It’s hard to believe, but next week my husband and I will attend our second to last parent-teacher conference. After nearly two decades of attending conferences, this chapter of our lives will come to an abrupt end. The occasion has caused me to reflect on the many things I’ve learned about my boys from their teachers. The best conferences have always left me feeling delightfully surprised about something I learned about my children. I remember thinking, “Are you talking about my child?” Over the years I have come to realize that the people they are at school are not always the same children we see at home. Paradoxically enough, these same conferences would leave me feeling assured and affirmed, as the teacher would have shared some anecdote that demonstrated that they truly “got” my child.
No matter how many conferences I’ve attended either as a parent or as a teacher – I always feel myself feeling a little anxious beforehand. “How can I make the best use of this time?” I ask myself. Conferences have ranged from 10-20 minutes, which is not a lot of time to cover a child’s overall development, performance, and burgeoning interests. In order to make a conference work, both parties are wise to do a little advance planning. Having some idea of what you wish to accomplish will help shape the outcome, and whenever possible, it’s a good idea to let the teacher know ahead of time about any issues you wish to discuss so that he/she can prepare.
Here are some general tips for a successful conference:
- Read your child’s progress report before the conference and come prepared with questions and comments.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Be on time – if you’re late, you are inconveniencing other families as well as cutting into your valuable time with your child’s teacher.
The type of question asked also plays a significant role in the quality of the conference. I asked teachers to provide me with a list of questions they feel help advance a conversation, as well as examples of those questions that can set a conference off in the wrong direction. As one teacher offered, “Questions that help the conversation stay focused on the whole child are usually centered around knowing a child better so that the parents and teachers can work together to come up with a learning or social plan together.” Here are some of their other ideas:
Questions that promote productive conferences
Ask this: “Does my child appear to be working up to his/her potential? Does my child understand your expectations? Is he performing at grade level? Is she where she needs to be developmentally? What are my child’s strengths and weaknesses? What are some examples of each strength or weakness?”
Rather than this: “Is my child at the top of the class? What is his/her ranking?”
Each student is a complex profile of strengths and weakness and should be evaluated against curriculum-related benchmarks and the standards for the school and the curriculum. Straight E’s or A’s should not be your goal, and comparisons with other children is not productive.
Ask this: “Is my child getting along with others? Who does my child seem to play with at recess? Are there any classroom relationships or situations which I need to be made aware of?”
Rather than this: “Can you tell me about (some other child’s) behavior?” or “My child did not get along with …., (popssibly even last year) so can we separate them?”
Teachers use professional judgment to decide what social groupings make sense for learning. Also, children change and are capable of forgiveness and moving on, so it’s important that students be allowed to refresh relationships.
Ask this: “Are there any books/websites to challenge or support my child’s development in _____.” Rather than this: “The homework is too easy for my child.”
Ask this: (When there is an issue) “Can we come up with a home-school plan to support my child in ____” Rather than this: “My child never had this issue before.”
This last one is a fine question. However, if a plan is put into place, it is really important that the parent follow through on his/her part at home. It is very frustrating for a teacher to put in a lot of time to create a plan and provide materials, only to find the agreement unmet on the other end. Therefore, I encourage you to do some reflecting on how much time you and your child are realistically able to put into any extra work at home as a part of your brainstorming sessions with your child’s teacher. A little bit of extra help is far better than none!
My biggest tip is to do your best to see your child as an independent, multi-faceted being, and to remember that child development is not a steady uphill climb. Everyone’s learning profile will be comprised of strengths and weaknesses, peaks and valleys.
Some children have to pedal a lot faster to go the same speed and distance as other children in a given area. At the end of the day, we all only have so much energy and stamina. It’s very normal to see a child make gains in one area and see progress remain static in another. For example, if a disproportionate amount of time, focus and attention is going to the mastery of mathematical computation, there is naturally less resource available at the present time to attend to the mechanics of writing with the same degree of intensity.
