Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Optimising Our Potential in Education

Optimising Our Potential - Education - Browse - Big Ideas - ABC TV
This panel discussion highlights many instrumental factors in inducing well-being in kids at school and at home each day. Watch and listen as Judy Willis, MD and teacher, Arthur Costa, Professor Emeritus in the CSU system, Philip Heath and Dr. Toni Noble discuss with Richard Aedy, of ABC radio Australia how we can maximize brain functioning through utilizing cooperative learning, novelty, and humor in the classroom.
Let me know in the comments section what you think!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Connecting Across the Globe with Song

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I wish I could start by sharing the video of  beaming faces and beautiful voices of the students who sang to us and were our audience via Skype on Thursday.  The energy and pride of these 5th graders, who took the stage, singing to us in English, and ending with a beautiful song in Spanish, was quite powerful. Unfortunately, because of privacy rules, words will have to describe the exciting 20 minute call between my 4th grade class and Greta's 5th grade students in Argentina on their last day of school before summer vacation. I am positive that the students depict the scene way better than I could, so here is a post from  Alex, who went home and blogged even though school was over.
It was priceless to be the first class that these students had ever Skyped with in the U.S. I hope that my students found the experience to be equally memorable. 
Thank you Greta and your fantastic students for sharing such a special time with us!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Surrounding Ourselves With Others Who Bring Out Our Best

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As I scan the list of "Best Teacher Blog" nominees on Edublogs, I am honored and humbled to be among teachers I admire, learn so much from, and share with on Twitter.  For once in my life, the competitive spirit in me does not seem to be caught up in whether or not I win. In fact, I feel like my blog has been somewhat neglected since school started, due to my other responsibilities, including blogging for my class. I am simply proud to stand among all of these wonderful educators who share stories of challenges, strategies, and successes so selflessly and openly.
My thoughts today center on the importance of  surrounding ourselves with inspiring people. My meaningful connections with my real life educator friends, as well as those through Twitter and reading blogs all facilitate my growth and performance as a teacher. By performance, I don't mean an outcome like student test scores on standardized tests. I am speaking of the daily, "stepping onto the stage" in the classroom, in the countless interactions with students, parents, and colleagues. As a teacher, my words, actions and plans are held under the highest scrutiny at times, because of the power I have to influence my students. I consider this power a huge responsibility, made easier by the wonderful teachers I am honored to include in my Personal Learning Network.
I also must add that my loved ones completely understand and support my passion for education. They empathize when a student or parent interaction leaves me unsatisfied or upset. They also encourage me to step up to the plate and take on more challenges. I could not be the teacher I am without them.
How do you surround yourself with others who bring out the best in you? What am I missing in this discussion? I look forward to sharing more with you.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Bullying and Crazy Aggressive Driving: Synonymous?

 I have started recording some of my thoughts on my morning drive. This morning's tangent was about the issue of bullying as related to adult behaviors like tailgating. Let me know what you think!

Listen!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Visual Reminders

This student is becoming more aware that she needs to slow down and be careful with directions! She often works speedily!

This student understands the need to stay calm for a test!
This student doesn't talk very much in class but would like to more!



As you can see, slowing down is a goal for several students in my class!
Side conversations take away from our learning. Why not share your great observations and thoughts with everyone?

Yes, it's another reminder to work slowly and steadily.

This student is not happy when his/her desk is messy!

This student knows the importance of cooling off when upset.


The picture above refers to a student who wants to go even faster with math facts!
This student wants to remind herself to calm down at times and not get over excited and disruptive.













At the beginning of this week, fresh and energized by their long weekend, students discussed strategies to help them achieve the learning and behavior goals they set for Quarter 2 and beyond. All agreed that a visual reminder of a picture and/or words might direct us to be mindful of “how” to achieve that goal. What’s my goal in this? I want students to become more aware of and actively participate in the actions that lead them to increased engagement and meaningful learning!


The pictures, affixed to their desks and shared above, reveal the keen awareness of our learners. They know “what” they want to work on and are working on “how” to carry it out. I am very impressed by the students in my class!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Was That a Cheer I Heard?

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(note: This post also appears on my school blog which is limited to the school community. I thought it was relevant to share here.)
You may have heard some spirited celebratory cheers coming from the Grade 4 classroom this morning around 9 a.m.. If so, you might have wondered why we were cheering, in a psuedo-sports team huddle,  before beginning the writing assessment.

The rationale is plain and simple. We cheered to encourage each other to relax, do our best, and show what we know about being effective writers. Through this 1 minute routine where we vowed to "Rock the WrAP" we changed the atmosphere from a slightly tense, anxious one, to a relaxed and ready environment.  As we joked about the magic power of our pristine, new Ticonderoga pencils, freshly sharpened for our important task, students breathed deeply as a hush fell over the room.

Every single student worked diligently for the entire hour of our WrAP test today. Each determined face revealed an understanding that it was an opportunity to demonstrate the effects of our recent efforts in writing.  I look forward to tomorrow when I will see  faces beaming with pride as students revise and turn in their final drafts after the second and final hour of WrAP testing.

