Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Trust

Radio Commentary

Trust is an important issue with preteens and teenagers. Parents often wonder how they can question their children without being accused of doubting their judgment.
Checking up on your children’s outside activities may not be met with enthusiasm, but it is important.
Many parents have heard the refrain: “I can’t believe you don’t trust me.” This can be a young person’s way of keeping parents at a distance and feeling more independent. 
It is not uncommon for young people to feel invincible and to resent interference with their social life.
One author recommends that parents respond to this resistance by saying, “We trust you, but we are concerned about the situation you’re going to be in.”
This response shows you’re concerned not with the child but with the circumstances that could occur.
Point out to your children that they won’t always have control over what can happen when they’re at a friend’s house without adult supervision.
Ask questions in a calm, non-confrontational way.
Safety issues top the priority list for parents. Young people are more likely to accept questions and supervision when it is framed in this context.

Monday, April 24, 2017

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of any kind in a child’s behavior, such as a good student not wanting to go to school, or an outgoing child becoming withdrawn.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, April 21, 2017

Work ethic

Radio Commentary

Author and child advocate Marian Wright Edelman wrote a book for her children, “The Measure of our Success,” that outlines 25 lessons for life.
In it, she states: “Don’t be afraid of hard work or of teaching your children to work. Work is dignity and caring, and the foundation for a life with meaning.”
She writes that far too many children of privilege, of the middle class, and of the poor, are growing up without a strong work ethic, and too many are growing up without work at all.
It once was a given that children would work, sometimes after school, sometimes during weekends, always during the summer.
Though the goal was to earn money, these jobs were also a way to instill a work ethic, providing meaningful use of a young person’s time.
Edelman said too many people today are obsessed with work for the sole purpose of “ensuring their ability to engage in limitless consumption.”
She adds: “An important reason much of my generation stayed out of trouble is that we had to help out at home and in the community, and did not have time — or energy — to get into trouble.”
This is not the case with many of our children today. Leisure pursuits are highly valued by young and old alike.
Recreation, sports, and entertainment have filled the space once reserved for employment. And many of the values learned in the workplace are finding no method for delivery in a society obsessed with fun and pleasure.
There is dignity in work, and it’s never too early to learn that lesson. We short-change our children if we imply that fulfillment can be gained only from activities that are fun.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Relaxed and receptive

Radio Commentary

High-stakes testing is a fact of life. Students of all ages will take standardized tests throughout their school careers.
While some students are naturals at test-taking, others need help to do their best.
A publication titled “Principal Communicator” outlines four conditions that can help parents help their children feel confident about tests.
They all start with “R”: being Receptive Relaxed, Ready, and Rested.
Being “Receptive” is important. Parents can help young people develop a receptive attitude toward school in general, and testing in particular.
They can do this by making sure students understand that testing is merely a part of the learning process and that it is a measuring stick for how much they have learned.
The second “R” is for “Relaxed.” Anxiety can block the best-prepared student from doing well on a test.
It’s important to help children avoid getting hung up on how hard a test might be, or the negative consequences of doing poorly.
Being Ready — not cramming at the last minute — and being Rested, by getting a good night’s sleep before the test, are also vital.
Make sure your child knows you have confidence in them to do well, but that your approval of your child as a person does not depend on a test score.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

More good books

Radio Commentary

We know that no single book has all the answers when it comes to good parenting. Even experts disagree on the best practices. Still, we know it can be helpful to read the parenting classics, so here are some bestsellers to consider.
Two competing books offer some good insights on sleep issues.
Dr. Richard Ferber’s Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems became famous for “Ferber-izing” your baby. This is also known as the “Cry It Out Method.” Dr. Ferber gives step-by-step instructions, and this book is still considered one of the gold standards when it comes to getting a child to sleep through the night and nap during the day.
Taking a counter-approach is The No-Cry Sleep Solution, by Elizabeth Pantley.
It is set up like a workbook, allowing parents to review options and put together a customized sleep plan unique to their baby’s needs.
For those who want to gather information at an earlier point, there is the bestselling series, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel.
More than 34 million copies have been sold in the last 30 years. The books in this series are revised to provide up-to-date advice, including information about every stage of pregnancy.
Remember, it’s best to trust your own heart and your own judgment. No one knows your body or your children better than you do. You may not feel like the ultimate expert, but when it comes to your children, you truly are.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Public Schools Month 2017