Also, remember that stress is not a symptom of healthy challenge. Too often parents think that a child who is performing with ease is not challenged because they are not demonstrating signs and symptoms of stress. A stressed child cannot achieve to his/her potential. Do not fall into the trap of believing we need to challenge our children to the point of breaking in order to ensure that they are learning or being adequately challenged. In fact, facing all of the tasks that are presented to them with confidence and a sense of capability instead of stress is one indicator that your child is developing into a life long learner who handles challenges with aplomb.
Finally, remember that potential does not automatically translate to achievement. Your child may have higher potential than he or she is demonstrating at the present time, but the reasons for this might have nothing to do with the teacher, the curriculum or the school. Things “click” for people at different times, and this is never truer than with the developing child. If you find yourself getting anxious, step back and look at the big picture. Is your child engaged in school and his or her learning? Is he or she happy coming to school? Are teachers confident that the child is where he or she needs to be? If the answer is yes to all of these questions, chances are your worrying is unwarranted and you can step back and remember to “keep your eye on the prize.”
Questions? Comments? Ideas? I’d love to hear them! Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Call me corny, but I love the traditional Thanksgiving story. The part of me that forever seeks community is deeply nourished by the idealized image of the Pilgrims and the Native Americans sitting down at the table together to share a fall feast. It’s heartwarming to think of the Native Americans sharing their bounty with these strange white men who showed up on their shores unannounced and uninvited. And while history teaches us about the devastatingly difficult times ahead, the story itself allows us to reflect on the true meaning of hospitality, the importance of sharing, and the courage needed to reach out to strangers and welcome them. The Native Americans were not obliged to honor Robert Frost’s definition of home for these wayward travelers: “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” Nothing was owed to the Pilgrims, yet so much was given. For me, Thanksgiving is a powerful reminder of our need to build bridges rather than erect fences; at the end of the day, regardless of color, nationality, or creed, we all belong to the same human family.
I have been blessed with many opportunities to learn about the importance of gratitude in my life, but perhaps no experience was more life-changing than the two years I spent living in Amman, Jordan in the early 1990s. Every night I would be awakened by the Call to Prayer, and was overwhelmed by the thought of Muslims all over the world getting out of their beds, spreading out their mats, and kneeling down to pray. What an amazing and fitting act – the gratitude they feel for their lives is so great that they literally wake up to take notice, and to give thanks. And not just on one day of the year, but every day, five times a day, and even in the middle of the night. It reminds me of the need to pinch myself when something happens that is “too good to be true.” While living there I made it my practice to lie in my bed while the prayer was chanted over the loudspeaker in the town mosque, and to make a list of my many blessings. No matter the events of the day, or the worries that accompanied me to my pillow, the Call to Prayer was so profound that everything was immediately put into perspective.
In our Community Time assembly this week, we considered the difference between happiness and joy. One of the key differences, we learned, is that happiness comes from external forces –it is usually caused by luck, good fortune, or getting what one wants. Joy, on the other hand, comes from within and can be experienced even in the midst of trying times and situations. Thanksgiving connects us to our inner joy by inviting us to make time for gratitude, and this joy in turns drives our desire to be sure that others have what they need. Like the Native Americans, we are aware of our abundance and experience joy in sharing it with others.
As I participate in the preparation of the annual feast, I am keenly aware of the gratitude I feel for my All Saints family. This community challenges me to be my best self, inspires me to be creative and courageous, and provides me with a sense of authentic connection with the basic goodness in each and every one of us. In any given week, I have to me pinch myself with tremendous frequency! Thank you for sharing the greatest joy of all with me – your children. They, and you, will be in my heart this Thanksgiving day, as I enjoy the day at home with family – those people who, when I need a place to go, will always have to take me in.
