Monday, December 5, 2016

Easing stress

Radio Commentary

Here are some good tips for reducing stress in your family.
First, show affection! Let your children know you love them. Hug them often.
Nurture your children’s self-esteem. Listen to their needs and help them develop their own problem-solving skills.
Encourage their interests and abilities. Treat them as individuals with their own special qualities.
Give your children some of your undivided attention every day.
Give them a chance to talk about both the happy AND the stressful events in their lives.
Some every-day concerns that can cause stress for children are school pressures, alienation, and the demands that they succeed at everything — school, sports, music, dancing, or other activities.
Show your children you understand their concerns and take them seriously.
Have weekly family meetings to discuss family activities, routines, and problems.
Give everyone a chance to speak and don’t allow angry or negative feedback. Work at problem-solving rather than confrontation.
Use humor or empathy — rather than orders, anger, or sarcasm — when asking your children to do something for you.
These seem like small steps, but they can really make a big difference.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Health and learning

Radio Commentary

Children’s health can have a noticeable impact on their ability to learn.
Vision and hearing problems, in particular, can impair a child’s ability to keep up in school.
That’s because an inability to see the blackboard or hear the teacher can keep a student from understanding what is being taught.
Distractions can also be caused by medical or dental problems, as well as learning disabilities.
In Santa Barbara County, children are screened for hearing, vision, and dental problems in kindergarten or first grade, and again in second, fifth, eighth, and tenth grade.
In order to identify potential health problems — including possible lead poisoning, the state requires preventative physicals for all first-graders.
If a teacher or school nurse notices a child is having a problem, a referral is made to the home.
In addition, tips from teachers can help school psychologists identify behavioral or learning problems, such as attention deficit disorder.
Nutrition and rest can also have a positive impact on children’s learning.
Research has shown that children who eat breakfast do better in school than those who do not.
Monitoring a child’s health, and paying attention to nutrition and rest, are important ways that parents can help children succeed in school.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Media myth

Radio Commentary

We are all concerned about the mass media’s influence on children.
Certainly the media help reinforce some widespread misconceptions, and people often act on perception rather than reality.
For example: Violence in videos and on TV helps create the impression that our neighborhoods are dangerous places, and we need guns, police, and the military to protect us.
Detailed reports of crime and terror create the perception among young and old alike that the world is unsafe. As a result, more people stay home, especially in urban areas, or act in a more guarded way.
Ironically, this isolation by law-abiding citizens actually helps make areas less safe.
News programs generally lead off with the most violent occurrence of the day — as opposed to less newsworthy acts of ordinary kindness, courage, and friendship.
This gives a distorted view of just how much violence occurs around us.
Children who understand this distortion are better prepared to deal with the real world.
They understand that news reports are merely samplings of what is going on in the streets and around the world.
They understand that decisions on editing and story selection are made from thousands of choices, and are made according to professional standards of both news and entertainment value.
It is the oddity that is “new” and therefore considered news, rather than acts that are commonplace. And that is exactly the problem.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Radio Commentary

Feeling safe makes children feel more confident when they meet new people, try new tasks, and take on new responsibilities.
As children grow, they also need time to explore their power and abilities. This means parents need to let go of some control and help their children take “healthy risks.”
How do parents help their children learn what it means to be more self-sufficient? Think about these questions:
How do your children work through their fears or doubts? How often do you do things with your children rather than for them?
What do your children do that makes you laugh or feel proud? Do they know it?
To help empower your children, tell them often that you appreciate what they do around the house, at school, and for friends.
When your children tell you about problems, confirm their feelings and help them think through solutions.
Encourage children to take new roles at school or try new activities that will be enjoyable but not stressful.
Let children take full responsibility for some chores. When you do your own chores, do them with good cheer even if they aren’t fun. Your children will learn from your example.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Michelle Minetti-Smith in the spotlight

By Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools

In our drive to showcase outstanding teachers throughout Santa Barbara County, we are eager to shine another spotlight on the 2017 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year, Michelle Minetti-Smith, a local hero in every sense of the word.

Michelle is a first grade, developmental bilingual teacher at Mary Buren Elementary School in the Guadalupe Union School District and there is no doubt that her humble nature, vast skills, and utter calmness, are hallmarks that inspire all who know her.

Those who have seen her classroom in the heart of Guadalupe are always impressed. Recent visitors would have seen student-crafted Johnny Appleseed pictures on the walls, groups of children working on different aspects of reading and writing, the flow of academic language in Spanish in the morning, and the switch to English in the afternoon, plus her ability to answer questions of little ones and visiting adults, in rapid fire, all while keeping her calm and her cool. What makes her achievement all the more wonderful is that Michelle is homegrown, with deep roots in Guadalupe and the Santa Maria Valley. She was the fourth generation of her family to go to school at Mary Buren, where she now teaches. Her grandmother was a teacher as well.

