Category Archives: Education Simplified

Halloween Horror shatters school stress.

We sat outside, surrounding our fire pit, and roasting marshmallows on sticks. Each of us listening to the next scary story as if a monster might jump right out of the storyteller’s mouth.

It was as simple as that. We forgot the horror of  early morning carpools and catching colds as well as the burden of too much homework. 

Halloween seems to creep up at just the right time. I wish I could say that I meditate everyday in order to maintain a peaceful and tranquil life, but I don’t. And, frankly, I really enjoy the strange worlds we can create around this time of year.

Think Creepy Thoughts

You can do something as simple as sitting around a fire or even on the couch with only candles lighting the room and telling stories to really enjoying the crazy American commercialism of anything Halloween. In fact, while I was browsing Amazon for inexpensive decor, candy, and costumes, I thought I’d share some of what I found.

Using Halloween horror to take the edge off often imbues a sense of freedom and creativity into our lives. It also gives our kids some relief without the drama of a “vacation.” 

So many people might head to Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, and there’s always something to do wherever you live. Enjoying pumpkin patches for young kids or going to Halloween parties for older kids might be a good distraction.

But, often, staying home and simply enjoying the season is the best choice when trying to save your sanity.

Start with Decorations.

Decorations are cheap and fun. I found glittery black branches and put them in a purple vase that I already had. Then, I used the leftover branches to make crowns. 

BranchesVase
Our vase combined with the black glittery branches looks chic and sets the tone for wicked fun.

I also found a pack of black glittery birds, crows if you will, that I hung from the chandelier and placed throughout the house.

14 Inch Glittery Halloween Branches Purple Orange and Black (Set of 3)
*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Then, I hung a glittery black wreath inside our Christmas wreath. Essentially, you can make the wreath out of the branches. It’s cheaper that way.

If the wreath is too tame, you can always get a bit more elaborate with door decor. The black glittery wreath branches worked nicely with our Winter holiday wreath.

When our kids were small we used a skeleton head with a microphone to scare the trick or treaters on Halloween, but it was also a lot of fun to mess around with whenever anyone visited. However, you can get the one above on Amazon and it’s a lot easier to use because we ended up breaking the cord for the microphone and damaging the skeleton head.

Walking into our house feels different now and different is good when the stresses of life start to take over. 

Weekend Hibernation

Weekends are a great time to head to the theaters or visit nearby haunted houses or themed activities. However, sometimes you just want to hibernate. 

With all the technology and resources available and if you’ve taken the time to decorate even a little, you can kick back and enjoy Halloween at home.

American Horror Story: Freak Show Blu-ray

Just get some food, drinks, and movies or watch a series. If you have Netflix, the latter shouldn’t be too difficult to manage. Because I’m like a five year old when it comes to scary shows, I still haven’t gotten through the first episode of American Horror Story, but there are other movies and shows to binge watch.

Food and Drinks

And, binging on favorite foods also keeps stress at bay during the Halloween season. You don’t need to eat tons of candy, although that’s a great past time. All you need is some favorite comfort foods and plenty of cushions and couches to curl up on.

Food really isn’t that difficult to manage. Not everything has to be theme centric. Order a pizza or make one. Pop some popcorn and get some sodas for simplicity’s sake. But, if you want to add some themed accents, there are a lot of easy ways to do that.

Bundle of 2 Halloween Ice Cube Trays with Gummy Eyeballs, One Purple and One Orange Tray Each With 14 Gummy Eyes

Plop some eyeball ice cubes into the drinks.

The jello brain mold is great also because it’s easy to use and makes a great centerpiece on the coffee table or counter. And, gross Halloween snacks such as Edible Insects in a bag really help take the edge off. 

But, if that’s too disgusting for you, fun candy pops remind us to enjoy life and take a second to laugh. Bottom line, sugar helps sometimes. There’s a reason why kids love it so much.

Great Halloween/Horror Movies or Series

Entertainment all depends on you, especially when it comes to viewing choices.  

Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories

IMPORTANT NOTE:  A lot of these films are books, so this is a great way to jumpstart reading skills. The Goosebumps series is a weird little series that kids start reading around third grade. Roald Dahl, well, need I say more. His books are pure entertainment. There’s also a collection of Campfire stories to help you along if you decide to roast marshmallows.


