Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Eating disorders

Radio Commentary

Media coverage of eating disorders has generally improved, but unrealistic body images continue to appear. The pressures to be thin are very great, especially for girls.

The state PTA warns that between five and 10 million Americans have eating disorders, mostly teens and young adults.

Anorexia is a fear of becoming fat, coupled with an unrealistic body image that leads people to restrict severely the amount of food they eat.

Bulimia involves bingeing and purging — eating excessive amounts of food and then forcing it out.

Eating disorders all involve preoccupations with weight and food. But they are often rooted in other issues, compensating for aspects of life that appear to be out of control.

Many young people who suffer from these disorders may also have feelings of inadequacy, troubled relationships, or a history of being teased because of weight.

Parents should teach and model to children positive and healthy attitudes toward their bodies.

Media coverage of celebrity eating issues can offer a good chance to ask your children what they think.

Be sure to point out that healthy, fit bodies don’t all look the same.

Experts say parents who are worried should communicate their concerns without judgment and without oversimplifying the issue. Express support and seek professional treatment if necessary. These issues can be serious.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Drug use

Radio Commentary

Sadly, drug use is too widespread to assume that it will never touch the life of your son or daughter.

It’s good to know that certain behaviors can serve as a warning. These include:

  • an abrupt change in mood or attitude
  • a sudden decline in attendance or performance at school 
  • impaired relationships with family 
  • ignoring curfews
  • unusual flare-ups of temper or emotion
  • increased borrowing of money; stealing from home or work
  • heightened secrecy about actions and possessions
  • associating with a new group of friends

Pay attention, but don’t rush to judgment: Many of these behaviors are also part of normal teenage growing pains.

So what exactly is a parent to do?
The best advice is to watch carefully, get to know your child’s friends, and talk about the problems associated with drug and alcohol abuse.

Make sure your child hears from you that taking drugs is harmful to one’s physical, mental, and social well-being. Make a clear statement that you are opposed to drug and alcohol use and intend to enforce that position.

But also remember that if your child is using drugs, he or she needs your help. Seek support from other parents, ask a school counselor or teacher about available resources, and call the Santa Barbara Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse for help right away.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Homework tips

Radio Commentary

Without review, the average student can forget 80 percent of what he has read in just two weeks.
To help students retain what they have learned, the first review of the material should come very shortly after they have studied the material for the first time.
An early review acts as a check on forgetting and helps them remember much longer. When the time comes to review for a test, the material is fresher in their minds and easier to recall.

Sometimes, it also helps to recite the material out loud. Recitation reinforces the material and creates a different pathway into the child’s memory banks.
After reading a paragraph, it often helps to have the student use his or her own words to describe key ideas.

One other homework tip has proven effective for many families: When students are given a study assignment that will be due in a few weeks, the students should spend time reviewing the tasks and creating a timeline the very first night.
They should read through it carefully, and think about all the elements that need to be done — including research, memorization, artwork, or other creative touches.

The main advantage is that the student avoids waiting until the last minute and discovering, too late, everything that should have been done in the meantime.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Internet contract

Radio Commentary

Parents tell children, “Don’t talk to strangers.” With wide use of the Internet, the possibility of talking to strangers in cyberspace is now an issue as well.

But it doesn’t need to be. Children can make very good use of the Internet without using chat rooms or interactive forums that bring them in contact with strangers.

Parents can help keep their children safe by setting rules and enforcing them. Remember, even if you don’t have a computer at home, your children can still use online services at a friend’s house or even a public library.

So help your child understand that online activity is a privilege. Children should also agree to:

  • Limit time online to 8 hours per week.
  • Never give out their name, address, phone number, school, or password to anyone online.
  • Report to you anyone online who asks for personal information.
  • Tell you if anyone sends messages that are uncomfortable or inappropriate.
  • Never arrange to meet friends they have met online, unless you are with them.
  • Never spend time in adult chat rooms or newsgroups.
  • Refrain from using bad language or sending cruel messages.

Build in natural consequences. If any of these agreements are broken, children generally should lose online privileges for one week per broken promise.

Remember: safety online is as important as safety offline.

