Posts Tagged ‘Children’

The Scariest Day of the Year for a Teacher

January 30, 2020

 

Tomorrow is my first day of the new school year and I am petrified.

It’s nothing new. This day torments me every year.

Whilst you can lose your students any day during the year, if you lose them on the very first day you are in a world of trouble.

I’ve done it all. Nailed my first day and botched it.

And there’s no script that one can follow to guarantee success. Every class is different, just as every individual is different. This uniqueness gives us great variety in our job but also challenges us to make a quick determination of what their needs are and how they want to be taught. Some are looking for more room to grow creatively whilst others want a more uniform approach.

And this determination has to be worked out on the first day.

In the first lesson, actually!

Wish me luck.

 

Becoming an Adult Starts in Primary School

January 28, 2020

adulting

A good Primary school invests in more than just the academic progress of the child. It also fosters an ability for each student to gain thinking skills, coping strategies and proficiency in life skills.

That’s why I’m stunned that a college would have to open a course on basic life skills. Seems 12 years late:

 

U.C. Berkeley is offering a class in “adulting,” basic life skills young people may have missed until college provided a wake-up call.

The class is so popular it’s turning students away.

“I want to feel prepared like I know what I’m doing and I know how to be an adult,” said Allegra Estrada, 21, who is a pre-med junior at Cal.

“You can know as much as you want about physics or biology or English but that doesn’t help you when you need to do taxes or figure out what to eat.”
Monday night, a new eight-week session in “adulting” began.

“We’re going to have guest speakers,” said instructor Belle Lau, laying out the topics: managing time and money, and improving relationships

“That can be a relationship with yourself or others, like family, friends,” said Lau.

Other areas include fitness, nutrition and mental health.

“Self-care, self-love and sleep,” Lau continued.

Many students admit they struggle making the transition to self-reliance in college.

 

Special Announcement:

I am donating 100% of the royalties of my hilarious new children’s book, My Favourite Comedian, during the month of January to those affected by the devastating bushfires in my country, Australia. This book is perfect for children aged 9 to 14 and the ideal class novel for Upper Primary students. Please leave a comment to indicate your purchase. You can buy a copy by clicking on this link.

Parents Report Spending Just 5 Hours a Week With Their Kids

January 27, 2020

 

This is a startling survey and a great wake up for us parents.

I couldn’t believe it. Parents claim to have only five hours a week of contact and four hours a week of conversation with their kids.

Many will justifiably point to the demands of dual working parents and the difficulty of getting their children off their devices. It is not for me to judge.

The issue is that it is more likely that today’s kids will become maladjusted due to their lack of meaningful contact with loved ones. This should be of great concern to all:

A recent survey of 1,000 British parents found that the average parent spends a mere five hours per week communicating face-to-face with their children.

More than half of surveyed moms and dads with children under the age of 18 said they feel “distant” from their kids. In all, 43% blamed their measly family time on their kids spending too much time in front of the television, with another 51% saying their kids spend too much time in their bedrooms. Another 44% said their familial disconnect is a result of their kids logging inordinate amounts of time on their phones during traditional “family time” in the evening.

The study, commissioned by Cadbury Heroes, also found that the average youngster starts to really avoid his or her parents around the age of 13. A significant 73% of respondents said their relationship with their children really changed once their sons and daughters became teenagers.

Nearly half (46%) of surveyed parents said they only talk to their kids for a maximum of four hours each week. Meanwhile, 54% said they would love to spend more time with their children.

To rectify this problem, over 80% of parents have taken an active interest in their children’s favorite activities in an effort to reconnect. For example, 20% of parents have learned how to play the popular online video game Fortnite, while 39% said they have gotten involved with their child’s hobbies. Another 33% have listened to their child’s favorite bands or musical artists in order to bond with them.

Comically, 25% have even tried to adopt youthful slang words such as “dope” or “YOLO.”