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My passion for independent school education connects directly back to my experience as a scholarship student at a New England boarding school. I frequently look back on that wonderful gift I was given with a sense of tremendous gratitude; it is not an exaggeration to say that I would not be the person or the educator I am today if not for the generosity of the many families who supported the school’s annual fund that earmarked money for financial assistance. I’ve often wished I could have the actual names and addresses of the people who made my education possible, so rather than remaining nameless and faceless, I would be able to tell them about the many ways and times their gifts have been paid forward.
At this time of year, when we are about to kick off our Annual Fund campaign, I think of the ways in which All Saints would not be what it is today if not for the philanthropic gifts from so many families and community members who support the Fund. From Smartboards to iPads, play yard structures to fish tanks, and even the bricks that make up the outside facade of our new classrooms, the generosity of parents can be seen at every turn in our school. And while there are many ways to share your treasure with the school, the most powerful mechanism is the Annual Fund. These unrestricted funds comprise almost 6% of our operating budget, making it possible for us to keep tuition down, provide competitive teacher salaries, stay ahead of the technology curve, keep our historic buildings in tip-top shape, and provide financial assistance for families who cannot afford to pay full tuition.
The growth of our school over the past several years is nothing short of amazing! I was looking back at a school wish list we put together during my early tenure at the school, and was taken aback at how far we’ve come. I remember the occasion as though it were yesterday. The PA was concluding its fundraising efforts for the play yard, which was a HUGE undertaking for our small school at the time, and they asked me what else we needed. Not sure how to respond, I gathered the staff together and we came up with the following items for our wish list, which I handed over with some trepidation about the boldness of the ask: an LED projector, a pull down screen, and Morning Meeting easels for the classrooms.
If someone from that PA group ten years ago would have told me that in 2012 we’d raise enough money for a fleet of 30 iPads, or in 2013 we’d raise $90,000 in “bundles of bricks” for our expansion project, or that our Annual Fund would grow from $28,000 to $186,000 I’d have politely found a way to tell them they were crazy! But here we are.
Noted author and lecturer Jim Collins said that “good is the enemy of great,” and to me that is how I see the Annual Fund – it is the foundation on which we build and achieve greatness. The Fund allows us to dream, and turn those dreams into reality. The Fund takes “one-offs” and turns them into standard practice. For example: The Auction made our first fleet of 30 iPads possible, but it’s the Fund that fortifies our operating budget so that iPads have become a standard piece of equipment for every student in Grades 7 and 8; the Auction helped us buy some of the bricks needed for our expansion project, but it’s the Fund that will help us to sustain the increased costs associated with this new space.
Be on the lookout for our Annual Fund mailer, which you should be receiving shortly. You’ll notice that the campaign is structured a little differently this year. As you consider the gift you are going to make, please think about the many people who have given before you to make our school what it is today, and give as generously as you can. Together we can pay that generosity forward, and make our dreams take flight.
Comments? Thoughts? Ideas? I’d love to hear them! Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Despite the weather becoming cold, and the light beginning to dim, November is a special month for me. It reminds me to take stock of the many blessings in my life, and engage in a practice of self reflection that I cannot seem to make time for during the year. During the month of November, all students are exploring the theme of Gratitude and Abundance in our Community Time classes and as our spiritual focus. Some of the ideas and concepts students are exploring this month include joy, unconditional love, needs vs. wants, simplicity, gratitude, and of course, family, friends and community.
What is our Community Time Assembly and Mid-Month Gathering all about, you might ask? A parent reported to me this week that she asked her child this very question, and the answer she got really captures the essence beautifully: “(the Gathering) is where we celebrate the gifts in our community, and (the Community Time Assembly) is where we take care of our inner light.” Based on that profound insight, I’d say that our new spirituality initiative is really having an impact.
At our Mid-Month Gathering this week, a beautiful Flag of Blessings adorned the altar area. Made out of student-created cards indicating the things for which students are most grateful, this flag was a wonderful testament to the spiritual lives and “inner light” that shines within our students. While one might expect to see toys and iPads topping the list, I was so tickled to see the variety and depth of their responses, a sampling of which follows:
- Family and friends
- Home and school
- Pets and animals
- My community
- Girl Scouts
- Nice parents
- The memory of pets who have died
- Sandwich squad
- Being alive
- The chance to donate candy to the troops in Afghanistan
- My mind
- Thanksgiving at my house
- Living in a war-free community
- Getting many opportunities that others don’t
- (And my personal favorite…) Going to the best school in the world!
