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Parent Communications: The Magic and Power of the Re-Do!

Sometimes it’s fun to be a parent, I love when I get to challenge my boys and make them think a bit harder to get what they want. One evening they came barreling through the door, speaking with raised voices and saying, “You’re probably going to say, no!”

Oh goodie, I was going to have fun with this one. “Hmm…” I said, “It looks like you did the thinking for me, so… it’s no!” Let the stuttering begin. Teehee!

“Let’s talk about your delivery,” I continued. “How do you think I felt when you came barreling through the door, talking to me with raised voices. Then telling me what I was thinking before you gave me a chance to come up with my own answer?”

So, I asked them if they would like to try again with lowered voices and entering more quietly. I sent them out to try again. They got the voices and execution down but again they said, “you’re probably going to say no.” Again, they had missed the mark, so, the coaching hat went back on. The third time was a charm, In respectful voices they asked “can we go back to the Jones house so we can have pizza, play games, and watch a movie.” We didn’t have anything going on that evening, so it was an easy “yes.”

I have been using this strategy of the re-do or the do-over for years. Who knew it was actually based on science? In the book, The Connected Child, Karyn B. Purvis, PhD., David R Cross, PhD, and Wendy Lyons Simmons discuss the power of the re-do strategy. The Re-Do is especially effective with kids with more complex backgrounds and challenges. The Re-Do gives all kids the opportunity to practice “new behavior in a fun and playful way while building self-esteem through success.”[1]

Not only does it provide your child the opportunity to practice and develop new skills, it also helps activate their motor memory. You are catching them in the moment when things are starting to go off the rails, e.g., inappropriate behavior. When you show them and coach them, and have them practice what the appropriate behavior looks like, you are “encoding competency.” “A Re-Do “erases” the muscle memory of the failed behavior and gives the child the physical and emotional experience of substituting a successful one in its place.”[2]

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to redirect the train so your kids can learn what is expected of them and how to achieve it? With kids for whom self-regulation is a big challenge, this is a nice strategy that will give them the opportunity to correct themselves and learn. I have also found it a very empowering parenting tool. I don’t feel like I am helplessly sitting there watching the train wreck. Instead, I can redirect, and teach which enhances my relationship with my kids and turns the situation into a win-win scenario. Are you ready to test out the Re-Do?

 

[1] [1] Karyn Purvis, PhD., David R Cross, PhD.. and Wendy Lyons Sunshine The Connected Child (McGraw Hill Books, 2017) 97.

[2] [2] Karyn Purvis, PhD., David R Cross, PhD.. and Wendy Lyons Sunshine The Connected Child (McGraw Hill Books, 2017) 98.

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Your Kids & House Plants They Both Have Feelings!

In the 1960’s, Cleve Backster, a retired CIA agent, and the inventor of the polygraph was sitting in his office. He wondered if plants have feelings? He connected his polygraph to his office plant. Then, he proceeded to shower his green leafed companion with both positive and negative thoughts. The plant reacted. The polygraph detected electrical impulses from the plant like that of humans. Later, he proceeded to test all kinds of plants to see if they would have similar reactions. If this story seems too ludicrous for you, check out this youtube from Myth Busters.

If plants are reacting to our thoughts, what happens to our kids when they consistently hear what they are doing wrong instead of what they do right?  Acknowledging and reinforcing the good our kids do is just as important as correcting the not so good.

So where do you start?

Here’s a simple exercise to help get you started. Put 10 pennies in one pocket. Every time you catch your kids doing something right, no matter how small, provide them with some specific praise. When you’ve done this, move one of the pennies to the other pocket. At the end of the day, count how many pennies are in the opposite pocket? If the majority of the pennies haven’t moved to the other side of your pants, “Houston we have a problem.”

Why does positive reinforcement work? Research shows that genuine encouragement reduces a child’s stress levels and creates a safe environment where learning can take place.[1]

So take the time to find opportunities to catch your kids doing something right and show your appreciation. By focusing on what the child is doing right you are increasing the likelihood the behavior you are looking for will be repeated. Experiment for a week and see if your kids’ behavior changes over time. And if you are so inclined, whisper sweet nothings to your house plant and see if it grows a little faster or seems a bit fuller.