Radio Commentary

Since 1920, the Free and Accepted Masons of California have sponsored Public Schools Month in April. 
The goal of the Masons has been to encourage communities to understand more about their public schools and to enlist support in the cause of public education.
As Frosty Troy, Oklahoma’s Pulitzer Prize winning editor and commentator said when he visited Santa Barbara some time ago, everything America is, or ever hopes to be, depends upon what happens in public school classrooms, where millions of boys and girls will get their chance in life.
In proclaiming Public Schools Month, the Masons always emphasize: 
And I quote: “It is crucial for America that the youth of our state and nation receive the finest and broadest-based education available … so that our standard of living, technological advancement, and national destiny are maintained.” End quote.
They see public education as the ultimate public service.
It is little wonder that PTA parents are the most ardent supporters of our local public schools — they see first-hand the good news that goes under-reported. 
They see, close-up, the real challenges that are overcome and the successes that are achieved every day.
So during Public Schools Month, take a minute to visit a local school. You’ll be impressed at what greets you — enthusiasm, dedication, lots of hard work, and great results.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Reading maps

Radio Commentary

Reading maps is an important skill for everyone to master, whether the map is on paper, a computer, or a GPS screen.
Help by putting your child’s natural curiosity to work. Even small children can learn to read simple maps of their school, neighborhood, and community.
Go on a walk and collect natural materials like flowers or leaves to use for an art project. Map the location where you found each item.
Create a treasure map for children to find hidden treats in the yard or inside your home. This can even be a great idea for birthday parties. Encourage children to play the game with one another, taking turns with hiding the treasure and drawing the map.
See if your child can find your street on a county or city map. Point out where your relatives or your children’s friends live.
Point out different kinds of maps, like state highway maps, city or county maps, and bus route maps. Discuss their different uses.
Before taking a trip, show your children on a map where you are going and how you plan to get there. Look for other routes you could take and talk about why you chose the one you did.
Children sometimes like to follow the map as you travel. If you are on a long trip, you can point out what town you have just reached and ask children to find the next town on your route.
All these activities help with geography skills year-round.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Homework problems

Radio Commentary

Homework is an essential part of schoolwork. There is no getting around it.
It is best when children accept homework as a part of their obligation as a student.
To avoid homework hassles, parents should monitor their children’s assignments. They should act as a resource or coach, but avoid the temptation to do the work for the student.
If problems do arise, despite your support and help, then parents, teachers, students and school personnel need to work together to resolve the issues.
First, share any concerns directly with the teacher.
If a child is refusing to do an assignment, despite your encouragement, there might be some larger issue.
 Also approach the teacher:
• If instructions seem unclear,
• If you can’t seem to help your child get organized to finish the assignments,
• If you can’t provide needed supplies or materials,
• If the assignments appear to be coming too often, or are too hard, or too easy.
Contact the teacher especially if a child has missed school and needs to make up assignments.
Remember that communication between teachers and parents is very important in solving homework problems.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Verbal and nonverbal messages

Radio Commentary

Communication has two parts, verbal and nonverbal. Both aspects convey vital information to the listener.
Verbal, of course, is the portion that is spoken out loud. It includes the words used and how they are put together.
Nonverbal communication is everything else — it includes facial expression, tone of voice, eye contact, posture, hand movements, and other indications of meaning, whether intended or not.
For this reason, it’s important to be very aware of what tone of voice you are using when you speak to your children. 
Often it’s not what you say but how you say it that conveys your underlying message.   
Children are particularly good at picking up on these cues, especially with their parents.
Pay attention to how loudly, softly, quickly, or slowly you speak. 
Remember that you also communicate with eye contact and facial expression. 
If you are looking away it can signal that you are either preoccupied or not being completely direct. 
Saying something too quickly, or too sharply, can undermine the message.
Be sure that all your messages are consistent, in word and expression.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Divorce

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 childr
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.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A strong America starts with great public schools


By Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools
“Together we make a profound difference for public education” is the theme of this year’s Public Schools Month, celebrated in April and sponsored by the Grand Lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons.
It provides all of us with an opportunity to celebrate our schools. It’s a month for thanking those who make a difference in the all of our classrooms: teachers, parents, educational support personnel, administrators, business partners, and community volunteers.
It’s also a month for spotlighting how important education is to the health and well-being of our children, our economy, and of our nation.
It’s a month for strengthening the connection between public schools and the community they serve, and for renewing partnerships between schools and the public on behalf of students.
This year’s theme is designed to remind people that public schools embody the great American promise of equality of opportunity for all and that they are the cornerstones of a democratic society. As the late Frosty Troy, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for The Oklahoma Observer once said, it is a time to remind policymakers that “American politicians are the only ones on the globe who consider education as an expense rather than an investment.”
Schools do not act in a vacuum. They provide students with both skills and hope for the future. Schools can help students achieve to the best of their potential, but they need the support of parents and community members to help motivate students to take their studies seriously. It is a team effort in every sense of the word.
To make our schools the best they can be requires a commitment from every member of the community, from retired citizens to parents, from business leaders to school board members.
The goal of Public Schools Month since its inception in 1921 has been to increase public understanding and appreciation of the nation’s schools, to encourage parents and non-parents to visit schools, and to build civic and community pride and support for public education.
We urge members of the community to take advantage of this opportunity to see local schools in action. Those who haven’t stepped into a classroom in many years will no doubt be amazed by the depth and breadth of what is being taught.
It’s important to keep in mind that by working together, we can give today’s students the tools they need to be whatever they want to be. Today’s students are tomorrow’s consumers and workforce. We all have a vested interest in their success.

Working hard

Radio Commentary

It is one of life’s great truths that success in almost any arena comes from effort, not just ability.
We must make sure our children know that “smart” is not something you simply are. “Smart” is something everyone must work hard to achieve.
Too many people believe that success in school is mostly a factor of inborn intelligence and aptitude. But the fact is that children who work hard at a subject often learn more than very bright students who don’t put in the effort.
The message carries over to the rest of a child’s life as well.
Certainly all students are born with different aptitudes and abilities. But the true key to success is how they use the strengths they have, and how they work to overcome any shortfalls.
Even the most gifted athlete can’t be a winner without training hard every day. Even the greatest artists need to study their craft.
The highest achievers, inside and outside the classroom, are those who work the hardest and do the most with the gifts they have.
Parents can help motivate children by telling them that success in school really is something everyone can achieve. It is not beyond anyone’s grasp.
But it requires effort, attention, and hard work. It requires listening carefully in the classroom, asking questions, completing all assignments, and studying hard. It also requires an honest awareness of where weaknesses lie, and a determination to overcome those weaknesses.
Students who take this approach are truly smart.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Students get new incentive in Battle of the Books

News release

Nearly 200 students in fourth through sixth grades from more than 30 schools throughout the county will test their knowledge April 26 at the 16th annual Battle of the Books in the Santa Barbara County Education Office (SBCEO) auditorium.
About 8,000 students in public schools countywide have been challenged to read as many books as possible from a pre-selected list of 25 to qualify for the event. These books will be the source of the questions and challenges that the students will face at the “battle.”
Students are encouraged to read all 25 books, but they must read at least 15 to attend the Battle of the Books. Each school can send a maximum of five students.
“This annual competition is an entertaining opportunity for students from throughout the county to come together for a friendly ‘literary battle,’ but it’s also an important reading incentive program,” said county Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone, whose office coordinates the event.
In addition to encouraging literacy and making reading fun, the Battle of the Books rewards reading comprehension and teamwork. Two teams of six or seven students compete against each other by answering 20 comprehension questions based on the 25 books. The students must agree upon and offer their answers as a group.
All teams will compete in a round-robin tournament of four battles, and the highest-scoring teams will take the stage for the final battle, facilitated by guest author Valerie Hobbs.
“When they arrive for the Battle of the Books, the students will be re-blended into teams so that no one school competes against another,” said Matt Zuchowicz, director of Educational Technology Services, the SBCEO department that conducts the event. “Regardless of who wins the final battle, every student is rewarded with certificates, and the winners receive books and custom-made tee shirts,” he added. “Students also have an opportunity that day to vote for a book they’d like to see on the list for next year’s event, which is a fun way to motivate and engage the young readers.”
For more information, call Rose Koller at SBCEO, 964-4710, ext. 5222.