If you're curious about some of the fascinating research in the field of positive emotions and cognition, be sure to check out the work of Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Her research lends key support to the importance of a positive, safe classroom environment where students take risks and grow from reflecting on their mistakes.

Thanks for all you do in supporting your child. I hope you hear me cheering for you in appreciation!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Teachable Moment

The following post is from my class blog, which is private to protect student confidentiality. When a post seems relevant for a general audience, I will share it here!
stability ball

This was the scene in our classroom on Friday as we discovered that someone had taken a nail and jabbed it into one of our beloved stability balls. For the rationale behind the use of stability balls in the classroom, stay tuned for a future post!

The conversation that ensued was interesting as students shared thoughts about why someone would have “done such a thing” to a ball that everyone enjoys using! I expressed my disappointment that one of our friends had not thought through their actions far enough to realize that this was a bad idea. I also shared that it would be very important for that person to come and talk with me so that we could make a plan for better decision making! We are really working on thinking through our words and actions before saying or doing something we might later regret.

Inspired by this article I recently read about the process of scientific inquiry, I facilitated a discussion where we  hypothesized and came up with possible explanations for this deflated ball.  We wrote what we knew in an “evidence bucket”: that the ball had a nail stuck in it, it was now deflated and we would only have 2 left for our use. Students also pointed out  that sometimes kids are curious and try things without thinking through the consequences.  One of the students also mentioned that the nail had been in our classroom prior to this incident and had made a hole in a bean bag chair.  We talked about how lucky we were that no one sat on the nail and how we could have made better decisions about the nail than passing it around the class.

What was the “take way”? Hopefully this incident makes students think about their words and actions before talking or acting in a way they might regret. The other serendipitous  result: students learned how to process “evidence” and understand that hypotheses must always be backed up by evidence.
Fortunately, some new stability balls were already headed our way before this unfortuante incident. I encourage you to talk with your child about the importance of making good decisions and respecting classroom property.
Thanks so much for your support.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Setting Up a New Classroom: Got Design Ideas? Part II

Decided on a U shape for the Benefit of Kids' Presentations


Way back in July, when I was pondering the task of setting up my new classroom, I reached out via Twitter to my amazing network of educators around the world and asked for help. On the Voicethread and in written comments here, many insightful "tweeps" gave me input on how to set up the room.

Here are some pictures that show my room as it is right now, along with the rationale for my set-up.
Our  "Best Writing" Display and Small Group Table
 As you can see from the pictures, I ended up using a "U-Shape" configuration. When I tried to put desks in groups of four, it was difficult for me to imagine how students could focus on the person talking if they couldn't see that person's face.  Before anyone thinks that my rationale for this desk arrangement is so I can be the "Sage on the Stage," rest assured that this is not the reason for my decision! Although it can be tricky to refocus conversation and keep kids following their own rule of "One person talks at a time," this configuration supports my goal for students to be active listeners and "question askers" when they present to each other.  This configuration also allows us to come to the carpet for discussions; I am working on getting some cushions or small mats so that the scratchy carpet isn't a problem.

  When my students work in small groups and with partners, they have options to work around the room and even just outside the room where there are picnic tables. They aren't sitting in this U-shape configuration for a good portion of the day, but when they are  it is very helpful that each student can always look at the person who is talking.

The purple stability balls are working out very well! I got the idea from someone on Twitter; sorry I can't remember who, but they mentioned a Minnesota study where kids actually focused and performed better on classwork when using the balls.  Each day, four students have the option of using the ball as their chairs. They love the movement and tilting that the ball allows; of course when the bouncing is a distraction for me or other students, they lose their ball privilege. So far, no one has lost their ball!
The Cabinets Store our Four Computer Workstations and Make Great Display Space!


Finally, in the far corner, which you can almost see in the picture below,  I moved one of the bookcases from the opposite end of the room, to make a nice reading area. With four beanbags there, and limited space, you can imagine that the beanbags often migrate to the big space in front of our desks during our D.E.A.R. time!
The window ledge is a great space for supplies and display space for projects. Our "Me Wordles" hang on the windows.
Once again, I send a heartfelt thanks for all who commented and supported me in my big transition to a new school and new grade level. Do you have any comments or questions now? Please share in the comment box below!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Power of Spontaneity

Call it spontaneity, or capitalizing on the power of novelty in awakening the brain, I am realizing more each day that seizing and creating playful moments in the classroom builds a positive classroom environment where everyone learns.

Many times these opportunities arise, yet often we use excuses that prevent us from seizing the moment. We cite time constraints and adhering to schedules as reasons to rigidly "stick to the plans."  Here's an example of when I jumped right in anyway, knowing that it would take a couple of minutes out of our busy schedule.

Yesterday, just after morning recess, my students were getting ready for a vocabulary quiz. As they noisily went about putting their desk items away and putting up their privacy screens, I exclaimed: "Ooh! I have a great idea!"  Heads peeked above the colored cardboard screens as the room fell silent. "What, what?" several exclaimed in unison. I suddenly had all eyes on me, awaiting my announcement. "Michael!" ( not his real name), " Would you grab the camera and take pictures of us looking nervous about our quiz?" I knew that my students would love "hamming it up" for the camera, as they come alive when they get to play act. I had serendipitously discovered this as they had played vocabulary charades for 10 minutes at the end of the prior day. "These will be awesome for our blog this week," Michael shared. After Michael took a few shots, which only took about a minute or two, I told the students to take a deep breath, smile, and think a happy thought, which was easy after the giggles from the posing. We had previously talked about how our facial expressions can impact our feelings and that at times we can help counter negative feelings by changing our thoughts and facial expressions.   As the room fell quiet again, the students took their vocabulary quizzes.