 

 

[1] Karyn Purvis, PhD., David R Cross, PhD.. and Wendy Lyons Sunshine The Connected Child (McGraw Hill Books, 2017) 146.

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What does it mean to be “done done?” (Getting kids to finish tasks)

Ugh! Yet again I am greeted with my teenager’s glass in the sink crusted with his morning protein shake and a blender with protein goo floating in it. Yes, I am pleased that my teenager is taking an active interest in his health as he is determined to put on muscle weight. At the same time, I grow weary of the evidence of his efforts.

My teen is like an absent-minded professor and I am determined not to clean up after him. Taking care of their dirty dishes and empty cereal boxes would be easy, but I am not training them toward their future adult selves if I take on this task. It is time to teach him one of my favorite strategies, “Done Done.”

I learned this strategy from a Cognitive Connection training session with Sarah Ward and Kristin Jacobs from their “Get Ready, Do, Done and Get Done” Process. The memorable phrase “Done Done” is an evolution of “Get Done.” I have used this strategy with everyone from youths to business owners.

The basic idea is that while there are multiple steps for any task, most of us think of it as a three-phase process:

  1. Get Ready:
    1. Identify the tools or things you need to do the required task
    2. Figure out what you have to do
  2. Do:
    1. Do the task
  3. Done:
    1. Complete the task

But there is also a magical fourth step — being “Done Done.”

What does it mean to be “Done Done?”

Does being done with breakfast just mean you have finished eating your bowl of cereal? Are you really done when you complete your math worksheet? For adults, are you really done with a meeting when the time is up? The answer to all of these questions is NO. There are still multiple steps to complete until you are actually “Done Done.”

For example, how did I have the conversation about being “Done Done” with respect to his shake? First, I mentioned that I liked seeing him take an active role in his health and well-being by drinking these protein shakes. I then described how part of my job is to teach him what it means to be “done done” with a task.  I also briefly asked him to consider the consequence of not completing the task: dealing with flies, mold, and the longer amount of time it would take to clean up later. Next, we went through the steps of cleaning out the blender and where to set it out to dry, and the need to rinse out the glass and put it in the dishwasher.

What could “done done” look like for your preteens?

Since school is right around the corner, let’s consider what it means to be “done done” with homework. Often, kids who struggle with executive function are notorious for leaving their completed homework at home or forgetting to turn it in all together.

The worksheet has been completed but there are still a few more steps.

Where does the worksheet go? Homework folder? Subject binder? Next we need to put the binder back into the back pack. For those kiddos who forget to turn in the homework, you can use bright sticky notes to remind them. Another idea I just learned is have different colored rubber bands which correlate to their different subjects. If the bands are on the right wrist the assignments in those subjects still need to be turned in. But when the assignments have been turned in the bands can be moved to the left wrist or put on a carbineer that’s attached to a backpack. So the kids are “done done” only when the band has been transferred.

For the little ones

For your little kids you can really have some fun with teaching the final steps of what it means to be “done done” with toys. Let your creative juices flow.

Remember, first we have to teach them what has to be done. Then, we need to do the steps with them and after that, let them do it independently — while we stand nearby. Eventually, we can give verbal reminders like, “do you remember what to do when you are done with your toys?” Even better, we can add visual cues. Here are a couple ideas about what that can look like:

  • A photo (or drawing) of your child playing with their toys
  • A second photo/drawing of them putting away the toys
  • The final photo/drawing of what it looks like when all the toys are neatly put away.

Now you can point to the pictures and they have a reference point. You could have their favorite stuffed animal participate and be the supervisor featured in every picture.

Perspective

It’s important to consider where you are starting from. You are looking for the small victories, and a willingness to make an effort, no matter how small. As parents, you will have to work extra hard to find the half full side of the glass, especially on those days where you are tired and exhausted. Trust me, I too have to remember this every day.

At the end of the day, your kids need some positive reinforcement to continue to make progress versus never feeling like anything is good enough.

