Thursday, March 23, 2017

Role models

Radio Commentary

A study shows that stress from school hits students hard at all ages and grade levels.
In the study, students named more than 300 stress factors they felt at school. The number one stress was schoolwork itself. 
Contrary to myth, most students work hard at school and want to do well. Having difficulty can cause a great deal of stress.
More girls than boys cited social stresses, and peer pressure about their appearance. More boys than girls said they felt anxious about discipline. This dovetails with studies that show more boys are disciplined than girls.
Also listed were stresses ranging from riding the bus to preparing for a career.
Clearly, no student can lead a stress-free life — plus, that would be terrible preparation for the real world. But we know that an overload of stress can cause physical and emotional problems that compound the situation.
 For this reason, it is a good idea to reduce some of the stress in children’s lives. Methods include using alternative forms of discipline and increasing cooperative activities.
It’s also critical to understand that each child is different, and matures at a different rate.
This knowledge prevents us from creating a one-size-fits-all situation where deviations from the norm create an additional form of undue stress.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Building motor skills

Radio Commentary

Children’s work is play. Much is learned through simple games and activities. In fact, play is important in helping children build basic motor skills like running, jumping, throwing, and catching.
Play helps build muscles and aerobic capacity in young bodies. It allows children to release energy and tensions.
Play also teaches social skills. It can increase self-esteem, help strengthen and build attention spans, and improve physical coordination.
To help your child develop basic motor skills during playtime you might consider the following activities:
Use bright, colorful balls when playing ball games because these are easy for children’s eyes to follow.
It helps keep their attention and makes it easier for their eyes to follow the motion.
Use slow, consistent pitches when tossing to your child. Practice makes perfect — for them and for you!
Practice the same skill in different ways to keep your child interested. Run races today. Play tag tomorrow. The skills are the same but the game seems very different. This helps prevent boredom or distraction.
Give brief instructions that are easy to follow, like “Watch the ball.” Long-winded explanations about why it’s important to watch the ball can lead a child’s mind to wander.
Remember that children tire easily, so keep periods of vigorous activity short. When children are young, it’s always better to schedule several short activities rather than one long one.
It helps keep you fresh as well.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Thinking ahead

Radio Commentary

Sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to anticipate it and head it off in the first place. It’s a skill that involves foresight and anticipation.
To help your teens develop these traits, bring up a situation that worries you and ask what they would do in that circumstance.
Listen carefully to their reactions. Treat their opinions with respect. Make suggestions, but avoid the temptation to lecture. That rarely works.
If you disagree with the approach that your teen has provided, ask her to consider alternative actions. Discuss different ways of reacting to a peer pressure situation.
Talk about the benefits and consequences of various alternatives. Have your teen figure out the best course of action based upon those consequences.
Leave the discussion open for further consideration, and make clear that you are always available to help clarify matters or offer suggestions.
If you don’t appear to be lecturing or judging, your teen is more likely to take you up on that offer.
The goal is to help your child think through issues calmly — not to force your opinion or get a reluctant promise.
Considering options in advance can head off problems before they arise and give your children the tools they need to react in a positive and productive way.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Science skills

Radio Commentary

The principles of science form an umbrella over almost everything we do. Many educators feel that science is also one of the most innately interesting subject areas for children.  
But sometimes a sheer love of science can get bogged down in the details of memorization of abstract concepts.
To help your child develop an interest in science, try these tips:
  Discuss family eating habits in terms of how the body uses various kinds of food. The body can be viewed as a machine, and food as the fuel.
  After you have removed all electrical cords, encourage children to tinker with old clocks or broken appliances to see what makes them “tick”  
  Try to hide any distaste you might have for your child’s interest in insects, scummy water, and other unappetizing aspects of nature. 
Children often find these natural items fascinating and should be encouraged to learn about their environment.
  Demonstrate scientific thinking by challenging general statements with the question, “How do you know that’s true?” It helps children understand the difference between opinion and fact.
  Encourage any interest in collecting rocks, leaves, shells, or other natural objects. Provide a place to display and observe the collections.
Explore the many opportunities for science-related outings in our own county, so you can make learning a fun family affair.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Listening ladder

Radio Commentary

Listening is a critical skill for success. It is often in short supply, which makes it all the more valuable.
In fact, becoming a better listener is beneficial to anyone who wants to communicate effectively.
Listening well helps build stronger relationships, and is useful in resolving disputes. Most importantly, listening is the key to acquiring knowledge.
Here are six steps that can help anyone become a more skilled listener and climb the ladder of success. The six steps spell out
For “L”: Look at the person you are speaking to.
For “A”: Ask questions to make sure you understand.
For “D”: Don’t interrupt.
For the next “D”: Don’t change the subject.
For “E”: Empathize with the speaker. Try to feel what they are feeling.
For “R”: Respond verbally and nonverbally, with nods, smiles, and spoken responses.
Going through these steps can help anyone become a better listener, and for students this is an especially helpful tool.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Accountability, transparency, and continuous improvement

By Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools

“Knowledge is power,” Francis Bacon once said. The California Department of Education, as part of its commitment to continuous improvement, accountability, and transparency, has been developing a dashboard to help educators, parents, and communities across the state access important information about K-12 districts and schools.

