Friday, September 30, 2016

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 As or Bs to the schools their own children attend.
We hear reports about the demise of public education, but what parents see for their own children — for whom they are the world’s harshest critics — they rate above average or excellent. Think about that.
Educators recognize that challenges remain, and that until all students reach their potential, work remains to bedone.
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.
Still others do much better in small groups, while some require the one-to-one attention of a teacher or tutor. Most need a mix of techniques.
The trick for educators lies in identifying the needs for 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.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Self-esteem tips

Radio Commentary

There was a time when no one even considered a child’s self-esteem. Shame and blame were acceptable forms of child-rearing and schooling. Feelings were never considered.
Then several studies showed that children with higher self-esteem actually performed better. They were less afraid to ask questions if they didn’t understand. They had more courage to tackle difficult problems.
They had more perseverance when things went wrong. And they generally were more successful as a result.
Then the tables turned again.
Somehow, efforts at building self-esteem were blamed for low test scores. Building a child’s self-esteem took a back seat to drilling the basics.
The truth is that self-esteem is important, and that those who have it are happier and still outperform those who don’t.
So here are some tips for parents who want to help develop their children’s self-esteem:
• Give your child responsibility. Encourage volunteerism. Doing good makes one feel good.
• Develop a social network that includes family, friends, school, and the community.
• Never humiliate your child. Try to use only constructive criticism, emphasizing that no one is perfect and that everyone can learn from mistakes.
• And finally, let your love be unconditional, based on your child’s worth, rather than on specific “successes.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Views of parent conferences

Radio Commentary

From a child’s standpoint, a parent-teacher conference brings two important parts of the child’s life closer together — school and home.
Children usually feel good that their teacher and parents know each other because they are all such important influences and role models.
As a result, after the conference, parents usually are better able to help their children with school work. 
During the conference, teachers can show parents the learning growth that has taken place for their children. Plus, teachers can pass on enjoyable details or special concerns about learning.
In turn, parents can learn of special services available for children who need them. 
They can find out how individual differences are taken into account in teaching, and how that can apply to their child.
For their part, parents can help teachers learn more about home activities and situations that may affect learning.
The teacher can be more effective when positive feelings exist between home and school. For this reason, parent-teacher conferences create a win-win situation that goes far beyond the specific exchange of information that takes place.
They set a tone of cooperation and support that can be very influential on a child’s attitude toward learning.
They also establish lines of communication that can prove critical in times of challenge. It’s a win-win for all involved.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Ensuring world leadership

Radio Commentary

Modern technology has made the concept of a “global village” quite real. 
We can communicate with people in other nations and watch events occurring anywhere on the globe almost instantaneously.
This means we must make sure that our children have an education that prepares them to excel in this global marketplace.
Many industrialized nations continue to invest heavily in education. Important keys to development overseas have been sound public education, extensive school-to-work transition programs, and continuous worker training and education. 
The former executive director of the North American Institute for Training and Education Research wrote that other countries have earned a global competitive edge by making sustained investments in education and training for all their citizens. 
He asked: “Is it not time for America to do the same?”
We talk a lot about the importance of education, but the truth is that we still have not yet put together the national will to provide the resources and support that would truly make a difference.
People often say, “This isn’t the time.”  That prompts the question, “If not now, when?”

Monday, September 26, 2016

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 wisdom that permeates it can serve as a lesson for us all.
The first lesson is quite simple: There is no free lunch. Don’t feel 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 but 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.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Balanced eating

Radio Commentary

Many experts feel that far too much attention is placed on the body shape. This can translate into eating disorders for young teenage women.
It is also true that being seriously overweight can cause long-term health problems that should be avoided.
Parents can help children maintain a healthy balance. If they aren’t hungry at mealtime, don’t insist they clean their plates.
Parents should also observe how their children signal true hunger.
Sometimes young people will ask for food or say they are hungry when they are merely bored, lonely, or frustrated.
Try to determine whether the child is truly hungry. If not, help him find other ways to address boredom or frustration.
It’s also important to encourage physical activity. Discourage long hours spent in front of the TV or computer. Enjoy activities with your children. They are more likely to take part if you play along with them.
Also, be a good role model. Eat healthy foods and avoid inactivity. Children with overweight parents are twice as likely to become overweight as well.
Remember, though, to strike a balance in paying attention to weight. Too much focus can backfire and cause an eating disorder.
As always, moderation is the key.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Fire drills