Goosebumps Classic (Series 1) – 10 Books Set Collection R.L. Stine

Now, my kids watched The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline when they were younger then later told me Coraline really freaked them out because of the hidden door and the button eyes. You need to make a decision based on age and exposure to past content. If your kids get scared after watching Monsters Inc. then you might want to hold off on Coraline. 

For older kids, especially teenagers, let them choose. Really, I’m usually the one who’s scared of the movies they watch. Some great classic movies to watch are Beetlejuice, Gremlins, Ghostbusters, and Jaws. 

If you want psychological thrillers, Signs and the Sixth Sense may be good choices to start. For more intense stories, there’s always films adapted from Stephen King novels. The Shining always delivers, and the more recent version of IT will definitely scare everyone watching.

It really doesn’t matter how you work it as much as to just forget about school long enough to destress and have fun.

 

5 Best Ways to Help Teens Survive School Anxiety

Between getting up before the sun even rises and just thinking about homework, all teenagers feel at least a tinge of anxiety when the school year begins. Overachievers might find themselves biting their cuticles. Underachievers might dread the teachers who will ridicule them for not trying. Social butterflies might obsess over a pimple, their hair, and their clothing. For all of them, there’s the general fear of ridicule or failure but often they fear both.

Photo by Christian Erfurt on Unsplash

Sometimes they don’t even feel the anxiety until they’re actually walking through the hallway.

On the fourth day of school last week, a girl was walking through the hall to get to her next class. She was alone and minding her own business. Her hair was parted in the middle like most of the girls. Her head was down just enough to allow the hair to cloak her and then a boy stomped at her. 

“You’re ugly. Get out of here!” he yelled as he lunged forward.

With students now staring at her, she kept walking, faster this time, not looking back at his friends laughing and patting him on the back. 

Some students watched and some even shook their heads but no one said anything. They, too, kept walking, grateful that it wasn’t them.

Photo by Hailey Reed on Unsplash

You know she cried at some point. She might’ve had to choke back the tears until the end of the day or she cried in the bathroom if she wasn’t too scared to go there, but she hurt a lot.

And, that hurt lasts. Teenagers carry it around with them. 

Support is Key

So, as parents and educators, what do you do when they experience this kind of pain? The worst thing we could do is to call attention to the incident, but we can care for the teenager by offering support in multiple ways.

  1. Open your eyes.
    Teenagers will hide things from you so you need to keep your eyes open in more ways than one. When you pick them up from school or talk to them later in the day, make sure you look at their body language. If they’re always hanging their head or feeling sad, they probably need to talk even if they claim nothing’s wrong. If they lash out at you for no reason, they definitely need to talk. Give them some space, then approach them when they appear calmer.
  2. Make them talk.
    This is often difficult given that they usually have mastered the art of hibernation, in their rooms, doors often locked in the name of privacy. You’ll have to entice them with food, excursions to their favorite places, and even ask them for help with anything from understanding how to use a new app or finding something you lost in the house. Experiment with their changing interests and get them talking. Don’t let them isolate themselves even more than they already may have done.
  3. Listen to them.
    No matter how tempting it might be to tell them like it is, just listen. And, don’t respond with a fake remark about being positive when you know that you wouldn’t feel positive if you were in that situation. Sometimes you just need to say you’re so sorry for this and that you’re here to listen. Sometimes you need to offer a shoulder to cry on and ask if they want advice before you give it because it’s so easy to lose them if they think you’re not being genuine.
  4. Accept them.
    Teenagers are looking for acceptance in more ways than one. When they see that a parent accepts them fully, especially their flaws, they will feel loved and hopeful. This works for bad behavior and bad grades alike. You haven’t seen love in their eyes until you’ve seen them look at you after you tell them the bad grade doesn’t matter or that the curse word hurled your way is forgotten. 
  5. Be their Rock.
    Yes, another word for this is patience. You will need to be patient. Another way of putting this is to say that you need to be their rock. You have to stay steady and be there to cushion their fall. They will fall time and time again and you will need to help them up, brush them off, then send them off… again. 

Logically, this all makes sense and you’re probably even patting yourself on the back for already practicing the majority of these suggestions. However, you must think longterm. It’s exhausting to care for children in general and it’s a different exhausting to care for a teen. Much of the time, both parents are working and often enough there’s more than one child to deal within the household. So, your persistence and resilience come into play when considering how to handle your relationship with your child.