Students also learned a little bit about Louie Schwartzberg, an award-winning Swiss filmmaker who has been called “a messenger from nature.” In a breathtaking video, Schwartzberg reminds us of the abundance of beauty in our lives, and of the only appropriate response to this beauty: gratitude. Please take five minutes to experience his work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2egMSliB8DE
Finally, as is our custom at the Mid-Month Gathering, students sang the Shaker song “Simple Gifts,” followed by the giving, receiving and celebration of a number of special gifts. Here is a sampling of the gifts given:
- Eighth Graders made a thank you card for Dr. Sharon Stern of Gentle Dental, who sponsored the shipping of 178 pounds of Halloween Candy to the men and women in our Armed Forces in Afghanistan.
- First Grader Molly Brigden gave Ms. Therres three art books to add to her collection.
- Ms. Berhaupt and I gave each class a battery-operated candle to use when conducting the Examen in their classrooms, and a mini gong for ringing when saying the daily affirmation.
- First Graders made cards of appreciation for all of the staff, as well as for the Seventh Grade for coming in to read to them last week.
- The Service Club gave each class a compost jar that will be collected each week as part of our school composting program, and announced that they are working on plans to respond to the suffering in the Philippines as a result of the typhoon.
- Students were acknowledged for bringing in their summer reading books for reuse next year, and for their donation of 123 pairs of shoes to Soles4Souls.
I was personally touched that so many parents joined us for Gathering, and it is our hope that parents will be able to join us each month. Mark your calendars now for next month’s gathering on Tuesday, December 10, 8:30am in the church. Come spend 30 minutes with us before heading off to work – you might just surprise others with the warm glow of your “inner light” on the subway.
Comments? Thoughts? Ideas? I’d love to hear them! Email me: email@example.com
Although I have some happy memories of spending time with my dad, driving in his impeccably preserved Volkswagen Karmann Ghia and receiving my first driving lesson in that car was anything but pleasant. My dad, who never enjoyed being a student – let alone a teacher – pulled over to the shoulder of the Garden State Parkway and told me to change seats with him. Using the minimalist graphic on his mint-condition gear shift, Dad gave me a super-condensed description of how the gears and clutch worked together, and then told me to pull out, being careful to use my blinker. I don’t remember how I actually got out onto the highway, but somehow I did, and just when I was coasting along in fourth gear and started to exhale, my father handed me a couple of coins and said, “You’ll need this at the toll.” As you can imagine, coordinating the window lever, gear shift, clutch, brake and coins all proved to be too much for me, and I stalled at the threshold of the toll booth. Within mere seconds the horns started honking behind me, and I quickly reached my breaking point. Being completely unable to find the calm needed to try again, I quickly changed seats with my father. After an awkwardly silent ride home, I talked to my mom about my disastrous experience, and she generously offered to pay for professional driving lessons. In the hands of an experienced teacher, I was able to learn to drive with ease. I started out with little confidence, but in almost no time at all was able to build up my confidence as my skills increased. This experience was for me a textbook case in the difference a good teacher can make. I’m sure Dad’s driving skills rivaled or exceeded those of my driving teacher, but my father had no ability to recognize or understand what I needed in order to learn the concepts and skills that were certainly second nature for him.
Although much has been written about teacher evaluation and the characteristics that make a great teacher, I’ve developed my own set of standards which guide me in the hiring process. From my perspective, great teachers are:
Inspirational: Great teachers have a natural ability to incite joy and wonder in their students. Their words and actions, along with the activities they plan, inspire children to learn more – to develop a true hunger for learning. The love of learning demonstrated by great teachers is simply contagious.