Partners in Education enhances young lives

News column

One of the greatest privileges of my position has been working alongside local business leaders who have volunteered their time to help guide, challenge, and enhance young lives in our community through Partners in Education.
These members include company CEOs, college presidents, and school district superintendents, all with institutional challenges of their own to solve, who still take the time to come together at early morning breakfast meetings to help our local young people. I have been continually impressed by their passion and commitment to our youth.

The group started out as the Community Career Development Council in 1977 and became the Industry Education Council from 1981 to 2000. The following year, the group, now named Partners in Education, attained nonprofit status, with Computers for Families as its top project, and remained steadfast in its mission. Last year the program celebrated the distribution of its 10,000th computer to a family in need, helping bridge the Digital Divide in dramatic fashion.

When south county schools indicated the need for volunteer support, Partners devised the Volunteer Program, with support from the Santa Barbara and Orfalea Foundations in 2008. The Volunteer Program has since expanded into Santa Maria and Lompoc in collaboration with the United Boys & Girls Club of Lompoc and the Santa Maria Valley YMCA, through a partnership called the North County Volunteer Corps. Since these programs launched, over 130,000 hours of service have been delivered countywide to schools and nonprofits.

The initial mission of the Industry Education Council was to “develop outstanding graduates in the Santa Barbara area.” At each annual breakfast, students who have benefited from the services provided by Partners speak to the group to tell their stories and express their gratitude. This year, Carmina Acebu and John Unzueta rose to the occasion.

Carmina, a senior at Dos Pueblos High School, is an intern with Partners, making videos that highlight volunteers and interns. “Once I completed the seven weeks of job readiness training required of every intern in the program, I was ready to start working,” she explained.

“As a videographer and an editor for Partners in Education, I grew so much this past year…It’s become a constant reminder in my daily life now, getting to hear stories about volunteering, investing in students’ futures, giving back to the community and creating partnership that will cultivate something great: now tell me that doesn’t inspire you to want to do more. I know it has for me. Why else would this once-shy kid be standing up on stage right now?”

She said the people in Partners motivate her constantly to want to give back and help her fellow students, “Because who doesn’t want the amazing feeing that comes with contributing to the betterment of the community?”

She added:  “There is honestly the truest sense of community with Partners in Education…these are invaluable interactions that have molded me into who I am today, and are showing me who I want to be in the future.”

John’s story was different, but equally moving. He was a junior at San Marcos High School when he first got involved with Partners in Education. In introducing him, Director Chelsea Duffy said, “He is someone who has turned his personal challenges — that no kid should have to face — into tools for good.”

John is currently in his third year at Westmont College pursuing a degree in economics and business with a minor in biology. His early years certainly did not make this outcome inevitable. “When I was growing up, education was not a priority for me…In fact, I was the kid that many teachers in elementary school had hoped they would not get,” he told the audience.

He pointed to one encouraging teacher he had at that time.  “Mrs. Morse at Hollister Elementary would always correct me when I said, ‘I can’t.’ She taught me to say, ‘I can’t yet.’”

When John was in junior high, his father struggled with addiction that cost him his job and the family’s home. Things were at a low point, and school remained a challenge. Mentors helped get him through. “Jamie DeVries, teacher at San Marcos High, showed me that genuine affection and investment in people is where we as humans can find the greatest satisfaction and success in life,” said John. He said another mentor, Miguel Milendrez, taught him to be quick to listen and slow to anger.

Among several formative experiences — REACH and Emmaus Road among them — John cited the Partners in Education Internship Program. “Structured like a job, you apply, interview, and potentially have the opportunity to participate.” He said Partners taught him about cover letters, resumes, and emotional intelligence, helping provide him with the tools and desire go beyond preconceived notions of what he could be.

“Who I am today and how I want to contribute to the world is a culmination of all that this community has invested in me. All of me, has been fostered by all of you,” he said. “Can you please stand and give yourselves, along with your colleagues, a round of applause—because I am thankful beyond words.”

These are just two shining examples of success, and I continue to admire and salute Partners in Education for the work it does on behalf of our young people. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Count to 10

Radio Commentary

You would be surprised how much good can result when a parent counts to 10 before responding to a child, especially in a tense situation, according to child behavior specialist Betsy Brown Braun.

When such a situation arises, pause. Don’t react. Don’t say anything. Avoid making any immediate threats, judgments, or punishments. Just wait, and give yourself 10 seconds to process the situation.