Being a parent is about teaching, training and coaching through the process. Learning does not happen by accident. It requires understanding and a whole lot of practice, learning to do it poorly and building from there. We all started getting things “done done” somewhere.

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The Counter-Intuitive Turtle

I was cruising down a two-lane road on my bike one Friday evening and noticed a little turtle on the side to my right. The little critter was determined to cross the road. There was plenty of traffic and trucks thundering down the road so I decided to do a U-turn and intervene. Every critter counts after all, and I knew the odds were against this one surviving the precarious crossing. I would later learn from my friend Cameron Young, a local snake and reptile conservationist and executive director of The Nature Lab, that my little friend was a female paint turtle. Moving forward, I’ll call her Betsy.

I approached Betsy after carefully laying down my bike and waddling like a penguin over in my bike shoes to pick her up. She began to hide in her shell, which is what I was expecting. As I reached down she made a run for it. I was shocked. Turtles aren’t supposed to run! I thought of walking away and letting her fend for herself but instead, I ran after her which is no easy task in bike shoes. I leaned into my determination and grabbed onto Betsy and was astonished as her little legs frantically kicked against the air and her nails scraped against my fingers. We were off, as I awkwardly walked her across the busy road. When I let her go far from harms way, I realized the rest was out of my control and hoped I had done the right thing. But I knew my buddy Cameron would set me straight.

First, Cameron popped my bubble that turtles hide in their shell when confronted by danger. He told me that turtles, or at least the paint variety, often run. The better news, though, was that I had done the right thing. Saving Betsy was crucial. Based on the time of day, she was most likely off to nest and lay her eggs.  With such low survival rates for baby turtles, it is essential to help female adult turtles keep on laying eggs so we can maintain a diverse eco-system.

Even though I had thought Betsy was behaving counterintuitively when she ran, she was just reacting based on instinct. Ironically, I was the one who had reacted counterintuitively by holding on and by being so determined to see her safely across the road even though she had protested my actions.

 

But, sometimes, there is value in being counterintuitive.

 

In Tyler Durman’s 2015 book, Counterintuitive, he talks about how teenagers aren’t finished on the inside and how it takes a lot of “counterintuitive” reasoning to love and raise a teenager well.

For example, our job as parents is to provide safety and guidance even when our teenagers want more freedom. Most teenagers are not ready for total freedom, as “they’re not done on the inside.”  Teenagers, Durman says, “look to the behavior of the adults in their life to provide reassurance that everything is going to be okay. When the inner conflict between their desire for independence and their need to feel safe confuses parents, teenagers feel more fear, which can lead to anger and a new kind of testing.”

He also discusses how teenagers, “don’t test to win.” When your teen tests you and you’re passive, it is proof that your teen is more powerful than you. Teens fear this discovery. Tyler tells the story of going to check a single-wall construction house to ensure it wasn’t infested with termites. He walked around the structure pushing at it with a mallet because he wanted to ensure the walls were stronger then he was.  “[Teens] are not testing us because they want us to give in,” he says. “They’re testing because their deeper need is to find reassurance we won’t.” By providing clear boundaries you are providing your teens with security knowing that the walls are solid.

In my house there are no phones in the bedrooms. If a phone mysteriously finds its way upstairs, the kids lose the phone the next day. I have heard all the excuses: “I had to show my brother something and I forgot to bring it down. I swear I wasn’t on it.” I do twinge with a moment of weakness but then I remember that this rule is one of our non-negotiables. I simply say, “Our rule is no phones in the bedroom so please hand me your phone and you can try again tomorrow.” All teenagers long for the adults in their lives to stand behind the things they say with consistent strength. And when we do, they will respect us, even when they disagree with our standards.

When your kids push, they need you to stand and lean into your core values and stay consistent with your non-negotiables. I was determined to get Betsy across the road even though her little legs were battering against my fingers. I stayed true to my value of protecting nature and doing my best to make a positive impact even though Betsy would never say thank you.

But sticking by your teens as they bang and push the walls to make sure you are stronger than they are is not an easy task. Modeling vulnerability, dealing with failure, and communicating with your teen is a big part of getting them to the other side of the busy street.  Share your imperfections, your weaknesses and be willing to say things like: “I’m sorry.” Or, “I blew it.”

