Friday, November 28, 2014

Impact of good schools

Radio Commentary

Americans believe high-quality public schools help build stronger families and improve local economics.

That was the finding of a poll commissioned by the Public Education Network.

Asked to cite the benefits of good public education for a community, 24 percent said good schools help build stronger families, making that the top response.

The second impact cited, with 20 percent support of respondents, was that high-quality public schools improve the local economy by attracting businesses.

The third greatest impact, cited by 15 percent of those who responded, was that good schools lower crime rates.

Next came creating community pride, instilling civic values, boosting property values, and, most tellingly, “all of the above.”

Among parents of children 18 years or younger, 88 percent said that having good public schools in their community was important.

Of those without children, 84 percent still shared that belief.

It is heartening to know that members of the public, by such overwhelming numbers, consider high-quality schools so vital. Americans clearly recognize the contributions of our schools to our communities and our society.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving thanks

Radio Commentary

There is an anonymous quote I’ve always liked. It says, “Without teachers there would be no other professions.”

The obvious meaning is that no one is born knowing a profession – someone had to teach practitioners what to do.
An equally important message imparted by the quote is that teaching itself is a profession. It requires just as much skill and training as any other career – maybe more so than many others.

As we celebrate this day of thanksgiving it is fitting to give thanks to the many unsung heroes and heroines in our midst, who make a difference every day in the lives of local children.

Teachers personify our society's belief that universal public education is key to meeting the challenges of a changing world.

They strive to make every classroom an exciting environment where productive and useful learning can take place and each student is encouraged to grow and develop.

Our teachers reach out to foster the well-being of each student, regardless of ability, background, race, ethnicity or religion. Teachers also motivate students to find new directions in life and reach high levels of achievement.

We are thankful for all they do, and for the support from parents, business leaders, and members of the community, that is so vital to their work. Thank you all. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Showing you care

Radio Commentary

During this holiday season, it’s appropriate to note that a parent’s love is the foundation of a child’s self-esteem.
And though you might feel it’s already understood, sometimes it’s important to say it out loud.
A child simply can’t hear those words too often, but they are especially important before a child leaves for school and before bed at night.

There are almost infinite variations on ways to say you care. Here are some common forms the message can take:

“You’re important to me.”

“You brighten my day.”

“You mean the world to me.”

“You’re really great.”

“You did that well.”

“What a good job you did.”

“You made my day.”

“You worked hard.  I’m proud of you.”

“That was spectacular. You really make me proud.”

“I think you are the greatest.”

A big hug counts, too. In fact, sometimes it’s a good idea to think up new ways to say and show you care.

If a child has a strong sense of self-worth, that’s more than half the battle for facing anything that can arise.

That strength is important both inside and outside the classroom.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Preteens & friends

Radio Commentary

When children become preteens, their interest in friends and social activities often increases dramatically. Parents may then be faced with issues of trust and peer pressure.

Preteens may resist having parents check up on their outside activities. They may say, “I can’t believe you don’t trust me.”

One good response is, “I trust you, but I don’t like the situation you’re going to be in.” Or, “I trust YOU to stay away from trouble, but I can’t be sure your friends will.”

Preteens may think they can avoid peer pressure on their own, but they actually will appreciate having you help them.

If your child is going to a party, ask a lot of “what if” questions.

For example, say, “What if your friends dare you do to something that is against our family’s rules?” 

Many parents also report great success with “escape lines” that allow preteens to blame you when resisting pressure.

For example, a preteen offered alcohol can say, “No thanks. My dad always smells my breath when I come home.”

The bottom line is that parents of preteens must sometimes be willing to be unpopular. They don’t have to let preteens go somewhere or do something just because their friends’ parents allow it.

Parents must continue to set limits on behavior and be willing to say “no” when necessary. It’s important. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

How parents can help

Radio Commentary

Sparking a child’s curiosity can be key to lifelong learning. Parents can help.

Make up trivia games that you can all play regularly, even when you’re on the run. Give children a chance to experiment around the house with measuring, cooking, repairing broken items, and other activities that require finding and using information.

Also, be sure to know what’s going on at school. Attend school events. Your presence will show your children that you’re interested in their school life and value it.

Ask children for detailed descriptions of what they’re studying and doing at school.

You should also help children establish a sense of ethics. Have the courage to say NO when children’s interests are not acceptable.