Photo by Gift Habeshaw

Bottom line, if you relentlessly follow these five points, teenagers will feel safe and loved enough to eventually find a glimmer of hope even when their anxiety feels unbearable. That girl had to go to school the next day no matter how painful it was. Knowing that she was loved would make it somewhat easier. And, how did she know she was loved? At least one parent or guardian followed through with some or all of the above–over and over again.

If you feel that any situation or problem isn’t improving no matter how hard you try, it’s very important to seek help. Depending on the severity of the situation, contact the school counselor, the school administration, and/or any authority who may be able to help. All of us have been teenagers and all of us have experienced difficulties, so no one should ever be afraid to seek help, especially a parent experiencing hardship with a child.

Useful Resources:

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Understood.org

Nationally Certified School Psychologist Izzy Kalman

Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D.

Stimulating the Summer Brain: For parents who are watching their children drool over their devices.

Heavy into summer, kids do not want to hear the word “school” let alone the word “read” and do NOT utter the name we do not speak of “HOMEWORK.”

So if you’re a parent like me and you’ve begun noticing that there’s no intellectual stimulation other than YouTube and gaming with an occasional excursion to the movie theater, then you’re probably starting to scheme about how to awaken your child’s brain.

Here are some tips and resources for elementary, middle, and high school age children that might at least initiate some interest in accessing their intellect.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Little ones are more receptive to anything educational than the older ones (parents of older children, especially the parents of teenagers). With older children, you often have to play dumb because after all, tweens and teens know everything. If you ask them if they think something is true or not, they’re more likely to give it a chance.

  1. Check out the short videos on almost any topic available on TedEd. From short animations such as “How Do Self-Driving Cars See?” to “The Aztec Myth of the Unlikeliest Sun God” you can initiate a watch of the video that will peak their interest without making their eyes glaze over.

  2. In keeping with the idea initiating learning through video, at least at first, when they’ve blinked the cobwebs from their eyes and hopefully their brains as well, YouTube itself is a vast resource of knowledge once you’ve sifted through the nonsense. Unfortunately, our kids are often drawn to the nonsense, but with a few questions about any subject or current event, you can steer them to something that will provide them with some intellectual stimulation.

    Tell your little one: Look at this. I used to watch this when I was little.



    Disney Educational Productions houses a ridiculous amount of resources that any parent of young children can use on almost any topic.

    Ask your teen or tween: Is this photoshop tutorial worth watching?



    Something like this might just show your teen or tween that he or she could learn a little something between veggie out.
  3. Take a walk or drive to the library or the bookstore. For me, libraries are better if you’re trying to save money, but if you’re on vacation sometimes a bookstore is all you’ve got. Either way, it’s the same set up. The little ones usually go happily. The tweens or teens take some innovative thinking on the part of the parents.

    Little ones love to browse through anything, and a book as a prize is often welcome. For the older children, you may bribe them with lunch afterward or during. Or, perhaps you might ask for their help. For instance, similar to the question about photoshop, you might ask, will you help me find some materials at the library on learning Spanish? I don’t want to spend a ton of money on a class and I exhausted my resources on that app.
  4. The beach is a wonderful resource for both young and older children. You’re surrounded by science, art, sounds, beauty… Best of all, you are unplugged for a while. If you have portable batteries or any other resource, leave it behind by accident or on purpose. Bring some books, and magazines for reading or just talk to each other and learn about their interests and insights. Talk to them about something you’ve been wanting to discuss. You’ll be so delighted with the results.
  5. Drive somewhere or go somewhere that’s outside your comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be far away. How many of us spend our lives in a certain area of the country or world, save all our money for a family vacation, only to realize people save all of their money to vacation where we are? For example, we live in Miami and we never visit some of the most famous landmarks, ironically, because we live here. We’ve never been on an airboat ride at the Everglades National Park. We’ve gone to Ocean Drive, but only once, maybe twice a year. Some of the best museums are nearby and parents might wander into one with their unsuspecting children in tow.
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Threading Happiness

A businessman who bought up a town near Chicago, Illinois, Robert Stanford built a fortune for himself and some would say it all started with a small bakery. But, if you knew him, you also knew that it really started with his mind; the way he looked at life.

The Harvard Business Review recently published and posted research by Ashley Whillans about assigning monetary value to time, in particular the time we spend on happiness.