One of the greatest challenges is to let go and trust our kids to make good decisions.  .  “Like the rest of us, teenagers need a safe place to run when they fail,” Durman says. “They will run somewhere, and the way the adults in their lives respond to failure will determine if they run towards us or away from us.”  A big part of your teens’ development is the ability to make mistakes and learn from them and know that this process is just part of life. Parents make mistakes and learn from them too so don’t be afraid to model this behavior for your teens. It’s about taking ownership of the good, the great, and the not-so-pretty.

Keep being an imperfect human and do the best you can for your kids while you love them through their tweens and teen years. Parenting is a constant evolution and takes patience and time. Their future 30-year-old selves will thank you.

 

 

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Turn off those devices: Why you should listen with your eyes

Have you ever heard the same story twice in one day? I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, The Go-Giver with Bob Burg, and he was interviewing Motivational Keynote Speaker and Author Neen James. She proceeded to tell a story about how a five-year-old child can remind us how life really should work. Later, that very same day, as I attended the annual Rocky Mountain Project Management Symposium, I heard the story again when I sat in her session at the conference. I decided the repetition was a sign. I needed to pay attention.

Insight from a 5-year-old

Neen James was sitting with a next-door neighbor chatting over some coffee. Her neighbor’s 5-year-old son, Donovan, kept interrupting their conversation with a string of questions. Finally, he became so frustrated with Neen’s lack luster answers, he put Neen’s face in his hands and told her to, “listen with your eyes!”

Sometimes the greatest wisdom comes from a five year old. “To listen with our eyes” is to listen actively, which means focusing on the other person and what they have to say. We all want to be heard, and that means we also need to be active listeners.

Our reality

In today’s world, we are inundated with distractions from numerous devices. I’m not telling you anything new here. Your kids are the iGen, the generation growing up with devices.

When I’m speaking with my kids and they are on a device or playing video games, I know they aren’t hearing anything I’m saying. The same goes for my husband when we try to talk while he’s on his iPad. Bottom line is that dividing our attention between those we’re with and our little distraction pods is disrespectful.

It’s not just 5-year-olds and parents disgruntled by the lack of attention. In Dr. Jenny M, Twenge’s book iGen, she interviews a 13-year-old teen named Athena, who complains about the negative impact of friends who pay too much attention to their phones when they are hanging out with her. Dr. Twenge asks how it makes her feel “when you’re trying to talk to somebody face-to-face and they’re not looking at you?” (p. 298) Athena’s response says a lot:

It kind of hurts… It hurts. I know my parent’s generation didn’t do that. I could be trying to talk about something super important to me, and they won’t even be listening. (p. 289)

So, what can be done about devices?

Here is what we do in my house:  NO DEVICES WHEN IT’S TIME TO TALK…PERIOD.  When one of us has a question or wants to share, we put our devices down.  When it’s time to eat a meal at the table, devices are in another room.  With the distractions gone and eye contact made, let the conversation begin!

The Benefits!

What has been the payoff from implementing these practices? I know my husband and I are demonstrating and fundamental life skills along with modeling what active listening looks like. If I think about how am I going to get my kids ready for the world, it’s doing everything I can to develop and support good communications skills. Teach your kids to listen with their eyes and you’ll be amazed at the improvement in your relationship. Here’s the thing though, it only works if we do it too.

The point of all this is that my husband and I want to provide a place where our kids can celebrate success and share when things aren’t going well. This is an ongoing challenge for all families. But the gateway to this connection is to take the advice of a 5-year-old and, “listen with your eyes!”

 

Hyperlinks:

The Go-Giver Podcast with Bob Burg https://thegogiver.com/2018/04/109-attention-revolution-neen-james/

PMI Symposium http://pmimilehi.org/content.php?page=Symposium

Listen with your eyes https://neenjames.com/pay-attention-listening/

IGen – https://www.amazon.com/iGen-Super-Connected-Rebellious-Happy-Adulthood/dp/1501151983/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1524338626&sr=8-1&keywords=igen+twenge

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Stuck in the muck? Getting started is sometimes easier said than done.

