Sunday, December 22, 2013

Statistics and a call for change...

For a few years I have listened to the growing number of cries throughout the world.  I have listened.  I have sympathized.  I have acted.

I haven't always agreed.

Society has grabbed onto the word "bullying" and over-sensitized everyone.  I, for one, am not buying into it.

Recently I went to a conference and had the opportunity to learn from Dr. Marcia McEvoy.  Dr. McEvoy is a national speaker and certified psychologist.  Last year I read a post by Dr. McEvoy and I ask all of you to pause and click on the link:  Dr. Marcia McEvoy post

Dr. McEvoy states that research says only 1-2% of students are actually a bully.  The vast majority of these incidents are "mean behaviors".

In school I was a nice kid.  I did my school work, I helped others and I kept my nose clean. BUT I'll admit I am guilty of participating in Mean Behaviors.  I would have been Dr. McEvoy's first example (attempting to fit in with a group).  I remember it well.  One particular day after school a large group of us went out to the parking lot to drive home.  As I was walking to my vehicle with two others, we noticed a younger student heading to his car.  It was a beat up black escort with missing hubcaps and rust all over it.  My friends began to poke fun at the vehicle. They called it a clunker and a beater.

I laughed.

That's it, I simply laughed.  Looking back I didn't stop the mean behavior, in fact I added to it by laughing.

So I'll ask, am I a bully?

As I honestly reflect about myself, I see my moment as "Mean Behavior".  I needed to be talked to, I needed to have a consequence...but I don't believe I needed to be branded a bully.

Our students experience mean behaviors more than we ever want them to.  We need to deal with the "Mean Behaviors" head-on.  Dr. McEvoy shared an interesting statistic. She said only "29% of adults deal with mean behaviors when they see them."  WOW! This may be the root of the entire problem. Think of yourself. Have you ever witnessed a mean behavior and chosen to not address it?  Maybe it wasn't your child.  Maybe it was a good kid and you didn't think much of it.  Maybe you were busy and couldn't deal with it in the moment.  For me that statistic resonates...29% of adults deal with the mean behaviors they see...that means 71% don't deal with every mean behavior.  I don't expect 100% of adults to deal with mean behaviors, but I can hope for 80%.  If 80% of adults dealt with mean behaviors when they saw them our students would have much clearer boundaries and expectations.

So where do we go from here?

This is the plan.

First, it starts with educating parents, community members and teachers.  The education of the adults is vital.  The message needs to shift from bullying to mean behavior.  All individuals are capable of mean behaviors, but not everyone is a bully.  We must educate the adults to deal with mean behaviors when we see them.  Second, we must be united in our efforts to educate our children.  Let us all realize that a student that commits a mean behavior is not a bad person, they have simply made a bad choice and need to have consistent consequences to remedy this.  As we educate our children a clear and concise rubric will allow everyone to send the same consistent message.  I believe students desire a clear target and our behavior rubric will give them the clear target.  Third, as we turn the page to 2014 I will be educating staff on the 15 second intervention.  And we will deal with "mean behaviors" when we see them.

This is change, but this is a change for the good of our school, our community and for the good of society. How much better would our world be if everyone stood up to mean behavior?

Articles Worth Reading:

A Bully Too Close To Home by @handsfreemama

Discipline not Punishment by @Angela_Watson

The Holidays with ADHD Children

50 Happiness Quotes to Change Your Thinking by @marcandangel

Social Media is the New Fridge... @Joesanfelippofc

Videos Worth Watching:

Absolutely Beautiful! (5 min)

Teamwork!  Are you the voice that says we can't? Or are you the positive voice that urges people to try? (3 min)

If we all chose kind think of how great our world would be... (5 min)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Is it always ADHD?

Recently I listened to two groups of adults.  The first group were educators and the second group were parents (I fully understand that these educators are parents and that the parents are teachers in their own way).

I listened to the educators discuss a student that was struggling in the classroom and has struggled for multiple years.  One word surfaced over and over...FOCUS.  The common phrase was, "If they could focus..."