Time for Happiness

Rewinding to businessman Robert Stanford, he saw time as both valuable and invaluable. He stood as this thread that kept his family thriving. Although his children saw him as perfect, he was by no means a spotless, unsullied man. He met their mother while still in his unhappy marriage and it was not easy to divorce and remarry, considering that it was the late 1920s.

But, he did it anyway and happiness became him, so much so that everyone looked up, back, sideways, and forward to him for guidance. His daughter, so little, reached for his hand and felt the safety and comfort that made her feel, like everyone else in the family, so reliant on him to provide that to her forever. The problem was that he couldn’t do that forever.

He was him. She was her. The others were them.

So what made him so powerful, so prepared to find happiness at every turn?

To an outsider, there were multiple reasons why he was richer than the next man, especially during the Great Depression when everyone seemed to have nothing. But, to someone else like him, not even to his family who simply relied on him, he saw the world through rose-tinted glasses so to speak.

Let’s start simply. On a winter afternoon, walking with his daughter across the street from their home to the playhouse, which was a small apartment building, he listened to her complain about the other kids making fun of her then about her homework then about her siblings. He was a good listener and didn’t talk much.

But, when she finished her complaining, he asked a simple question, “How much good does complaining about all of that do for you?”

The Thread

Now, on an average day, with an average person, even a friend, anyone complaining would likely fight about it some more and most surely resent that question. However, because this was her father whom she admired and loved more than anyone, she looked up and smiled.

Then she said, “No good at all.”

Robert and Daisy Stanford, husband and wife, mother and father, threaded happiness.

She told this story to me often and in many different ways because he sometimes didn’t ask a question. Sometimes he’d speak a sentence or just remain quiet and later tell a story over dinner about his bakery or a business deal or a chance encounter.

But the thread never changed.

If it’s not doing you any good, pay no mind to it.

Back to School: Conversations with Kids about Safety and Speaking Up

Preparing for the start of the school year seems even more somber this year than others. Back to school mayhem has begun in some parts of the country. Florida just had its tax-free weekend and parents were no less aggressive about stocking up on supplies. But, all of us, at some point, looked at a pencil pouch among our stacks of spiral notebooks while snagging glue sticks on the way to check out and wondered if our children would really be safe.
None of us needs to watch the news in order to understand the anxiety that many children, parents, and educators feel when thinking about the start of a new school year after the horrific violence so many students experienced last school year.
And, yet, it’s there, coming straight toward us.
Anxiety Looms
The opinions and arguments about who ignored what in the recent school shootings riddle the news and the Internet. In hindsight, anyone would have done more if they knew there would be this kind of violence targeting schools.
I know, when thinking of my own students this coming school year, I just want them to feel safe with me. To just tell them this would be pointless. They won’t be able to look at me and think, Yeah, this teacher’s tough. She can deal with a school shooting, no problem.
I certainly pride myself on being a strict teacher simply because I can’t stand it when kids bully each other; however, my demeanor isn’t at all tough even if you stuck me in a security guard uniform. Then again, I don’t know that many people, let alone school children, have much confidence in security guards at this point.
Ultimately, I think it comes down to dialogue and taking the time to actually, yes, literally, really, genuinely care. Enough teachers and educators just don’t care and the students know it. The fact is that teachers are human and have an extremely stressful job.
Ensuring SafetyTalkSchool
Here’s the thing, any school worth its salt will be putting together several plans to maintain a secure environment as well as other important safety precautions.
But, dialogue, conversations between the administration, teachers, parents, and students will create a powerful bond and help everyone deal with their concerns and outright fears instead of hiding them.
CBS News addresses dealing with students’ concerns in How to Talk to Kids about School Violence.