Of course, I can't be sure that my spontaneous photo tactic was the reason for the 100% score on all of the quizzes. What I observe is this: students are awake, enthuiastic, and engaged in class. When we lighten the mood with humor and fun, we create a safe and enticing classroom environment. Within this positive space, where the challenges of test stress are acknowledged and dealt with, we can then encourage and empower students to do the tough work of critical thinking and risk-taking. They will work hard, not because they have to, but because they want to and believe they can.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Learning Curve

I've been a bit busy in the past month since I started work at my new school on August 9th. As my days rapidly fly by and I go without writing for yet another day, I find myself longing for the release of expressing myself here, sharing ideas with others. Twitter, which kept me learning for a good part of the summer, has been an occasional place to check in and briefly engage in a few thoughtful discussions with other educators.

The path of learning I have been climbing has been intense. Learning a new school culture, new curriculum, mapping program, and grade level has me wondering how kids feel when changes bombard them all at once. This preoccupation with "figuring things out" probably makes me appear unfocused or inattentive to others. I wonder if we judge kids this way when they have lots on their minds: new learning, new teacher, changes at home, new friends. What can we do to help ease transitions like the one I am experiencing?

Here are some ideas I've had to help both my students and I in times of great change and transition:

  • Keep routines stable: Much as I have been wanting to stay up later to finish work, I have, for the most part, retained my bedtime routines. I have also been preparing my lunch each morning and try to include healthy sources of protein to keep me going!
  • Get plenty of exercise to boost mood and reduce anxiety: I have been not as consistent as I had hoped but I am working on getting 3-4 workouts minimum each week.
  • Make to-do lists: prioritize to-do's so that I don't feel overwhelmed by all of the ideas in my head!
  • Connect with friends and family as much as reasonably possible. Let them know it's a busy time and plan/schedule a time to call and catch up.
  • Use humor to lighten the mood and build positive emotions. Research by Dr. Barbara Fredrickson at UNC Chapel Hill Pep Lab confirms that inducing positive emotions helps us function better cognitively.
  • Have reasonable expectations: some things just take time. No one is super-human.
So, what do you think of this idea? Do you think that when kids are on a deep learning curve that we sometimes mistake their deep consuming learning for inattention? How do we help them or ourselves when life throws us multiple new opportunities to learn and grow?

Monday, July 26, 2010

So You've Got a Great Idea? Want to Get it Published?

I've been thinking lately about the process of getting my book published and wondering if it might be helpful to share that journey with those I connect with around the world. My rationale and motive: to inspire and encourage others to pursue their writing dreams!

I was about to write a post or do a podcast, my new favorite way of communicating, but then realized that I might not talk about what people really want to know. So, then, of course, my tangential mind thought of Voicethread as a way to collect your questions!

Here's how to ask away: either click the voicethread and post a comment there with voice or type, or leave your question here in the comments section. I will read all of the questions and do my best to address them when I record an upcoming podcast.

I look forward to sharing with you. Also, if you are a published author, please chime in and share your experiences! Thanks for visiting!


Friday, July 23, 2010

Are We Challenging Learners Enough?



Here is a picture of one of my former students who learned that he could be in charge of deciding if his work met his own standards. He gave himself 5 smilies :-) to celebrate his great work!


I am embarking on a new journey of using podcasts to supplement my print posts. If you click the link, "Are We Challenging Enough", at the bottom of this post you can listen to my latest thoughts and reflections about efficacy. Please listen and feel free to comment. Eventually I will figure out how to embed this podcast here, but for now this will take you to another place to hear the very brief audio. 
Thanks so much! 

Are We Challenging Enough?

Friday, July 9, 2010

If You Give a Teacher Twitter

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Setting up a New Classroom: Got Design Ideas?

So today I had a spontaneous idea, born out of my recently frequent dreams and mild panic attacks about teaching a new grade at a new school next year. Since I have connected with so many great educators and thinkers on Twitter, I thought, why not ask for a bit of help in designing the optimal classroom environment. I look forward to hearing what everyone has to say and contributing to a dialogue where other teachers can get ideas for their own classroom makeovers!
Thanks in advance for your great comments. This is a new adventure using voicethread, just click the individual pictures to hear what each person has to add! 