I sat back and listened and I wondered.  Is this an issue at home or just school?  Is the student engaged in the lesson?  Is the student bored?  Is the student attention-deficit?

I wanted to listen first and then brainstorm solutions.  As I listened I discovered the student is acting out more and more.  The student is falling behind academically.  The student doesn't appear as happy as they once were.  All these things bother me deeply.

My next conversation was with a group of parents.  In this particular situation none of the parents were "the parent" to the child previously discussed.  As I sat down with the parents I asked a simple question, "What can be done to improve Warner?"  The responses were very positive.  Parents commented that they were very satisfied with the safety, the education and the communication.  I did receive one suggestion about improving report cards, but then a parent spoke up and said, "I hear some people say that any child that is bad must be ADHD."  I sat back and processed this.  I thought about the context of those conversations and I didn't want to overreact but I also didn't want to completely blow it off.

What I then said to the group of parents is that "bad" behavior is a management issue, but ADHD is a medical issue.  I went on to say this:

When students struggle in the classroom we as educators try our best to figure out why.  We want to know if it is a learning issue, an understanding issue, an eyesight issue, a hearing issue or is the child unable to control themselves.  As educators we truly want to rule out as many things as possible.  The one issue that continues to come up is the ability to control themselves.  We have forms that parents and teachers complete to get a better handle of things, but even after all that some parents will say, "I'm not giving my kid medicine!"  What you will immediately hear from me is, "I'm not a doctor, I'm not ever going to tell you to medicate.  I leave that to the pediatricians."  What I do tell parents is that a classroom focus issue can be helped with an improved diet, but more importantly I ask the question, "How does your child sleep?"

So often I'm told that children do not sleep well or still sleep in their parents beds.  This is a big issue. Studies have shown that poor sleep can cause learning issues and can appear to look like attention-deficit disorder. I've been surprised at how many students do not get a good nights sleep.

Going back to the title of the post, Is it always ADHD?  My answer is a resounding NO!  I strongly encourage parents and educators to look at sleep, diet and exercise.  These three components can make a huge difference in the success of a child.

Please understand that I'm all about finding solutions.  If you exhaust your efforts, I strongly encourage you to sit down with your child's pediatrician.

Please check out the articles below for more insight.

Articles Worth Reading:

Sleep Problems linked to Attention-Deficit Disorder

Sleep Problems can cause Learning Problems

Brain scans reveal ADHD differences

Myth or Fact on ADHD

ADHD diet: What to eat, and What to avoid

Learning To Thrive With ADHD

Videos Worth Watching:

How to parent a child with ADHD... (5 min)

Humanity at its finest! (11 min)

Open Letter to Moms! (4 min)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Listen, Trust and Communicate

We all know that September means a few things:  football, shorter days, dropping temps and school!  For me the biggie is school!  Personally it doesn't get better than the first day of school.  Parents are here taking pictures, students are excited and I can feel the electricity in the air.

As the school year begins it is common nature to have your child come home and you as the parent are very curious about how things are going at school.  What my experience has taught me is that the answers you receive from students can differ depending on the day, the hour or even the minute.  Take my son for example, the first day he was very excited, but he tried hard to play it cool.  When I asked him how his day was he said, "Good."  Then when I started asking specifics I got more information.  I began saying, "Did you have a chance to meet anyone new?"  or  "Was something challenging today?"  or  "What was the best memory of your teacher or class?"  These questions create more thought and a simple, "Good," just doesn't cut it.

Yet after you ask the questions you must be ready to accept the answers.  Some students will tell all the wonderful things about school and life.  Other kids may not, they may have had a good day, but one incident has put them in a poor mood.  This is where three things become essential.

First, it is human nature to protect our children and try our best to make life wonderful.  We must be realistic and understand that bad days occur.  This is okay, I use bad days or bad moments as learning experiences.  My advice to parents is listen.  Listen to your child, love your child and allow them the freedom to share and express themselves.  Too often parents try to fix everything.  I believe listening is more powerful than fixing.