Reminding students that they do have control over what happens to them and that they are in a safe environment in general gives them a sense of peace in the midst of an already stressful circumstance.
Many schools encouraged student Walkouts last school year, giving students a much needed voice at a time when so many were left speechless not just because of the violence inflicted on students but the repeat violence. Just watching the news and listening to the fears of the students involved in the shootings caused students across the country to worry about their own safety.
Speak Up
Students know that they are returning not just to schoolwork and homework but also to gossip, bullying, and social interaction that some love but most have a hard time dealing with in one way or another.
They need to talk to someone about their worries, so it’s important to ask questions as teachers and parents and then to listen and reassure them that there’s no reason to believe that their school will be attacked. However, if there is a reason to believe that, then students need to be encouraged to speak up.
They especially need to feel safe when speaking up. So many students don’t want to “tattle” or “rat out” other students because they are the ones who have to deal with the insidious ways bullies operate.
Watch Out for Bullying
Students experience bullying in various degrees and forms on a daily basis and often don’t speak up about it for fear of being bullied even more afterward.
A former teacher, school counselor, and school administrator wrote a good piece titled Bullying: What Schools, Parents, and Students Can Do for the Huffington Post.
Often enough, students handle the bullying themselves thinking of how much worse it would be if they were to ask teachers or administration for help.
But, students need to know when to get help. That’s something they need to be allowed to figure out for themselves.
That’s why there needs to be multiple conversations every day between teacher and student and student and parent and student and student and school counselor and student and administrator and student and right back to teacher.
And, it shouldn’t stop there. The whole of our communities need to look and listen. Ignoring problems often makes them worse.
Conversations 
Conversations need to happen often and need to be ongoing and available. The teachers are asking students how they are, if they got sleep, why they didn’t do the homework, why were they late? That’s just the basics.
There will be rules, oh so many rules. There is and will be security. Then, there’s life.
Students may not roll their eyes to your face, but they’ll definitely do it behind your back and then some if they think you’re anything less than genuine.
In other words, they aren’t stupid enough to think that if they simply tell on a bully that, poof, they’ll find themselves in a magical world of unicorns who fly them away to a cloud city with no guns and only sparkly do-gooders. For the most part, they wouldn’t even want that.
So, when you strike up that conversation, be ready to talk about everything… oh yeah, and be ready to talk about nothing at all, especially if it’s a tween or teen.
Then, try again tomorrow.

Censoring Enlightenment

Oftentimes when reading To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee in the classroom, students giggle when stumbling upon the first “inappropriate” word.

By ages 10 and 11 nowadays, students have heard and said all of those words at some point. In fact, a lot of those kids have heard their parents shouting those words while driving through morning and afternoon traffic.

Cropic Share File
Should we censor or just ban it?

Because I teach in Miami, many of the students volunteer during class discussions that their parents say very colorful words in a couple different languages.

Just a side note:  If you’ve ever had the pleasure of driving in Miami, you would probably say them too. 

So, when students giggle about those words, it’s because for one, they’re in school. And, for another they know it’s wrong to say them. Their parents (guardians) and teachers have told them this.

Enlighten Us

For the most part, when students’ eyes run across the “N-word,” they stop, stutter, and say “N-word” or skip to the next word. Some students say the word and just keep going.

It’s not too far into the book that we have a Socratic Circle on the topic of censorship.

It gives them a sense of enlightenment to be given the opportunity to take control of their education and decide what they think is right or wrong.

The students boldly talk about the importance of using those words in this book and to remember how terrible the word really is. These young students, who hear all types of inappropriate words on YouTube and when they’re playing video games, speak about censorship intelligently and almost sound like little parents.

Interfering

I, as their teacher, never interfere with their viewpoints. I only offer questions about it.

Why do you think people would want to censor “inappropriate” language from books?

Who decides what’s “appropriate” or “inappropriate” for whom?

Why do we feel the need to censor anything, in any type of media?

These questions are difficult to answer. We adults know that we go to great lengths to protect our children from any number of situations let alone what may or may not be “inappropriate” language in a book. What about the content of the book itself?

Banned Books Week ended already, but there are other issues involving the internet that leave us all stumped in one way or another, especially those with children or those who are teaching children.

How do we solve these issues? Do we look to our history of banning books and censoring art to guide us into the future?

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/enlighten/”>Enlighten</a&gt;

 

Who educates whom?

FullSizeRender (1)
Video games, YouTube, a movie, or a book? What will the student choose?

Any teacher worth their salt will tell you straight up that she’s learned as much from her students as they have from her.

But, every teacher will concede that learning has become more than just a challenge.

I have two children and I’ve taught thousands.

So, when I began teaching, I wanted to be the teacher that I’d want for my own children. I wanted to be someone who cares about students and who will ensure students learn as much as possible about the subject matter.

I so naively thought, How hard could it be?

I found out.

It’s never as simple as it could be.

Looking at the world we live in today, education feels more like a battleground for a teacher than the simple act of opening a book.

For students, it’s no longer an avenue to learning as much as a road block.

Students can’t sit still and, when they do, they lose focus so quickly that a vigilant teacher hammers out questions within a minute of reading a paragraph let alone a passage.

