Sunday, October 15, 2017

Dear Siri & Alexa & Cortana & Google Now,

I have a request. Stop answering the questions and start asking them.  Please.  When our kids ask, "Siri, what is 10 x 8?"  I think it would be amazing if you said, "what do you think it is?"  or "how can you figure that out?"  We have teachers who spend 7 hours a day working with children on concepts in a classroom-concepts that require the brain to engage-and children are having some difficulties engaging. I can see, and understand, the thoughts of the child as they realize that when they go home a virtual assistant will probably spit the answer right out for them within a matter of seconds.  But what if that assistant actually required them to think?  That's an almost absurd idea.  It shouldn't be.

We need thinkers and inventors and creators.  "Alexa, why was the Civil Rights Movement so necessary and important?" Imagine if Alexa responded with " Here's some information (at your reading level), read it and I bet you will know why it was so important for our nation.  You think about it." 

Let's start while they are young.  Parents - let your children have a voice and choice.  Let them think.  We need thinkers.  Engaged brains in activities and in the community.  I've attached an article about college graduates and thinking.  It's short, just like this post.  Read it, and think about it! 


Monday, July 24, 2017

My Mom Didn't Just Feed Me Sometimes

My Mom Didn't Just Feed Me Sometimes...

This photo has come across my social media screens multiple times over the past few days. I initially thought it was funny, and of course, reflective of not only 2017 but the past decade of child raising. It's way too much!  I think back to my first pregnancy and I tried so hard to have a 'perfect' pregnancy. I gave up caffeine - and soda is my addiction.  I completely stopped the pop.  I ended up on complete bed rest at 24 weeks, and my son was born at 33 weeks and had to remain in the hospital for about 7 more weeks.  I remember thinking that I probably didn't need Dr. Ob-Gyn, what my son needed was Dr. Pepper.  Babies 2 and 3 enjoyed a few sips of Dr. Pepper along their in utero journey.  As the years went on, I watched pregnant women cease to eat a growing number of foods, and all I could think of was - thank goodness my babies are out.  This eating ban would stress me out.

So I read this post from a college orientation and I think, no - nope - my mother did not just feed me. As I did not just feed my children.  Here's just a small list of things that I believe she did, and taught me to do with my own children, and they are by no means easy:

  • She told me no, when I really, really, really needed just one thing.  Just one. Because I didn't really, really, really need it. She knew that.
  • She made me earn my own money for ridiculously expensive items.  For example, every year she would buy me the required school clothes, but when I had to have the sweet Jordache Jeans with the yellow stitching of the horse on my back pocket, I had to earn the money to pay for those.  She seemed to feel that the Wranglers from Kmart were probably good enough. Actually, I think that was my dad who believed that.
  • Speaking of him, she made me tell him when I made a small slip in judgment with my behavior. She didn't cover for me and this was probably one of the worst consequences in all of the land.  I'm sure they had a great laugh after I left the room. Or at least patted themselves on the back for a job well done.
  • She worked. My dad worked.  We ate fast food.  It often was Burger Chef. Do you remember that chain?  I ate dinner every night (we didn't check the GMO's and all that is mentioned now).  My cholesterol is just fine and I'm 40 something. However, she taught me to go to work everyday and earn the money you need to provide for your family.  I can't really cook, but I can read a recipe book and use it if I want to.  
  • Speaking of food...I didn't like to eat breakfast but she made me eat something. Many times I'd eat a lunch food item. I hated breakfast. I remember getting sick at school one morning and they asked what I had for breakfast.  I had to tell them vegetable soup. I'm sure she didn't feel great picking me up that day with those who judge for not making me eat cereal, but this was how she got me to eat in the morning.
  • There were rules, consequences, and follow-through.  I think this is hard.
  • Finally, school - as an educator I have a hunch there were many times my mother was upset with the school or a teacher.  Guess what?  I didn't really know about it (well, I did one time).  She didn't jump to my defense instantly, especially in front of me.  No conversations with or about any teachers happened in front of me. If I was upset, she listened, but didn't assume naturally that I was always right. She just took care of things with grace and respect (or advised me about how I needed to handle it) and thankfully did not publicly post on social media about my teachers.

I said 'finally' above.  There's no finally.  She's still my mom and now a grandma too.  It's never done, and it's never as simple as feeding us sometimes.  I know the author in the picture absolutely meant that tongue in cheek, and with sarcasm. However, as long as there's no outright neglect and abuse, let everyone parent as they choose and as their lifestyle and economic situation allows them parent.  Don't judge.  I drank soda, and bottle fed my kids (I know, I said bottle fed, take a moment).  They are alive and well today (see below).  And I think they are fantastic!