Second, this is the tough one for some parents.  I strongly urge parents to trust the professionals.  Educators are not perfect, but they are dedicated and amazing people.  It is vital to give teachers the benefit of the doubt.  If your child believes that you will rescue them every time, they are likely to use this to their advantage.  What I have learned is that there are always two sides to every story.  If you immediately rescue and go to bat for your child you may be missing an important piece of the puzzle.  Please trust that the educators are being professional and handling your student with care and compassion.

Third, the most essential thing you can do all year is communicate with your child's teacher and school.  The stronger your communication is the more likely your child will have a successful year.  Don't be afraid to email, call or ask for a face-to-face meeting.  Educators understand.

The year will be successful if you do these three things, Listen, Trust and Communicate.

This week's big question:  Do you believe that failure is okay?  Have you ever failed?

Articles Worth Reading:

Why I hated my child's 1st grade teacher  shared by @BBuff43011

When an adult took a standardized test  by @bgiourme

5 Bad Educational Assumptions  shared by @klnielsen74

8 Good Morning Questions That Create Happiness  by @marcandangel

Videos Worth Watching:

Fantastic Video and Song!  Teaching all people to BE BRAVE! (4 min)

Parenting Tips on discipline. (3 min)

Touching Story I shared with our 3rd, 4th and 5th graders.  Positive Attitude goes a LONG WAY!     (7 min)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Back 2 School

Parents & Guardians it is that time of year! As an educator this is a "happy" stressful time.  My true favorite time of the year is the 1st Day of School!  The lead up is a little stressful as we work on getting things ready.

As a parent this time of year can be mixed.  For some, the thought of sending their baby off to school for the first time is very unnerving.  For others September 3rd can't get here quick enough.

I'm fortunate enough to see several perspectives.  As a parent of two boys I have many days where I'm ready to boot them out the door!  I also have days where I don't want them to go back.  I'm enjoying our evening rounds of golf and warm summer days on the lake.  These are the times that I cherish.  I also have the perspective that my two boys are going to be entering into a whole new world. My oldest will be in the middle school and my youngest is now at Warner!  This is exciting and stressful at the same time. 

It's nearly mid-August and families are planning last minute vacations, campouts and trips.  These should be enjoyable and relaxing.  I did want to offer a few tips or suggestions to help you with these last few weeks before we begin school:

#1 Be Patient!  

Your child is likely showing some signs of anxiousness.  This is completely normal. We as educators see similar behaviors towards the end of the school year.  Try to find a blend of new and fun activities along with simple routine procedures.

#2 Try to find something "new" for your child to start school with.

In no way am I recommending that you go out and spend hundreds of dollars on various items.  My simple belief is that kids, like adults, love to have something to hang their hat on.  A new backpack, new shoes, or a first day of school outfit.  These simple things will give your child a boost and add to their self-esteem.

#3 Practice!

The return of school usually means after school athletics or weekend sporting events.  Try to put your child in a spot to succeed.  Go out and practice the activity, get some fresh air and make it fun!

#4 Get back to Routines

I have a middle schooler now and I'm dreading the 6:15am wake-up.  I know he will struggle with this. It is important as the parent to begin preparing your child for the early wake-ups and consistent bed times.  I'm not suggesting to send your children to bed at 8pm in the summer, but some nightly routines will benefit your child.  As the parent, do your child a to them each night!

#5 Learn as a Family!

I used to sit down and force my kids to read in the summer.  I also gave them workbooks and made them do 1-2 pages a day.  They hated this.  Truth is I just didn't want them to lose any knowledge.  In hindsight the best way to learn in the summer is to make it a family activity.  Play a board game that involves math.  Something like Yatze or Monopoly.  Teach your child to play chess to get them thinking strategy.  There are lots of ways to keep your child sharp that will be fun for the whole family. Learning should be enjoyable, not dreaded.

Last but not least, try to make it a point to attend your child's back to school open house.  This is important for everyone.  It allows for teachers to put a face to a name, it allows students to socialize and relax.  It also allows parents to connect and stay involved.