The space created by that pause will help you think about your response, and will lessen the likelihood of a “misfire” on your part that could compound the problem.

It is not uncommon for parents who are quick on the trigger to regret what came out in that first rush of reaction.

Hasty judgments, harsh consequences, or dire threats are very hard to take back once they’ve been delivered.

For that reason, it is far better to head them off before they are said out loud.

The simple act of pausing and counting to 10 can buy the time necessary to react more appropriately.

A pause can help a parent get closer to a response that is deliberate and wise.

So take a breath, count to 10, and use that time to think through what you really want to say and how you really want to react. It will make most situations much easier to handle.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Domestic abuse

Radio Commentary

Parents often underestimate what their children see and hear. It’s best to assume that children know everything that’s going on in the household.

This is especially the case with domestic abuse. It is estimated that 10 percent of children nationwide live in households where there are violent disagreements.

Even children who do not see violence first-hand are vulnerable to its effects. Overhearing emotional or physical abuse behind closed doors can increase a child’s risk for emotional and behavioral problems.

A child who is anxious about domestic abuse might not say anything, but is likely to act out by misbehaving at home or at school, crying excessively, or even wetting the bed.

The best advice, if you are living with domestic abuse of any kind, is to get help right away.

Locally, CALM is a very informative and responsive resource. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, at NCADV.org, that’s NCADV.org, also helps victims of violence.

It can also help to talk to a family or marriage therapist. It takes time to change or eliminate destructive patterns, so engage in a long-term solution.

You can learn to reconcile differences peacefully. The old rule that people should never go to sleep angry can be a powerful life lesson.

What’s important, for the sake of children affected by the situation, is to take the steps necessary to move forward as a family.

The safety of all involved should remain the primary concern.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Cyber crimes

Radio Commentary

It’s very common for any young person with a camera phone to take a picture with a friend and upload it to an Internet page or post it on a website.

Parents may be unaware that every picture taken by a cell phone now has a geo tag, which provides the exact latitude and longitude where the picture was taken.

This means that anyone who means harm to young people can see a picture online, even an innocuous one, and use the geo tag to find out exactly where the young people are. That’s cause for great concern.

Our office is working in partnership with District Attorney Joyce Dudley to be aggressive in the new battles against cyber crimes and cyber bullying.
Incidents of bullying via text and online sites are mushrooming, and their impact can be broad and devastating.
A good strategy for parents is to pay close attention to the ways their children respond to questions and conversation at home. If they have an especially short fuse or are more emotional than usual, and react badly to even mild criticism, they may be experiencing cyber bullying.

It’s also important to notice changes of any kind in a child’s behavior, such as a good student not wanting to go to school, or an outgoing child becoming withdrawn.

Most important of all, parents must monitor their children’s Internet activity and behaviors to make sure their children know not to frequent sites that are dangerous. We all have to work together in this area, because adults are truly playing catch-up.

Friday, March 20, 2015

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.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Children and second-hand smoke

Radio Commentary

An estimated 39 percent of U.S. households with one or more children under age six have at least one smoker in their midst, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If you are among those who smoke and find it hard to stop, bear in mind that parental smoking is a serious health hazard for children.
Small lungs fill quickly, and concentrations of poisons affect them more potently.

Children who live in homes with smokers cannot avoid inhaling cigarette smoke. The second-hand nature of the smoke does nothing to diminish the dangers.
As a result, these children run a higher risk of developing asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, and middle-ear disease. Studies show they also have more difficulty getting over common colds.

Also, of the 4,000-plus chemicals in environmental tobacco smoke, at least 40 are known to cause cancer.

If you would like to quit smoking but can’t seem to do it, contact your physician. Many low-cost programs can help.

Never allow smoking inside your home. If another member of your household is a smoker, have him go outside — and leave all ashes and cigarette butts outside as well.

And remember:  It is illegal to smoke in an automobile if children are riding along. The confinement increases the potency and the risk of harm. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

New babies

Radio Commentary

This is a special message for first-time parents.

If you have a new baby in the house, you are no doubt a very proud parent.

You probably feel excited but also a little nervous about taking care of something so small and seemingly fragile. If so, you are like most parents. It is very normal to have those feelings.

To start with, newborn babies don’t usually look like the cute babies in diaper ads. Newborns’ heads are often more pointed than round. Their skin may be wrinkly and reddish. This is completely normal.