As children get older, continue to uphold firm, clear limits. But gradually give them more chances to make choices and live with the consequences.

It is easier to set these standards in first and second grades than in preteen years. But there are also ways to encourage preteens to stick to standards of behavior.

Teach children of all ages to say “thank you” and write thank-you letters when appropriate. Tell them stories of justice. Teach them that there is a right and a wrong way to do things.

In these areas, parents are the most important teachers of all.

Friday, November 21, 2014

SIDS awareness

Radio Commentary

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, known by the acronym SIDS, is a tragedy, and a mystery. Despite years of research, its exact causes remain unknown.

It is defined as the sudden death of an infant, younger than a year old, that can’t be explained after a thorough medical investigation.

In California, SIDS is the second-leading cause of death for children between 28 days and a year old. However, parents can take steps to reduce the risks.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has these recommendations:

  • Pregnant women should receive regular prenatal care. They also should avoid tobacco smoke, alcohol, and illicit drugs both during pregnancy and after the birth.
  • Don’t let anyone smoke in an infant’s presence.
  • When it’s time to sleep, lay your baby on his back, not his stomach, on a firm surface.
  • Share a room, but not a bed, with your infant, and keep all soft objects out of the baby’s sleeping area.

Don’t let your baby get overheated while sleeping.

Other effective steps include breastfeeding, if possible; getting all recommended immunizations for your baby; and having regular “well baby” check-ups.

We don’t yet have a way to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, but these steps have greatly decreased the number of deaths. If you have questions, ask your doctor for advice.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Volunteer code

Radio Commentary

Volunteers make a huge difference in our public schools.
If done correctly, volunteering can provide invaluable help for students who are struggling. It can provide an extra set of hands, eyes, and ears to teachers who are working hard to meet the needs of all students.

To help volunteers do their job better, the state PTA created a code of ethics that includes the following items:
  • While I may lack assets my co-workers have, I will not let this make me feel inadequate, and will still help develop good teamwork. My help is valued and important.
  • I will find out the best ways to serve the activity for which I’ve volunteered, and will offer as much as I can give, but not more.
  • I must live up to my promise, and therefore will be careful that my agreement is so simple and clear it cannot be misunderstood.
  • I will work with a professional attitude because I have an obligation to my task, to those who direct it, to my colleagues, to the students for whom it is done, and to the public.
These items are good practices for all volunteers to keep in mind as they strive to make a difference for children.

And that, of course, is the bottom line for all of us.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Giving heartfelt thanks to our community

News column

As we celebrate the season of thanksgiving, we give heartfelt thanks on behalf of our public schools to all the business and community members who supported our local classrooms, families, and children in so many ways.
Even in challenging times it’s clear that we can join hands in partnership and help bolster one of our community’s most valuable assets.

Members of the community help in ways that are impossible to overstate. Parents volunteer in local classrooms. PTA members play invaluable roles at every school. Relatives and friends support fundraisers, and neighbors pitch in at every turn, attending sports events, concerts, and plays. That support means so much to the young people who witness it every day, and see first-hand that the adults around them value what is happening in their classrooms.

I’d also like to thank the local business community whose strong support of our schools is evident in ways both large and small.

Businesses have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to support The Teachers Network, a program that recognizes outstanding teachers and spreads successful classroom ideas. That program helps make a difference one classroom at a time, and has demonstrated its worth to local students countywide.

Businesses have also contributed to the invaluable Computers for Families program in the South County and Computer Connections program in the North County. These programs provide low-income students with computers, and help erase the digital divide that separates those with access to technology from those without.

Members of local businesses also help serve as mentors, making themselves available for shadow programs. They pitch in with vocational and career programs at local schools, helping prepare young people for the world of work. Many take part in Career Day programs, and in Principal for a Day, which helps them see first-hand the challenges and accomplishments of our schools, and adding their own expertise as support.

Students in today’s classrooms will be tomorrow’s workforce and leaders. The level of support and the range of resources are both extremely impressive and greatly appreciated.

Of course a tremendous thanks also goes to all the unsung heroes and heroines in classrooms countywide, who make a difference every day in the lives of the children and families they serve. Teachers embody our society’s belief that universal public education is key to meeting the challenges of a changing world. They strive to make every classroom an exciting environment where productive and useful learning can take place, and each student is encouraged to grow and develop according to his or her talents and abilities.

