Monthly Archives: January 2018

January 21, 2018~Week in Review

A quiet week…

It’s that time of year when we all have heads down and we are hard at work. There aren’t too many distractions (with the exception of the occasional delayed start!) , the weather is OK but not giving us spring fever yet, and all of the routines are in place in our classrooms to really dig into the hard work of learning. So, I don’t have much to share this week. However, as we continue with our school-wide tree theme and you can see with the pics below, we have some really neat examples of how teachers are integrating that into their lessons.

trees1trees2trees3

Archery!

All 5th-Middle school PE electives get to participate in this unit.  Each student must pass a safety test at  80% or higher and complete an 11 step guide to successful archery before they can use the equipment.  We have a contest for points at the end for marksmanship.  Mrs. Hanenberg has done a nice job of integrating language arts curriculum into this unit and tied in our upcoming Olympics.

The Fragile Generation (taken from an article by Skenazy& Haidt), continued, Part 3 of 4

playing

This installment is part 3 in a 4 part series.

Of Trophies and Traumas

A few years ago, Boston College psychology professor emeritus Peter Gray was invited by the head of counseling services at a major university to a conference on “the decline in resilience among students.” The organizer said that emergency counseling calls had doubled in the the last five years. What’s more, callers were seeking help coping with everyday problems, such as arguments with a roommate. Two students had dialed in because they’d found a mouse in their apartment. They also called the police, who came and set a mousetrap. And that’s not to mention the sensitivity around grades. To some students, a B is the end of the world (to some parents, too).

Free play has little in common with the “play” we give children today. In organized activities, adults run the show. It’s only when the grown-ups aren’t around that the kids get to take over. Play is training for adulthood.

Part of the rise in calls could be attributed to the fact that admitting mental health issues no longer carries the stigma it once did, an undeniably positive development. But is could also be a sign, Gray realized, that failing at basic “adulting” no longer carries the stigma it once did. And that is far more troubling.

Is this outcome the apotheosis of participation-trophy culture? It’s easy to scoff at a society that teaches kids that everything they do deserves applause. But more disturbing is the possibility that those trophies taught kids the opposite lesson: that they’re so easily hurt, they can’t handle the sad truth that they’re not the best at something.

Not letting your kids climb a tree because he might fall robs him of a classic childhood experience. But being emotionally overprotective takes away something else. “We have raised a generation of young people who have not been given the opportunity to…experience failure and realize they can survive it,” Gray has said. When Lenore’s son came in eighth out of nine teams in a summer camp bowling league, he got an eighth-place trophy. The moral was clear: We don’t think you can cope with the negative emotions of finishing second-to-last. Of course, it’s natural to want to see kids happy. But the real secret to happiness isn’t more high fives; it’s developing emotional resilience. In our mania for physical safety, coupled with our recent tendency to talk about “emotional safety,” we have systematically deprived our children of the thousands of challenging–and sometimes upsetting–experiences that they need in order to learn that resiliency. And in our quest to protect them, we have stolen from children the best resilience training known to man: free play.

Play’s the Thing

All mammals play. It is a drive installed by Mother Nature. Hippos do backflips in the water. Dogs fetch sticks. And gazelles run around, engaging in a game that looks an awful lot like tag.

Why would they do that? They’re wasting valuable calories and exposing themselves to predators. Shouldn’t they just sit quietly next to their mama gazelles, exploring the world through the magic of PBS Kids?

It must be because play is even more important to their long-term survival than simply being “safe.” Gray’s main body of research is on the importance of free play, and he stresses that it has little in common with the “play” we give kids today. In organized activities–Little League, for example–adults run the show. In free play, ideally with kids of mixed ages, the children decide what to do and how to do it. That’s teamwork, literally. The little kids desperately want to be like the bigger kids, so instead of bawling when they strike out during a sandlot baseball game, they work hard to hold themselves together. This is the foundation of maturity.

The older kids, meanwhile, throw the ball more softly to the younger ones. They’re learning empathy. And if someone yells, “Let’s play on just one leg!”–something they couldn’t do at Little League, with championships (and trophies!) on the line–the kids discover what it means to come up with and try out a different way of doing things. In Silicon Valley terms, they “pivot” and adopt a “new business model.” They also learn that they, not just grown-ups, can collectively remake the rules to suit their needs. That’s called participatory democracy.

Best of all, without adults intervening, the kids have to do all the problem solving for themselves, from deciding what game to play to making sure the teams are roughly equal. Then, when there’s an argument, they have to resolve it themselves. That’s a tough skill to learn, but the drive to continue playing motivates them to work things out. To get back to having fun, they first have to come up with a solution, so they do. This teaches them that they can disagree, hash it out, and–perhaps with some grumbling–move on.