You’re devoted to your new child, and it’s good to know that even in the first few days of life, your baby is starting to find out who you are.

Research has found that even very young babies know the difference between their parents and strangers.

There are many changes that take place and new things to learn when you become a parent. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Be patient with yourself. The love you have for your baby will help you learn to become a good parent.

Just as no two babies are exactly alike, no one takes care of a baby in exactly the same way. Remember to ask questions whenever you need help.

Be a loving parent. Do your best. Enjoy your baby. Everything else will follow in due course.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

AmeriCorps applications window is now open

News release

AmeriCorps is a national network of programs that engage adults in intensive community service work with the goal of “helping others and meeting critical needs.” Applications for participation in the Santa Barbara County AmeriCorps Program are now being accepted for the 2015-16 school year. Operated by the Santa Barbara County Education Office in partnership with local public schools and nonprofits, Santa Barbara’s AmeriCorps program offers service opportunities in literacy tutoring and in volunteer recruitment and coordination. Applications and information regarding these unique opportunities to make an impact in the lives of children can be found on the local AmeriCorps website (americorps.sbceo.org).

AmeriCorps tutors work directly with students in a classroom environment, improving literacy and providing critical student support. AmeriCorps volunteer managers engage community volunteers in activities that provide meaningful support for student learning and improve career readiness. Opportunities are available in Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Santa Ynez, Buellton, Lompoc, Santa Maria, and Guadalupe.

AmeriCorps members commit to a schedule of 45 hours each week (full-time) or 25 hours each week (part-time) from mid-August through mid-June. For their service full-time members receive a living allowance of $1,400/month, an education award of $5,730, and health benefits. Part-time members receive $750/month and an education award of $2,865.

“The Santa Barbara County Education Office AmeriCorps team continues to provide critical support in classrooms throughout our county. The diverse membership includes members who have college degrees and use their education award for teacher credential or other graduate programs. Others come out of retirement to serve. What they all have in common is a passion for making a difference in the lives of young people in their communities,” reports County Superintendent Bill Cirone, whose office manages the program locally.

In California the program is administered by the state commission, CaliforniaVolunteers, and sponsored by the national Corporation for National and Community Service.


Radio Commentary

We have made many strides in 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:

  • Teach your children early to recognize — and then steer clear of — children who show bullying behavior.
  • 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.
  • Make sure they know not to threaten others in any way. It is very important for them to  know how to walk away without hesitation when it seems that danger might be present. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Bucking peer pressure

Radio Commentary

Parents can help prepare their children to fight peer pressure, especially when it comes to drugs and alcohol.

It helps to role-play about how to say “no.” Act out ways that your child can refuse to go along with friends without becoming a social outcast.

You can’t envision all the circumstances that might arise, but you can cover typical examples of when young people find themselves in awkward situations.

For example, you could say to your child:  “Let’s play a game. Suppose you and your friends are at Andy’s house after school and they find some beer in the refrigerator and ask you to join them in drinking it.

“You know that the rule in our family is that children are not allowed to drink any alcohol, right? So what could you say to your friends in that situation?”

If your child comes up with a good response, acknowledge the positive alternative and how it can be effective.

If nothing springs to mind, offer options. He could say: “No thanks. Let’s play Nintendo instead,” or “No thanks. I don’t drink beer. I need to keep in shape for basketball practice.”
Or, even better: “That doesn’t sound like fun to me. Let’s go outside.”

The actual response doesn’t matter, as long as your child feels comfortable saying it.

Stress the point that real friends respect each other’s feelings and opinions. And that people who make their friends do harmful things aren’t really friends at all. 

Friday, March 13, 2015


Radio Commentary

Sometimes, family conflict can lead to divorce.

For children of any age, divorce or even separation represents major loss.

One psychiatrist who specializes in this area said, “The scariest thing about divorce for kids under age 6 is the unknown. It can be stressful, sad, and confusing. It is not uncommon for children to think, ‘What will happen to me?’ ”

To ease a child’s anxiety, offer reassurance that things will be okay.

If possible, allow the child to stay in the same school and neighborhood with one parent, to maintain current routines. Stability, structure, and comfort are very important.