A big question parents often ask themselves is, ‘why can’t my kid just get started?’ This query causes a lot of angst and frustration in many homes and classrooms. Unfortunately for some of your kids, getting started is hard and can be more complicated than we think. The challenge for us adults is not to pass judgment on our kids’ inability to get started and to assume they are being lazy or defiant. Instead, it’s our job to look past the behavior and figure out why they cannot start.

I remember when my youngest was in 4th or 5th grade and he was sitting at the kitchen table just staring at his work. I looked at him and wondered what was going on. He’s a good kid, I reminded myself. I knew he didn’t want to be spending hours upon hours on his homework. So, I came to learn task initiation was a struggle for him. He had the best of intentions but just couldn’t get started. So, I found resources to help — both books and amazing experts who offered me some great guidance.

 

Here are some ideas I learned that might help you, too:

Transitions from one task to another may be more difficult for certain kids. Be mindful about what they are transitioning from. For example, video games and YouTube can make the transition to homework oh so painful for all involved. Eliminate this pain by making YouTube or video games the reward for completing the homework.

Does your kid just stare at their computer when they have to write something? Is getting the words from their brain to the keyboard or pencil too big a gap to leap? If you see them struggling, a big clue is whether they can talk about the topic.  If so, you may need to use some tools like voice activation software, or you can simply type word for word what your kid says. Parents: no editing. Let your kids use their own words. As long as you do that, you’re not cheating. Eventually, the kids will be able to write on their own. It is important to meet your kid where they are so they can start to experience the wins of getting the work down.

Sometimes the task can seem so big, that your kid literally doesn’t know where to start. For instance, there are too many math problems on the page. Ask them how many would they like to see, and cover up the rest. Or just write one problem on a separate sheet of paper and have them do one at a time. Again, we are looking for a process that meets their current need so they can feel the success of completion.

Sometimes hearing about problems from the student’s perspective can   help you better understand the weight of their dilemma.  Listen to student Marcus Allen explain why getting started is harder than you think through this Understood.org video.

It’s hard to watch our kids struggle with getting started. Again, the challenge for us adults is that we have to step up and be willing to experiment, look past the behavior, and be consistent in our efforts. It can be hard to make these efforts, especially when fatigue and the daily grind take hold. Stop and remind yourself that you are training your kiddo for adulthood.

Meet your kids where they are and assume that your kid has the best of intentions and is just stuck. Your job is to reach out and help them learn how to move through the muck, until they have the skill to go around it themselves.

 

 

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Are Children Becoming Less Creative?

Sharing a recent article from the publication “ExchangeEveryDay” about creativity trends in US education. Interesting reading: why are the creativity scores of America’s youth falling?

“Kyung Hee Kim, Ph.D., an educational psychologist at the College of William & Mary, in Virginia, has spent the past decade poring over the creativity scores of more than 300,000 American K-12 students. The news is not good: ‘Creativity scores have significantly decreased since 1990,’ she says. Moreover, ‘creativity scores for kindergartners through third-graders decreased the most, and those from the fourth through sixth grades decreased by the next largest amount.'” So writes Carolina A. Miranda in a CNN blog post.

She explains, “The scores Kim is referring to are those generated by the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking — the standard-bearer in assessing creativity in children since the 1960s. In fact, the results of the Torrance Tests are also better indicators of lifetime creative accomplishment than childhood IQ. The tests consist of open-ended questions, such as ‘How many uses can you think of for a toothbrush?’ Scores are awarded based on the number and originality of the ideas produced. A creative child might respond by saying that he can brush his cat’s teeth, polish a rock, and clean his fingernails — all answers that show dexterity in generating a wide range of potentially useful ideas.”