Monday, June 28, 2010

Thank You Mr. Kauzer

Even as adults, decades later, we remember vividly the teachers who scared us, frustrated us, even humiliated us. Unfortunately, all of us can probably remember at least one of those teachers. For every one of those, however, is a teacher who stands out positively in our memory: a teacher who made us want to come to school every day to learn.
Last fall, I found a Facebook page for my former elementary school Twin Creeks, in San Ramon CA. Feeling a bit nostalgic, as I have lost touch with every one of my former classmates due to our family move in 9th grade, I posted an answer to the question: Who was your favorite teacher at Twin Creeks? I wrote excitedly about one of my favorite teachers, Mr. Kauzer, who I was lucky enough to have as my 4th grade teacher and again as my 6th grade teacher.   Mr. Kauzer made school fun..he made it a safe place to learn, a cool place to practice guided visualization for relaxation and an autonomous haven where I could work at my own pace in many learning arenas. I think he even let us make forts under our desks! Hey, it was the early 70's after all.
A few months ago I was contacted by a classmate, Karen, who had Mr. Kauzer the following year. She was happy to reminisce as we messaged back and forth about him and other teachers we had at our little school of portable buildings. We talked about our siblings and classmates we might remember!
This week, I was thrilled to see a message on my Facebook message page, from the one and only Mr. Kauzer. I was taken aback by my intensely emotional reaction: "He remembered me!" I thought gleefully to myself, suddenly transformed back to the 12 year old girl who last saw him at the end of 6th grade. I felt a surge of happiness as I read his message. He really did remember me! I was thrilled to discover that he is teaching, still inspiring kids, though now teaching high school math!
It might seem cliche to others, but I am overwhelmed by the incredible power we have as teachers. I will be "over the moon" with joy to reconnect with former students when they are adults! It's been many years, over 30 (but who's counting), since I last saw Mr. Kauzer. I know that one day when we connect in person, I will immediately recognize him by his warmth and unmistakable smile. He thinks it might be fun to visit my 4th grade class when he retires and I am going to hold him to that idea!

Thank you Mr. Kauzer. Teachers like you have helped me become the teacher I am and the one I'm still striving to be.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Mentoring: The Best Gift of All

Ever thought of mentoring? After  having a student teacher for half the school year last year, and having an intern this full school year, I feel energized and rejuvenated.   Having the experience of being with a new teacher as she "learns the ropes"  is one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences ever. Here are some things I learned this year from working with the incredible Miss H.
  1. There's a rationale for everything we do and every way we do it when we teach. When you have an intern, you reflect and share about all of your decisions.
  2. We don't have to be perfect, but always reflecting, striving for excellence and remaining committed to what's best for kids.
  3. Humor goes a long way. Being able to look across the room at another adult during a challenging kid moment and find humor in it gives strength and builds experience for a future challenge.
  4. Support is vital. Mutual support is even better. Teaching can be isolating so we must reach out.
  5. Communication is priceless. Open, respectful dialogue creates trust.
  6. We are always learning from each other: experienced teachers, new teachers, school staff parents, kids. 
  7. There is no hierarchy of experts: we are all learners.
  8. Everyone is on his/her own path: we must accept people where they are and nurture their strengths so they can flourish.
  9. Relationship is everything.
  10. We are never finished learning, growing, crying, celebrating. Savor, savor, savor each day as an opportunity to grow and learn. 
Thank you Miss Harrington for the opportunity to spend a wonderful year together, learning, laughing, crying, and celebrating the joys of our passionate commitment to kids.
If you have ever mentored, either in teaching or another arena, please share what it's done for your growth in the comments section. We learn so much from each other's stories!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Today



Today my class will proudly stand on stage and sing the songs we have been tirelessly learning for weeks. During rehearsal each day I've caught myself getting teary-eyed as I set my eyes upon my students,  reflecting on how far each has come. One of my sweet boys, who often does his "own thing", spinning like a top around the room, dropping a trail of papers under his desk,or eating crayons and other unsavory objects, has learned every word to every song. Yesterday during our rehearsal on the risers, he sang AND proudly performed the hand motions to each song. In his own time, not in the time of the pacing guides, and not demonstrated with a paper and pencil, he has learned. He has blossomed. And he will continue, in his own time and way.
Although today is the celebration of our year in kindergarten, every day can be a day to stop, reflect and admire the growth of our kids. Many will follow a path quite different than the ones we've created for them and that's okay. What matters most is for us to cherish their growth, encourage them to embrace challenges, empower their hearts and minds to strive for the best they can be, today and every day.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Power we Have





It's a busy and energized time in kindergarten. We are busily writing the last pages for our memory books/student portfolios and trying to keep routines consistent to reduce anxiety about the end of the school year.  I've been caught a bit by surprise at the honesty and articulate comments from my students about the leap to first grade.  While completing a page: "First grade will be"... one of my sweet little girls, I'll call "Sophie" wrote: boring and sad. It will be unhappy and bad. Not only did her words reflect her fear and anxiety about the transition to a new class, her picture disturbed me even more as sad faced students hid under desks. Not sure whether I should get into a discussion about this, my intern's presence somehow encouraged me.  Sometimes just having a back-up adult gives you confidence to approach tricky topics! We asked Sophie about her picture and writing. After validating her fear, we asked if maybe she could imagine first grade a little differently. Sophie is known for simultaneously getting fixated on ideas but also having a wonderful imagination so this was a serendipitous moment for us. I told her I would write down her reply as she sometimes feels overwhelmed by remembering and writing her big thoughts: "First grade will be happy, first grade will be nice, first grade will be delightful, sugar and spice." I smiled through my misty eyes and she beamed. I asked if she would read her poem to a neighboring teacher across the hall, anxious for her to repeat her words and hopefully begin to believe them. My colleague asked Sophie to write and illustrate her "new version" and asked if she could use it as a sample for her class. Thrilled, Sophie returned to class and wrote about her new vision of first grade. As she drew her new picture, she spoke to herself quietly, "I think first grade will be a lot like kindergarten."
Mission accomplished!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Proud Moments