Our teachers reach out to foster the well-being of every student, regardless of ability, motivation, background, race, or beliefs. Teachers also help inspire students to find new directions in life and reach for high levels of achievement. We are thankful for all they do, and for the support from parents, business leaders, and members of the community that is so vital to their ability to succeed.

On behalf of the entire educational system in our county, I offer thanks to members of our community for their support of our classrooms and schools. This is a fitting time to say “thank you” to all whose help is so very valuable.

Day of Farm Worker set for Dec. 7

News release

The arduous work of the agricultural worker will be celebrated and appreciated during the Day of the Farm Worker, a free event sponsored by the Santa Barbara County Education Office’s Migrant Education Program and its community partners from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7, at the Santa Maria Fairpark.

The celebration will offer free health screenings, free clothing and books, flu shots, blood pressure checks, vision screenings, fluoride varnish for children under age six, healthy meal demonstrations, physical activity demonstrations, children’s activities, live music, entertainment, and a community agency information fair, including legal and educational services. Food will be available for purchase.

“We all benefit from the wonderful gifts agricultural workers provide to our own families: meats, vegetables, fruits, dairy, seeds, nuts, grains, eggs, and much more. It is fitting that we pay tribute to their hard work and accomplishments,” said County Superintendent Bill Cirone, whose office coordinates the event. “Local businesses and organizations also benefit from the products and services consumed by agricultural workers and their families,” he said.

The Migrant Education Program is a national program that provides educational, health, and social support services to eligible children and young adults from birth to 21 years old. California has more than 124,000 migrant children enrolled in its 20 regions. Region 18 serves Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, which are home to more than 2,300 migrant children and young adults. Also part of the Santa Barbara County is Region 22 of the Santa Maria Bonita School District, which serves over 3,400 pre-school to eighth-grade students. Information about whether a child qualifies for services is available by contacting the regional office in Santa Maria at 922-0788 or by asking a Migrant Education Services Specialist at the Day of the Farm Worker event.

“Our nation’s economy depends on the agricultural industry,” Cirone said. “We hope the community will join us in paying tribute to the workers of this vital industry.”

For more information, call the Migrant Education Office in Santa Maria at 922 0788.

No free lunch

Radio Commentary

More than two dozen “lessons for life” were outlined in a book written by Marian Wright Edelman, best known for her position as president of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Edelman wrote the book as a letter to her own children, but the underlying wisdom can serve as a lesson for us all.

The first lesson is quite simple: There is no free lunch. You are not entitled to anything you don’t sweat and struggle for.

She writes:  “Each American adult and child must struggle to achieve, and not think for a moment that America has got it made.

Especially in the days of instant fame and celebrity through the sports and entertainment fields, it is sometimes difficult for young people to keep their lives and their goals in perspective.

Edelman reminds us that rewards are so much richer and more fulfilling if we have earned them through our own hard work.

She says we must teach our children, by example, not to wobble and jerk through life, but to take care and pride in work, and to be reliable.
A life well lived is embodied in those who serve others, who share their successes, and who give back to those who have helped them.

Many of us know of philanthropists who have accumulated great wealth and are moved to share it in ways that benefit others.
Those we admire most are those who do it quietly without fanfare or without need for public acknowledgment. They do it not for self-glory, but for what they see as the public good.

It’s a good value to instill in all our children.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Children’s contract

Radio Commentary

The future of any society is bound tightly to how it treats its children.
A contract created for American children promises the following:
  • We promise to consider children’s well-being first in evaluating health and welfare reforms or other national policy.
  • We promise to ensure that all children get the basics they need to grow up healthy.
  • We promise all children a chance to achieve their potential, and we encourage parents to help by becoming active partners in their children’s education.
  • We promise to reduce children’s exposure to violence — on TV, on our streets, and in our homes.
  • We promise to help families stay together and help young people understand the rewards and responsibilities of parenting.
  • We promise to help working families stay out of poverty.
  • We promise to support families by making sure that education and job training are available to people of all means.
  • We promise to provide young people with places to go and things to do that will help them act responsibly.
  • We promise to support all children’s healthy development.
  • We promise to hold our elected leaders accountable for safeguarding the future of America’s children.
We hope that these principles will continue to guide an open and honest discussion about how we can best meet the needs of our children.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Reaching kids

Radio Commentary

There is a quote I really like that says: “Either we teach our children, or we abandon the future to chance and nonsense.”