For the sake of the children, it’s important to remain as cordial as possible with a former spouse and be cooperative while discussing plans and schedules, especially in your children’s presence.

It also helps to maintain the same rules in both households, if possible.

Try not to undermine each other’s decisions, and try not to blame or criticize your ex-spouse in front of your children. It’s confusing and distressing for them to hear.

Presenting a united front can be comforting and helpful for children.

The main goal is to let children know that even though their parents aren’t together, they are still loved. The most healing and reassuring message is to say “I love you” as often as possible.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Planning and structuring

Radio Commentary

It can be difficult for parents to communicate with their children during the young adolescent years. Thinking ahead about your own standards, and helping children structure their tasks, can be a great help.

In fact, one of the best strategies for parents is being prepared.

In the middle school years, prepare for possible conflicts. Before any issue reaches a boiling point, think carefully about what is truly important to you.

Is your child’s hairstyle as important as homework? Isn’t curfew more of a concern than crabbiness? Dawdling is easier to accept than drug use.
Know ahead of time what areas you are willing to negotiate and which are absolute for you.
Here’s another tip. When young people are feeling overwhelmed, parents can help them organize their goals and tasks clearly.

Think about it: A disastrous bedroom, 12 overdue math assignments, a long-term project that’s “suddenly” due in a few days or hours. All of these combined can make a preteen decide to give up, rather than get started.

Help your child break those tasks into smaller parts. For example: clean off the bed, get five assignments done tonight, and assemble materials for the project.

This will help them structure the tasks so that they seem more approachable and doable.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Correcting five of the biggest parenting challenges

News column

Children don’t arrive with instructions for care. What’s more, they are all different, so even if we figure out how to handle certain situations with one of our children, the next one may veer off in a completely different direction. In short, parenting can be challenging.

Here are five very common parenting challenges, with suggestions from author Dr. Philip Mountrose, on how to avoid some of those common errors, and parent more effectively.

The first challenge is inconsistency with rules. If parents don’t follow through, children learn that they don’t really mean what they say. The old advice is still sound: Tell young children what you want them to do and then have them do it.

Another area to avoid is talking too much. We often hear the complaint that children don’t listen. This begs the question: How did young people acquire these poor listening skills? Parents tend to dominate discussions with children, but lecturing is a sure way to have children tune out and disengage. A good rule is to talk less and listen more.

It is also a mistake to use words that do not match your actions. Too often young people see adults blaming, denying, and excusing instead of owning up to mistakes. Children welcome it when adults admit they made a mistake or don’t know something, acknowledging that they struggle, too. Children then become more free to learn from their own mistakes.

Failing to explain personal boundaries is another challenge for parents. Children need to learn to respect other people’s bodies and possessions. Parents can help children control their impulses to touch things that don’t belong to them, and can educate them about other subjects that need to be approached with caution, like talking about other people’s age, income, weight, physical disabilities, and the like.

Finally, the biggest concern is not spending enough quality time with children. Most parents do the best they can with the demands of their daily schedule. But it’s important to be always on the lookout for ways to improve in this area. Find ways to have fun with your children. Ask them what they want to do. Discover activities that everyone in the family enjoys. Enjoy the quiet times, as well, when you are simply together.

Parents who recognize any of these common behaviors can identify areas where they want to change. If you can improve in just one of these areas your family will be able to experience considerably more closeness and enjoyment together.

Social skills

Radio Commentary

The skills required in a classroom are many and varied.
Children need to know how to take turns, make compromises, approach unfamiliar children, obey those in authority, and be generally nice to others.
Only then are they are socially ready to learn. But no one is born with these skills. They come from repeated and guided interactions with other children at an early age.
Keep in mind that not all the interactions must be positive and pleasant. Children need to understand that others can be unfair and unkind, but that they should not act that way in return.

If young children are never exposed to adversity, they will be much less prepared to deal with it when it arises in situations both inside and outside the classroom.
We like to protect our children from unpleasantness, but at some point they must be able to deal with life’s adversities as well.

So let your children interact with others, and don’t be too quick to intervene in the normal squabbles that can arise.

As long as all seems within normal bounds, let them work it out. They will learn valuable lessons in the process.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Talking with Teachers - Katie Booser

Katie Booser
Franklin Elementary School
SB County Distinguished New Educator

Schools of Thought - Gordon Scheible

Gordon Scheible
Champions Center

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 and instruction.

