Monday, September 30, 2013


Radio Commentary

          We have made many strides in the area of tolerance and consideration for others, both as a society and in our schoolyards.
           But human nature and normal child development dictate that despite our best efforts, there will still be bullies and victims.
           The world is full of them, and our schoolyards are no exception. That's why teaching children to deal with these individuals is an important life lesson.
            The best way to safeguard your children from becoming victims of a schoolyard bully is to teach them how to be assertive.
             Encourage children to express their feelings clearly and to say "no" when they feel pressured or uncomfortable in a situation.
              Show them how to stand up for themselves verbally, without fighting. And make sure they know to walk away in dangerous situations. Bullies are less likely to intimidate children who are confident and resourceful.
               Here are some good ideas for parents:
               1. Teach your children early to recognize- and then steer clear of- children who show bullying behavior.
                2. Teach them to be assertive rather than aggressive or violent when confronted by a bully. They should say "no" or state how they feel as a simple fact, with no "attitude" attached.
                 3. Make sure they know not to threaten others in any way. And make especially sure they know how to walk away without hesitation when it seems that real danger might be present.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Susan Buppert

Talking with Teachers
Susan Buppert, Crystal Apple Award Winner, Monte Vista School

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Time management skills

Radio Commentary

Many students aren’t fully prepared to make the jump from elementary to secondary schools because they lack time-management or other organizational skills.
In elementary school, students typically spend most of their time with one teacher, at the same desk every day. In middle school or junior high, however, they begin moving from class to class, and must take responsibility for their own time management.
Here’s how students can be helped to make the transition:
Consolidation is the key. Give students the proper organizational tools. A weekly planner and the right notebook can make a bigger difference than you might imagine.
Recommend that students use a three-ring binder for all subjects, with dividers to separate the subjects, and plastic pockets to hold loose papers and items like pens and pencils.  
A weekly planner is also helpful for recording assignments. Parents can sign off on it once a week. The planner should contain a section for recording grades. This way both students and parents can track progress.
Be sure to set up a proper work environment. Children need a quiet work space. Music and TV are both distractions, whether students realize it or not. 
Create a schedule to replace daily reminding. The act of reminding students to do the same things over and over again becomes tedious and can waste valuable time. 
These practices really help.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Children and crises

Radio Commentary

Whether it’s a hurricane, tornado, or an earthquake in a far-off place, or a fire or a shooting closer to home, parents and other caregivers must meet the challenge of reassuring children during times of crisis. 
The way caregivers respond has a huge impact on how children will be affected. 
To help, a booklet from the American Academy of Pediatrics and Johnson & Johnson Pediatric Institute, called When Terrible Things Happen: A Parent’s Guide to Talking with Their Children, offers some good advice.
For example, infants and toddlers, ages zero to three, can’t understand how a crisis or a loss has changed their environment. 
But they can recognize and respond to changes in adult behavior. 
The best thing you can do for infants and toddlers is to keep a routine and resume normal activities as soon as possible.  
Pre-school children, ages three to five, may not talk about their feelings openly. Talking while playing games can help children of this age group express their thoughts more easily.  
School-age children, five to 12 years old, have more understanding of how and why things happen. They will want to ask questions. Parents can help by talking, listening and answering their questions honestly and directly.
We cannot control a natural disaster or local catastrophe. We can only control how we react to them, especially with our children. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Larry Lavagnino

Local Leaders
Former Mayor of Santa Maria

Monday, September 23, 2013

Teen search for identity

Radio Commentary

Young children tend to accept the values of their parents without question. They have been exposed to few alternatives, so they rely on their parents to understand what is right and wrong.
            As children grow older, however, they begin to think about a variety of options and they are likely to question the values around them. This is a normal process that almost all teens will go through.
The act of questioning should not be viewed as a challenge to the beliefs of the parents. Rather, it is a normal means of consolidating a set of values as the foundation for the practices of a lifetime.
            Friends are important in this process. Teenagers need reactions, and their fellow teens will listen and give honest opinions.
            The key for parents is to shore up their teen’s self-confidence and not over-react to ideas that might be floated out just for effect.
            Teens who are unsure of themselves, and want to be accepted, are more likely to give in to negative peer pressure. They want to be liked and they want to have their ideas approved. They will seek that approval wherever they can find it.
Teens who have plenty of confidence will be affected by input from their friends but are less likely to be dominated by it. They have a sense of inner strength and self-worth that they will not want to jeopardize.