Radio Commentary

This is a good time of year for families to brush up on fire-escape strategies.
First, plan an escape route for everyone in the home. Outline at least two escape routes per room. Practice with the lights out, since most home fires occur at night. Children must understand not to hide from fire under their beds or in closets.
Set off the smoke alarm so everyone will recognize the sound.
Have children practice crawling, which is the best way to escape a smoky room or hallway. Emphasize that they should keep their heads within 12 inches of the ground, which helps them avoid the smoke in the air and the toxic gases that can be even closer to the floor.
Show them how to test a door that is closed: If it is hot, do not open it.
If it is not hot, open it cautiously, but if smoke rushes in, quickly close the door and exit through a window instead.
Remind children that if they ever are trapped in a fire, to keep doors closed and to stuff door cracks and vents with clothes or towels. Then wait at a window for firefighters.
Make sure children can give the family’s name and full address, and know how to dial 911 to report a fire. Agree in advance on a place where the family will meet once everyone escapes.
Finally, practice “stop-drop-and-roll” with all family members. This is the best response if someone’s clothes catch fire.
And remember: Safety practices are strengthened by constant reinforcement.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

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.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Encouraging the scientists of tomorrow

By Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools

The principles of science form an umbrella over almost everything we do. Science is essential to understanding and making sense of the world around us. Many educators feel that science is also one of the most innately interesting subject areas for children.

Having a strong scientific background enables students to make informed decisions about issues that affect their lives, and helps prepare them for a future that, in many ways, is unpredictable.

Recognizing the critical role science plays in a student’s academic and intellectual development, California recently adopted the Next Generation Science Standards. This adoption marks the first science standards update since 1998. While the old standards heavily emphasized knowing scientific facts and theories, the new standards address all three dimensions of science: content, concepts, and practice.

As the National Research Council recently pointed out, learning science depends not only on the accumulation of facts and concepts, but also on students’ motivation and interest to learn more. That intellectual growth is valuable not only for those students who go on to become scientists or engineers, but also for the great majority of students who do not follow these professional paths.

The new standards are great developments in science education. They capture the wonder, curiosity, and excitement that most students bring naturally to science. By engaging students in these concepts and practices, teachers help them develop the skills to think like scientists and engineers.

With an increased emphasis on students thinking like scientists and engineers, science education will involve more students conducting investigations, designing models and experiments, solving problems, and supporting claims with evidence and reasoning.

Piquing a child’s curiosity in science and engineering doesn’t have to be limited to classroom activities, however. To help your child develop an interest in science, parents can 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 system, and food as the power source. Check out ingredients labels on cereal boxes, for example, and learn with your child the various nutritional benefits of those ingredients.
  • After you have removed all electrical cords, encourage children to tinker with old clocks, radios, or computers to see what makes them “tick.” For some young students, trying to understand how certain every day items function can prompt a lifetime of intellectual curiosity.
  • Children often discover things in nature that they find fascinating. They should be encouraged to learn about their environment, and consider how these different elements of nature are interconnected.
  • Demonstrate scientific thinking by challenging general statements with the question, “How do you know that’s true?” “What proof do you have that can verify it?” This helps children understand the difference between opinion and fact.
  • Encourage any interest in collecting rocks, leaves, shells, or other natural objects. Provide a place to display and observe the collections.

Explore the many opportunities for science-related outings in our own county, so you can make learning a fun family affair. Science learning in school leads to citizens with the confidence, ability, and inclination to continue learning about issues — scientific and otherwise — that affect their lives and communities.

“The important thing is to not stop questioning,” Albert Einstein wrote in Life Magazine over 60 years ago. “Curiosity has its own reason for existence.” Einstein’s encouragement of exploration and lifelong learning is as appropriate today as ever, and is essential in helping develop the scientists and engineers of tomorrow.

