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

 

 

 

 

Gone Too Soon!

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Ending a life is incredibly, incredibly tragic. It represents a lost battle with mental illness. Where it is different is that suicide is a choice. Suicide is a terrible decision made by someone whose pain is so great that they can no longer hold it, and feel they have no other option in life but to end it. They forget all the wonderful things in their lives because they are so consumed by the depression and by the feelings of not being worthy. It’s a decision you can’t take back, and a decision that will affect your friends and family forever. It is not taken lightly.

Losing a person to suicide may feel like a waste. For someone looking in, it does seem like a waste—especially in the case of Williams, who was a brilliantly funny man and a talented actor. People who are severely depressed can’t see past their failures, even if they’ve been successful. Life, however, is never wasted. Williams did things in his life that touched people to their core.

About 90% of people who commit suicide have some kind of mental illness that goes untreated or undertreated.

The national suicide prevention lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 or http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Depression and Suicide Resources

American Foundation for Suicide

About Teen Depression

Depression Fact Sheet

Youth Depression

Talking with Kids About the News

~ 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

 

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/

Selfie – An Empowering Choice

photo 1I confess to taking my first selfie this past week. Yep! That girl is me. I had mixed feelings about the process, since, to be honest, I was a total hater of the selfie. There seemed to be a tone of self-absorbed behavior that rubbed me the wrong way, when it came to selfies. I mean, consider the word, itself, which, by the way, is the word of the year 2013 for Oxford Dictionary.

Most of the selfies that I have seen, unfortunately, have been produced by teens making poor choices, searching for something beyond that which their audiences can give–perhaps a bit too much showing of self or a controversial setting that requires some adult intervention.

The primary reason I decided to click my pic was because I really didn’t want to! Looking at pictures of myself makes me want to sneeze. Even though I consider myself to be confident and comfortable with my physical image, I’m just like the millions of women around the world who can be self-conscious of the way I look, at times, wanting to measure up to the airbrushed faces that are stalking me everywhere I go. I thought, well my hair is a mess, I’m wearing no makeup, the lighting is horrible, and . . . girl, push through that fear , be brave and just take the picture.

My first attempt was comical. I giggled at myself, trying to figure out if I should stare at the little hole or the crazy twin looking back at me. I laughed hard and thought of the artistic details someone like Vincent Van Gough considered when he painted his own selfie. Trying to capture myself was equivalent to a dog trying to catch its tail. Sometimes you get a piece, but never the whole thing.

Yet, there is something empowering about being the artist and the subject matter, all in one. There is something of self to share that isn’t preoccupied with vanity; a self-acceptance in sharing the message, “I’m here, and I’m cool with who I am.” I came across a Dove You Tube that embraces the empowering component a selfie can have on mothers and daughters in regard to seeing oneself as beautiful. The video encouraged me with my newfound appreciation for the nuances of this art form.

I sent a trail of selfies to my husband, who replied, “Looks like you are having fun.” I was. Then, I realized, this was not my first selfie. A lost memory appeared, a time with a girlfriend, making silly faces at a Polaroid camera that spat out pictures of two girls enjoying their friendship.

Sometimes, we forget the innocence of a good time and over-analyze all the negative aspects and pitfalls of a new technology. I know it is our responsibility to be on guard as parents and teachers, but we should consider being less critical, remember the joy of our own youth and lead the way in initiating fun with empowering choices.

Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

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