These are the very skills that are suddenly in short supply on college campuses (and in the workplace according to many employers).

No Fun and No Joy

When parents curtail their kids’ independence, they’re not just depriving the yhounlings of childhood fun. They are denying  themselves the town-up joy of seeing their kids do something smart, brave, or kind without parental guidance.

It’s the kind of joy described by a Washington Post columnist who answered the phone one day and was shocked to find her 8-year old son on the other end. He’d accidentally gone home when he was supposed to stay after school. Realizing she wasn’t there, he decided to walk to the store a few blocks away–his first time. The mom raced over, fearing God knows what, and rushed in only to find her son happily helping the shopkeeper stock the shelves with meat. He’d had a snack and done homework, too. It was an afternoon he’d never forget, and neither would his very proud mother.

When we don’t let our kids do anything on their own, we don’t get to see just how competent they can be–and isn’t that, ultimately, the greatest reward of parenting? We need to make it easier for grown-ups to let go while living in a society that keeps warning them not to. And we need to make sure they won’t get arrested for it.

Next week read the closure to this article and what we can do to help our children be more resilient.

Thanks for reading yet again! Have a wonderful week!

~Kelly Albrecht

January 14th~Week in Review

NJHS Movie Night

Our National Junior Honor Society hosted a very successful movie night this last Friday. We had over 140 students attend. NJHS sold snacks as part of a fund raiser that will go towards paying for our school’s chapter dues. Look out for another movie night in March where proceeds will go towards not only the chapter dues but also for an induction ceremony for last year’s and this year’s new NJHS members. Thank you to all who supported and to our NJHS sponsors, Mrs. Bryan and Mrs. Veatch! Thank you also to the teachers who volunteered their time to help including Mrs. Burrell, Mr. Omer, Mrs. Hanenberg, and Mr. Warman!

From “Cafeteria” to “Dining Room”

In an attempt to make eating at school more of a comfortable and enjoyable dining experience, we have begun making some changes with more changes to come as the year goes on and into next year. For starters, we no longer have a “cafeteria” we have a “dining room”! This month we started by reviewing “table manners” with the kids, things like: chewing with your mouth closed, not talking with your mouth full, and using a conversational tone of voice. We also have agreed that students will be responsible for cleaning up after themselves and wiping down the table when they’re done eating. To help monitor our table manners, we will now have 4 “hosts and hostesses” who will be in charge of complimenting students who are staying above the line at lunch and modeling good manners. These hosts get to sit at a VIP table and they have been charged with dismissing students out to recess as they see tables who are ready and who have demonstrated good manners throughout lunch. Hosting  will be a monthly job with new hosts and hostesses chosen at the beginning of each month. These students are people who have proven to be good role models and leaders in the dining room. Later, we will have a contest to name our dining room and next year we hope to make some aesthetic changes to make the space more inviting. Stay tuned!

The Fragile Generation (taken from an article by Skenazy& Haidt), continued, Part 2 of 4

playing

This is the second in a 4 part series. Last week we read about how today’s children are often protected resolving their own conflicts, participating in free play that is unsupervised by adults, or exploring the world on their own in an effort to keep them safe. But does this come at a cost? Are we protect our kids too much to the point that can’t succeed on their own?

Children on a Leash

If you’re over 40, chances are good that you had scads of free time as a child–after school, on weekends, over the summer. And chances are also good that, if you were asked about it now, you’d go on and on about playing in the woods and riding your bike until the streetlights came on. Today many kids are raised like veal. Only 13% of them even walk to school. Many who take the bus wait at the stop with parents beside them like bodyguards. For a while, Rhode Island was considering a bill that would prohibit children from getting off the bus in the afternoon if there wasn’t an adult waiting to walk them home. This would have applied until seventh grade.

As for summer frolicking, campers don’t just have to take a buddy with them wherever they go, including the bathroom. Some are now required to take two–one to stay with whoever gets hurt, the other to run and get a grown-up. Walking to the john is treated like climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.

After school, kids no longer come home with a latchkey and roam the neighborhood. Instead, they’re locked into organized, supervised activities. Even if parents want to shoo their kids outside–and don’t come home till dinner!–it’s not as easy as it once was. Often, there are not other children around to play with. Even more dishearteningly, adults who believe it’s good for young people to run some errands or play kickball down the street have think twice about letting them because many in society are primed to equate “unsupervised” with “neglected and in danger.”