Fair: Great teachers understand that “fair” does not mean that everyone receives the same thing, but that everyone receives what they need. By differentiating their approach to instruction, or implementing individualized strategies to help each student achieve, great teachers ensure that each and every student benefits from their time, energy and creativity.
Organized: Great teachers understand the importance of paying attention to the smallest details. They get the most mileage out of every moment they have with their students, keeping unnecessary downtime and multiple explanations to a minimum.
Passionate: Great teachers understand the importance of their work and recognize the positive impact they are having on their students, school community, and the larger world. They are not driven by financial reward, but have chosen careers into which they feel “called.”
Over the years I have seen and experienced poor teachers, mediocre teachers, good teachers and great teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching and learning in schools in various states and in other countries, and I’ve visited countless other schools over the course of my career. It gives me a tremendous sense of pride and satisfaction to say that I have NEVER seen a school like All Saints, where every teacher strives for greatness, and upholds the highest standards for excellence. As my teenage sons begin to ask about learning to drive, I am reminded of the powerful impact teachers have on our lives – both negatively and positively – and I am filled with a profound sense of appreciation for the dedicated team of excellent teachers who call All Saints their school home.
Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? I’d love to hear them! Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Middle School students had the pleasure of hosting teachers, parents, grandparents, board and vestry members, elected officials, local clergy, business owners, police officers, and community leaders this week for our Youth Leadership Summit. This annual celebration marks the end of our Month of the Young Adolescent (MOTYA) observance which this year focused on “healthy hangouts.”
Over the years, people have expressed surprise when learning that I have a passion for working with middle school students. I’m always taken aback by their reaction, and am reminded that children between the ages of 10 and15 might be some of the most misunderstood people on the planet.
According to Dr. Patrick Tolan, a professor at the University of Virginia, recognized internationally as an authority on adolescence and families, “There is a troubling bias that most adults hold about adolescents…this bias is our insistence upon seeing adolescence only as a time of great problems, of alienating and alienated personalities, and viewing younger adolescents in particular as trouble waiting to explode but for our careful watch and strong control. We overlook their capability and vigor for self-management and incorrectly view them as in emotional overdrive, unable to apply judgment, consider others or see the future impact of what they do.”
Tolan and many other researchers point out that this bias is all wrong. The truth is that more than 40 years of scientific research has shown that children in this age group actually seek to be successful in every aspect of their lives – at school, at home and in their communities. As Dr. Tolan points out, “most are working to make the most of opportunities, to be responsible and to begin exploring what it will mean to be an adult.”
When I reflect back on my own adolescence, I remember feeling the sting of this bias. I imagine that many of you do, too. Don’t you remember brimming with ideas, feeling intense passion about your beliefs, and believing that anything is possible? Don’t you recall being able to see injustice for what it is and being unafraid to name it? If your adolescence was anything like mine, you may remember feeling that despite these insights, some adults were dismissive of your ideas as, well, “adolescent,” and therefore unworthy of serious consideration. Worse, you may have felt deeply misunderstood, or unappreciated, and may have been confused about how you would ever grow comfortable in your own skin and ease your way into adulthood.
Our students worked hard all month to shape their thoughts and messages for the people who attended their Leadership Summit, and it is my pleasure to share a bit of their work with you here. Please spend a few minutes viewing this slideshow designed to capture students views of themselves, their perceptions on how others view them, and their hopes and dreams for the future. (The password to view the video is websafe.)
Comments? Thoughts? Ideas? I’d love othear them! Email me: email@example.com
MOTYA 2013 Video from All Saints Day School on Vimeo.
As the assigned “storyteller” in our Community Time Assembly this week, I shared this anecdote from my own childhood on the topic of service-oriented leadership. All parents are invited to our Mid-Month Gathering on Tuesday, November 12, 8:30am in the church.