64th annual Breakfast with the Authors slated for Saturday, Oct. 1

News release

Members of the community will be able to enjoy a delicious quiche brunch and
conversation with world-renowned children’s authors and illustrators at the 64th annual Breakfast with the Authors, sponsored by the Santa Barbara County Education Office (SBCEO) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1, in the SBCEO auditorium, 4400 Cathedral Oaks Road.

Confirmed authors and illustrators include James Burks, Susan Casey, Jewell Reinhart Coburn, Julie Dillemuth, Mel Gilden, Bruce Hale, Kristen Kittscher, Amy Goldman Koss, Michelle Robin La, Bonnie Lady Lee, Alexis O’Neill, Greg Trine, Frans Vischer, Mark London Williams, Gretchen Woelfle, and Robin Yardi.

Registration deadline is Sept. 26. Pre-registration is required and can be done online at More information and registration materials are available at or by contacting Rose Koller at 964-4710, ext. 5222, or

A Salute to Teachers

News release

Eight exemplary educators in Santa Barbara County will be honored Nov. 5 at the fourth annual “A Salute to Teachers” event hosted by Cox Communications and the Santa Barbara County Education Office (SBCEO). Three teachers have been chosen as Distinguished New Educators, while three others have been recognized as Distinguished Mentors. Additionally, Santa Barbara County’s nine 2016 California Gold Ribbon Schools will be recognized. Capping the evening will be a performance by the students of the 2017 Santa Barbara Bowl Performing Arts Teacher of the Year, Brett Larsen, and a special recognition of the 2017 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year, Michelle Minetti-Smith.

The gala event, emceed by Andrew Firestone, will be held once again at the historic Lobero Theatre in downtown Santa Barbara. A Salute to Teachers partners SBCEO with Cox and a variety of sponsors, including Fielding Graduate University, Montecito Bank & Trust, Anthem-Blue Cross, Noozhawk, Santa Barbara City College Foundation, and others. Cox has sponsored a similar celebration for 26 years in San Diego, and is honored to continue this great tradition of teacher recognition for Santa Barbara educators.

The Distinguished New Educators, nominated by their peers and chosen by a committee through the SBCEO, are:

  • Megan Heffernan — Peabody Charter School, Santa Barbara Unified School District
  • Amy Porter — Carpinteria Family School, Carpinteria Unified School District
  • Manjot Singh — La Colina JHS, Santa Barbara Unified School District

The Distinguished Mentors, selected in the same fashion, are:

  • Terri Cox — Cuyama Valley HS, Cuyama Unified School District
  • Kevin Baldizon — Kermit McKenzie JHS, Guadalupe Union School District
  • Ashley Cornelius — Santa Barbara HS, Santa Barbara Unified School District

Also being recognized at the event are the nine elementary schools from throughout the county that recently earned California Gold Ribbon School Awards. These awards recognize elementary schools that have made great gains in implementing State Board policies and their Local Control Accountability Plan. Ballard Elementary School, Cold Spring School, Santa Ynez Elementary School, Hope School, Monte Vista School, Leonora Fillmore School, Manzanita Charter, Franklin School, and Alvin Avenue School were all named Gold Ribbon Schools in the spring of 2016.

“We welcome the opportunity to celebrate outstanding teachers and teaching excellence in Santa Barbara County, ” said Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone. “A Salute to Teachers gives us a chance to honor high quality education throughout our county — a celebration made possible by the generous support of business partners from throughout the community.”

To register for the event, please visit For more information about the awards or the event, contact Steven Keithley, SBCEO Director of Teacher Programs and Support, at 964-4710, ext. 5281.

“A Salute to Teachers 2016” will be broadcast in its entirety on Cox Channel 8 later in the year. At that time it will also be available for viewing online at

Tips for busy parents

Radio Commentary

Here are some tips for busy parents who want to be involved with their children:
At dinner, start a sentence the whole family must finish. For example, “The most interesting thing I learned today was ...” or “One of the things I did well today was ...” Let everyone take a turn finishing the sentence and discussing each person’s contribution.
Keep a small pad handy to write a brief note of thanks to the teacher when your child shows new skills or excitement about school.
Ask teachers for a good time to call for 5 to 10 minutes about any specific concerns you might have.
If your child is struggling with something, resist any urge to blame the teacher. It only strains relationships, and often delays the constructive resolution of a problem.
Instead, join forces with the teacher to reach the common goal of helping your child find success. Identify an area of challenge and then plan together how to overcome it.
Don’t hesitate to ask your child’s teacher for advice. He or she can help with behavior problems as well as homework hassles.
Teachers can provide insights based on their experience.  But then it’s important to make a good-faith effort to follow that advice.
Small steps can often make a big difference.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Talking with Teachers with Bill Cirone (Brett Larsen)