I know it's been a while...thanks for sticking around!


Sunday, January 8, 2017

What Our Schools Need Now, Is Love, Sweet Love

No more 'live' violence, please.
I’m just finishing up a wonderful 2 week period of holiday, home, and memory making with my loved ones. Those two precious weeks given us closure to one year, and a beginning to a new one. This often calls for a period of reflection on the past, and goal setting for the year to come.  I honestly spent a good amount of time doing some research on the internet, and in between, a little of catching up with friends via social media. This is where my world as an educator began to shift and fill with angst for the future.

I was overwhelmed with videos -horrifying videos- of children of all ages and stages doing very cruel and unkind acts to one another live. I dislike this new live trend on social media. What followed were unfeeling and apathetic comments from strangers. The content of the video(s) should have made anyone, if not everyone, simply want to jump in to rescue the ‘victim’. The comments were coming from people of all races and ages. Did I mention that these videos coming across my social media sites were unsolicited? I did not search for them. I did not have to click on them to view them. They were there, running for me to view. Many times sponsored by the news media. This is not news. You don’t have to be in education to be worried. As a human being, I am worried. Where do we stand in the academic world with this new media? Let’s take a look.

Preschool – In the Lead
I have consulted with many groups, both locally and nationally with regard to social emotional learning practices for young children who have endured trauma. Research           continues to support a positive correlation between SEL program integration and academic progress (CASEL, 2015).  All fifty states have SEL curriculum programs in place at the preschool level.  However, preschoolers are not the ones producing or posting these harmful videos, thankfully. We can say with confidence that talking about social skills, and emotional learning at an early age produces results. The neuroscience of a preschooler demonstrates that 3-5 year olds are emotionally impressionable in part due to the brain’s grey matter which is quite fluid and dynamic, and rapidly developing. Dare I say, this is possibly a more difficult time for our children than the teenage years? It’s also one of the most important stages with regard to creating a kind and sensitive human being.

K-2 – It’s Not Too Late!
Effective SEL curriculum programs include lessons in all five areas: self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, social awareness, and relationship skills. It’s in the areas of social awareness that we must make greater efforts and strides with the work.

We need to talk about, teach, model, and integrate regularly at an early age very basic human kindness, acceptance, and sensitivity toward one another. The state of Kansas has a well-defined SEL curriculum that uses the language respect for human dignity in its social awareness component. I love that language - human dignity.  In addition, Kansas included a standard to help students recognize and read others’ expressions. We know that with an increase in spectrum disorders, as well as screen time, our students have a more limited ability to recognize and interpret the feelings of others. We need to assist them with those skills.

There is a plethora of research available by K.H. Lagattuta regarding the developing brain of 2-7 year olds and understanding emotion. In that rather current research (as recent as 2012), she concluded that by age 7, most children have an understanding of empathy for others. By this age of learning, we should have a well-established curriculum that is as intense and thorough as reading and mathematics. 

A Hope-Filled Future
Millennials, the term used for our current group of parents raising our next generation of children have unique value systems as a whole, according to a recent study ( ) conducted by Achieve Guidance and The Case Foundation. Though often criticized for being a generation centered on self and with wavering interests, research has determined these young adults are generous and less materialistic than their predecessors. They will give little, but will give what they have to benefit others. Various studies have shown that, in general, the majority of millennial parents would prefer the following for their children:

  • A choice in education (online, charter, public, private, parochial, etc.) that is affordable – if not free.
  • Diverse and engaging learning experiences. 
  •   An updated view from all of ‘family’ (eliminate the former model of nuclear family).
  •  Less emphasis on standardization and more emphasis and a child’s unique learning capabilities and individuality.

We can see the true educational cycle of educating the whole child will return. This includes the social, emotional child. If a giving nature and accepting spirit is alive in the home, and the educational process can regularly bring forth tolerance lessons that include empathy and sensitivity, I see a future free from harm, bullying, and peer-to-peer related trauma.

Just Do It
Basic human kindness and sensitivity needs to return to our classrooms, lived daily, and modeled always – most importantly by the media. It is not ok to post vulgar attacks on one another live. Why does the news media repeatedly promote these videos? Information is necessary, sharing the violence post trauma is not. Tell us about the video, and we will then find ways to teach, act, and model better behavior. We have the ability to change this. We have to change this. We must make education a safe, sensitive learning space free from fear and any trauma to our students.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

PTS - Parent/Teacher/Student or Post-Traumatic Stress???