Growing up in Hoboken, I spent a lot of time playing with the 55 children who lived “on the block.” While various games and activities came and went, the intensity with which we each played did not; it was as though we were all wired to become “expert” at a given task and then boredom would set in and we’d need to take on a new challenge. Active play rotations included Ringalario, Johnny on a Pony, Hopscotch, roller skating, Kick the Can, and Double Dutch jump rope. And then there were the hand-eye coordination games, which included bottle caps, yoyos, tops, and marbles. For a brief time one especially hot summer, however, the play moved to the back of the houses, where the shade of the yards shielded us from the hot sun. It was that summer that I learned an important lesson about leadership, and one that I would hearken back to for important insights about parenting.
Our backyards, though small and separated by a series of mismatched fences, were secretly connected through holes and other flaws in the structures that were designed to keep us apart. Most of the yards had sheds which had outlived their function, and had become a storage place for garden tools, childhood toys, or other bric a brac. The yards also contained a colony of stray cats that roamed throughout the urban wilderness, scavenging for scraps of food, water, or shelter from the elements. That summer our family’s shed became a sort of club house to my friends and me. We’d go in there to escape the heat of the sun, being careful not to upset the gigantic spider that had made her web in the Concord grape vines that virtually encased the doorway. Shortly after we began inhabiting the place, the cats started to come around, attracted by the morsels of food and attention we offered. Before we knew it, my friends and I were running an ad hoc animal shelter for cats. The way we saw it, they needed us. Some were injured or malnourished, others were barely old enough to be on their own, and several were old and near the end of their time. At night we could hear them screaming and fighting over territory in the yards, and we’d lie awake in our beds wondering which one might be injured and need us more than ever in the morning.
Without planning it, a system of organization emerged between us. Someone brought cat food, a handful of dry dog food they scooped out of their pet’s dish, or a can of tuna fish their parents wouldn’t notice missing from the cupboard. Someone would invariably brings snacks for us, of course – cookies and iced tea, or, if we were really lucky, a bit of candy or a cold bottle of Coca Cola. This is where my story really begins. In the same way that I was fully enthused about yoyos or bottle caps, I got really invested in our backyard animal shelter. I didn’t want it to come and go like bottle caps, so I created a system in which each person was tasked with bringing a different food item each day to ensure the cats had what they needed. Sometimes my friends would bring in the wrong thing, and I’d be sure to correct them and remind them of what they were supposed to be doing. As their self-elected leader, I took on the responsibility of making sure they understood the system and their place within it. After all, the well being and survival of our cats hung in the balance.
As you can imagine, my friends stopped coming, and eventually so did the cats. One day I waited in the shed with a handful of hand-picked grapes for my friends, but they didn’t come. I called to the cats, but they didn’t come either. All that was left was the monster spider and me. At some point I heard voices sailing across the yards on the wind, and I realized that my friends had move their play down to a neighbor’s shed. Of course it took some time, but eventually I realized that my friends wanted to play in a world that was not overly structured or governed by my unnecessary rules. They wanted to engage in play that did not require external controls, but rather thrives on its own internal structure and control. I learned that leadership is not always about being the one in charge, but is rather about recognizing the gifts that each person brings to the table; if a leader does not take the needs and desires of the group into account, and is blinded by his/her own personal vision, there just might not be anyone signed on to the job of following.
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Just when researchers thought is was impossible for the number to climb any higher, “The amount of time (children ages 8-18) spent with media increased by an hour and seventeen minutes a day over the past five years,” according to a national survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The Foundation has conducted this survey three times: in 1999, 2004, and 2009. At the conclusion of the 2004 study, the authors of the report predicted that the usage could not possibly increase any further, as there were not enough hours in the day. Sadly, their predictions were wrong, and when the reality of multitasking is taken into consideration, the results are even more grim: “Today, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes (7:38) to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week)…And because of media multitasking, the total amount of media content consumed during that period has increased from 8:33 in 2004 to 10:45 today.”
