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.