I looked up from my small group of students transitioning to the next literacy center.  Walking toward me was one of my adorable, often "serious about his work" boys, beaming with pride as he came to show me his paper. My intern, Miss H. provided the context, " **** wanted to show you how he spelled "exciting" all by himself!" His paper was about first grade and he bravely attempted the word, "exsiding". For those not familiar with kindergarten writing, his spelling: perfect!!  I smiled, told him to "wait just a moment" while I ran to grab my camera and capture his pride.  I'm not sure whose smile was actually bigger, his or mine!  I will miss kindergarten.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Give Them Some Space to Create



It was a pretty typical day in my classroom, except for the recent rise in tattling, mood swings and rollercoaster rides of emotion as my sweet little 5 and 6 year olds reluctantly approach the end of their first school year. We had just returned from lunch, and as is the usual practice, the kids had 30 minutes to complete work from the week, draw a picture, read a book or write a sticker story. In previous years we had "rest time" but in these days of educational accountability the words "rest" or "nap" are banned from our classrooms. We also used to have "playhouse", but fun and play seem to also fall into the disallowed camp of classroom vocabulary words. Of course I quietly rebel and integrate play and fun into our day disguised in lesson plans with playful language, silly music and dancing puppets.
Anyway, most kids understand the routine and were checking their desks for random papers and cleaning it out so that all of their work would be ready to go home in the weekly "Thursday envelopes." I looked over at 2 girls who were not checking their desks. Although my initial impulse was to motion to them to go back to their own desks, I decided to watch for a moment. I am so glad I did. One student B. was measuring around the waist of another student. She was carefully estimating how long she would need to cut her paper strip to fit around the girl. As she measured, her partner in crime gesticulated wildly, giving her advice on how she would use glue to make sure it stayed together.  Another student, often ignored by others, hesitantly approached and asked the "designer" if she could be next in line for a belt.  Her smile revealed her acceptance.  Now often these creative episodes of "making things" result in messes that don't get cleaned up, glue sticks that don't work any more and other "work" not getting completed. Something wise inside of me decided to focus on the benefits:


Teamwork: 3 girls were working together using math skills,  such as measurement and estimation, and life skills like perserverance, particulary when the "belt" came apart twice before staying put.
Innovation: How many adults could make a "cool belt" out of recycled paper?
Cooperation and Inclusion: While many times kids exclude a certain little girl who is less mature, often talks in a "whiny" voice and sticks her tongue out at them frequently, they decided to include her in the "design process." She was delighted!

So how do you balance or integrate the required curriculum with opportunities for student-directed learning? Please share so we can learn from each other!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Just Enough Information



I had been waiting for the right moment, simultaneously knowing that there really wouldn't be a "right moment."  Yesterday, I told my students that I would not be teaching at our school next year. Looking out at the group who previously chatted incessantly, suddenly I could hear the sound of my own breathing. Confused little faces looked up at me and silence was broken by questions blurted at me like rapid-fire. "Will we see you again?" "Can you come visit us?" "How will we know where to find you?" I did my best to reassure the bewildered little ones that I would make an effort to come back and visit and would definitely stay in touch by email. One of my students who has a well-earned reputation for speaking his mind, raised his hand. "I am just gonna miss you," he squeaked out before his voice cracked and his eyes began to well up. "Can we just talk about something else now? 'cause C. and I are gonna start cryin'"  I agreed and we moved on to another topic. The atmosphere returned to its almost normal lively noise as kids picked a book to take home and packed up for the day. Their big question: "Who is going to take Mr. Monkey?" Our monkey puppet who has graced us by greeting each student during our good morning song, would, of course, need a new home.  We decided that our "other teacher", my intern, Miss H. would take him, since she will likely be teaching young kids when she gets a job. I am moving to a new grade, 4th grade in a new school, so my kids somehow did not think Mr. Monkey would be needed there.
I know more questions will come, tears may flow, and I will give my kids the answers they want and support they need when they need it. In times of change, we just need to listen and honor where they are, giving just the right amount of information to instill safety and security and not too much to overwhelm them.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Proud of Your Kids? Let Them Know!

Saturday, May 15, 2010 was a wonderful day. Stefanie, my youngest child and only daughter, graduated with honors from CSU Humboldt with a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology.  Pictured above with me ( proud mom!) my dad and his wife Lucille, it is evident that Stef is proud. She should be as she worked very hard to accomplish her goal. The fact that my 78 year old dad traveled over 700 miles to let her know that he is also proud made my day. My dad was always there at our milestone events such as graduation, but as we grew up, he didn't necessarily know how to express his joy and pride. My point isn't to criticize, but to remind myself and all of us to stop, savor and let our children know how very proud we are of them. I grew up thinking that we should not share our accomplishments, remain silent, humble and show others through our actions that we are a success. In a way, my parents had it right. Humility is very important. More importantly, though, is to celebrate our children's hard work by highlighting those times that they push themselves and "go for it!" As my kids grew up I wanted them to know that above anything else, if they gave their all to an endeavor, they could hold their heads high with pride.  Sounds simple, maybe, but priceless to me. 
How do you let your children know you are proud? Please share your stories in the comments section.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kleenex...