After children graduate

Radio Commentary

If you have an empty nest because your last child has left the house, that doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to support education in your community.
In fact, it’s a great time to stay involved, make a strong contribution, and stay young at heart.
As a start, keep up with issues that affect local children. If you can, get involved in the school activities of your neighbors’ children, your nieces and nephews, your grandchildren, or your friends’ children.
Remember that strong schools make strong communities. Educated young people make our entire society healthier. By helping them, we are investing in our future together.
How can you help?
Children of all ages love to have fans attend their soccer games or basketball games. Cheering for local children can also be an opportunity for you to keep in contact with various neighbors and community happenings.
Think of interesting ways you can participate in school programs. Share your special talents. If you are a photographer, give a seminar to the yearbook staff.
We can all serve as volunteers and mentors in our local schools. We can provide an extra set of hands to help in the office, or an extra set of ears to help children with reading.
This nation was built on a foundation of community support for local schools. It is what keeps our democracy strong and vital. And it will continue to do so — with the help of all involved.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Earthquake Preparedness Month

Radio Commentary

Every year, April is designated California Earthquake Preparedness Month by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.
Though earthquakes can occur virtually anywhere, California is a more frequent site than other parts of the nation. 
For this reason, it’s important that California residents, young and old alike, know what to expect and are prepared to act quickly and effectively.
The statewide preparedness project stresses awareness of the risks throughout California and urges people to make an earthquake safety plan at home and at work. 
Because schools must comply with the Field Act that requires more earthquake safety features than other structures, schools are often designated as evacuation sites for emergency purposes.
Throughout April, special preparedness activities are held each year for government and emergency services, business and industry, schools, and family and community members.
Knowing what to do and what not to do is the best defense in an emergency situation. It is the only effective way to minimize harm to people and damage to property.
That’s the kind of information that is spotlighted during Earthquake Preparedness Month. We urge every community member to get involved for the basic safety of all.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Drug advice

Radio Commentary

The Partnership for a Drug-Free America provides good suggestions for parents to help their children stay off drugs.
Their ideas deserve parents’ consideration.
For example, parents are urged to make sure the information they offer fits their children’s age and cognitive level.
When a six or seven-year-old is brushing his teeth, parents can say, “There are good things we need to do to keep our bodies strong and healthy, like brushing our teeth. But there are also some things we shouldn’t do because they can hurt our bodies, like smoking or taking medicine when we are not sick.”
An eight-year-old can understand a simple lesson about specific drugs, like marijuana or alcohol.
If marijuana is mentioned on TV, take advantage of the chance to ask your child if he knows what it is. Say it’s a bad drug that can hurt your body.
Don’t be afraid to talk about these issues. Cocaine, crack, heroin, and meth are very dangerous and illegal drugs that can kill a user, sometimes even if they are taken only once. It is important to be honest about these types of dangers.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Math teacher thank you

Radio Commentary

A math teacher in a Dallas High School received a wonderful present recently, in the form of a thank-you note that was reprinted in the Dallas Morning News.
The letter reads, in part: “Before school even started, I dreaded your class. I honestly hate math and I didn’t want to repeat Algebra One again.
“Over the year, you’ve shown me what it’s like to have a teacher that truly cares. I walk into your class every other day willing to learn and do my work, not because I enjoy school or math. I do it because you deserve it.
“I see the effort you put into you job. I don’t know much about you and you don’t know much about me … I don’t talk in your class but I do sit back and learn from you every day.
“It was not only coincidence that I was placed into your class, but a great learning opportunity. I am thankful I was placed in your class. 
“Thank you for teaching me what no other teacher has.”
It’s easy to see why teacher Jennifer Davis considers this one of the best gifts of all time.  How nice for all of us to see a teacher acknowledged so movingly for her skills and her caring.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Preteens and friends

Radio Commentary

When children become preteens, their interest in friends and social activities often increases dramatically. Parents may be faced rather abruptly 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 good parenting, and their children will grateful — if not today, then some day soon.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Economics, happiness

Radio Commentary

An early goal for public education in this country was to help people become economically self-sufficient.

Our leaders felt that public schools would give all Americans the basic reading and math skills they needed to succeed in the workplace. As a result, poverty and its consequences would be reduced.

Early national leaders also saw the public schools as a “social escalator in a merit-based society.”

They thought it would enable children of humble birth to pursue financial success and improve their lot in life.

Later, as the Industrial Age introduced new occupations, the public schools offered more courses with direct vocational content.

Early proponents of public schools also saw an educational role in enhancing individual happiness.

In 1749, Benjamin Franklin said: “The good education of youth has been esteemed by wise men in all ages as the surest foundation of the happiness of both private families and of communities.”

It is very important as we continue to reform and improve public education that we keep our eye on the big picture — the lofty goals our founding fathers had in mind.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Count to 10

Radio Commentary

According to child behavior specialists, 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.
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.