I find as a school administrator that there's increasing stress with regard to the relationship among the 3 communities directly involved in a child's education.  In general, our goal is to educate children within the boundaries of a school day academically, socially, physically, emotionally, and I'd add technologically.  Many schools are also charged with spiritual development.   It is an incredible task to complete.  It's also one that can be accomplished with a cooperative working relationship among the parent(s), teacher, and student.  There are set standards, common practices, and all must work together to design and achieve developmentally appropriate goals.  Let's take a look at how those standards, practices, goals, and communication among them may (or may not) work within your setting:

Standards – the content of the educational program
Does not have input to the standards, but should aware of them. It is what they are learning each day, every year.
Should be aware of them. Can have input at various levels by being actively involved in school boards and by voting for local representatives.
Is absolutely aware of them as the curriculum is designed around these.  Should be teaching the standards and setting annual goals based on them.
Goals/Objectives-these are more specific to each student/grade level
In general, these are the same for each class, but may vary per student based on unique capabilities.  A student can be somewhat aware of them but will consider his/her main goal to be to ‘get to the next grade’.
Will also have a similar goal in mind as the student but should also have more specific goals for his/her student based on the student’s individual needs that also align with the standards.
Will have the standards in mind and will fit the student’s needs in and align goals/objectives into this framework preparing the student for the next grade throughout the year.
Methods of Instruction – these are the ways the teacher will deliver the lessons throughout the school year. Often these are determined by a teacher's strengths/desires and district resources.
Depending on the age, the student may or may not know what method of instruction works best for any subject.  Is it rote memorization, kinesthetic or auditory learning?  Are all things visual/graphic best received and understood?
Parents, as well, may or may not know what works for their child.  Often they assume what worked for them should work for their child.  This is why there is so much push back on the Common Core.  C.C. is like a foreign language for many parents. However, it does work for some students.
Teachers have the task to get to know and understand an entire classroom of students and balance all lessons and methods of instruction for all students. The optimal classroom will have engaging lessons that balance visual, kinesthetic, and auditory learning experiences-that meet the standards presented in the curriculum.
Communication – this is what SHOULD happen
Every child must feel safe communicating to his/her teacher about school and home.  Every child must feel safe communicating to his/her parent about school.  All communication must be respectful.
Every parent must support the school and teacher in front of the child, even when it’s difficult. Ask questions.  Make notes. Refrain from verbally ‘attacking’ anyone in the presence of your child.  Do not speak poorly of other children, parents, or school staff. Request a meeting. All communication must be respectful.
Teachers must keep parents informed. Technology allows for easy frequent communication. Students must feel safe in the classroom.  They need to be able to ask questions free from humiliation and embarrassment. All communication must be respectful.

I create this table just to begin to set up a discussion of the increased stress among parents, teachers, and students.  This was once a primarily cooperative, working relationship (I believe many, many years ago).  Research shows that it works much better when the relationship is cooperative.  How do we get back to where we used to be?  All areas need improvement - the standards (and how we get them), goal setting, methodology, and teaching.  However, next week, I'll talk about the communication piece. That said, we DO have some wonderful things happening in education!  Share them with us!  I'm going to share one with you below...

Until next week, keep it simple...and respectful. ♥D

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Check: Children Are Children, Not Pawns

This week, a Detroit area judge released from detention three children who refused to have a court ordered lunch with their father who was in town from another country.  The children are ages 14, 10, and 9.  Their parents have been in a 5+ year family court battle for custody and visitation, and have had well over 400 court filings.  Mom says dad was abusive, dad says she is brainwashing the kids.  Both parents are highly successful in their professional life.  Both parents, in my opinion, are failing at an alarming rate, as parents.

I am not in that home, and never have been so I cannot judge the validity of the abuse or brainwashing statements.  However, I can say that when the court has to resort to detaining the children for several weeks for violating a court order (not having the lunch with dad), the 'village' that is raising the children has failed.  The parents have failed.  Any extended family and friends have failed.  The school system has failed. The attorneys have failed.  The judge and court system has failed.  All of these players in the chess game of divorce could have made moves to benefit the kids, but did not.  Kids are not pawns.