It's already beginning. This morning, while practicing our songs for the end of the year celebration performance, I looked out at my kids and felt my eyes well up with tears. I looked at them through different eyes today, realizing how little time we have left together. With only 19 school days left, and with me about to embark on a new journey at a different school, I suddenly felt overwhelmed. I realized that while normally I have the wonderful privilege of getting hugs and visits from former students, I won't have that with these adorable little guys.  They keep saying how they just want to stay in kindergarten with me, "I don't want to gwaduate, I just want to stay with you," and when I tell them how they will love first grade they then leap to, "Well, we can visit you right?"  I somehow nod and realize that I need to tell them soon, but when? and how? Then today, M. randomly asks me, "Mrs. Young, my brother will be in your class when he's in kindergarten, right?" Somehow I mutter a soft "I don't know" and luckily she leaves the topic alone.  (Her mother, by the way, already knows the news;the day I told her she told me she would go home and cry for her son.)
So, how do I tell them that I won't be here next year for a high five or a hug on the playground? Surely I can't be that important anyway, right? I know it may seem strange, but in Kindergarten we grow strong attachments as we make our way through milestones like turning 5, losing our first teeth and learning to read!
Today I told their parents about my plans in our weekly newsletter. I mentioned that I would be telling the kids after our assessments are over. I suppose I will need to tell them sooner. I had planned on waiting until there were about 2 weeks of school left, but I don't want to lie about next year. I didn't realize how much they would be planning ahead, thinking of how they will stop by and "surprise me."
I am trying to savor these last moments with them; doing assessments each day and watching their beaming faces as they proudly pass reading levels. I am staying in the moment, recording the funny things they say and celebrating the amazing discoveries they make.
Teaching kindergarten is certainly not for the faint-hearted, and I am surely going to miss it.  If you have any thoughts on the best way to share my news with my kids, please leave a comment.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Positive Psychology Meets Education: Who I'd Like to Meet

I have always been interested in the intersection of psychology and teaching. In fact, I think that our tendency to separate the two into distinct domains lends itself to missing out on insights that could help us empower and motivate our learners.
The names above are all individuals who have made significant contributions to the growing field of positive psychology. What I love about all of them is that the focus of their work is on helping individuals use their strengths to thrive and live more fulfilling lives. The focus of psychology in the education system is still generally stuck in the "medical model" mode of finding out what is "wrong" with kids. I would love to interview each of these wonderful scholars about how to integrate more positive, strengths based psychology into schools!
For more about each one's work and contributions, click on the names below:
Lopez and Snyder
Carol Dweck
Karen Reivich
Tal-Ben Shahar
Jonathan Haidt
Todd Kashdan
Ellen Langer
Barb Fredrickson
 Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Dacher Keltner
Chris Peterson
Alex Linley
Martin Seligman
Albert Bandura
Robert Emmons


Who would you like to help solve the issues we have in education? Why? Please comment and join the conversation!

 

Friday, May 7, 2010

Got Kids? Help Them Learn to Self-Regulate!

