Monday, March 24, 2014

Disney versus Hersey Park (by guest blogger Owen)

    I like both Disney and Hershey Park.  At the parks, the rides were the same.  Both parks had a carousel.  Disney and Hershey had something like a downtown.  Disney had terrible French fries and at Hershey I got to try a Hershey Bar.  To get into the parks or your room you needed a bracelet or a ticket.  At Hershey Park the ticket was a strip of paper that said what type of chocolate you are.  I was a "Reese's Pieces" because I was five years old.  I would visit Disney again because you can take a boat to the park.

(Owen is in 3rd Grade at a Catholic school in Raleigh, NC)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Tattling.  Ugh.  The scourge of playground supervision and sometimes of the classroom, as well.  It’s certainly a problem at home.  What’s the best way to deal with this situation? 

Well, it’s important to understand why children tattle.  Young children, particularly those between the ages of 4 and 7, are cognizant of the rules.   They will often feel that something “bad” will happen or an adult will get angry if the rules are not followed.  They may also take it personally when another child breaks the rules.  Of course, they also don’t recognize their own rule-breaking behavior.  Children will also tattle to get attention from adults, or to get back at other children.  Some children will also use tattling as a way to control others.  “If you don’t play the game the way I want, I’m going to tell the teacher.”

We don’t want children to tattle. We DO want them to disclose issues around bullying and other types of inappropriate behavior.  Efforts to stop tattling must balance with the message that telling adults about specific situations is OK.

A conversation that needs to happen often is defining the difference between tattling and telling.  Since children are literal people, the definitions need to be concrete.  What I like to say to children is the following:

     “Tattling is something you do when you are mad at someone and want to get them into trouble.  It’s not a good thing to do.  You are tattling when you can fix the problem yourself, but go to an adult instead.
     Telling is a good thing to do.  Here is when you need to tell an adult: when someone gets hurt; when someone says inappropriate or mean things and will not stop; when someone tries to get someone to do something inappropriate; or when someone threatens someone else.  Threatening someone means telling them that you will hurt them or that you will be mean to them unless they do what you want.”

At this point, you can give some examples of situations and ask the children whether going to an adult will be tattling or telling.  Once you start this process, you will hear lots of questions about more scenarios as well.  Each time, you can ask the child whether they think the answer would be tattling or telling.  When they answer, ask them why, and check the answer to see if it meets the criteria above.  You are helping to build critical thinking skills.

Here are some other tips as well:

    If a crowd comes up to you on the playground with something to say, listen to what it is.  Even if you are sure it’s going to be a tattle, you need to show that you will give it a hearing.  Remember that other children are watching. If you are unwilling to listen, it sends a signal to others that it’s better to keep quiet no matter what. 
    If it’s a tattle, ask the child who spoke whether they think it’s tattling or telling.  Chances are they will recognize it as tattling.  Once they admit to tattling, ask how they might be able to fix the problem themselves.  Once they walk away, others will follow.
    If a child has a legitimate tell, thank them for letting you know.  Try to address the issue immediately.  Once again you are reinforcing the behavior you want to encourage.
    Be patient.  The difference between tattling and telling can be abstract for many young children.  They will need practice and consistent response from you to help them figure it out.  Even if you know they are tattling on purpose, you can view that situation as an opportunity to teach rather than an annoyance.
    If the tattling continues, try to figure out why.  First of all, is your response consistent?  Is it consistent for each child in your class or your family?  If not, you may be confusing the tattler.   Is the child upset about the rules?  If this is the case, are they written down somewhere?  Sometimes older children need to meet to determine how to use “optional rules” for a game like four-square.  Write those down as well.  Does the child consistently tattle on another child?  Maybe those two children need to sit down with an adult and work out some bad feelings.

Tattling will never disappear entirely, but over time it can diminish.  While working on reducing tattling, you can also build a culture of disclosure in your classroom and your home.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Please Check Your Phone Before Dinner Part One

This is not going to be a rant about how we all have our faces stuck in our phones.  As I said in an earlier post, I am a geek.  I love technology.  I am fascinated with things like the psychological effects of technology.  We are in the midst of a revolution in the way we communicate, produce, and manage the stuff of daily living.  These shifts in daily life will rival the changes of the Industrial Revolution.  Andrew McAfee is a professor at MIT. He points out that the Industrial Revolution multiplied our physical capacity as humans.  This Yet-to-be-named technological Revolution is multiplying our mental capacity as humans. ( TED Radio Hour Podcast, 2/28/2014 )
  I hear, "That's nice.  So what does that mean to me as a parent?"  Well, right at this moment your child might have their head stuck in some sort of device - iphone, tablet, laptop, etc.  Whatever it is, it's here to stay; and not just for gaming either.  If your child is in upper elementary school, they probably use a device to read.  They might also use it to communicate with friends.  (Just for fun, ask your child to remember the last time they talked to a friend on a land line phone.  Next ask them to remember the last time they used a cell phone or a text app for the same purpose.)  Moreover, while we all weren't paying attention, many schools have made it impossible to do schoolwork without using the internet.  Does your child still receive a paper report card?  Probably not.
  You can either throw up your hands and think, "I have no control over this so why even deal with it" or "I have no clue about any of this stuff, so I'm going to ignore it" or "This all makes me very nervous so I am going to restrict my child's access as much as I can."  I'm going to argue here that none of these approaches is going to help you, or your child live with technology mindfully.  Your children must learn that skill in order to be a successful adult.
  So how to do that?  Well, for starters you really need to know what's up with the technology.  Every once and awhile I give myself a reality check in a third grade classroom.  I'll ask, "In the last couple of weeks how many of you have helped Mom and Dad with something on the computer that they couldn't figure out?"  Most of the time 3/4 of the hands go up.  Millenials are the first generation that have known more about new technology than their parents.  "Oh, I know about computers", you say.  "I built my own.  Set up my own wifi network.  I can program."  Yep.  Can you tell me the hottest phone app right now?  Have you used Instagram at all?  Or Twitter?  Or Snapchat?  Can you get to a document in Dropbox?  The days of Microsoft Office as the most important thing are over.  Those that came of age in the last 15 years have moved on.

On the opposite end of the spectrum I might hear, "I can get to my email and I can text, but I can't really do anything else.  I don't really want to know more."  It's time to get more literate.  At the very least, you need to be able to comfortably access every tool your child needs to use for school.  Online grades, Edmodo, Khan Academy, Blackboard, Moodle, Weebly, Quizlet, Prezi; whatever they are using.  No excuses.  You need to understand what they have to do for school.  This is especially true in grades 5-8.

In the next installment, I will explain in more detail why this is important and offer some tips on using these tools mindfully.

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