You don’t have to tell that to parents or educators. Both groups are well aware of the responsibilities they shoulder.

A Gallup Poll on Americans’ attitudes toward public schools reconfirmed a perception that has held steady for more than two decades: the public gives only average marks to the nation’s public schools, but predominantly A’s or B’s to the schools their own children attend.

We hear reports about the demise of public education, but the schools parents see for their own children — for whom they are the world’s strongest advocates — they rate above average or excellent. Think about that.

Educators recognize that challenges remain, and work remains, until all students reach their potential and until the achievement gap is truly closed.

The one irrefutable truth we have learned from educational research over the years is that every child learns differently. Some must read information to “get” it. Others must hear it, and others need hands-on approaches.

Some do much better in small groups, while others require the one-to-one attention of a teacher or tutor. Most children benefit from a mix of techniques.

The trick for educators lies in identifying the needs of each student and providing strategies to meet those various needs. Not an easy task.

Reform efforts continue. I’ve always considered teachers our unsung heroes and heroines for the work they do, every day, to reach and teach our children. They deserve our support and appreciation.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Salute to Teachers

Radio Commentary

Auto industry executive Philip Caldwell said, “Successes have many fathers.” That is certainly true in local schools and tomorrow’s Salute to Teachers is a perfect example.

Cox Communications, Bacara Resort and Spa, Montecito Bank and Trust, and other businesses will partner with the Santa Barbara County Education Office to honor exceptional new teachers and outstanding mentors in our Teacher Induction Program.

To understand why this kind of recognition is so important, consider the results of a recent study by the California State University system.

It found that 22 percent of new teachers were leaving the profession within four years of starting, and the main reason they gave was “a lack of support.”

The Teacher Induction Program supports these new teachers during the crucial early transition period into the profession.

Today, some 96% of the new teachers in our Teacher Induction Program state they plan to remain in the profession.

Tomorrow’s Salute to Teachers, and other teacher recognition events, are made possible by our enlightened Santa Barbara County business community. They understand well that an investment in our teachers will pay dividends for our children and our community’s future.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Teen partying

Radio Commentary

Where there are teenagers, there will be parties, and holidays are often a likely time for these to occur.
If your teenager is attending a party, here are some key points to consider:

Know where your teenager will be. Get the name, address, and phone number of the host. If the party's location changes, have your teen let you know the new location.

Contact the parents of the party-giver to verify the party location, offer your help, and make sure that an adult will be present. You’ll also want to confirm that alcohol and other drugs will not be allowed.

Transportation to and from the party should also be discussed.

Let your teen know that you or a specific person can be called on for a ride home, no questions asked.

Discussing possible scenarios ahead of time gives teens a good idea about how to respond in a variety of situations.

Another important point to consider is curfew. Let your teen know when to be home. Stay up or have your teen wake you when he or she gets back. You may find it’s a good time to ask how the evening went.

Sleeping over at the location of the party may also be appropriate, but talk to your teen and the host's parents ahead of time.

Communication is essential. Build a sense of trust with your teen and you're more likely to get honest information.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Student stress

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 one-size-fits-all situations where deviations from the norm create an additional form of undue stress.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A nation of education

Radio Commentary

The percentage of the United States population that has completed high school and college has increased over the past generation.

As late as 1970, only 55 percent of the population age 25 years and older had completed four or more years of high school.

That total has jumped from 55 percent to nearly 80 percent.

The percentage of 25-year-olds who have completed four years of college has increased from 11 percent to 23 percent.

These are findings of the National Center for Education Statistics.

Many people find it surprising to learn that, at any given time, nearly one-third of Americans are involved with our education system.

Think about that.

The United States has a population of over 310 million people.

Of those residents, more than 77 million students are enrolled in American schools and colleges.

Many residents also work in the education system. An additional six million Americans are employed as elementary and secondary school teachers and as college faculty.

Another five million work as professional, administrative, or support staff of educational institutions.

Clearly, education is a central portion of who we are as Americans, and nearly a third of us cherish it enough to participate in it or work for it. It’s an impressive statistic.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Managing anger

Radio Commentary

Everybody gets angry, but you can help your child take responsibility for heading off angry outbursts.

Start by asking your child what situations seem to make him angry. He might say:

  • When I lose a game. 
  • When someone says something untrue about me. 
  • When my little brother uses my things. 
  • When I want to do something that I can’t.

Then brainstorm alternatives with your child about how to diffuse the emotions.