Brett Larsen
Adams Elementary School
Santa Barbara

Safety instructions

Radio Commentary

Concepts of trust and danger, which are virtually meaningless to a two-year-old, make perfect sense to older children. 
It is critical that parents use safety instructions appropriate to a child’s age if they want them to be followed.
For example, two-year-olds respond to rules and are old enough to know that certain actions bring their parents’ disapproval. Express strong disapproval if a child wanders away at the mall. Two is also a good age to plant the idea that some actions require permission. 
Three-year-olds begin to understand the concept of trust. Tell them exactly who they can turn to for specific kinds of help — the babysitter, a neighbor, etc.
Four-year-olds are risk takers, so it is an important time to reinforce safety rules and step up supervision. Children at this age can begin to understand that not every person they meet is trustworthy.
At five, children start school and interact with new people, including older children who could be intimidating or unkind. It’s a good time for parents to reinforce positive perceptions of people.
By six, most children have begun to develop intuition. This is the time to encourage them to trust their own instincts:  if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
Using instructions appropriate for a child’s age helps make sure the directions will be followed.

Friday, September 16, 2016


Radio Commentary

Leadership and service aren’t limited to public roles, according to author Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund.
In fact, she argued that the strongest leadership and most effective service comes from the way individuals handle themselves, day to day, in their normal interactions with others.
In a book for her children, she wrote: “Be a quiet servant-leader and example. You have a role to exercise ... every minute of the day.”
She explained how in the most common of circumstances we can seize the opportunity to resist what is negative and set an example for what can be positive.
She wrote:  “Have you ever noticed how one example — good or bad — can prompt others to follow?
“How one illegally parked car can give permission for others to do likewise?
“How one racial joke can fuel another?
“How one sour person can dampen a meeting?”
Edelman writes that the opposite is also true. “One positive person can set the tone in an office or school. Just doing the right and decent thing can set the pace for others to follow.”
We could all benefit by being one of those people who models positive behavior. 
Edelman writes: “America is in urgent need of a band of moral guerrillas who simply decide to do what is right, regardless of the immediate consequences.”
This is wonderful advice for young and old alike.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

College visits

Radio Commentary

The search for colleges can be very stressful. Parents can help in the decision-making process by planning visits to campuses. 
They can also help students prepare questions to ask during the visits. Here are some suggestions:
What are the strongest departments and most popular majors at the school?
What is the average class size? Is it different for freshmen?
How do I compare academically with students already attending the school? What kinds of cultural, athletic, or literary activities are offered on campus?
What kind of housing is available? How many students are members of fraternities and sororities?
What support services are available to students? General counseling? Health care? Tutoring?
Are there any overseas or exchange programs? 
What percentage of students receive financial aid?
Do you consider this a safe campus?
What do most students do after they graduate? What kind of student is generally happiest at this college?
Selecting a college that will provide a good “fit” often rests on intangibles — a feeling students get when they walk around the campus.
But answers to these questions can help students narrow down whether a particular college might be right for them.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis to perform at Granada Theatre for 1,400 students

News release

(Please Note: This performance is NOT open to the general public.)

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis will be performing in front of 1,400 sixth grade students from 23 public schools at the Granada Theater on Oct. 4. The Children’s Creative Project (CCP), a program of the Santa Barbara County Education Office, is honored to present and coordinate this free program.

The world-renowned musicians will be performing “Who is Duke Ellington?” from their Jazz for Young People program. The Jazz for Young People program consists of narrated hour-long concerts, traveling professional jazz ensembles presenting interactive performances, and interactive lessons.

Generous grant support for this performance is provided by The Towbes Foundation and funds raised from the I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival produced by the Children’s Creative Project to benefit its arts education programs. This performance is co-presented with UCSB Arts & Lectures with support from the William H. Kearns Foundation and The Leni Fund.