I feel like an old lady about to go on a rant about the way it used to be. You know the tone of that voice that screeches, " When I was a kid..kids used to fall down and pick themselves up." "When I was a kid, you ate what you didn't like, and you pretended you liked it!" "When I was a kid..." Ok, ok, I will stop now since I am sure you get the point. So, what is my point exactly? I've been thinking a lot lately about some essential skills kids need to survive, and, more importantly, thrive in kindergarten. No, I don't mean those academic ones, like writing your name, or knowing your letters or even counting to 10. I am thinking more of the ability to get through the day with a smile on your face, not all the time, but at least most of the time.
You see, many kids cannot seem to flow smoothly through the day, handling the moments when life doesn't serve them up their dreams on a silver platter. When asked to do something that is a bit challenging, or something they don't instantaneously love,  they simply don't "want to" and feel free to shout it from the rooftops. What is happening to us, adults? Have we lost our way? We have indulged, cajoled, entertained and pleaded with kids to get them to do what we want them to do. We have read books about how to turn their little worlds into places where they don't suffer any disappointment, pain or self-doubt. All this, perhaps, in an effort to protect their self-esteem, which might have been eroded for us in our own childhoods. Did our parents shelter us from the pain of disappointment? Mine surely didn't! And trust me, I have my own childhood skeletons so I am not claiming to be the world's foremost parenting expert. I definitely worked very hard with my own kids to "do  parenting" much different than my parents did. I listened to my kids, but I didn't rescue them. ( or at least I tried not to rescue) I empathized when they cried because they didn't get their way, but did I back down and change my mind, no! At least most of the time I tried to be consistent. Was it easy? No!
Here's what happens when kids come to kindergarten, and  you can see why they need the skills to manage their moods and attention.
It's 8:00 a.m. and the students in Room 11 have been busy greeting each other and putting their belongings away. In the next five minutes a couple of  kids will stroll in late, one of them I will call B.( not his real initial) B is late 9 times out of 10, often because he has delayed the day at home by refusing to eat his breakfast, get dressed or be ready on time.  He tries nearly every day to stash toys in his pockets which often become larger than life distractions for him. His parents are wonderful, loving parents who both work full-time. ( I have no bias here, trust me, I worked when my kids were little.. I have always worked!) Usually he walks in fresh with a smile on his face, which remains there until the first encounter when I have to redirect this highly energetic little guy to stay on task. His dad helps him get started on his work, and within 3 minutes,  B. is up and around the classroom, socializing and doing, well, frankly whatever he wants to do. He is over at another table group visiting with another boy who would rather suck on his water bottle, shirt sleeve, or anything else he can find rather than get started working. There is a reason that these 2 boys are across the classroom from each other, yet at any opportunity they are like magnets, stuck to each other engaged in a love-hate relationship where at least once a day one of them is in tears or in a huff about something the other one said.   With a quick glance over as I take roll, I request for B. to go back to his desk and complete his work, a math page that is usually a fun review with a dot to dot or simple graph of a concept we have been learning.  Do the kids think it's fun? Well, most of them somehow do, but B? Not so much. He doesn't really like many tasks that involve a pencil and an attention span of longer than a couple minutes. I get that! Truly I do, but we have many other moments during the day when kids get to learn without pencils.
Fast forward to 8:10 ( wait, that's only 7 minutes later and already there's an issue?) It's time to line up for morning songs and exercises and B. is goofing around in line, clowning and trying to get his pals to respond to his antics. Ok, yes, having fun is allowed at school. I encourage a good sense of humor and give kids many opportunities to shine through their delight in telling stories, jokes, etc.  On the other hand, when you have a kid who derives most of his satisfaction from taking others on a wild joy ride of shared diversion when the majority of the kids are engaged in learning, it can be quite frustrating. I gently place my hand on B's shoulder requesting that he turn around, stop talking and sing with the teacher leading the songs. He glares at me as if I am the enemy, folds his arms and decides to sit down on the floor, in the midst of 99 other students who seem to be quite perplexed by B's display.
As all of the kids begin to sing, B. stands up, arms still folded, eyes burning a hole in me as he glares across the room. I smile at him and encourage him to sing along. His friends around him try to cajole him into smiling but he is one stuck little cookie. He does not want to move on, or he is simply not able. For whatever reason, it's wearing on my heart as I truly do not like when a child is unhappy or glaring at me for 20 minutes for that matter.
As we return to the classroom, B. decides to throw his arms around me and melt into a hug. Clearly he is having a difficult time regulating his emotions this morning and my heart goes out to him. I smile and encourage him to focus on a happy thought of something he will do today that he loves. He smiles back and I hope that our day will be on the right track now.
Fast forward 30 minutes to literacy center time. I am in the middle of teaching a reading group and most of the kids know that this is one of our most sacred learning times. Of course, as in any classroom, there are the frequent flyers who take any opportunity to need intervention, usually to stay safe or not cause a major commotion.  As B. comes hurtling across the room with a story to tell, I gently hold up my hand in a "wait" and tell him that he can ask a friend for help before coming to me. B. tries to talk to me and I redirect him back to his desk. He blurts out that the girl next to him has stuck her tongue out at him. I ask him to please tell her to stop and direct them both back to work. Precious minutes have disappeared from my instructional reading group time and I feel myself annoyed again though I try so hard to be patient.
B. returns to his table and instead of sitting in his chair, climbs under the table and looks out, as if he is an animal in the cage. Again he burns a hole in me with his stare; I motion for him to get out and return to my teaching. I have learned to ignore the annoying but not dangerous attention seeking behavior. B cannot get past his feeling upset that this girl has stuck her tongue out. Mind you, she does this to almost every student in class, almost every day, so most of the kids just ignore her.
It's time for a center change and B. has come out of his hiding space. He hasn't done any work yet today, but at least he is not bothering anyone else. I announce his name as one of the students coming to my reading table. He smiles and races over, and I sigh in relief. Ok, things are going to get better now, I hope.
B. struggles along with a group about the same level as he is. He loves stories but mostly listening to them and he gets very excited as he gets to predict during the picture walk. As we begin to read and I listen and help each child B. gets frustrated when he can't read a word. I tell him to try once more and I will help him in 20 seconds after I finish with another student. That's not fast enough for him, so he puts his head down on the table and sulks.
Perhaps you are thinking of a million strategies and interventions I can do with B. Trust me, I have tried many and I talk with his parents often who also worry about his resilience and sensitivity. We are working on helping him to develop strategies to deal with moments when things don't go quite the way he wants them to. After he blurted out at home that he "just wants to die", his mom requests to meet with me and talk about how we can help him. Although she is open to counseling, her husband does not want the stigma of admitting his child is struggling.They have had some parental health issues since B. was born, so it's no surprise that he is having a little trouble coping during his first year of school!
Perhaps you are wondering about the rest of the class as I spend all of this time helping B. Although I used B. as an example, he is definitely not the only child in my class requiring a great deal of energy. I have at least 3 other boys who have a great deal of difficulty managing attention and impulses. One, in particular is the oldest of the lot, having turned 6 in early December, but, as his mom puts it, "He has no filter. He just says whatever he is thinking." Just the other day this boy told me, "Hey, Mrs. Young, do you think you can hurry up teaching us? I'm getting tired."  ( This comment, mind you, happens because as we go through a discussion the impulsive kids interrupt several times, making the explanation of the activity take longer. Still though they have been sitting not even 5 minutes!) Another boy, whose desk most always looks like a tornado has struck, is a virtual tornado himself, often seen spinning himself across the classroom while the rest of the students try to ignore him and do their tasks. This child has great difficulty managing attention for more than about 3 minutes and does anything he can to avoid tasks involving a pencil.  The other boy I mentioned turned 5 just at the cut-off point late November/early December and has no interest in being at school. He comes to the rainbow rug each day with something stashed that he can throw at a peer. He rolls around on the floor or worse, stimulates himself by rubbing on his desk or the floor. He seeks out peer attention and uses his body to communicate instead of his words! Can you say, exhausting?
  I also have an adorable little girl on the Autistic spectrum (referred to as having an Asperger's diagnosis) who has a tendency to do off the wall things for attention. Like what? Like taking the fish tank and trying to carry it across the room, or shouting," Mrs. Young, you are a crazy old fool!" as I try to teach a lesson. These behaviors are nothing compared to the beginning of the year scenarios where she lunged across the room announcing her intent to poke her peers or me in the eye with a pencil. We have worked very diligently to keep her and the others safe this year and she never ceases to amaze me with her lively imagination and creative abilities.
This post only describes the first 2 hours of a day in Kindergarten. After recess we ( my student teacher/intern and I)   help kids calm down and regulate if they have had peer issues on the playground. We try to provide a positive, consistent routine to keep their spirits upbeat and the learning playful.  The kids who benefit most are those who can handle their emotions, get enough rest, and have been taught that life sometimes doesn't serve up exactly what you want, when you want it!
If you have a child about to begin school, think about his/her resilience. A wonderful website with resources for building self-regulation and resilience is Fishfulthinking. If you have other resources to share, please comment below! If any of this sounds familiar to you, please comment as well. All of us together can help kids when we share strategies that work!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What a Test Score Won't Reveal.. the Story of a Learner