            So be sure to show your teens you love and respect them. Knowing they can count on you helps with their decision-making, and helps keep them grounded in the values of the family unit.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Helping students

Radio Commentary

Parent involvement with children’s education increases the chances for success in school.
            Studies show that children whose parents are involved in education are more motivated in the classroom. And motivated children become students with good chances for bright futures.
But just how do parents go about walking that fine line between being helpful and over-managing their children’s school work?
Here are some guidelines that have proven helpful for some parents:
  Read with your children every day. You can read school assignments, or books that are just for fun.
  Provide enrichment materials, like children’s books, magazines and educational toys. Be sure to show your own delight in reading.
  Provide quiet, private work spaces where children can study undisturbed. Insist that no TV is playing within earshot. Try to limit phone calls during homework time as well.
  Keep your children’s workspaces well-stocked with all the supplies they need to complete their assignments. This would include pencils, pens, erasers, staplers, paper, a good lamp, and a dictionary.
  Help your children schedule homework into their daily routine of sports, music, family events, and long-term projects. Sometimes the prominent placement of a large calendar can make a big difference.
  Reward good grades with recognition and praise.
Involved parents DO make a difference.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Preparing for effective conferences

Radio Commentary

        Parent-teacher conferences can be a very helpful means of communication. To increase their effectiveness, parents should consider some preliminary steps.
First, take time before the conference to think about your child’s strengths, weaknesses, study habits, and classmates. 
Ask your child: What do you like about the classroom? What would you like to change? Do you understand the work? Do you feel you’re doing well? What makes you think so?
There are also several questions a parent should ask the teacher during the conference: What are my child’s best and weakest subjects? How can I help him improve? Is my child working up to his ability? If not, why do you think so and how can I help? 
Is my child’s schoolwork progressing as it should? If not, how can I help her catch up? If my child is ahead of other students, what will challenge or encourage her? 
How does my child get along with other students? Does he take part in groups? Is he unusually shy or aggressive? 
Are there any special behavior or learning problems I need to know about? 
What kinds of tests will be given this year? What are the tests supposed to tell? 
Is my child’s homework turned in on time, and does it meet your expectations? How much time should be spent on homework each night?
Remember, teachers and parents share the same goal: Both want the child to learn and succeed. Together, they can become a powerful force for positive change in the life of a child.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Testing purposes

Radio Commentary

Tests are an important part of a child’s education. Still, it is important to keep in mind what tests can and cannot show. 
A test can indicate what a student knows in a given subject. It can also show the types of reasoning a student finds difficult or easy to do. 
A test can also reveal what a student still needs to learn. It can point out weaknesses and challenges, and show where further focus could make a difference.
What a test cannot show is how hard a student has tried. It can’t show the amount of studying that took place or the effort that was put into trying to learn the material. 
For some students, it takes little effort to do well on tests. They instinctively know what kinds of answers are being sought by the nature of the questions.
Others study very hard but find it more difficult to show what they know, so they don’t obtain high scores.
Parents need to make sure children know that whatever they score on a test, they are stilled loved. It may seem obvious, but it’s easy to forget and very important to children who are trying hard to do their best.
All children want to do well on tests. But realistically, they simply won’t be able to do so 100 percent of the time.  
Make sure your children know you support their efforts, not just the numbers they are able to attain.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Resolving homework problems