According to Drew Altman, President and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, “The amount of time young people spend with media has grown to where it’s even more than a full-time work week.” The Kaiser study revealed a number of other disconcerting statistics regarding children ages 8-18:
- Only about three in ten young people say they have rules about how much time they can spend watching TV, playing video games, or using the computer (the study also pointed out that “when parents do set limits, children spend less time with media: those with any media rules consume nearly 3 hours less media per day (2:52) than those with no rules”)
- 64% say the TV is usually on during meals, and 45% say the TV is left on “most of the time” in their home, even if no one is watching (Again, the study shows that “children in these TV-centric homes spend far more time watching: 1:30 more a day in homes where the TV is left on most of the time”)
As part of their Month of the Young Adolescent (MOTYA) studies, Sixth Graders at All Saints conducted a survey of their own and discovered that our very own Middle School students spend approximately 4.2 hours a day “staring at a screen,” and 45% said they would rather stay at home with electronics than join a sports team or play outside. While their survey did not break out the amount of screen time necessary for homework, their research demonstrates the fact that a whole host of healthy activities are being forfeited for electronics.
The results of these surveys are concerning, and now more than ever educators and parents need to engage students in discussions about the choices they are making for using their free time. Such is the theme for this year’s Annual Month of the Young Adolescent Leadership Summit. Middle School students are exploring the idea of “Healthy Hangouts” in an effort to identify healthier recreation options during after school and weekend hours. In addition, students are looking at healthy snack options for tweens and teens, whose bodies are in critical stages of growth and development. “If you combine the act of a ‘healthy hangout’ and a healthy diet in your child’s life, you are bound to see a flower blooming inside their life and new doors and possibilities open up,” wrote Sixth Grader Diana Kazarian.
All of the adults in our community are encouraged to attend the Annual Leadership Summit on Tuesday, October 29, at 8:30am in the church. Come hear what Diana and her classmates have to say about children their age and the support they need from us in order to make healthy choices about their lifestyles. Now in its sixth year, All Saints put the international Month of the Young Adolescent celebration on the map in NJ when it worked with the Governor to proclaim the event statewide in 2007. Many in our community are familiar with last year’s successful Leadership Summit, which focused on the dangers of texting while driving.
Please treat yourself to an hour of listening to what our young people have to say about themselves, their community and the world. Show your support as they exercise their civic voices, develop their leadership skills and share a glimpse into the world as they experience it. But don’t take my word for it – listen, instead, to Diana, our Sixth Grader: “Get involved in your child’s time and work something out fast. And remember, the sky’s the limit!”
Month of the Young Adolescent is an annual international collaborative effort of education, health, and youth-oriented organizations. Initiated by the Association for Middle Level Education, the month is designed to focus on the needs of children ages 10 to 15. The key messages for the celebration are:
- The importance of parents being knowledgeable about young adolescents and being actively involved in their lives;
- The understanding that healthy bodies plus healthy minds equals healthy young adolescents;
- The realization that the education young adolescents experience during this formative period of life will, in large measure, determine the future for all citizens; and
- The knowledge that every young adolescent should have the opportunity to pursue his or her dreams and aspirations, and post-secondary education should be a possibility for all.
To read more about the Kaiser study: http://kff.org/other/event/generation-m2-media-in-the-lives-of/
Questions, comments, ideas? I’d love to hear them! Email me: email@example.com
Adapted from remarks given at Episcopal School Sunday Celebration Remarks, October 6, 2013.
For the 10 years I’ve been Head of All Saints Episcopal Day School, we’ve wrestled with the need to come up with a proper tagline – a pithy, memorable, “just right” slogan that captures the very essence of our unique and complex community. The marketing committee of our Board of Trustees sets this as a goal just about every year, and the topic is always a prominent theme during our strategic planning sessions. And although we’ve been blessed with many successes at the Day School, I’d be the first to admit that we have never quite gotten this one right. Whatever we’ve come up with has sounded either too serious or too stiff (i.e., rigorous, competitive, excellence, achievement, etc.) – or too soft (i.e., service, compassion, ethics, and experiential learning). I think the phenomenon has something to do with the limitations of our human brains. It seems we have some inborn penchant for polarization, this need to choose sides or to stake claims – and rather than being content with the road we’ve chosen, we fall into judging or invalidating the road not taken. We see all too easily only the black or white, and can miss the nuances found in the various shades of gray.