Finally, take advantage of these last few weeks.  Take pictures to remember the good times and end summer vacation on a high note!

Articles Worth Reading:

Fear of the First Step  by @Joesanfelippofc

A mile wide & an inch deep  by @benjamingilpin

Videos Worth Watching:

Key to success is grit (6 min)

Tech Tips for parents (4 min)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Teacher Appreciation Week

The Appreciation Never Ends

This week is designated Teacher Appreciation Week!  The one constant for every individual is that we have all had a teacher in some way, shape or form.  I want to share a personal story about a teacher that made a difference in my life.

I was in 4th grade and I really didn't care to read.  School was okay, but I rarely got excited to learn, I was more into the fun stuff, hanging out with friends, going to recess and socializing at lunch.  Frankly, school took a back seat to MY interests.  Then things changed, several weeks into 4th grade I was sputtering.  Mrs. White pulled me up to her desk and talked with me.  We talked about sports, school and my interests.  Mrs. White knew more about me than I thought,  she did care.  She then told me that I was a good reader.  Internally I didn't believe her.  I knew that when I read my eyes hurt, sometimes the words got blurry and I couldn't always remember what I had read.  I thought Mrs. White was just being nice.

Then she surprised me.  Mrs. White took out a book, The Phantom Tollbooth.  I sat at her desk and she read to me.  I loved listening to Mrs. White's voice.  We finished chapter one and she gave me the book.  Mrs. White then said, "Okay Ben, now you take this home and read chapter 2.  We'll sit down tomorrow and you can tell me what happened."  First of all, this assignment had no grade, but I was very motivated to not let Mrs. White down, she believed in me and I now knew that she cared.  I had to read chapter 2 and report to her.

That night I read chapter 2, I won't say it was easy, but I got through it.  My eyes hurt, they were watery and I wasn't sure if I remembered everything.  I went in the next day and immediately approached Mrs. White, the smile on her face was so inviting.

Each day Mrs. White and I met and discussed the previous chapter, it was my favorite part of the day!  I was beginning to love reading.  I'll also admit that my eyes didn't water as much and the words didn't get blurry.  I didn't know it then, but I know now that I was improving.

Mrs. White turned me on to reading.  She didn't use a textbook or a magic trick.  Mrs. White showed me that I mattered, she invested in me and she followed through with what she said.  I'm fortunate enough to still know Mrs. White and I still appreciate her as much as I did in 4th grade!

An unsuspecting impact

For nearly ten years of teaching fifth grade I felt as though I formed strong connections with students.  My 7th year teaching I had what I deemed a great group. That year I had a young lady named Jenna in my room.  Jenna was smart and sweet.

As a teacher I valued one-on-one communication with my students.  I wanted to be able to relate, understand and individualize to the best of my ability.  That year, Jenna and I had several conversations each week.

The year was going well and we had just hit Winter Break.  It was December 18th and we would be off for a couple weeks.  I was looking forward to some down time and a chance to hang out with family.  It was late, I'll never forget the moment.  The clock read 11:04 pm, I had just heard that Jenna lost her father, he was involved in a car accident.  My heart ached for Jenna and her family.  Moments later Jenna contacted me.  I was stunned.  She told me what had happened and she was very upset.  Jenna and I spoke for about ten minutes and then I spoke with her mom.  Jenna's mom informed me that Jenna really wanted to speak with me.  I was shocked.  Her mom then told me that she trusted me.  This was an extremely sad moment, but I also knew this was a time I had to step forward and be there for one of my students.  The fact that Jenna reached out to me in a moment of need made me proud to be her teacher.  It isn't always about the grades and projects.  Relationships matter!

Appreciate Teachers!