And, if the problem was only with the students, it might be easier to turn around, but the difficulties are compounded by overworked parents who are just as addicted to electronics as their children are and oftentimes clueless about the damage electronic devices do to students who have to go to school and read mountains of information in order to graduate.

It would be nice.

It would be nice to be able to take a usb and insert it into students’ hard drives (if they had one in their brain) in order to transfer the information so that they could then take that and create or perform new tasks from that point on.

We aren’t there yet. And, really, do we want that? I don’t know.

I do know that I tell students that I can’t do that. They have to open the book, open the document, visit the website, and read.

I’m their least favorite teacher.

I know this.

I’m fine with it.

But, it is a challenge. So, I take them to the movies.

Take them to the movies.

Of course, these movies are inside their heads. I use the information already uploaded to their limitless hard drives and give them something to connect to.

No, it doesn’t work right away. I reconnect at the beginning of each week, especially after long weekends like this one and forget about how hard it is to connect after winter break and then spring break.

I do it anyway.

We talk about where movies come from. We talk about how they begin.

From books, from a written word, from an idea, from an education.

But, it’s still not that simple.

Students get excited. They fantasize. They proclaim. They set goals. Then, they go home.

At home they are met with iPhones, iPads, desktops, laptops, televisions, movies, YouTube, apps, apps, and more apps.

Parents are tired and stare at the same thing.

So, who educates whom?

To meet teachers just introduces parents to someone who will attempt to use technology in order to bypass the distractions that every student must face this year.

Teachers from all backgrounds and ethnicities will plunge full-force into the curriculum deemed correct by the state and departments.

But, who will educate whom?

Will students teach teachers or will teachers teach students?

It really is a conundrum if there’s no exchange of power. At the core of learning is the ability to ingest information but not to just regurgitate it. If the teacher can truly spark the desire to learn in any student, then the student needs to be able to return the spark with a fire that can’t be put out the minute he or she enters a home.

The learning needs to continue, whether that’s answering questions about science, mathematics, or about a novel or an article read online. The student then needs to be able to then create something new, write an essay, a story, or create a robotic arm.

All of this requires focus and inevitably demands freedom from distractions.

So what can teachers learn from students?

Everything.

They are smarter than anyone gives them credit for.

They actually have access to way too much information.

So, knowing just these two things, makes teachers the perfect avenue to guide them. And, if parents and teacher actually worked together, they could influence children more than they ever imagined.

Who holds the power?

Students will teach parents and teachers by default. The interaction makes it so. However, instead of raging on about the damn electronics, how about giving them power over their devices.

Teach them that the devices are just tools to get what they want. But, then, they would need to know what they want.

That’s where teachers find their power. Our job really is that simple and, yet, more difficult than ever.

Our power lies in showing students their own power.

You see, they think it’s in their devices. Many students don’t really think about the fact that humans made these devices. They don’t think about why they made them.

So, when it comes right down to it, teachers need to understand that empowering students through conversations full of questions and debate in every subject in every grade level is the key to conquering what feels like a black hole of endless distractions.

What have you taught the students in your life?

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/educate/”>Educate</a&gt;

How to change the way your child thinks about school.

SoExcitedMeme
Image from Relatably.com

Changing the way your child thinks about school is already a daunting task, so don’t expect miracles or overnight success.

It is school after all.

This isn’t a checklist or advice that works on cue. These are segments of living that should be worked into conversations and issues and built upon as you move throughout the school year.

Because I’ve spent the last week preparing my classroom for the school year, I’ve been thinking not just about curriculum but about the little human beings who will walk through the door come Monday. If you’ve been reading my posts, then you know I have a gift. And, like all gifts or anything powerful for that matter, there are good and bad sides to it.

The gift I’m talking about is the ability to see things from a teacher’s point of view and a parent’s point of view. You see why I say it has a good and bad side?

So, when I tell you how to change the way your child thinks about school, I’m considering both the teacher’s and the parent’s perspectives in a very realistic, practical view.

Now, when you read through the following points, the emphasis is on SHOW and Tell not just tell.

Show and tell your child that he or she is smart.

Don’t say this in a condescending way, you know, with that high pitched voice that makes your child feel even more uncomfortable with what you’re about to say. I just got into a fight with one of my own about intelligence. I more often than not do the same with my students.

Parent: “You are so smart and you know this.”