Source: “Why we need to let kids be creative,” by Carolina A. Miranda, January 3, 2012, CNN.com

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Lessons from Bob Ross and The Importance of Positive Energy in Parenting

It’s funny where you can find parenting inspiration. My junior in high school came home one day last week and asked “who is Bob Ross?”  You know, the famous painter of happy little trees from the 80’s.  He had seen a trailer for the next Deadpool movie with Ryan Reynold’s that started with a spoof of his PBS show “The Joy of Painting”.  After watching the trailer ourselves (caution, may not be appropriate for all ages) and laughing a little harder than our son expected, we explained who the real Bob Ross was and had to show both of our boys a video of his actual show from the archives. We thought they’d last five, maybe ten minutes but to our surprise, they were mesmerized and watched the entire episode.

Positive Perspective

His soft spoken style and quirky humor had them smiling and amazed at how he could create a complete oil painting landscape from scratch in less than 30 minutes.  My husband and I had forgotten how full of positive energy and life lessons he was. After watching two more episodes as a family, we came away with some great quotes from Bob Ross to keep things in perspective:

  • “We don’t make mistakes. We just have happy little accidents.”
  • “In painting, you have unlimited power. You have the ability to move mountains. You can bend rivers. But when I get home, the only thing I have power over is the garbage.”
  • “Talent is a pursued interest. Anything that you’re willing to practice, you can do.”
  • “It’s the imperfection that makes something beautiful, that’s what makes it different and unique from everything else.”

As parents, we can get caught up in the pressure of the daily grind and let our imaginations around our kids future get the better of us. Life is about the small things and the life lessons along the way.  These Ross’isms are a friendly reminder that it takes courage to step out of our comfort zone and just getting started.

What To Do With Feedback

A key theme from Ross is that we are not good at everything, and that’s ok.  He tells a story about how he studied under a master portrait painter for a year. Finally his portrait teacher pulled him aside and suggested he stick to landscapes.  Ross laughs about this and agreed with this feedback. Learning to take constructive feedback is a learned skill as it’s important we teach our kids what to do with that information. This feedback could have easily discouraged Ross or caused him to resent his teacher.  Instead he realized he needed to spend his time, energy, and focus on his passion which was landscapes.  He turned this focus into a fifteen million dollar business. In today’s world, it is more important than ever to teach your kids how to focus their attention, energy, and time on their talents and interests.

Finally, most people don’t realize that before pursuing his passion for painting, Ross was a sergeant in the Air Force whose job it was to yell and scream and order people around.  After leaving the Air Force, he decided he would never yell at anyone again.  Ross provided value and made a big impact with his show and business, all while speaking softly and having a sense of humor.  If there is a lot of yelling in your family, ask yourself how effective that has been.  Can we reduce the volume and develop a greater connection with our kids while achieving better results?

As Ross reminds us, the only things we have control over are ourselves and the garbage. If you are experiencing the normal frustrations of parenting, I highly recommend watching an episode or two of his show to gain a little perspective.  At the very least, his soft spoken style and words of wisdom will provide some momentary relief and a chuckle. Think of it as an alternative to meditation.

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11 NFL Lesson Ideas To Use This Season

Are you ready for some football? The NFL season kicks off this weekend. It should be fun!

With the Broncos being so popular, it’s hard to think of a school in Colorado that won’t have at least a few hundred students wearing the orange and blue on Fridays. Let’s hope they can have a good season, make the playoffs, and bring home another Lombardi trophy.

Football season is a really good teaching tool, too. There are ton of numbers involved. Great heroes (and anti-heroes) to read up on. And the history and geography of all the teams. Here are 11 easy class ideas to integrate football into the class for all students.  

Hope these make some good class connections! Enjoy the season.

Omaha!

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10 Effective Communication Tips For Teachers, Parents, and Students

The beginning of a school year is an exciting time, with a ton of activity. In addition to building goals, it’s also super important for setting clear, crisp communication guidelines. Purposeful communication makes the beginning of the school year so much easier for everyone involved. A smooth beginning might not guarantee perfection, but you can be sure that a mismanaged beginning is a recipe for dealing with behavioral issues and playing catch up.

August and September are also the months when it seems as if things are happening at 100 mph.  Communication is key throughout the year, so begin early. They can be huge time savers in the end.