You may remember the story of the family in Maryland, investigated twice for letting their kids, 10 and 6 walk home together from the park. Or the case in South Carolina, where a mom was thrown in jail for allowing her 9-year old to play at the sprinkler playground while she worked at McDonald’s. Or the 8-year old Ohio boy who was supposed to get on the bus to Sunday School, but snuck off to the Family Dollar store instead and his dad was arrested for child endangerment.

These examples represent a new outlook: the belief that anytime kids are doing anything on their own, they are automatically under threat. But that outlook is wrong. The crime rate in America is back down to what it was in 1963, which means that most of today’s parents grew up playing outside when it was more dangerous than it is today.

Danger Things

An yet is doesn’t feel safer. A 2010 study  found “kidnapping” to be the top parental fear, despite the fact that merely being a passenger in a car is far more dangerous. Nine kids were kidnapped and murdered by strangers in 2011, while 1,140 died in vehicles that same year.

The problem is that kids learn by doing. Trip over a tree stump and you learn to look down. There’s an old saying: Prepare your child for the path, not the path for your child. We’re doing the opposite.

Ironically, there are real health dangers in not walking, or biking, or hopping over that stump. A Johns Hopkins study this summer found that the typical 19-year old is as sedentary as a 65-year old. The Army is worried that its recruits don’t know how to skip or do somersaults.

But the cost of shielding kids from risks goes well beyond the physical, as a robust body of research has shown. More on that next week as our series continues…

Sip-n-Share

sip n share

Once again, thank you for reading and following my blog!

Kelly Albrecht, Principal

January 7, 2018~Welcome to a new year!

Obviously, school hasn’t been in session so I don’t have the regular kid and school happenings related post to share. However, I have recently been reading some things that are relevant to our school that I thought I would share with you. Today’s blog will start a 4 part series about resiliency taken from an article called “The Fragile Generation” by Lenore Skenazy and Jonathan Haidt.

playing

 

Part 1 of 4:

One day last year, a citizen on a prairie path in the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst came upon a teen boy chopping wood. Not a body. Just some already-fallen branches. Nonetheless, the onlooker called the cops.

Officers interrogated the boy, who said he was trying to build a fort for himself and his friends. A local news site reports the police then “took the tools for safekeeping to be returned to the boy’s parents.”

There was the query that ran in Parents magazine a few years back: “your child’s old enough to say home briefly, and often does. But is it okay to leave her and her playmate home while you dash to the dry cleaner?” Absolutely not, the magazine averred: “Take the kids with you, or save your errand for another time.” After all, “you want to make sure that no one’s feelings get too hurt if there’s a squabble.”

How often are children today allowed to ride their bikes all over town, come home when the streetlights come on, play with peers in and work out their own differences, take a risk–physically or academically-and perhaps learn from failure? These things are pretty rare these days.

The principle here is simple: This generation of kids must be protected like none other. They can’t use tools, they can’t ride their bikes too far or walk to school, and they can’t be expected to work through a spat with a friend.

Safety First

We’ve had the best of intention, of course. But efforts to protect our children may be backfiring. When we raise kids unaccustomed to facing anything on their own, including risk, failure, and hurt feelings, our society and even our economy are threatened. Yet modern child-rearing practices and laws seem all but designed to cultivate this lack of preparedness. There’s the fear that everything children see, do eat, hear, and lick could hurt them. How did we come to think a generation of kids can’t handle the basic challenges of growing up?

Beginning in the 80s, American childhood changed. For a variety of reasons–including shifts in parenting norms, new academic expectations, increased regulation, technological advances, and especially a heightened fear of abduction (missing kids on milk cartons made it feel as if this exceedingly rare crime was rampant)–children largely lost the experience of having large swaths of unsupervised time to play, explore, and resolve conflicts on their own. This has left them more fragile, more easily offended, and more reliant on others. They have been taught to seek authority figures to solve their problems and shield them from discomfort, a condition sociologists call “moral dependency.”

This poses a threat to the kinds of open-mindedness and flexibility young people need to thrive at college and beyond. If they arrive at school or start careers unaccustomed to frustration and misunderstandings, we can expect them to be hypersensitive and not able to perservere. And if they don’t develop the resources to work through obstacles, molehills come to look like mountains.

Parents, teachers, and employers are talking about the growing fragility they see. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the over-protection of children and over-involvement of parents trying to prevent their children from feeling  uncomfortable in any way has resulted in “too safe to succeed”.

Next week: Part 2 of 4

Thanks for reading! Kelly Albrecht, CES Principal