Take Some Time to Think About Emotional Intelligence
It may seem odd hearing this from a school, but in the midst of worrying about our children’s academic success, it’s easy to lose sight of their emotional development. However, a child’s emotional intelligence is every bit as important as “school work.” Kids with a high emotional intelligence have shown mastery of responsibility, resilience, and respect.
That means these kids know how to cope. Since they’ve developed more coping skills, these kids are more able to control their emotions and behavior when things don’t go their way. This in turn makes them happier, more self-confident, and more respectful of others. While that make things easy at home or the mall, so what, right? Well, not surprisingly, students with a high EQ (or emotional quotient) tend to do better in school. They pay attention, easily take in information, stay motivated, and get along with teachers and classmates—I know, right…Whoa…
Ok, ok, so at first I thought “this just a matter of inborn temperament.” Well that may be for some that they just learn earlier how to deal with their emotions, but research shows emotional intelligence can be taught. And that simple activities can enhance everyone’s emotional IQ. Not only in school, but as a parent, you can teach your kid to handle challenging emotions like anger, sadness, and frustration. From books and toys to family games, here are some creative ways I have come across to help your child become an EQ whiz kid.
Ask your child “What would you do if …?”
During family car rides or as conversation starters at the dinner table, the “What would you do if …?” game gets kids thinking about ways to respond to different situations. Ask questions that encourage your child to behave with more emotional smarts: “What would you do if you saw someone grab a toy away from your friend? Or if I blamed you for something you didn’t do? Or if your brother hit you for no reason?”
Asking these questions when emotions aren’t running high gives your child a chance to come up with ideas on how to best respond — and for you to offer some ideas of your own. Since you can tailor questions to fit your child’s age, this works for young and older kids alike.
Get a toy with feelings inside
Kimochis are plush toys designed to teach kids, ages 4 to 9, how to express their feelings in a safe and playful way. (“Kimochi” means “feeling” in Japanese.) Stuffies, priced at $24 each, are colorful characters like Cloud (who is moody), Pat (bossy), and Bug (shy). Along with your stuffy, you get three small pillows representing feelings — such as happy, angry, scared, or frustrated — that can be tucked in its front pocket, plus a how-to “Feel Guide” with ideas for games to teach children about difficult emotions.
Don’t tell the kids, but books and movies don’t have to be just about entertainment. Reading books and watching movies with children present ideal opportunities to talk about emotions and behavior. When reading together, ask your child, “What do you think he’s feeling?” Talk about a character’s motive and intention. “Why do you think he did that?” I know that personally I think my kids understand the underlying emotions and actions of movies because I do, but I forget that I am an adult and have the benefit of some (I won’t say many) years of experience and learning to get emotional intelligence I have. Sometimes when I ask them questions about the movie, their answers are sometimes strange and disconnected—then I know they didn’t understand and that opens up a dialogue about why things in the movie happened.
Experts agree that after watching a movie together, ask your child why a character was angry, frustrated, sad, excited. These conversations all present an opportunity to expand what “emotional literacy,” so that children get used to talking about why people behave the way they do and how they might have responded differently. What’s more, doing this with make-believe characters makes it that much easier for kids to be emotionally fluent when talking about their own emotions — which is the whole idea.
Read it with feeling
Of course there are always the old stand bys—books. There are so many now a days that cater to emotions and teaching lessons that the list itself would go on forever. One of my favorites is When Sophie Gets Angry — Really, Really Angry. As happens with many children, Sophie’s anger is too much for her and her family: She rages, kicks, and screams. To find her way out of her overwhelming emotions, Sophie takes time to be alone and calm down, then returns to her family more cheerful and encouraged—A great way to teach your child self-discipline (without the lecture).
Do-Overs—Not just for the Playground
Admit it. When parents—and kids— get angry enough, they yell and throw tantrums. Angry outbursts make everyone in the family feel terrible and usually solve nothing. Childhood communication and social skills experts agree that all family members should be allowed a “do-over.” If you say something mean, you can stop, say “Wow that came out really mean, I’m gonna do that over. What I meant to say was…” Having tried that myself recently, I have to say that it really does work.
Kids and Cell Phones
OK, so I have this really good friend who has a dilemma…She is considering getting her child with a learning disability a cell phone. However, she tells me she is conflicted. Logically, her brain screams, “What the heck are you thinking?!” But her daughter really wants one, and my friend wants to give her child all the advantages she can. And that brings up a good point…At what age should children be given more freedom and responsibility like a cell phone. As a mom myself and an educator, my immediate answer is, “It depends on each individual child,” which can sound like a cop-out. But cop-outs aside, there are some general issues to consider—most noticeably, the security of our children and the cost of the phone and plan. Finally, on a less general issue, we as parents have to understand the abilities and needs of our own children.