Below is a link to a counseling and mediation center's page for the 10 Commandments for Parents experiencing divorce.  Many of them may be a challenge, but they can help to insure that your children come out of a divorce unscathed.

10 Commandments For Divorcing Parents

The mother was interviewed by local media and stated, "I told the courts that love brings love".  If the children are detained again because of parental lack of concession with the court orders, I'd like to offer a final move in the chess game:

Check Mate: we find the children another loving home without turmoil and game play from any parents.

We have to protect our children from everything we can.  For the media's version of the events, see the video below.

Keep it simple...very simple. ♥D

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Gap - The Reason Parents May Be Talking About LGBTQ Way More Than Ever

We all know that parenting does not come with a handbook.  Growing up, I was exposed to about 6 network television channels, the remote control was introduced at some point, and I loved to watch The Brady Bunch, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and Knots Landing (that was my most PG-13 rated show).  I don't believe my parents had to tackle really explaining other family lifestyle choices to me...we simply don't have any family members living in situations that vary from heterosexual ones.  If you are a parent who was raised in the 60's, 70's. and 80's, think back to your exposure to lifestyles that are not heterosexual families.  I bet for the majority it was limited, and not much discussed at family dinners.

Flash forward to today.  Imagine being a child, or a teenager who has access to 500 television channels - a few of which are dedicated to LGBTQ lifestyles.  Magazines with covers that are devoted to trending topics, along with #CaitlynJenner (just to name one hashtag) surfacing everywhere lately.  Look at this site below that offers a pop culture timeline, and this is just lists homosexuals in the media.  You'll notice a major increase in the 2000's.  Kids are very much exposed to differing lifestyles, and many readily accept them.

Whatever your feelings are on lifestyles, I'll say this again, your children are very much exposed to them, and the world is encouraging an openness and acceptance.  This may be a different opinion from yours.  Your child may be open and accepting.  Is it okay for you to differ in your opinions?  It is.  Think back to a time when you were young.  Did you agree with your parents on everything?  Really think about it.  Evolution, education, and maturity allow humans to move on with differences and love.  Educate yourself on the lifestyles. Know that they are rooted in love, and not 'choice'.  Watch Caitlyn Jenner's story with an open mind to try to understand what goes through a person's mind and body during his or her lifetime.  Do you have to agree with it?  Nope.  But it may help you understand why your child is using empathetic skills in today's world.  It may also help prepare you if your child approaches you and has to tell you about the lifestyle he or she is living.

I've included below an interesting round-table about today's youth and the generation gap.  I think you'll enjoy it.

Keep it simple...and be ready to listen and talk to your children. ♥D

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Four (& Five) Letter Words I Now Have A Love (& Hate) Relationship With

WORK.  SERVE. TIME. MONEY. MORE.  HELP. FREE.  NEED. WANT. HARD. WORK (yes, I listed this one again). EASY. PLEASE. GIVE. GOV'T (I abbreviated that one). My list could go on.  I'm sitting here on this Memorial Day holiday weekend remembering a very dear friend who lost his life in Fallujah almost 9 years ago, serving in the Marine reserves. He made the ultimate sacrifice serving his country, as many, many have so that we can live here, in the U.S. in a free democratic state.  God Bless him, and all of those who have served and are serving.

Let me ramble...

I'll get wrapped up in situation with 'whomever'...complaining that WORK is too HARD. I wish it was EASY! Or maybe someone is in NEED of HELP with whatever situation he/she is dealing with.  There is never enough MONEY to get what they NEED. Or maybe, just maybe if they had a little MORE of it, they would be all set. Why can it just be FREE? In addition, there is never quite enough TIME to SERVE those who, again, NEED it. PLEASE, somebody, step in and help out! I even catch myself making these statements...if only, if only...

And then, this weekend rolls around, and thank goodness for it, to remind and help me reflect on the TIME, WORK, & HELP given to me by so many before me. It wasn't EASY or FREE.  Thank you for serving.  Thanks to the families of our soldiers for the sacrifice you endure.  I am a lucky American.  I am a grateful American.

I love those words listed above.  I think I kind of hate them too.  We take them for granted, and use them too easily.  Teach children to WORK and SERVE.  Teach them the difference between WANT and NEED.  Show them the true value of MONEY by having them earn their own, even if you have plenty.  Finally, make sure they understand what it means to be FREE.

Happy Memorial Day!

Below is a short video tribute to my friend...

Keep it simple...and be forever grateful for freedom. ♥D