Ask, for example, “If you’re losing a game and you know that can make you angry, what might you do instead?”

One technique is to help think of a few phrases your child can repeat over and over until the anger subsides, such as, “It’s only a game,” or “I can stay cool about this.”

You should also help your child practice things he can say to others to avoid a situation where he’s likely to get angry.

He might say, for example, “I have to go home now,” or “I’m too mad to talk about this right now.”

Other suggestions to help a child control anger might include listening to music, running around the yard to wear off some energy, or writing a story about the situation.

With parents’ help, most children can learn to take responsibility for managing their anger before it gets out of hand. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Talking with Teachers - Marti Fast

Guest: Marti Fast
Allan Hancock College

Local Leaders - Jim Glines

Guest: Jim Glines
Community Bank of Santa Maria

Local Leaders - Larry Feinberg

Guest: Larry Feinberg
Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Schools of Thought - Carrie Randolph

Guest: Carrie Randolph
Leading from Within


Radio Commentary

Many people believe that children today lack good manners and too often display rude behavior.

That may be a bad “rap” for the younger generation as a whole. Clearly, there are examples at both extremes of the spectrum when it comes to displaying good manners for every age group.

The fact remains that good manners must be taught; they do not come naturally.

In fact, bad manners are usually natural, selfish impulses that children are sometimes allowed to demonstrate.

Curbing poor manners and developing good ones requires parents to place real limits on their children. A caring adult may need to have a tug of war with a child who has developed the habit of a me-first attitude.

It involves taking away ordinary privileges, and saying “no.” Sometimes that’s harder for the parent than for the child.

Remember that good manners are not just about rules. It’s also about showing children how to be gracious and respectful.

Simple words like “please,” “thank you,” “I’m sorry,” and “excuse me,” go a long way, as well.

Teaching manners may start out with a negative approach of restrictions and consequences. But the outcome should always be a form of civility, respect, and love.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A legacy of teacher excellence

Newspaper column

If you don’t know the name Gerry Jones, you should. She is a local treasure.

In 1952, Gerry, age 23, was a first grade teacher at Hope School. McCall’s Magazine, a large and influential national magazine of the time, was very concerned about the national teacher shortage, which it considered inadequate to serve the needs of the post-war “bumper baby crop.” The magazine also wanted to do its part in counteracting what it considered unjust criticism leveled against public education. Sound familiar?

As one means of bolstering confidence in public schools and at the same time encouraging young people to enter the teaching profession, the magazine decided to create a selection process and sponsor an award that would be bestowed on a National Teacher of the Year.

Dr. Earl James McGrath, the U.S. commissioner of education at the time, asked all state departments of education to nominate a worthy candidate for the honor. He and representatives from McCall’s Magazine then observed nominees at work for several months.

Gerry Jones, that young 23-year-old teacher at Hope School in Santa Barbara County, was their combined choice, and became the very first National Teacher of the Year.

The photo spread in the magazine shows Gerry being congratulated by President Harry Truman. In another picture she is seated beside the senator from California, Richard Nixon.

The magazine cited her personal qualifications along with the ideal conditions of her California training and working environment, pointing to the modern facilities, comprehensive surroundings for students, and the “harmonious relationship between teacher and superintendent, board of trustees, PTA, and community.”
California’s state superintendent of public instruction at the time, Dr. Roy Simpson, said, “Gerry Jones understands and loves children – and they adore her.”

The always modest Gerry Jones was quick to cite the work of others. “The honor that came to me and the entire teaching profession through the McCall’s article has been a most thrilling experience. I personally thank all teachers everywhere for the opportunity to represent them… I humbly live in their glory,” she said.

Fast forward to today, when she continues to be a reluctant celebrity.

She is still close with friends from her childhood and has kept all the memorabilia — magazine covers, newspaper articles, and letters from all over the U.S. She talks of the game shows and talk shows that featured her as a young teacher, shaking her head in seeming disbelief.

She also spoke of how she worries that teachers are too busy today to show down and really pay attention to the students. There are just so many demands.

Gerry’s success has come full circle with this year’s county teacher of the year, Allison Heiduk, a third grade teacher at Vieja Valley School, also in the Hope district. In a remarkable conflation of events, Allison’s sister was one of Gerry Jones’ first grade students long ago.