I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on our “temporary tagline,” the one we’ve been using as a stopgap until we figure out a lasting one – Academics-Leadership-Service. The more I think about it, the more I’ve come to believe it does a pretty good job of capturing the true essence of our school community. At the heart of our work at All Saints, we nurture the development of service-minded leaders – individuals who lead with their hearts as well as their minds.
At All Saints we help children discern their personal and unique gifts so that they can develop true passions and go forth with sound mindsets. We encourage children to develop their natural empathy into the art of working in community so that they can problem-solve in ways that ignite the support and passions of others. We develop a strong sense of justice and compassion in children so that when they lead, they naturally create communities that are fair, just and where everyone has a seat at the table.
In our Community Time gathering last week, we read an excerpt from a commencement speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King at Oberlin College in 1965 that speaks to the values and belief system that guides our work at All Saints. “All I’m saying is simply this: that all mankind is tied together; all life is interrelated, andwe are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be – this is the interrelated structure of reality.”
As service-oriented leaders, our students make choices that are consistent with an understanding of and an appreciation for the sentiment expressed by Dr. King.
As service-oriented leaders, our students:
- listen rather than dictate
- empathize rather than judge
- heal rather than destroy
- persuade rather than coerce
- dream rather than define
- embrace we over me
- serve with love and humility
The leaders who embrace these qualities are the ones who will really transform the world. I have every confidence that our graduates will go on to assume leadership roles, and that they will lead with integrity and purpose, utilizing the depths and complexities of their hearts as well as their minds. Knowing we are making a difference through the education of our children is a source of tremendous hope and pride for me, and I extend the warmest appreciation to our parents for their ongoing trusting partnership.
Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? I’d love to hear them! Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
The child of a newspaper reporter and a former editor myself, I used to be a television news junkie. But that all changed when my first child was born, and my husband and I made it a policy to never have the news on when the children were present. As the boys got older, the news crept back into our lives, and before we knew it, the 6:00am broadcast was our first experience of the morning. Several years ago, I noticed that the graphic bombardment of murders, terrorist threats, muggings, and child abductions was taking its toll on my attitude and my mood. I would leave the house feeling slightly depressed and pessimistic, and couldn’t wait to enter the doors of the school where optimism, joy and hope ruled the day.
Exposure to the violence inherent in any news broadcast can have devastating effects on children. While we might have the television on as background noise, and we ourselves have become numb to the frightening images that are projected, our children may be paying very close attention. They may become anxious or frightened that the day’s featured tragedy might actually happen to them. Students between the ages of 6-10 are most at risk for negative effects as they can discern the difference between truth and fiction. While younger children might worry about a fictional “bogey man,” older children can develop concrete fears about real dangers as a result of watching the news.
Given the negative side effects of watching the news, how do we provide opportunities for our children to learn about world events that are important and worthy of recognition and discussion? There are a number of wonderful family-friendly resources, such as Nick News on the children’s network Nickelodeon, and magazines created especially for children such as “Time for Kids.” One of my personal favorites, which we use in a number of current events classes at school, is an online site called www.dogonews.com. I always find this material timely and informative. With older children, watching or reading the news with them can help you address any concerns or fears that may arise.
As parents it’s wise for us to carefully consider the quantity, quality and age-appropriateness of the news that is present in our childrens’ lives – whether on television, in print, or on the radio while driving to school. As with all issues related to parenting, an ounce of intention and prevention goes a very long way to maximizing our children’s healthy development.
For more on this topic and for some helpful pointers, check out this article: http://www.childrennow.org/index.php/learn/twk_news
Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? I’d love to hear them! Email me: email@example.com