School ready

Back-To-School, School, Crayon

Parents can smooth the way back to school by helping students know what to expect in advance and being organized and orderly before school starts.

Going back to school creates a powerful mix of emotions. For ebullient extroverts and cautious introverts alike, from new students to those who did — and those who didn’t  — have a happy year last year, the youngest to the oldest, the bottom line is: will I know what to do to fit in and be successful? Ultimately, will I be safe? Continue reading “School ready”

Respect in the details, part 2 ~ Listening

Communication is key at all ages.

eastern

It occurs to me that the measure of authentic attention we pay to our young children when they try to tell us about their interests will be exactly how much they want to tell us when they become teenagers and young adults. That is, if we notice what they notice and actively listen to what they offer as children, they will keep offering their interests and stories as they grow, and will trust us enough to keep sharing later when we ask. Continue reading “Respect in the details, part 2 ~ Listening”

“I’m a bad boy.”

I was incredulous this week and, in an instant, so terribly sad when I asked the students in my class to write three things about themselves they wish every teacher knew about them. One student who has struggled with every kind of esteem and behavior issue in the book wrote on his card: I’m a bad boy.

Continue reading ““I’m a bad boy.””

Crying in the cart

woman picking out produce

Who hasn’t done it? – You’re tired, the kids are tired, but you need bread and bananas and wearily head to the store. The experience can either bring stress and sadness or build relationships. Here are tips for your trip, and a suggestion for the rest of us.

Continue reading “Crying in the cart”

Same seats ~ On settling in before stepping out

I began a short-term teaching assignment this week in five public school classes. I put the chairs in a circle and didn’t make seating charts so I could watch the students come in, choose their spots, make their alliances, and figure out the lay of the land in their own ways.

“Sit anywhere,” I said at the door on the first day. Continue reading “Same seats ~ On settling in before stepping out”

Children and money

IMG_2696At my, uh, advanced age, but with a young adult son, I happily live in two worlds of thought. One is my own old school experience and the other is Christopher’s up-to-the-minute know-how. Both worlds meet when I talk about children and money.

Continue reading “Children and money”

Keeping the bridge open

For my mother, being a mother was the greatest joy. It’s been the same for me since the day Christopher was born. I’d do this journey of love and discovery all again in heartbeat. ~Which is why, sitting in church together during his a brief visit home to gather up some things before moving across the country was so hard. I recalled holding him as a baby and then toddler while we bounced and sang, and sitting close with my arm around him as a growing child and youth. This Sunday, memories flooded in and out again as tears and we sat with his arm around me. Continue reading “Keeping the bridge open”

Start with one corner

 

Weather ~ a cool, cloudy, early summer morning

Wildlife ~ chipmunks, gray squirrels, and sparrows, cardinals, house finches, titmice, and one nuthatch 

Mood ~ content

I was the youngest in a family with short lifelines and I look forward to the day when we are together again. Until then, we are connected in memories that are surprisingly comforting. And helpful. ~Such as when I haven’t done the dishes for a couple days and I can’t actually see the counters. “Start with one corner,” my mother used to say of spring cleaning. Or even cleaning my room.

Turns out, that works for all big projects and all ages.

Does your child have a long math worksheet? A room to tidy? Term paper? Divide it into smaller projects with clear stopping points and meaningful rewards after each — the younger the child, the smaller the parts. You’ll be teaching time management, self discipline and the power of earned rewards.

Special education aides know the value of dividing worksheets into rows, or columns, or blocks, or setting a timer for the required amount of attention. A small reward of time spent doing a more pleasurable activity follows the completion of each chunk of work.

For anyone with a short attention span, a tendency to procrastinate for fear of failure, or simple dislike for the job at hand, focusing on smaller pieces transforms what can feel like a life sentence into manageable steps. Then success builds on success. I’ve come to approach just about every project this way from complex magazine assignments to cleaning the garage.

What is that daunting project for you today? The household budget? FAFSA paperwork for your student’s college applications? Making Halloween costumes? Sorting and donating unused items in storage? Cleaning the car?

Above all, begin. Start with one page, one corner, or just clear off a workspace and gather the needed materials. Set a timer if that helps, then give the task your full attention, accomplish your first goal, establish a time to do more, then do something fun. You will have earned it!

 

The power of positive … speaking

Out the window …

Weather ~ a cool, clear, sunny summer morning

Wildlife ~ the usual ground crowd of gray and fox squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits, with a few cardinals, sparrows, and one chickadee by 8 a.m.

Mood ~ quietly optimistic

                                                             ~ ~ ~

“We have to be so careful with our words,” my sweet older brother said to me years ago. And so began a conversation to mend a hurt feeling from a simple misunderstanding.

There have been many such moments in the years since, with others in the family, co-workers and, worst, with children. Children start life open and tender, and these casual moments of distraction and hurt from trusted adults dent them, close them, train them. We can all do better. I can do better.

The Virtues Project www.virtuesproject.com is an excellent resource for teachers, families, and friends alike. It teaches the importance of, well, speaking grace.

It’s a simple, if not easy, concept, starting with the difference between praise and encouragement. Praise judges — “I like your drawing,” “You look nice.” Encouragement values and affirms — “You finished the whole thing,” “You made your friend feel welcome.” This is where naming the virtues comes in.

Virtues are positive character traits, such as gentleness, enthusiasm, honesty, courage, and more. We can speak criticism – “You’re so stubborn!,” or we can affirm each other and, in the process, start to see each other more positively too – as in, “I appreciate your determination.”

 Is your child taking too long to get dressed, in clothes you don’t prefer? Will you say “Hurry up or I’m leaving you!,” or “I appreciate how you are taking care getting dressed. I do want us to leave on time. Is there something I can do to help?” You’ll both leave whole and calm, no dents.

Extra credit: Try speaking the virtues to yourself. There’s grace for you too.