All in all, the average British parent tries to designate five days per month for “family time.” Regarding family time, 44% believe getting together as a family is a great way to avoid technology for a few hours. Finally, 50% of respondents said they try to encourage their kids to be more open and honest with them.

 

Special Announcement:

I am donating 100% of the royalties of my hilarious new children’s book, My Favourite Comedian, during the month of January to those affected by the devastating bushfires in my country, Australia. This book is perfect for children aged 9 to 14 and the ideal class novel for Upper Primary students. Please leave a comment to indicate your purchase. You can buy a copy by clicking on this link.

The 221 Mistakes Parents Make Every Year

January 20, 2020

 

A recent survey claims that parents make 221 mistakes every year. Well, that’s a relief. I thought I was the only one.

I can’t wait until the survey claiming teachers make 798 mistakes every year.

The biggest mistakes were quite predictable:

 

A survey conducted by OnePoll of 2000 parents, ages 23 and up, on behalf of Boudreaux’s Butt Paste, found that the biggest blunder of parenting was allowing too much screen time for children. It accounted for 65 percent, followed by teaching children swear words (42 percent) and allowing them to watch content inappropriate for their age (39 percent).

The survey explored the challenges of modern parenting, finding that age six was the most complicated for handling children. Parents were ready to give up quite a bit to make their kids behave properly. 30 percent were willing to give up social media, 30 percent were prepared to sacrifice wine, and 26 percent were ready to sacrifice Netflix.

Among the surveyed group of parents, when it came to parenting advice, 42 percent approached their partner, 41 percent reached out to their mother, and 31 percent relied on other parents. Parents also turn to technology for parenting advice, and while 17 percent use the internet, almost 10 percent refer to social media.

 

I note that this survey was conducted by Boudreaux’s Butt Paste. Not sure I’d want a product with that name in my shopping trolley.

Surely that counts as one of the mistakes parents make.

 

Special Announcement:

I am donating 100% of the royalties of my hilarious new children’s book, My Favourite Comedian, during the month of January to those affected by the devastating bushfires in my country, Australia. This book is perfect for children aged 9 to 14 and the ideal class novel for Upper Primary students. Please leave a comment to indicate your purchase. You can buy a copy by clicking on this link.

Very Concerning Vaccination Trends

January 17, 2020

I am completely pro-vaccination. I believe the anti-vax view risks young lives and must, therefore, be refuted.

My side seems to be losing. Below are some very disturbing trends published by Gallop:

 

Percentage of Americans who believe it’s important parents vaccinate their children.

2001: 94%

2015: 84%

2019: 84%

 

46% unsure whether vaccines cause autism

45% say no

10% say yes

 

Special Announcement:

I am donating 100% of the royalties of my hilarious new children’s book, My Favourite Comedian, during the month of January to those affected by the devastating bushfires in my country, Australia. This book is perfect for children aged 9 to 14 and the ideal class novel for Upper Primary students. Please leave a comment to indicate your purchase. You can buy a copy by clicking on this link.

ADHD Desperation Has Lead Parents to Marijuana

January 15, 2020

I am not a doctor, so I try not to make sweeping statements about ADHD. I suspect that ADHD is real but overdiagnosed.

What upsets me more than anything when it comes the explosion of ADHD diagnoses of young children, is that many doctors seem to overlook other possible causes such as sleep deprivation, anxiety, family issues and diet way too readily.

Was that a sweeping statement? I hope not.

What is clear, is that parents of ADHD are as anxious as ever to find a quick cure. Even going to the extent of experimenting with drugs, with little to no scientific reasoning behind the treatments administered:

Some parents of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have grown wary of Ritalin and Adderall, common treatments for the condition, because of the stimulants’ side effects and potential for long-term abuse. Now they’re turning to doctors who will prescribe medical marijuana instead.