Teacher Tip One: Teachers, mail a postcard home and then make a follow up phone call during the first week. Sending a postcard home addressed to students makes them feel welcome in their new class. It also eases anxiety. Sending a card with a personal touch on it, like a favorite sports team or a national park you might have visited during the summer, humanizes the experience as well. In your note, remind the student they are going to have a great year. When the first week of class ends, call the parents letting them know how great their child’s first week was. If this sounds like a lot of work, you are most likely to go to voicemail, based on personal experience. Leave an upbeat message. It will make a huge impression.

Teach Tip Two: Spend the first few weeks with at least one getting to know you activity per day, and be sure it involves oral or written communication. You want to build new relationships right away. You also want to develop a routine where students are comfortable sharing ideas in small groups. Bring the class back together and pull names out of a hat so one or two students can comment on how the activity worked. As always, give them the option to pass, ensuring shy students aren’t put on the spot.

Teacher Tip Three: As a culmination of the first few weeks, invite the principal into your class to firm up rules and expectations. Tell the students the principal is coming as an advocate and confidante. Principals are extremely busy people, so you will only need a few minutes of their time to make an impression with students. Getting students and administration some time together is a huge step in building trust that can come in extremely useful when there are disciplinary issues.

Teacher Tip Four: Have a welcome back party with your teaching team, and be sure to invite family along. Do this early, and as often as possible. Reinforce learning as a fun activity. You can even have themed parties, showcasing work. I used to love hosting international days that the class worked in with history units. We served great cuisine, had a bunch of fun, and reinforced all our learning goals.

Parent Tip One: Parents, write an email to the teacher asking how you can help make the year a good one. In your introductory email let them know that you are so glad that your son or daughter has such a dedicated teacher. Flattery always goes a long way, especially in an inbox. Teachers get dozens of emails a day, so be sure to establish a partnership that serves everyone’s best interest, including the teacher’s.

Parent Tip Two: Attend all the welcome back events you can, and be sure to casually establish a rapport with your children’s teachers. It’s fine to talk shop at welcome events. Likely, you’ll want to set up a formal meeting because teachers are limited by confidentiality in how much they can go into detail with a bunch of other people around. And don’t be afraid to ask for a conference early on. This is often the least busy time of year for teachers and so meeting them for a conference is a lot easier, especially if you pitch it as proactive session.

Parent Tip Three: Find out how involvement will look. An overly strong parent advocate can, potentially, work against the very thing the teacher is working on, like building autonomy. Communication by all parties is important. For example, some kids want to be dropped off at class all the way till high school. Some kids want autonomy by second grade. These are telling signals and can inform all parties on the best way to handle academic, social, and emotional intervention. This is one of the touchier areas, because we all want to do the right thing, and sometimes the right thing is letting the child work an issue out on his or her own.

Student Tip One: Students, get a planner and a planner buddy who is more organized than you are. This is pretty self explanatory. If you are not organized, you’ll know it. You’re losing things. Missing deadlines. Or your planner make you feel like this. Some students are more meticulous than their teachers. Essentially, make sure the super organized can help the less organized. As a teacher, I’d choose a buddy to help me organize my busy desk, reinforcing their own organization.

Student Tip Two: Be proactive and communicate early with the teacher, letting them know what you’d like to get out of the school year. I’ve had students personally shake my hand after the first day of school. That made quite an impression. If that’s not so easy for you, send them an email, letting them know where you want to succeed. Or chocolate always works. Whatever way is easiest for you, being proactive with a teacher goes a very long way. Remember, teachers are human beings; they like getting nice things. And nothing’s nicer than a student who shows interest.

Student Tip Three: Join a club or, better yet, create one on your own. Chances are there are likeminded people out there who’d be thrilled with your idea. Find a cause. Draft a fantasy team. Build a Minecraft network. Volunteer to grade papers. Above all, get recognized for doing the right thing and for stepping up. School’s got enough social pressures to begin with, so why not come up with something that brings people together? It will definitely set you apart, and open up all kinds of opportunities to be engaged and engage others.

If you find these ideas are working for you personally, let us know! We’d love to hear from you. And thanks for considering The School Communications Agency for all your school communications needs.

 

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