Child: No I’m not. So many kids are smarter than I am.

Parent: What are you talking about? Since when have you used that excuse?

Child: Excuse for what?

Parent: For not believing in yourself….

Child: (Rolls eyes.) God, give me a break. YOU only think I’m smart.

Parent: (Rolls eyes.) Give ME a break. I tell you when I think you’re doing something stupid don’t I? I’m talking about what I see, really. I see you create incredible work. I hear you answer questions with such unique answers, I sometimes wonder if you’re part alien. And, if I’m stuck on a problem, I know that if I talk to you that you’ll help me turn it into a solution.

Child: (Half-smiles as the conversation continues.)

Kids are smarter than ever, contrary to what popular statistics often emphasize. I remember asking my six-year-old nephew how to find several different things on my cell phone. He was quicker and more pleasant to talk to than any IT guy I’ve tried to communicate with.

Show and tell your child you’ll help him or her through difficulties.

SoExcitedMeme

Whether in elementary, middle, or high school, your child needs to know that you’re there to help no matter what, that you’ll help them through anything especially if they ask you.

Parent: How was your day?

Child: Mm, long.

Parent: Funniest thing that happened?

Child: Nothing.

Parent: Listen, even if you don’t want to talk right now, I’m here for you, okay kid? You hear me?

Child: Yeah, thanks.

Kids, especially teenagers, might not want to talk right away, but they do need to know that you’re available. You need to make it clear sometimes, especially when you can tell they haven’t had such a good day.

Show it by going out of your way to pick them up and ask questions about their day. Play a game with them. Ask them questions. Pay attention to them.

Show your child that you listen.

Sometimes, every once in awhile, parents just don’t want to listen. I get it. But, listening to your child express his or her anger, grief, drudgery in life, and happiness, among other things, gives him or her a chance to not only vent but to realize that age-old line, “I’m here for you kid.”

In other words, you need to prove that you really are there for him or her on a daily basis, no matter how tired or stressed you are.

The chatter can be endless, but those of you with moody teenagers know that when the chatter starts, you listen.

If you can’t get them to talk, take them to a restaurant or do something with them that they really like to do. In the process, you might hear something like the following.

Child: I had the longest most irritating day. You know that girl I told you about? Mean girls, you know. She tore me down little by little and had everyone ignore me all day. Can you believe what followers they are? Really! What a bunch of losers. I feel like….

Parent listens. Child texts.

Child: Oh my God, Kathy just texted me that she hates her. Ha! I can’t believe she hates her.

Parent says nothing for now.

Child: Thanks for taking me to get those shoes I wanted.

Parent: You’re very welcome.

Your own excursion might take longer and the chatter may not make much sense, but the time that your child spends with you does matter. He or she will remember it even if you think it didn’t make a difference.

Show and tell stories to make a point.

Please please please don’t start it with, “When I was a kid….”

Do start with something like, “This kid with super straight blond hair used to point and laugh at me all the time. I really hated that kid. I ignored him all the time but he never stopped pointing and laughing at me. I don’t know what I did to him but apparently I was really funny to him. Then halfway into the school year he fell on his face in front of everyone. I saw the whole thing happen. He tripped over nothing. Everyone laughed at him and I actually felt bad for him as a little girl tried to help him get up.”

There are so many opportunities to insert really great stories into the simplest conversations. Yes, I know, most of us don’t want to even think about our school days, but when you have children, that’s all you do if you care even just a little bit about helping them get through some of the tougher obstacles in life.

Depending on the grade level, you can think of many times when you had to overcome similar difficulties.

Ultimately, be real with your children.

No, please don’t always tell them the truth. Sometimes, the truth is just depressing, but be real. After you’ve been listening to them, you know how to be realistic while still motivating them.

Child: God, I hate school.

Parent: Why, what happened?

Child: The stupid teacher yelled at me then made fun of me in front of the whole class.

Parent: Which class?

Child: Math

Parent: What’d she do?

Child: She freakin’ saw me talking to this kid, but I was just telling the kid to leave me alone ‘cause he wouldn’t stop asking me how to do problems. She just assumed it was my fault. God, I hate her.

Parent: Did you talk to her?

Child: NO! Really?! God!

Parent: That stinks. I’m so sorry that happened. I’ll talk to the teacher for you.

Child: NO! I’ll do it.

Parent: Okay, okay, I understand. You can also ask to be moved.