At a time when many educators think they are more likely to be criticized than commended, the praise from reunioners and newsletter contributors offers an example for current students and parents. How many teachers might be encouraged to stay in the classroom longer, instead of seeking other careers, if they received a few more words of appreciation and admiration for a job well done?
A long-ago bumper sticker offers a gentle reminder, still timely: "Have you thanked a teacher today?"
by Marilyn Gardner


Wednesday, May 8th:  Walk-to-School Day dropoff at the Spring Arbor Fire Dept.
Thursday, May 9th:  Kids Hope Dinner at SAFM
Tuesday, May 14th:  Panther Pride Luncheon
Tuesday, May 14th:  Final String Team Practice of the school year
Wednesday, May 15th: String Team Recital at the JSO
Wednesday, May 22nd:  4th Grade to Enterprise City
Tuesday, May 28th:  Spring Musical @ CAC

Articles Worth Reading:

18 Myths People Believe About Education

12 Ways To Thank Teachers

Is This Good Enough?

The Case Against Grades

Videos Worth Watching:

Every Kid Needs a Champion (8 min)

J-Mac, inspiring story!  (5 min)

The future is in Glass!  Amazing video! (6 min)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Art of Requesting

It's that time of year again:  Time to submit teacher requests for the next school year.  I once believed requesting teachers was wrong.  I think I was too close to the issue; being a teacher I couldn't see the "big picture".  Then my view point changed when I had kids of my own.  My new viewpoint has some distinct points.  They are as follows:

1) All students/kids learn differently.  The learning style of the child should, if possible, line up with the teachers style of teaching.

2) Past experiences do matter.  If my oldest son had a specific teacher and we as parents built a strong trust and connection with the teacher, that would make a difference in how we, as parents, feel heading into a new school year.

3) By having a say in my child's teacher I have invested in that teacher.  Having a personal vested interest creates an embracing attitude and a stronger willingness to support the teacher.

These three reasons have shifted my thinking from believing that requests hurt schools to believing that requesting is an integral part of the educational process.  Even as I type this, I feel strongly compelled to explain what a true request should look like.

After years of looking at requests, I have found the best requests do a few things really well.  First, when requesting you need to describe your child.  Describe your child's strengths and weaknesses. Describe academic areas of struggle. Describe how your child learns best, and above all describe your child's personality.  I believe that personality is vital.  When I place students, I look very closely at personality.  Will the students personality conflict or collaborate?

Second, a good request will usually reference a couple of specific instances from the past year that worked really well or did not work well.  This may focus on behaviors more than academics.

Finally, as parents, try to describe the "type" of teacher that your child learns best from.  Stating a specific name (of teacher) can be okay if you are 100% sure which teacher will be there, but sometimes events occur that are out of our control.  If this happens it is best to have a description of the "type" of teacher rather than just a name.

Requesting is important, and I take this very serious.  I always put a lot of time and effort into it.  I look at boy/girl ratio, personalities, academics and behaviors.  On average it takes me multiple weeks to complete class lists.  I pride myself in knowing all students and in knowing all teachers.  I always find additional parent information helpful.  If you are unsure on a request, please feel free to contact me and ask me questions.  I'm more than willing to tell you who I believe would be the best fit.  I want all students to be safe, highly educated and to love learning.  This is why classroom placements are an important part of the process.


Friday, April 19th:  Hat Day all-students $1 to wear a hat in school
Monday, April 22nd - Thursday, April 25th:  Kindergarten Round-Up, 4pm-8pm at Parma El.
Monday, April 22nd: Earth Day (encourage your child to wear green)


3 Ways To Engage Students With Technology

Getting Involved In Your Child's School

Talking to Kids about Headline News


Inspiring Video I shared with students in grades 3-5 last week.  (12 min)

Motivators and Rewards.  60 second parent tips.

Friday, April 5, 2013

My Opinion of Healthy

As we enter the final quarter of the 2012-2013 school year this is a typical time to reflect on learning and growth.  I tend to reflect by viewing pictures from the fall, checking out student work samples, having discussions with students and observing overall maturity.  These pieces of information tell me quite a bit.  I realize we as a school tend to put numbers or letters on things, but I don't always put a ton of stock in shear numbers or letters.