Both women will be honored at the second annual A Salute to Teachers, a black-tie gala at Bacara Resort and Spa coordinated by my office’s Teachers Network, and sponsored by our office and Cox Communications. The event will recognize the County Teacher of the Year, plus three distinguished mentors and beginning teachers.

It is a fitting way to honor what is best about our profession, and to celebrate the legacy of teacher excellence that is so evident throughout our county.

More decision-making skills

Radio Commentary

There are actions parents can take to help children develop good decision-making skills.

First, always set clear expectations Children should know exactly what you expect regarding drug and alcohol use, gang affiliation, sexual activity, and school attendance.
There must be clear consequences for failing to observe those limits, and your enforcement must be consistent.

You should also be aware of the example you set.
Children of all ages are aware of your attitudes and habits. They are more likely to follow your example than your lectures.

The old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do,” simply doesn’t work with young people.

A positive parent-child relationship is good motivation for your child to follow your guidelines and standards.

Remember: You should have high expectations, but influence is not control.
This means expressing to your child statements such as:  “You have everything you need to be successful” … and … “You can do it!” It does not mean pressuring children to achieve unrealistic perfectionist standards.

The road to adulthood is never straight and smooth, but parents can help their children on that journey with the right attitude and the right tools. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Service learning

Radio Commentary

Americans put public education high on their list of priorities, and they support learning civic responsibility through service projects along with traditional academics.

A study by the Kellogg Foundation showed that 94 percent of Americans agreed a serious problem facing the country was that people lack the skills they need to succeed.

89 percent agreed that continuing to improve the K-12 education system should be a very high priority for our nation.

Most also agreed strongly that a good education is much more than just learning to read, write, and “do math.” They included social skills, tolerance, and good citizenship as equally important skills for all students to learn.

Service-learning — a teaching method that combines service to the community with K-12 curriculum — was seen as key to reaching these goals.

 Said former senator John Glenn, previous chairman of the National Commission on Service-Learning:

“Service-learning is unique because it enables teachers to improve students’ academic performance, sense of civic responsibility, self-confidence, and workplace skills with a single teaching method. It links classroom lessons with real-life learning.”

It is effective and it makes a difference.

I salute those local schools that provide community service components and service-learning projects for their students.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Preventing violence

Radio Commentary

Every school in Santa Barbara County has a campus safety plan to help ensure the protection of all young people.

In addition, prevention programs are also is use at most schools: peace education, conflict resolution, anger management, and peer mediation.
Clearly there are no guarantees that these programs can address all the concerns of educators, parents, and community members as they continue to monitor the safety of all students.

Fortunately, some basic steps can help parents provide effective support to school and community programs.

First, the philosophy of a nonviolent lifestyle begins in the home, where parents can model appropriate behavior.

For this reason, conflict at home can be used as teachable moments and discipline at home should never be physically severe.

When there is a difference of opinion in the family, provide a good example by settling those differences with words. Don’t yell, interrupt, or threaten.

If your children see that disagreements can be settled by calmly talking things through, by being persuasive, and by being respectful, they will be far more likely to settle their own differences with peers in this manner.

Local schools can provide information about effective alternative methods of child discipline, such as “time out” periods or suspension of privileges. These help children see that consequences for doing something wrong do not have to involve physical punishment.

These are not cure-alls for violence, but they help create a strong foundation for the values we hope every child will embrace.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Teaching self-confidence

Radio Commentary

Self-confidence enables young people to succeed in school, but it can be difficult to acquire and even harder to teach. However, parents can help nurture those skills and reap the rewards that result.

For example, children can be taught to respectfully question some conventional wisdom. There will always be those who say that something can’t be done. Help children identify the difference between those who have real wisdom and those who are just naysayers.

Emphasize that practical knowledge is just as important as learned knowledge, because knowledge lies at the heart of self-confidence. If students know how to do something, they will be more confident in their abilities.

Teach them that effort and persistence pave the road to success.

One of the most difficult things for young people to learn is that it’s OK to fail, as long as they can get back up and try again.

Find out what your child is good at, and encourage it. Success breeds self-confidence.

In school, children are required to take every subject, even those that are not their strengths. Those courses can cause frustration. Few humans of any age can be good at everything.

So be sure to focus your encouragement on the things your children do well, and don’t dwell too much on the areas where they might fall short, as long as you know they are working hard to master their challenges.

Show them that you believe they are successful. Knowing that YOU have confidence in them will help their own self-confidence.