“They have seen improved performance in school and happier and calmer kids at home,” Elizabeth Spaar, a family-medicine physician in Verona, Pennsylvania, told Insider, referring to how her pediatric patients and her own children with ADHD have responded to medical marijuana.

There’s only scant research to support the usefulness of treating ADHD with medical marijuana, and the course of treatment isn’t without its share of risks. Some medical experts are concerned about how it can affect cognitive development, especially in developing brains, as well as how it could impair short-term memory.

This is a dangerous game we’re playing and the staggering 10% of kids diagnosed with ADHD seem to be the guinea pigs.

 

Special Announcement:

I am donating 100% of the royalties of my hilarious new children’s book, My Favourite Comedian, during the month of January to those affected by the devastating bushfires in my country, Australia. This book is perfect for children aged 9 to 14 and the ideal class novel for Upper Primary students. Please leave a comment to indicate your purchase. You can buy a copy by clicking on this link.

A Marriage Story: Brilliant, Yet Bleak

January 10, 2020

 

I have long been arguing that we have taken the toll of divorce on children for granted (a theme central to my novel, “My Favourite Comedian”). Many claim that since it is so commonplace, divorce is less a tragic occurrence and more a reality of life. If most children have to go through it, it can’t be that bad, right?

I don’t subscribe to that theory. In fact, whilst there are often very good reasons for divorce and in many cases, the children are arguably better off, the effects of a family break down is as difficult for children now as it has ever been.

Enter Netflix’s masterpiece, A Marriage Story. A movie that couldn’t even spare one scene depicting the perspective of a child in the midst of a giant tug-of-war over rights to his upbringing. Not one!

This film is far more interested in the thoughts and needs of his parents. Parents who are decent people on the surface, but who have been racked with self-interest and continue to be. One had an affair, the other basically got bored and was feeling unimportant. Bad decisions were being made on both sides, with the power divested in terribly immoral lawyers continuing the trend of decisions made with self-interest trumping what is really best for the child.

The movie is quite brilliant. It captures the end of a marriage with great insight and the acting is brilliant. It is also a stark essay on the selfishness of the contemporary person.

Selfishness that I would argue does nothing for the child and his development.

 

Special Announcement:

I am donating 100% of the royalties of my hilarious new children’s book, My Favourite Comedian, during the month of January to those affected by the devastating bushfires in my country, Australia. This book is perfect for children aged 9 to 14 and the ideal class novel for Upper Primary students. Please leave a comment to indicate your purchase. You can buy a copy by clicking on this link.

Discussing the New Zealand Volcano Tragedy with Children

December 11, 2019

How on earth do you explain the tragedy that took place in Paris to young children?

Below are some tips by experts in the field that can be used to assist in facilitating discussions about the recent New Zealand volcano tragedy:

 

Watch for Trauma: “Young children may have difficulties identifying and expressing feelings. Parents should pay attention to the children’s play (for instance, preoccupation with certain aggressive electronic games, drawings, repetitive play that imitates the traumatic event or events). Another sign of trauma is avoidance of reminders.” — Dr. Aurelia Bizamcer, Medical Director, Outpatient Psychiatry at Temple University Hospital

Keep Answers Truthful but Simple: “We’re not holding back, but we’re not giving more because the giving more could have the risk of alarming the child. … As a parent you have an obligation to protect a young child from being overwhelmed.” –Alan Kazdin, Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University; Director of the Yale Parenting Center.