Radio Commentary

Homework hassles can often be avoided when parents value, monitor, and guide their children’s work.
But sometimes this help is not enough. Problems can still arise. If they do, teachers, parents, and students may need to work together to resolve them.
You may want to contact the teacher:
 •  If your children refuse to do their assignments.
•  If the instructions are unclear.
•  If you can’t seem to help your child get organized to tackle the assignments.
•  If neither you nor your child can understand the purpose of an assignment.
•  If the assignments are frequently too hard or too easy.
•  Or if your child has missed school and needs to make up work.
Contact the teacher as soon as you suspect your child has a problem. Give the teacher a chance to work out the issue. Be sure to give the teacher’s suggestions a chance to work.
Approach the teacher with a cooperative spirit, understanding that the teacher wants to help your child, even if you disagree about the method.
It’s easier to solve problems if teachers and parents view each other cooperatively.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Avoid spoiling

Radio Commentary

Parents want to provide the best they can for their children, but many of them don’t know how to go about giving their children what they want without spoiling them.
Some well-meaning moms and dads can’t bear to see their children sad or disappointed, so they give them what they plead for.
Remember that it’s possible to set limits so that children are less likely to become spoiled.  
Children are not always able to make the distinction between what they want and what they need. Parents have to do it for them, even if it makes children momentarily unhappy.
First, make sure that “no” means “no”  — not “maybe.”  
If you’re at all ambivalent, children will easily pick up on it. They sense when you are uncomfortable saying no to them.
When you don’t send a clear message, you actually encourage pleading, whining, and even tantrums.
Remember that your children will test you. That’s their way of finding out if you really mean what you say. So act secure about saying ‘no’ when you have to.  
Of course it can feel very uncomfortable to deny children their desires. But children who get everything they want are not necessarily happier for it. Life will not be so kind over the long haul. 
In fact, children feel much more secure when boundaries are clear and parents are firm about the decisions they make.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Parents help with testing

Radio Commentary

            Public schools have always strived to fulfill their mission of helping students improve their skills and reach their full potential. Accountability has always been an important priority.
In current times, accountability is focused almost exclusively on test scores.
Supporters of testing contend that tests will lead to increased accountability and measurable results.
Opponents argue that average scores on high-stakes testing do not indicate how far a given teacher or school has taken a group of students from where they started. The scores don’t show the progress that was made for the individual student.
We also hear of strong political support balanced by some grassroots opposition. Clearly, there is controversy.
Nonetheless, tests right now are the only game in town. They are required of all schools and students in our state, and there are rewards and sanctions depending on the average outcome. 
Some young people are “naturals” at test-taking. They can sail through tests without stress. For many others, the taking of national and state standardized tests can be a time of high frustration and anxiety.

Four traits can help children feel confident about tests throughout their school careers: Being Receptive, Relaxed, Ready, and Rested. Parents who help nurture these traits can help their children succeed.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

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 memorizing and instruction.
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 is the fuel.
•  Encourage children to tinker with old clocks or broken appliances to see how they “tick” – but be sure to remove all electrical cords first.
•  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 the collections.
Explore the many opportunities for science-related outings in our own county, so you can make learning a family affair.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Starting early

Radio Commentary

From early on, children should have books to read, people reading to them often, and the chance to see others reading and writing.  
Children should also be encouraged to talk about books they know, adding their own story lines or creating new endings. 
The home environment is critical. Make sure it is filled with printed material. 
Put up some signs around the house that use the child’s name. Have toys like alphabet refrigerator magnets.
Several Internet sites publish lists of wonderful children’s stories.
There is no substitute for a caring adult who takes time with a child. 
Vocabulary, language skills, and knowledge about the world are gained during interesting conversations with responsible adults.
In daily life, parents should point out and read words that appear in a child’s environment — store signs, labels, TV titles.  
Have your toddlers share in making grocery lists and checking them off at the store. Sing songs and tell stories whenever the opportunity arises.
Above all, talk to your child whenever possible. Simply hearing the rhythms and sounds of language helps with reading.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Meeting standards