“This performance is part of the CCP’s larger arts education program that provides visual and performing arts workshops conducted by resident artists in 80 elementary schools reaching more than 38,000 students,” explained County Superintendent Bill Cirone, whose office oversees the program. “In addition, the CCP presents roughly 500 performances per year for some 50,000 students in 90 schools throughout Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.”

Please note:
This performance is NOT open to the general public. The performance times listed below are for your information only so that you, a writer or photographer, may attend to cover the event.
Performance time: 10:30 to 11:30 A.M.

Calendar habit

Radio Commentary

Which people are the most successful in life? Sometimes it is not necessarily those who are the brightest or the most highly educated or the most well-intentioned.
Whether a child is in school or outside the classroom, being organized before showing up is an important trait that can make a real difference.
One good way to help children get in the habit of being organized is to buy them a big calendar. It should have lots of spaces to write on each day. The bigger, the better.
Encourage children to write key dates on the calendar, such as birthdays, school holidays, medical appointments, and planned outings.
Have them mark the dates they have to be somewhere regularly, such as after-school sports practices or music lessons.
Next, have them add the due dates for homework assignments, especially those that will take time to complete. And be sure they write in dates for exams.
Help children get into the habit of checking the calendar every weeknight for the next day’s activities. Then talk about what needs to be done to prepare. Sunday night is a good time to check on what’s happening throughout the following week and to add new things that are coming up.
In many families, a calendar has proven to be the key to helping children schedule time wisely and stay organized — a habit that proves valuable throughout life.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Limiting exposure

Radio Commentary

Limiting children’s exposure to objectionable material is a top priority for parents. A good start is to resist putting TVs or computers in your children’s bedrooms.
Instead, put the TV and computer in areas of the house where everyone has access to them.  Choose a place where you can talk with your pre-teens and they can talk with you about what they’re watching on TV or doing online.
There is little doubt that TV and Internet content can overload preteens with violent, confusing images.
By having the TV and computer in a common area, you can all enjoy them and discuss content together.
Don’t underestimate the power of your influence. Children will rarely thank you for your sound advice or act grateful when you set limits, but chances are really good they will listen and act accordingly.
Children want to know the opinions and values of their parents. They are only likely to tune out when adults lecture, preach, or scold. For this reason, it can be helpful to express opinions indirectly.
For example, in commenting on a sit-com character’s behavior, you could say, “It looks like she’s being awfully irresponsible about her friend’s safety.” See what kind of discussion you can generate with your child.
When you’re just talking about a TV character, your children are less likely to get defensive. Success is more likely if you approach these topics in a non-threatening, open manner.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Parent role

Radio Commentary

It’s good to remember that parents can play a major role in helping prepare their children for the challenges of homework and class work: 
  • Make sure your child begins each day with a good breakfast, and arrange to have snacks and other meals at regular times. This helps small bodies adjust and react at maximum capacity.
  • Inform your child of your schedule at home and on the job. This helps establish a sense of time, consistency and order.
  • Read with your child every day that you can. Newspapers, short stories, and books can all be the basis of enjoyable shared experiences. 
  • If possible, set aside a specific time each day for homework. 

Tell your child that homework is a number one priority, and make sure you mean it. But also remember to be flexible if soccer practice or band tryouts fall during homework time.  Together, set a new time for that day.
Don’t do your children’s homework, but be sure he or she knows you are available for help.  Serve as a “consultant” or a coach.
When your child is studying for a test, discourage “cramming” the night before.  Instead, ask your child to bring a textbook home every other night and teach you what he or she has learned in school. 
The most important point for parents to remember, at all times, is that their own positive attitude toward homework, teachers, and school can have great influence on their child’s success.
And that’s the bottom line for all of us.

Friday, September 9, 2016


Radio Commentary

It’s never too early to begin reading to a child. Even infants love the sounds 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.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Parent volunteers

Radio Commentary

Parents everywhere are finding that involvement as a school volunteer improves student achievement.
This happens whether parents volunteer in the classroom or simply behind the scenes.
Here are some tips for volunteering for your school:
  • Be honest in your approach and attitude toward students.
  • Be patient. If students are having trouble with a subject, they don’t need additional pressure. They need your patience, support, and encouragement.
  • Be flexible in responding to the needs of students. Different students need different kinds of approaches. Try to figure out what approach will work best.
  • Be friendly. A smile and a ‘thank you’ can accomplish miracles.
  • And be respectful. Treat students in the same manner you would like to be treated.