I remember the days before cell phones, do you? Pay phones, rotary phones, and if you were wealthy enough, a car phone with a big brief case battery that had to be carried around. I think to myself, how did we do it? I remember…We didn’t have to get a hold of people instantaneously. We waited until they were home. We called the office. We looked for pay phones. Was that so bad? No. The problem is that children today don’t remember that. They have always lived in a world with the internet and instant access to information and to people. Is it conveniently? Absolutely! Is it dangerous? Absolutely! Is it necessary? Well, if I am honest, yes, sometimes. So what is my friend to do?
I did some looking and I found that cell phone companies are now marketing to ever younger children. They now include features on these “kid-friendly” cell phones that are designed to make parents feel still in control of their child and safety. Some phones have a PIN number to enter the phone numbers that the child will be able to call, thereby eliminating the ability of the user to call numbers that are not already programmed into the phone. This is a great feature if you want your child to be able to only call you or another family member, if perhaps you worry about where they are during the day and if they got to a location safely. My friend loves this feature because it allows her to give her daughter increasing responsibility and freedom, and peace of mind for mom since my friend’s daughter calls her mom whenever she arrives at her destination.
Another feature of the kid friendly phones is the GPS tracking service. Parents can use this to instantly know the whereabouts of the phone, and in theory, the user who has the phone.
Cameras on phones may seem like an unneeded luxury, but consider this. Authorities say that there have been reported instances when potential abductors have been scared away when the children tried to take their pictures.
Ok, so those are all good things. Now for the not so great. The cost. Phones can be expensive, especially if you don’t pick the right plan and go over your minutes. Small charges for text messages seem harmless, but just ask my other friend who got a bill charging her son’s phone for the roughly 15,000 text messages he sent last month! Yes, really! Try a plan that has pay as you go minutes. Once they are done. They can’t use that service anymore—at least until someone buys them more minutes. Another con—access to instant data—I mean the internet. It is really hard to monitor where children go on the internet if they have unlimited, instant access to it. As we all know, too much of a good thing…If our children have instant access to the internet, then predators have instant access to them. For a parent, that is frightening!
Here are some companies that offer kid friendly phones and what they offer. There may be more, so a search on the internet or trip to the cell phone store may provide more options.
1. The Firefly offers:
• “Mom” and “Dad” speed-dial keys
• A parent-programmed, PIN-protected phone list
• A 911 button for emergency calls
• Coverage is available in certain parts of the country only
2. The Wherifone comes with:
• A Global Positioning System to track the position of your child 24/7
• An “SOS” button
• Five pre-programmable dialing buttons so that parents can control costs
3. Other kiddie cell phones include:
• The Verizon Migo, which has a simple keypad and a compact design for small hands
• The TicTalk, which comes with five Leapfrog learning games
Ok, so I don’t know yet what my friend decided for her daughter, but I know that we can’t stop our children from growing up. Stifling the process of maturation only leads to rebellion, secrets and heartache. So why fight it? Maybe the focus should be less on having a phone and more on how to have one responsibly.
That’s all for now!
Kids and Sleep…Get Your Zzzzzzzzz…
As an educator and caring parent, I thought I was well aware of how important sleep is to my students and my child and even me for the next day. Many a day I can remember dragging myself out of bed and hearing my child complain about having to get up and go to school. But honestly, the reality of today’s hectic life style often cuts into quality time, including sleep. As I said, while I know it is important, I had no idea about how important sleep, or the lack of it, actually is. Lack of sleep by children is a national epidemic with far-reaching, serious consequences. Sleep deprivation can affect cognitive skills and academic achievement. A continuing lack of sleep is linked to serious health problems including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, depression and a shortened life span. When I heard this I thought, “Wow! This is something people need to know.” But why is such an issue now? What happened?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, children ages 5 to 12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep. Yet studies show that most kids are getting about an hour less sleep each night than they did 30 years ago. This is because extracurricular activities, such as sports teams and arts programs, may schedule events at night. Working parents who get home late may feel guilty and want to spend time with their children in the evening. Homework requirements and the many distractions of television, video games and computers all play a role. In addition, all the pressures and stresses of today’s frantic lifestyles may make it difficult for kids to calm down so they can fall asleep.
