of Us

For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com