Take my oldest son for example.  This has been a year of substantial growth.  My oldest has come a long way in a year's time.  His maturity level has increased significantly.  He now chooses to read as a hobby, he is more thoughtful in conversation and he listens much better than he did a year ago.  Now if I want to get picky I would tell you he still procrastinates, he still needs to remember to do his chores and he could definitely use more exercise.  This being said he has come a long way in one year.

As a parent I used to look at growth by the numbers or letters on a report card.  I still look at these items, but my biggest stock comes from my own interactions.  I'm a believer in educating the "whole child", I firmly believe teaching respect and responsibility are as important as reading and math.  I also believe that respect and responsibility should not influence a student's grade, those aspects should be communicated to students and parents and included in the "comments" section of the report card.

Which brings me to my point.  What is healthy?  In my opinion I believe "healthy" to be the student that is motivated to learn and grow for the sake of bettering themselves.  I always have a bit of fear creep in when I hear students focusing too much on their grade.  Grades have been used as a motivating tool for years, but is this healthy?  I tend to believe it isn't.  I believe healthy is the student that is motivated to learn.  I also believe there are three levels of understanding:

1 - You Understand it and you can explain it

2 - You are progressing towards understanding

3 - You need more assistance to help you understand

In most day to day things that I do I do not receive a grade.  I do have to constantly motivate myself to continue to learn and grow.  At some point for most people grades cease to exist and then the motivating factor changes.  I believe there is no time better than now to shift a child's thinking away from grades and to a higher force...knowledge!

How do you motivate?  Do you believe the motivating tools you use are healthy?


Tuesday, April 9th:  4pm Western String Team in the Warner Cafeteria
Tuesday, April 9th:  PTO Meeting 7pm in the Warner Library
Wednesday, April 10th:  Boy Scouts at Warner 6pm
Thursday, April 11th:  Spring Pictures at Warner
Thursday, April 11th:  Kindergarten Orientation 7pm at the CAC
Saturday, April 13th:  Warner Vendor Fair contact Jody Rooney for information and details

Articles Worth Reading:

Homework Strategies (worth a look) shared by @behaviordoctor

Parent like a Pirate by @blocht574

The Danger of Grading Our Schools by @rggillespie

Videos Worth Watching:

60 Second Positive Parenting tip

Great example of brotherly love! (5 min) Worth every second of your time!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Staying Connected

As a father and an educator I find my level of connectedness is rather deep, but occasionally uneven.

I was searching for data on parent involvement and I stumbled across a graph.  It shows that 34% of parents were in contact with their child's teacher in the last week.  I started thinking, is this the case at Warner Elementary?  So I dug a bit deeper.  If you add pieces of the graph together you get an interesting percentage.  50% of parents have connected with their child's teacher in the last month.  Once again I thought, is this the case at Warner Elementary?  

I actually think the percentage is higher at Warner Elementary.  Now my viewpoint may be biased and it may also be skewed, but I believe in the last month the percentage of parents that have connected with their child's teacher is probably closer to 70%.  

I'm sure some will say that is high, but we did have parent/teacher conferences, we did have donuts with mom and donuts with dad.  These events open communication lines and create connectedness.
Why does connectedness matter?  Research tells us that when a teacher and parent communicate student accountability rises.  I believe this to be true.  I find great value in parent/teacher communication.  Check out this graph on parent/teacher communication~

Check out this article on Parent Involvement:  Parent Involvement Fact Sheet

Ultimately my goal is to encourage parents and teachers to keep the communication lines open.  Talk on the phone, email, Skype, text, or meet face to face.  Our kids will benefit from strong parent/teacher relationships.  

What's Coming Up At Warner:

March 29th - April 7th:  Spring Break
Tuesday, April 9th:  PTO Meeting 7pm in the Warner Library
Thursday, April 11th:  Spring Pictures at Warner
Thursday, April 11th:  Kindergarten Orientation at CAC 7pm
Saturday, April 13th: Vendor Fair at Warner Elementary for more info contact Jody Rooney
April 22-25th: Kindergarten Round-Up @ Parma Elementary

Articles Worth Reading:

Check out these Videos:

Kid President Inspires Us! (3 min)

Teaching Empathy... (10 min)