You might ask, why a dashboard and how does that relate to “knowledge is power?” Think of it this way: You can’t drive a car by only watching the speedometer. You also keep your eye on the road, check the mirrors, monitor the gas tank, and pay attention if the engine light comes on. Similarly, the California School Dashboard features easy-to-read reports on multiple measures of school success, including test scores, graduation rates, English learner progress, and suspension rates. The Dashboard is part of California’s new school accountability system, which recognizes California’s future success depends on tapping into the potential of all students, so they graduate ready for college, careers, and life. For schools to reach this goal, teachers, parents and the community need clear and useful measures of progress.

In the past, accountability systems for districts and schools relied solely on test scores. But one test taken on one particular day doesn’t provide a complete picture of all the ways schools are helping students succeed. The focus on multiple measures will help all districts target areas to grow and improve.

Further, highlighting different aspects of student performance in an easy to digest way will give a more complete and understandable picture of a school’s progress. The Dashboard also reports on growth to show a school’s trajectory over time, while helping districts see disparities in achievement across various groups of students or schools.

As an accountability tool, the Dashboard will also help the state identify schools, including charter schools, and districts needing targeted assistance.

The Dashboard is a work in progress, and metrics and reports will be added over time. It recognizes that the exciting and institutional changes taking place in education will take time to fully implement, and requires an ongoing conversation with our community on both how we’re doing and how we can do better.

To assist in those conversations, the Dashboard is being designed as a transparency tool so parents and community members can sit in the driver’s seat looking at a dashboard that provides the multiple indicators needed to be fully participating partners.

I applaud the California Department of Education and school districts for their continued and strong commitment to a series of shifts in public education that has raised the bar for student learning, transformed testing, and places the focus on equity for all students.

As businessman Donald Bren said, “Future public education will require involvement and collaboration among various local, civic, private and non-profit entities, a concept referred to as community entrepreneurship.” The Dashboard is a tool that enables and strengthens that partnership and
entrepreneurship on behalf of our children.

Using time well

Radio Commentary

No matter how busy parents are, there are things they can do to help their children succeed in school.
To start, it’s important to organize your time. Try to plan work and activities around school and practice schedules.
Also plan to do a few things at once. For example a child could start doing homework in the car while the family is waiting for an older sibling to get out of school. 
The car is also a quiet place where parents and children can talk together uninterrupted.
It’s also a good idea to find other people to help. A babysitter can sometimes help with homework. Grandparents who live nearby can often lend a hand with carpooling.
Friends and neighbors are often willing to trade services and pitch in when needed.
Alternative scheduling can also make a big difference. Though many parents check homework at night, it sometimes works better for parents to do it in the morning, while a child is eating breakfast.
If work schedules make it possible to have only a quick dinner in the evenings, try to compensate in the mornings with a big, hot breakfast.
Also remember that weekend schedules can make up for weekday shortfalls. 
And finally, it’s a good idea to figure out a way to help at school even if your work schedule is complicated.
Be flexible and creative. But find ways to stay involved.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Sleep for teens

Radio Commentary

For years parents and educators have known that many teens do not get enough sleep to meet their health needs. Now there is a new culprit: their smart phones.
Parents may be unaware that many teens sleep with their smart phones by their side, answering calls or text messaging throughout the night.
Research has documented that, on average, teenagers have traditionally gotten about two hours less sleep every night than they need. This increases their risk of accidents and makes them moody.
In the past, this was caused by teens generally staying up too late and waking too early for the needs of their bodies. But these figures were calculated BEFORE the prevalence of smart phones.
According to research, teen bodies need nine hours and fifteen minutes of sleep per night. Prior to the advent of smart phones as bedmates, teens were getting an average of only seven hours of sleep per night. Now the numbers are far lower.
And fitful sleep, in short bursts, is not as healthful as uninterrupted sleep, so the health implications are far more grave than ever.
For example, of the estimated 100,000 car crashes a year linked to drowsy driving, almost half involve drivers age 16-24, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. What’s more, like all of us, teens get more emotional when they are sleep-deprived.
The best thing a parent can do to help teens get the sleep they need is to make sure there is no smart phone by their side when they go to bed. Period. Turn it off and take it away. It’s good parenting.