Reassure Them: “We need to appreciate that kids have different fears. Many will worry about the movies, but others will worry about such events spilling over to other areas, such as the mall, school, the neighborhood. For kids of all ages, it is really important to let them know that these kinds of events are incredibly rare. ” –Dr. Gene Beresin, Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Residency Training, Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Hospital

Keep Answers Age-Appropriate: “Parents should be sure to pitch the discussion to their kids’ developmental level. For a 6-year-old, it’s completely appropriate to reassure them of their safety, with some emphasis on the fact that this person is no longer at large. For kids over the age of 8, more concrete details are appropriate, along with, perhaps, a general discussion of how to be safe in public — locating exit doors for instance, and getting to safety in the event of any dangerous occurrence.” –Jay Reeve,President and Chief Executive Officer, Apalachee Center

Don’t Make Assumptions: “Don’t project your own feelings, fears and anxiety on kids because you know you don’t really know exactly what your kids are feeling until you talk to them.” –Dr. Jane Taylor, psychiatrist

 

Michael Grossman is the author of the hilarious new children’s book, My Favourite Comedian. You can download a free ebook copy by clicking here or buy a copy by clicking on this link.

Try Sitting Still as Much as the Average Student Has To

January 19, 2015

chair

If you want to improve the behaviour of the classroom you could do worse than treat your students the same way as you wish to be treated. Just like I find sitting on the mat utterly uncomfortable I try to minimise the amount of time they are on the mat. Just like I can’t sit still for too long before feeling under duress, so too I allow my students to experience active lessons that mixes learning with some movement.

The truth of the matter is that kids are bound to their seats or the mat for way too long. It is unhealthy and bad for the brain. Don’t take my word for it. Read this wonderful piece by pediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom:

 

Except for brief periods of getting up and switching classrooms, I’ve been sitting for the past 90 excruciating minutes. I look down at my leg and notice it is bouncing. Great, I think to myself, now I’m fidgeting! I’m doing anything I can to pay attention – even contorting my body into awkward positions to keep from daydreaming. It is useless, I checked out about forty-five minutes ago. I’m no longer registering anything the teacher is saying. I look around the room to see how the children a few decades younger than me are doing.

I’m immersed in a local middle-school classroom environment. I quickly realize I’m not the only one having a hard time paying attention. About 50 percent of the children are fidgeting and most of the remaining children are either slouched in the most unnatural positions imaginable or slumped over their desks. A child suddenly gets up to sharpen their pencil. A few minutes later, another child raises their hand and asks to go to the bathroom. In fact, at least three children have asked to go to the bathroom in the past twenty minutes. I’m mentally exhausted and the day has just begun. I was planning on observing the whole day. I just can’t do it. I decide to leave right after lunch.

There is no way I could tolerate six hours of sitting even just one day, never mind every day – day after day. How on Earth do these children tolerate sitting this long? Well, the short answer is they don’t. Their bodies aren’t designed for extended periods of sitting. In fact, none of our bodies are made to stay sedentary for lengths of time. This lack of movement and unrelenting sitting routine, are wreaking havoc on their bodies and minds. Bodies start to succumb to these unnatural positions and sedentary lifestyle through atrophy of the muscles, tightness of ligaments (where there shouldn’t be tightness), and underdeveloped sensory systems – setting them up for weak bodies, poor posturing, and inefficient sensory processing of the world around them.

If most of the classroom is fidgeting and struggling to even hold their bodies upright, in desperation to stay engaged – this is a really good indicator that they need to move more. In fact, it doesn’t matter how great of a teacher you are. If children have to learn by staying in their seats most of the day, their brains will naturally tune out after a while – wasting the time of everyone.

Are these teachers clueless to the benefits of movement? No. Most teachers know that movement is important. And many would report that they are downright and overwhelmingly frustrated by their inability to let children move more throughout the day. “We are expected to cram more and more information down their throats,” gripes one middle school teacher. “It is insane! We can no longer teach according to what we feel is developmentally appropriate.” Another teacher explains, “due to the high-stakes testing, even project-based learning opportunities are no longer feasible. Too many regulations, not enough time.”

They go on to explain that recess has been lost due to lack of space and time as well as fear that children will get injured. “Too many children were getting hurt,” says a teacher. “Parents were calling and complaining about scrapped knees and elbows – the rest was history.” Even their brief break from instruction during snack time is no longer a reality. These few minutes of freedom are now replaced with a “working snack” in order to pack in a quick vocabulary lesson. Physical education is held only every sixth day, so technically this isn’t even a weekly affair.