Amazingly, Michelle’s fourth grade teacher, Mary Buren, is the school’s namesake. Jose Nichols was the principal when she attended the school, and he hired her back to teach there 20 years ago.

Michelle could have gone into the thriving family business but decided early on to focus instead on children and teaching. Now she has brought that goal to the highest level of achievement. She greets every child who arrives in her classroom and has high expectations for all. She also mentors new teachers. She is the perfect example of what’s best about teaching and represents so well the outstanding teachers from every corner of our bountiful county.

It is widely known that the caliber of teachers in Santa Barbara County is among the best in California and America. That means that the selection process for the Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year is both challenging and rigorous. All 20 school districts in Santa Barbara County are invited to nominate one of their own to be considered for the honor. The nominees reflect deeply about their teaching practice, and then demonstrate their outstanding skills for members of a broad-based committee, who interview and observe each nominee before making a final selection.

Celebrating teaching means recognizing how teachers provide opportunities for students to grow. The teaching craft is about sparking creativity, confidence, and innovation. It’s about enabling students to envision themselves as scientists, inventors, artists, learners, and citizens of the world beyond the 21st Century. It’s about instilling a sense of hope and then providing the skills to help those goals take wing.

As is the case with so many of our teachers, Michelle Minetti-Smith does all these things, every day. She makes us all proud.

Creating connections

Radio Commentary

Several types of activities can help create and maintain connections with your children as they get older.
Share a hobby. Explore an interest that you both enjoy, whether it’s rollerblading, playing golf, or skimming through fashion magazines or websites. Time spent this way can result in hours of naturally-flowing conversation.
Look at baby pictures. A walk down memory lane is a great way to bring up other awkward topics including the many physical and emotional changes that occur throughout your child’s life.
Make time in the car for conversation. The moments you have together in the car can help you share important information and emotions.
You can also learn a lot about your child if you pay attention to conversations with friends while they’re riding in the back seat.
See your child as others do. Many parents only see their children when they’re at home. Get involved with your child’s school. Volunteer to help with extracurricular programs, such as theatre, clubs, or sports.
You may discover new and wonderful aspects to your child that you otherwise would have missed.
All these activities help you create and maintain connections as your children travel into adulthood. They also form the basis of shared experiences and close relationships throughout a lifetime.

Monday, November 28, 2016

TV and information

Radio Commentary

Children used to gain knowledge of the world in a slow, controlled way. They learned how to behave by watching adults and repeating their actions.
The slowly developing reading skills of young people restricted them mostly to stories and facts deemed suitable for their age level.
But times have changed. Today’s children are flung quickly into the realm of adult knowledge as mass media bombard children with messages.
Rock and rap song lyrics, DVDs, Facebook, and advertising all play their parts. TV and computer games are also major players.
Messages in advertising, TV programs, and games — and even some content on the nightly news — would have been shocking to see just one short generation ago.
Young viewers can’t always distinguish between the drama and trauma of soap operas, adventure shows, or computer games, and the day-to-day routine that most adults live.
Without proper guidance, children can grow up dissatisfied with lives less exciting and glamorous than the movie heroes they admire or those on their computer screens.
They can become frustrated when they can’t resolve a conflict in 22 minutes — or worse, 22 seconds. Be aware of media content and use good judgment in your selections.
Doing so is a key to raising healthy, well-adjusted children.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Best things are free

Radio Commentary

Holiday time can be a loving time and, at the same time, the most materialistic period that our children go through each year. 
Sometimes it’s good to reinforce that the most important things in life do not always involve the exchange of dollars.
It’s so easy for a parent to reach for some money or a piece of candy as a reward for good grades or extra effort.
But there are much better ways to show gratitude and pride. The National PTA insists that “hugs, kisses, and compliments are worth more than anything money can buy.”
In fact, some of the best incentives don’t cost any money at all, but continue to reap rewards year after year.   
You’d be surprised how much more staying power hugs have, or pats on the back, smiles, or extra attention. 
Reading together could be another reward. It’s a gift that brings you close to your children.
Also, compliments have much more impact when they are given face to face, or said to others loud enough so that the child can hear them. It can also be effective to hold family testimonial dinners for children. 
The successes can cover any special contribution — doing household chores, helping someone in your neighborhood, or meeting a goal. Be specific about the good things happening in your child’s life.
It’s never too early to underscore for children that many of the best things in life are not “things” at all, but attitudes and actions that show kindness, concern, and appreciation.