To help your child develop an interest in the world of 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.
  • Encourage children to tinker with old clocks or broken appliances to see what makes them “tick” — after you have removed all electrical cords.
  • 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.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Innovations in Education

March 2015

Cirone on Schools

Barbara Barr
Roosevelt School
SB County Distinguished Mentor Teacher


Radio Commentary

Children use all of their senses to learn about the world around them.

The objects that they can touch, see, smell, taste, and hear all help them understand the link between a model and the real thing that it represents.
A good example is a map, which represents land masses. Using information from maps and models can help guide your children to a better understanding of the concepts of geography.

For example: Find puzzles of the United States, the world, or even California. By touching and looking at the puzzle pieces, children can get a better understanding of where one place is located in relation to others.

Point out where your home is located and then point out where a distant relative or friend lives. Show how far away it is and what route you would travel to get there.
It also helps to use images from books  or the Internet to help your children associate geographic terms with visual images.

A picture of a desert, for example, can stimulate conversation about the features of a desert — dry and barren.
Identifying lakes and rivers can start discussions about wildlife and early settlers.

Talk about many different places with your children and help them imagine what it would be like to visit them.

All these discussions help children get a solid concept of geography and why it is important.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Students to see special program on history and tolerance

News release

History will unfold March 23 through March 27 on the stages of Goleta Valley, La Cumbre, La Colina, and Santa Barbara junior high schools, San Marcos High School, and other elementary schools when Beyond Tolerance sponsors a Living Voices production of “THE NEW AMERICAN.”

The one-woman play shares the story of an immigrant journey of a young woman coming to America and all she encounters in her quest for a new life and as an American citizen. The story unfolds on stage with authentic news clips and dialogue by the actor that brings history to life for over 1,000 students.

Rachel McClinton, the artistic director of Living Voices, performs and also guides the company of 40 Living Voices presenters who tour schools, museums, and corporations nationally.

Beyond Tolerance, a nonprofit organization under the umbrella of the Santa Barbara County Education Office, is celebrating its 16th year of serving schools with programs that promote respect for cultural diversity. Through donor funding, these programs are available to elementary and secondary students free of charge.

Beyond Tolerance organizes trips for sophomores to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles for experiences that fit with their world history curriculum.

Robin Silverander presents programs on bullying for fifth and sixth grades that encourage discussion about standing up and taking a pledge to end bullying in the classroom.

To get more information about Beyond Tolerance, or to volunteer, contact Director Adele Rosen at 898-2700 or abud@sbceo.org.

What do teens need?

Radio Commentary

The teen years can be tough to navigate, both for the teens themselves and for their parents.

It can seem as if all family interactions and relationships have changed. Sometimes new strategies are required to insure smooth sailing through these stormy times.

Remember that teens need clear limits that define what is safe and acceptable.

They need discipline that is consistent and fair in all areas. They will be quick to zero in on actions that are seemingly unjust—even if the practices worked when they were younger.

Teens need positive role models who find pleasure in work, reading, hobbies, and family activities. No role model in that area is more powerful than a parent.

Teens also need permission to fail, with a tolerance for mistakes. No child can be perfect in every way. The telling family interactions are those that happen when mistakes are made or disappointments occur.

Never forget that teens need the chance to laugh and be happy, with their friends and their family. They need the chance to be successful, and it’s important to help them find an arena where that can occur.

Teens also need structured family activities, including meals and vacations. They benefit from friends who provide a positive peer influence.

Teens need encouragement and motivation to be responsible. Positive reinforcement helps.

They also need to be trusted and supported by important adults in their lives. Most of all, they need to be loved.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Arts Education Month

Radio Commentary

March is Arts Education Month, focusing on dance, drama, music, and the visual arts – which are essential parts of basic education for all students.

There is no doubt that the arts should play a major role in the education of young people.

Visual and performing arts are a form of expression and communication essential to the human experience, and they deserve a regular place in our classrooms.

Arts education plays a critical role in developing initiative, creativity, self-expression, self-reflection, thinking skills, discipline, an appreciation of beauty, and cross-cultural understandings.

Many young people find great joy in artistic expression. For some, it can be an outlet and a source of inspiration. It helps keep them connected to their teachers and their schools.