The children line up for lunchtime. “Come watch this,” a teacher yells over to me. The children line up in pairs and are told to be quiet. Once everyone is quiet, two teachers (one in front of the line and one in back) escort the children down to the cafeteria. The thought of prison inmates quickly comes to mind, as I watch the children walk silently, side by side down the corridors of the school hallway. I’m told they are to remain quiet and seated throughout the lunch period. “I feel so bad for them,” exclaims the teacher. “They are so ready for down time during lunch, but are still required to sit and be silent!”

Many parents are also becoming increasingly unsatisfied with the lack of recess and movement their children are getting in middle school. One mother states, “Middle school kids in particular are just coming out of the elementary school environment, consisting of multiple breaks throughout the day. These kids are still young, and depending on the district, could be just 10-years-old going into middle school. They are experiencing a great change already in the transition alone. A break during the day is what they need to re-group.”

This same parent contacted the district’s school board members who ultimately make many of the decisions regarding school policies. She also met with the principal and deans and created an online petition consisting of a strong parent community advocating for more movement in school. The results? A brief five to ten-minute walk outdoors after lunch, which the teachers explain is really half a lap around the building and back indoors they go. “It may not be recess–but it’s a good start,” this mother states. “However, I still believe it’s necessary to make it school policy that all kids get a longer break.”

I ask the teachers what kids do when they get home from school. “About 60 percent of them are over-scheduled. The other 40 percent have no one home, so they do what they want – which often relates to playing video games,” a teacher complains. “I’d say we have only a handful of children that go home and find time to play.” Both teachers try to keep homework meaningful and under an hour, knowing kids need time to release after a long day of school.

Even middle-school children need opportunities to play. This past summer, a teacher at one of our TimberNook camps brought along his 12-year-old daughter, Sarah as a “co-counselor.” Sarah was excited about being a counselor alongside a college student for their small group of five children. In the past, she had simply been a camper. However, as soon as the group set out into the deep woods, dispersed, and started to play,  she quickly switched roles. She instantly forgot about her new status and jumped wholeheartedly into the pretend world, alongside the younger children. What took place next, was quite remarkable.

Sarah climbed high onto a fallen log that ascended to the very top of their newly designed teepee, donned with fresh ferns to camouflage their rustic “living quarters.” She wore a brightly colored feathered mask on top of her forehead. “Listen,” she said to the group of children gathered around her. “We need to get ready for the opposing team’s attack.” She took the time to look each of the children in the eye. “You,” she said to one of the bigger kids in the group. “You are now appointed as top commander.” “Julie,” she said to a girl that is known to be one of the fastest runners in the group. “You are going to be our top spy.” She proceeded to roles for each of the children to play.

Her age, strength, and intelligence made her their natural chosen leader and the children respected her decisions. She played just as hard as the other children. She forgot about her new role as co-counselor for the rest of the week, except to occasionally lead a group song or chant during morning meeting. The fun of being a camper and free play trumped all responsibility. She was still a child. She was not ready to give up her right to free play. Who could blame her?

Why do we assume that children don’t need time to move or play once they reach sixth grade, or even fifth grade? They are only children! In fact, I would argue that we all could benefit from opportunities to play, even up through adulthood. Everyone needs downtime. Time to move our bodies. Time to get creative and escape the rigors of reality.

What can we do for our middle-school children? I asked Jessica Lahey, a middle school teacher, contributing writer at The Atlantic, and author of the upcoming book, “The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed,” to give her opinion on the matter.

“Teachers are often afraid that if they let children move, it will be hard to get them to settle back down again. This shouldn’t stop us from providing them with the necessary movement children need in order to learn. Middle-school children can always benefit from recess! Also, when I taught for Crossroads Academy, we had some great nature trails behind our school through the woods. I would often take my whole English class for walks. I’d give them a topic to ponder and then we’d walk for ten minutes to think about the question. We’d huddle and discuss the topic. Then, I’d throw out another question and we’d start to walk again.”