Radio Commentary

In a publication titled “What Matters Most — Improving Student Achievement,” teachers from across the country tackled the most challenging problems in our classrooms.
A major focus was “high standards.” The authors contended that while considerable energy was invested in creating new standards in recent years, little was done to identify steps needed to reach the standards successfully.
They said that getting serious about standards requires three basic conditions:
First, it is essential that teachers, students, and classrooms have the resources necessary to implement the standards — up-to-date technology and materials, libraries, and laboratories.
Second, they noted that implementing standards cannot be solely the work of teachers. Parents, administrators, and the students themselves need to know about standards and expectations.  
The third condition for meeting the standards was assessment. They felt it was essential that high-stakes decisions, such as promotion to the next grade, not be made solely on the basis of a single test. 
The decision must also take into account two things: assessments crafted by teachers, and also those demonstrated in projects that give real evidence of sustained growth over time.
These are important insights that deserve our attention as we work to help all children meet high standards.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Lofty goals

Radio Commentary

Recognizing the importance of education to our national well-being, the early leaders of our country created publicly funded schools to educate children from all walks of life.
They were seeking to achieve more than just teaching children reading, writing, and math.
They believed that a system of publicly supported schools ought to achieve seven major goals:
prepare people to become responsible citizens
improve social conditions
promote cultural unity
help people become economically self-sufficient
enhance individual happiness and enrich individual lives
dispel inequities in education, and
ensure a basic quality level among schools
These goals are worthy of our great democracy. But they are hard to measure.
In fact, many of these goals cannot be evaluated for many years, when we can finally see how students have applied their studies.
We hear critics of public schools call for alternatives that shift funding and responsibility for education to the private sector. And we hear calls for ever-more reliance on test scores to measure school achievement.
When we weigh these ideas, it is important to remember the whole picture of what we seek from public education. 
We need to see whether the suggestions meet the lofty goals we had in mind when public education was first conceived. They remain essential in a democratic and free-market society.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Family involvement

Radio Commentary

           When people hear the term “parental involvement in school,” they usually think it means taking part in PTA activities, helping to chaperone field trips, or volunteering in the classroom.
It’s important to remember that another form of parental involvement is even more critical -- taking part in education at home. 
            This means encouraging children to read, monitoring their homework, reading to them, placing reasonable restrictions on TV viewing, and making sure they go to school every day. 
It also means talking to children about why school is important.
            Many children do not always get such attention. In some cases, both parents are working and are simply too tired at night or are not inclined to do this. In single-parent families, often it is impossible for a parent to cover all these bases.
            Many modern children spend at least as much time watching TV as they do in school. And, of course, if students don’t attend school regularly, they can’t benefit from what it offers. 
            Parents have to be around the house to supervise; they have to put pressure on their children to turn off the TV and do their homework or read. They have to make sure their kids go to school even when there is some small reason for staying home.
            This kind of parental involvement is hard work, and relentless work, because it must be constant. But it’s hard to think of anything more important parents can do for their children.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


Radio Commentary

            It’s never too early to begin reading to a child. Even infants love the sound of words in lullabies and rhymes.
Set aside some time for reading aloud every day. Let children snuggle close to you. That way, they will think of reading as a happy time when they have your full attention.
Your reading time doesn’t need to be long—10 or 15 minutes each day is fine.
Remember: if you read just one story a night to children, they will arrive in kindergarten with more than a thousand story-sharing experiences.
As you read, you can also boost a child’s thinking skills—and have fun.
Ask children to think about why something is happening in the story—or what they might do if they were in the same situation. For example, “What would you do if you were Little Red Riding Hood?”
When you’ve finished a book, ask children to think about how to change the story.
For example, “What would have happened if all three little pigs had built their houses of bricks?”
You can have fun with these questions. Even better, your children will be developing thinking and reasoning skills that lead to success in school.