Many of us think we can “catch up” on our sleep on the weekend, according to the Mayo Clinic; our bodies aren’t wired that way. We can’t “catch up” on sleep, it only causes us to be irritable, and it disrupts our biological clock! Further, as any parent will tell you, allowing your child to have a different sleep schedule on the weekend may cause difficulties getting up on Monday.
So what are we to do? Get more sleep, obviously. As a working mom, I know it’s hard; but we have to make sleep a priority. Our children’s health depends on it. According to the University of Michigan, 20 to 25 % of kids with ADHD have sleep disorders. They further state that parents need to make the distinction between, “My child doesn’t need that much sleep,” from, “My child can’t sleep.” Look for these signs: behavior problems, inability to focus or pay attention, a child who’s getting sick a lot, or craving carbohydrates. These could indicate a sleep disorder and exhaustion.
Just as we teach kids to transition from one activity to the next in school, we need to apply that same structure to bed time routines. I read somewhere that it is like landing a jumbo jet, which I admit I have never done, but even I know that you don’t just “land a plane.” There is a whole process of shutting down and preparing to land. The same can be said of bed time. Spending 20 minutes with your child before bedtime in a soothing activity, such as reading, quietly catching up on the day’s activities, or telling stories, can help provide the calm that will help your child transition to going to sleep. Adjusting the routine, depending on your child’s mood and needs, (just as the pilot adjusts the plane’s landing pattern depending on the weather) will help, too. Some days kids just need a little more connection and attention.
Well, that is all for now. I am planning my nap……
Preparing Your Child for a Successful Academic Year
Whether we like it or not, that time of the year has come. We may be faced with a child that is happy to be going back to school, or one that needs to be dragged into the new year kicking and screaming. No matter how our children may feel about the beginning of the school year, one thing is certain—it’s here.
Transitioning from a fun-filled summer into days filled with structure and perhaps high anxiety situations is difficult for any child, but for a child with a disability it can be even more stressful. Never fear, however; these simple steps can help ease the transition into the school year and help make your child more happy and successful during this upcoming school year.
#1 School Changes:
Make sure you discuss with your child any changes that they may face, or that you may feel will cause them anxiety. A new location, new teacher, loss of friends all can be weighty issues that children with disabilities can find difficult to deal with. Discussing positive aspects of these changes can refocus your child’s energies to new areas and make their transition go more smoothly. Sometimes meeting new teachers, or visiting the new location can also allow the child to feel more comfortable. For younger children, taking a small item from home that helps ease anxiety is a good tool also, just be sure to ok it with the teacher first.
#2 Health, Diet and Exercise:
We all know the importance of routine. If your child has changed schools or is just feeling elevated levels of anxiety or stress because of the new school year, a consistent routine will go a long way to helping them feel more secure. Make sure you set a bed time and stick to it. Older children can be given more say for their bed time scheduling, but they too need their sleep—and so do you!
We’ve all been there…Where did the day go? Suddenly having to consider dinner is just too much. The alternative however, of making a quick stop for fast food on the way home has many far-reaching effects on both your child’s health and the behaviors they learn from watching you. Consider using part of your weekend to plan more healthy meals or using a slow cooker to do the work for you when you aren’t home during the week. In the long run, you will feel less guilty, save money, and teach good eating habits to your child.
Having your child get enough exercise during the school year can be a challenge with all the commitments that can be part of their school schedule, but it is well worth the effort. And for children that seem to have energy in spades, it helps to work out extra energy, but it also helps to keep them on the road to good health! Simple healthy additions to your daily routine are an easy way for a family to meet your child’s recommended exercise requirements. Try playing with a pet or going for a walk.
Staying organized can also help your child be less stressed and anxious for the new school year. Clear away a special area in your house for your child’s book bag, lunchbox, and jacket. Establish a routine that puts your child in charge of clearing out and hanging up the backpack each day. This will make the morning rush a little less hectic. Also consider having a special place for doing homework. It should be well lit with minimal distractions to promote concentration and good work habits.
#4 School and Homework:
It is your child’s “job” to go to school. It is your job, as a parent, to work both inside and outside the home environment. As with every job, there are certain expectations, and if they are not met, there are consequences. Let your child know from the beginning what is expected of him or her. Plan study time with a schedule and make sure you look ahead to see what is coming up.
Finally, keep communication open with your child’s teacher. Encourage your child to talk to their teacher. If your child needs help on how to ask something, rehearse it with them. Enabling your child can be a powerful thing. If you prefer, make an appointment to talk to your child’s teacher yourself. Problem solve with your child. This is a life-long skill that can be “taught” at a very young age. Practice with your child. All of these suggestions can be applied to every stage in a child’s academic career. They help them to become independent and self-confident.