Jessica explains that this is also true for schools in urban regions. Children can walk to museums or local parks to explore and learn. They can bring along their writing journals and assess the world and culture around them. Learning doesn’t have to be done in a chair. Jessica goes on to tell me that one time, she had her middle-school children practice public speaking by taking turns standing on a small bridge over a rumbling brook. They had to learn to project their voice over the babbling brook in order to be heard by the rest of class. “It was a good practical lesson and there is something about nature that grounds the child, taking away the anxiety that typically comes with public-speaking,” Jessica reports.

All people in decision-making positions for school policies should be required to sit through at least one school day and experience first-hand what is required of children today. Then they will have a better idea of what is appropriate and what isn’t. Then they will start to think about what their decisions mean for real children in real schools. Maybe then, they will begin to value children’s need to move, need to play, and the need to be respected as the human beings that they are.

Middle school-age children need to move – just like everyone else!

 

Tip for Getting Your Kids to Open Up About Their School Day

January 8, 2015

first day

Personally, I try to make the child’s’ school experience pleasurable enough to make them anxious to share their day with their parents. But for the parents who find it hard to get anything substantive from their children in this area, here are some tips courtesy of via parenttoolkit.com:

 

1. Wait at least a half an hour

Kids are generally drained and strained the moment they walk in door. So wait at least 30 minutes to start talking about school. Give your child a chance to decompress and have a snack, take off the backpack, and just breathe.

2. Don’t turn questions into a third degree

What would make you want to open up and tell her all those details? The same rules apply to kids. Big kid turn offs: pushing, prodding, demanding, coaxing, lecturing and threatening.

3. Look interested

Think of how your best friend asks you about your day. Use her example. Make sure you are relaxed and appear genuinely interested when you speak to your child.

4. Ask questions that require more than yes or no

“Do you have homework?” “Did you give your speech?” are questions that make your kid only have to answer with a yes or no response. So pose questions that require your child to respond with more than just yes, no, nope, sure, nothing, fine.

5. Don’t use the same questions

A big kid turn off is hearing your same old predictable: “How was your day?” query. So be creative. Churn up those questions so your kid knows you are interested!

6. Stop and listen

The nanosecond your child utters ANYTHING related to school, stop  and give your full presence. Catch any little nugget of information and make it seem as though it’s a gold mine. Kids open up more when they think you’re interesting.

7. Stretch conversation with “invitation openers”

If and when your child shares a detail try using the “stretching method.” Don’t push or prod but instead use these type of comments: “Really?” “Uh-huh?” “I don’t believe it!” “Wow!” They’re not threatening and invite a talker to open up.

8. Repeat “talk” portions

Try repeating bits of your child’s conversation: Child: “I played on the swing.” You: “You played on the swing.” The trick is to repeat the tidbit in a matter-of-fact but interested way to get your child to open up and add more.

9. Make your house kid-friendly

Many parents swear they find out more about school from their kids’ friends than from their own child. So invite your child’s friends over. Keep the fridge stocked with food. Set up a basketball court (or whatever you need to keep those kids at your house). And then be friendly (but not intrusive) to the friend. You may find that not only do the friends open up more, but your child will tag onto the friend’s conversation.

10. Get on the school website

Find out what’s going on in your kid’s school world: read the teacher newsletters, click onto the school calendar, read the school activities schedule and menu. You can then ask specific questions about your kid’s day.

 

 

Click on the link to read Study: Smartphones are a Bigger Concern than TV

Click on the link to read What Kids Really Wanted for Christmas (Video)

Click on the link to read Young Girl Pens Angry Letter to Tooth Fairy

Click on the link to read Gift Ideas for Children that Are Not Toys

Click on the link to read When Parents Get Busted!


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