An effective volunteer is also regular in attendance, appreciative of the effort of the school to educate all children, and willing to be discreet, sincere, dedicated, and punctual.
These very basic approaches make a world of difference with children.
Sometimes the support and help of a volunteer can make all the difference.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Use the time wisely at parent-teacher conferences

By Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools

Not long after the school year begins, the time comes for parents to meet with teachers and discuss their children’s progress.

Parent-teacher conferences can be a very helpful means of communication, and they should be a two-way exchange of information about a child. Parents always want to know how their child is doing, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how they can help, but teachers also want to know of any stresses in a child’s life that could affect classroom performance and, of course, any special needs that a child might have.

To increase the effectiveness of these conferences, parents should consider taking 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?

There are also several questions a parent should consider asking 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?
  • 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 reveal?
  • Is my child’s homework turned in on time, in completed form, and does it meet your expectations?
  • How much time should be spent on homework each night?

Parents and teachers have much in common. Neither wants a child to fail. Neither wants a child to be caught between the pressures of differing standards at home and at school. Both know that learning goes on at school and at home.

Together, parents and teachers can become a powerful force for positive change in the life of a child and connecting home and school. Parents and teachers working together helps students see the vitality in themselves, and it also models for our children how we are a community of learners.

Teen needs

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 ensure 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 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.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Wheelchair etiquette

Radio Commentary

Both inside and outside the classroom, it’s important to overcome the myths and stereotypes that many have about those with disabilities.
It’s important to remember that every young person and adult has unique talents, skills, abilities, and inabilities. 
Here are some bits of wheelchair etiquette, for example, that teachers try to practice in the classroom.
  • Don’t hang or lean on a person’s wheelchair when talking. Never pat the person on the head or shoulder.
  • Never move a wheelchair or crutches out of the reach of the person who uses them.
  • Ask someone in a wheelchair if he or she would like help.
  • Never push the wheelchair without first getting permission.
  • Speak directly to the person. If the conversation becomes extended, pull up a chair and sit down at eye level.
  • Don't pet guide dogs or other service animals — they are working.
  • And maybe most importantly, remember that being in a wheelchair does not mean someone is “sick.”
When adults demonstrate these behaviors, they help children overcome stereotypes.

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 everything they ask for.
Remember that it’s possible to set limits so that children are less likely to become overly indulged. 
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 temporarily 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 reinforce pleading, whining, and even tantrums.
Remember that all children test their parents. 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 always be so kind over the long haul.
In fact, children feel much more secure when boundaries are clear and parents are consistent about the decisions they make.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Science skills

Radio  Commentary

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

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Hazelden success quotes

Radio Commentary

For over 65 years, the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation has been a model for successful inpatient and outpatient treatment programs for young people and families struggling with the disease of addiction. The success and importance of treatment is best summed up by those who have been through the program.
Said one young woman:  “It saved my life.  I don’t think I’d be alive if I didn’t come here.”
Said one young man:  “Before Hazelden, I didn’t know how to interact with people without drugs involved.” Sadly, his experience is all too common.
Another young person said:  “People deserve second chances. They also need space and time and positive people around them.”
He added:  “Treatment taught me not only is hope possible, but you deserve it. I’m no longer a hopeless drug addict. Now I’m a drug-less hope addict.”
The program is straight-forward: Treat the whole person as well as the illness, treat every person with dignity and respect, be of service, and remain open to innovation. 
Santa Barbara County has many local resources to help, providing high quality assistance. These include the Fighting Back program run by the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, the Rescue Mission, and Good Samaritan and the Champion Center, both in Lompoc.
Families in crisis need to have multiple options.
Hazelden Betty Ford adds to this mix long-term residential treatment centers in Oregon, Rancho Mirage, and Minnesota that provide a holistic approach for the entire family. Further information is available at by calling 800-257-7800 any time, any day.
It’s important to know that help is available.