Child: True.

Parent: I know teachers can be unfair but if you give them a chance…you know, kinda like when you give me a chance, like when I just assume the fights with your brother are your fault…

Now, you’ve got the attention of your child. You give them something realistic to latch onto and there’s a willingness to listen and change where there wasn’t that before.

Successful communication between parents and children changes daily and by the minute. Sometimes the best communication means not saying one word, not even giving them a hug, but allowing them to be alone and telling them when they’re ready to talk you’ll be there for them.

 

 

A Carousel of Spanish

One of the beauties of being married to a Hispanic man is that I’ve gotten to learn about his culture through his eyes.

I had grown up in Miami before I met him so Spanish was all around me. Many of my friends were Cuban, but they wanted to be “American” and most of them were already losing their handle on their language, creating what we know now as Spanglish.

He, on the other hand, came from Venezuela, which at the time was nothing like what you see on the news now, but there was enough violence that moving to the United States was a dream come true for his family who had seen victims of shootings on the street and who had been robbed of their gifts for Christmas.

His father is a journalist and was offered a job with a major news organization so they took the opportunity and ended up in New York.

I met him after he’d moved to Miami because his father was working at El Nuevo Herald by then.

And, after all of the years of living in Miami, studying Spanish and hearing Spanish, I couldn’t speak it.

But, he introduced me to the Telenovela: A wickedly colorful version of what we “Americans” call Soap Operas.

I had seen my friend’s grandparents watching them but the crying and screaming freaked me out.

Until he showed me “Carrusel de Ninos,” a telenovela about children who attend school and their relationships with each other. It was the children’s carousel.

It was simple enough that I could understand what was happening and hear the Spanish language delivered by children.

Within the confines of this little school, you would laugh and cry and the language would live and breathe inside of you.

There were the rich and the poor. There were the outcasts and the popular kids. There were the mean and the nice kids. Everything related to you and yet you learned about their culture also.

My husband, who was my boyfriend at the time, showed me it because it was a good show, not because he wanted me to learn the language.

I watched it for the same reason.

So, when the thought occurred to me that I could actually learn how to speak Spanish from this, it didn’t feel like I had to work very hard at it.

The children expressed themselves with their bodies and expressions as much as through the language itself.

How Did It Change My Approach to Spanish?

When I ordered food, I would ask for the item in Spanish more often.

“Dos empanadas de carne por favor.”

When I listened to Spanish I understood more.

Sientete aqui really became Sit here but I didn’t need to stop and translate it into English like so many have to do.

Mostly, though, I just felt at ease with the language.

Por qué siempre hacemos aprendizaje tan difícil.

So, I ask you: Why do we make learning so difficult?

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/carousel/”>Carousel</a&gt;

Upward

I can finally hear the trees speaking to me again. It’s been a while.

After a school year that seemed relentlessly long, there’s nothing I’d hate more than to talk about this school year. I don’t want to give any advice about reading, questions types, testing, and, please, don’t ask about writing, in particular, essays.

I’m looking up.

I’m disconnecting from what supposedly defines me. Not from my phone, computer, or TV, although that’s some of it, not from electricity in any way, but I’m disconnecting from school.

So I’m going to give myself a break from thinking about reading assignments, reading comprehension, required reading, homework, grading, everything in connection with traditional, structured, life-draining education.

What a relief!

I woke up last week and it was 6 a.m. Normally I’m up at 5:30 getting ready to take my daughter to school then returning to get ready for teaching and take my son to school.

But I didn’t have to, so I looked at the time and went back to sleep.

After I woke and became instinctively lazier, I took a walk.

I noticed the trees and how many brilliant flowers were blooming. I’m physically looking up, up, seeing the branches sway and the petals drop. My neck pain is at a minimum because I’m not hunching over a computer or over stacks of papers.

Tree (1)

The trees spoke to me. They waved and winked as I approached them. Orange petals floated over my pathway, welcoming me to life, the best kind of life.

My heart opened.

Now when I look around me, I see my children relaxed, smiling more, looking healthier and happier than, well, than in the last several months.

I see my house, messy, but home just the same.

I breathe a whole lot slower, deeper, calmer.

My feet don’t hurt. 

No headaches!

No students to reprimand. No screeching noises. No nothing.

I see me.

Content.

No responsibilities.

Relieved.

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/relieved/”>Relieved</a&gt;