With just a little thought and preparation, you and your child can welcome them new school year with smiles and excitement instead of tears and fears!
Well, it’s the first Monday since school has let out for the summer. Now it’s time to get down to the business of school. During the school year, we as teachers sing, dance, wipe tears and noses, read, write, love, count, encourage, motivate, and sympathize with our students. I love spending the time with students during the school year. But the business side of what we do is also very important. Many students and parents have asked me what I will do for “Summer Vacation.” So for those who think that principals get the summer off, let me make my to-do list for you. =)
1. Update website
2. Hire and Train Staff
3. Remodel new Administrative Building (paint, move furniture)
4. Remodel new classrooms (move furniture)
5. Write grants
7. Redo the budget based on the new cuts from the state
8. Form Advisory Board
9. Double check class lists
10. Make schedules for all classes: sensory room, PE, lunch, middle/high (all 4 programs)
11. Distribute resources to all new classrooms
12. Inventory resources/furniture
13. Update contact information
14. Schedule and meet with all parents
15. I am sure I will add more to this list tomorrow!!
So if anything on my list appeals to you, I could use volunteers to help with most of these things!! But please know that we are not sitting by the pool all summer, sadly, but planning for your child’s success! (OK so maybe we will spend a little time by the pool!!) And we love it!
Tomorrow, the Fl legislature votes on the education budget for next year. Twenty years ago, a professor told us that because children and the elderly don’t vote, they will always get the shaft. The Congressmen paid by our taxes, who voted that they can receive funds directly from lobbyists, and gave themselves a raise, cut $556.04 per child from the budget. Apparently, schools should do more with less. That figure is only accurate for Polk County as every district receives funding based on a complicated formula. In fact, large textbooks are required to explain the Florida Educational Finance Program, FEFP. It is all terribly complicated and forgive the editorial here, but if it were straightforward and easy to understand, the lunacy would not be tolerated.
Tomorrow at 10:16pm, the legislature will vote to approve the education budget. That time is important because it was hotly debated. There is a 72 hour “cooling off” period between the draft of the budget and the vote. This is the last week they are in session. And it’s one of the last things they will do.
They did manage to take a step forward by passing a change in the McKay law to include students with a 504 plan. But the funding received for a McKay is about 75% of the total funding public schools receive for total FTE. My concern is that a 504 student will not generate enough funds to provide them with a specialized education. But to quote Mark Kamleiter, a special education attorney, “It’s a step in the right direction.”
The first week in May is the time that we do McKay reenrollments. If you receive an email regarding registration, don't panic! You don't have to do anything further unless I contact you! Our first year, I finished all this in about 30 minutes. I have spent over 6 hours already getting info updated and adding new students. It is so unbelievable to me that we will top 100 next year!! From our lowly beginnings of 22…. I have to tell you that not many businesses see that kind of increase… And we are so much more than a business. We are a family!
As far as school activities, Prom is on Saturday, May 21 from 7:00-9:00pm. If you are available to help decorate on that Friday, we could use your help!
The next Family Night will be June 2 at 6:00pm, and we will have presentations by the Middle/High School from World Cultures Studies, as well as songs from the elementary classes. It will also be the Awards Night, so please plan to attend.
This year has gone by so fast. It has been a year full of learning, growth, and making friends. I am so thankful for all of you parents who are proactive, open-minded problem solvers! I am almost sad summer is coming!
In 2009, a vision became reality… The doors of The Monarch School opened to invite students into it’s cocoon. With 22 students on the roster, we walked forward with the motto: We do what’s best for kids! By Christmas, we were at 42, nearly out of room in our little building at Chapel in the Grove. Today, in it’s second school year, we have moved to Lakeside Baptist Church and occupy three times the amount of space as the first year.
We were recently featured in The Lakeland Ledger (http://www.theledger.com/article/20101121/NEWS/101129940) The article, written by The Ledger’s Gary White, was very favorable and we were very pleased with his description of our work.
I know that there are many purposes to a blog, and this blog is reflective of the school. But we are all human and part of the team that makes it work. So I will also be exploring ideas that arise, things that occur to me, lessons I learn in the process, and the successes, big and small, of the entire family: students, teachers, parents, others… I am thankful for this outlet and hope that I am able to be a good steward and bring you things that will help you in understanding not only your own child, but the “why” behind my approaches, and ultimately help me with your comments! We are making this up as we go along! No single approach works for everyone every time. So hang in there with me through this ride! It’s already been a wild one, and I know it’s only getting more exciting from here!
I hope everyone had a very happy Thanksgiving! If you are a Black Friday shopper, good luck!!