Many professional arts education associations hold celebrations in March, giving California schools a unique chance to focus on the value of the arts for all students.

The current California arts education policy states that each student should receive a high-quality, comprehensive arts education.

The state arts task force that I chaired several years ago made recommendations we hope will result in a renaissance in arts education. The focus is made even more important in challenging economic times when arts education is often the first place where funding is cut.

Celebrating Arts Education Month is one way to support the important efforts to keep the arts in our classrooms.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

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.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Good nutrition

Radio Commentary

Nutrition awareness is an essential part of health education.

This learning takes place during meals as a result of the foods provided. It happens throughout the day as well — at play, in the classroom, and during sports.

The meals children are served, and the skills they acquire at a young age, help to set lifelong eating patterns. That’s why it is important to teach good eating habits.

Make mealtime a pleasant and relaxed experience. Offer a variety of foods, prepared in different ways.

It makes good nutrition sense and it makes meals and snacks more interesting.

Regular physical activity is also important for good health. It burns calories, helps with weight control, and is important in preventing some chronic diseases.

When it comes to feeding young people, try to choose foods that are lower in fat and free of saturated fats.

For example, cook with lean ground meat when you barbecue.

Serve sandwiches on whole wheat bread. Add grapes or raisins to tuna, chicken, or turkey salad and stuff it into pita bread for variety.

Serve bean tacos, burritos, or chili for alternate sources of protein.

Well-nourished, healthy children achieve better in school. And these practices can help set the pattern for a lifetime of good nutrition.

Monday, March 2, 2015

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 do more than just teach children reading, writing, and math.

They believed a system of publicly supported schools ought to accomplish 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 can only be evaluated over a span of many years, when we can finally see how students have applied their learning.

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 weigh suggestions against the lofty goals we had in mind when public education was first conceived. They remain essential in a democratic and free-market society.

Rotary of Santa Barbara honors high school teacher

News release

The Downtown Rotary Club of Santa Barbara selected Maggie Light as its outstanding high school teacher of the year. Light teaches English at Santa Barbara High School in the Santa Barbara Unified School District.

Since 1986, the club has honored outstanding teachers from South Coast schools each year. It awards a high school, junior high, elementary, and special education teacher with a certificate and a $1,000 check to spend on classroom needs.

Light was recognized at the club’s luncheon meeting Feb. 6.

“This kind of continuing support for local educators is so meaningful and important, “ said Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone, whose office coordinates the recognition with the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara. “Showcasing the exemplary efforts of classroom teachers makes a special impact on students and their schools. The annual Rotary awards provide recognition and resources for outstanding teachers to enhance the classroom experience.”

After 23 years of teaching English to high school freshmen, Maggie says she “absolutely loves it.” She is a teacher who feels the privilege of sharing the journey of learning with students. Her principal, John Becchio, says, “Maggie is a great teacher and much, much more. She works tirelessly to make the school culture and academic setting at the school the best it can be.”

Maggie has been the school’s yearbook advisor for the past 18 years, and is the lead teacher for the school’s Focus on Freshmen initiative, having been involved in the seminar program since its inception. She is a member of the school WASC accreditation Leadership Team and she leads one of the focus groups. She volunteers for an endless number of student events. Most important, says Principal Becchio, “She is a positive force for school reform and is always a student-centered voice on our campus.” Maggie was introduced to Rotary Club members as “all-enthusiasm, all the time.”

Says Light, “My literary hero is Stargirl. Like her, I want to connect with others — in this case my students, by accepting them for who they are and what they bring to the table of learning first. It is when I am able to validate their personal and academic potential and journey that I can then ask them to stretch their thinking and their idea of self through the act of critical reading, skilled writing, and productive discussion.”

Maggie attended local schools, is married to Mitch Light, a fourth grade teacher at Mountain View School, and they have three wonderful children.

Santa Barbara Rotary is pleased to honor her and awarded her a plaque and a check for $1,000 to be used in the classroom. Rotary salutes Maggie Light, an outstanding teacher in our community.

The Rotary Club of Santa Barbara meets at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort in Santa Barbara for lunch from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Fridays. Recipients of the club’s Teacher Recognition Awards are made with the assistance of the Teacher Programs and Support Department of the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

For more information, visit teacherprograms.sbceo.org or santabarbararotary.com.