I've been thinking a lot lately (oh no! run, she's been thinking again, and that usually leads to a long ramble..run while you still can! ) about how much of learning is about student/teacher relationships and other factors that do not get revealed with a #2 pencil on a multiple choice test.  Yes, pedagogy and teaching strategies are critical when kids are regularly attending school and participating; they allow us to push students to higher levels of thinking and creating. Without positive student-teacher relationships, however, kids may not even be physically and mentally present enough to  learn. As kids get older, do they show up to class or even school if they feel like their teachers don't care or  have respect for them? Maybe, but I doubt that they learn much in class.  Even younger students "check out" and even "act sick" to avoid school when they feel marginalized or misunderstood.
Ok, so all of this is a no-brainer to those of us committed to empowering and inspiring learners each day. What's my point? The point is that we are being held accountable for a complicated and often messy learning journey where we give our blood sweat and tears to help our students, by a number on a test; a test that takes a snapshot of a blurred brief moment will determine whether we are good teachers. And with tales of impending merit pay schemes, I am worried that basing pay on test scores will be yet another impetus for good teachers to flee education. It will also be another reason for cheating and all kinds of issues that take the focus away from what we want: students who are competent to meet the challenges of a complex world.   Although I agree that we can use some help in improving teacher training, both preservice and continued professional development, basing our pay on test scores misses a key point: the impact we make and the learning that takes place in a school year may not make its debut appearance during a stressful session of bubbling in dots on an answer sheet. 

Does a single set of standardized test scores truly tell the story of any kid? Does it tell anything meaningful and productive about the current teacher or even those in the grades prior where testing did not occur?  Does the score reflect the value of what we have done all year?
Does it reveal:
  • that Johnny has been homeless and for the first time this year he feels safe only during the day because he trusts his teacher at school?
  • that for all of kindergarten and 1st grade, the teachers who had that special needs child who didn't "qualify for any help" spent countless hours on their own researching and learning about how to help her, and even more hours keeping her and the class safe and engaged in learning?
  • that Sean's teacher spent hours each day trying to help him focus as his mom was getting chemo all during his days in kindergarten?
  • that parents and teachers often come together as partners in kids' education only to be blocked by school policies that necessitate years of failure before kids are deemed "in need" of extra help?
  • that in one school year a student made more than two years of growth, even though the test shows that he is still below grade level because he was not feeling well that week?
I could go on and on, but that's where I ask you to chime in share your stories. What does a test score leave out of the story?  How can we raise our united voices as teachers and stop this nonsensical belief that test scores tell the entire story?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Model a Love for Learning: Try Something New!

Yesterday I decided to take a risk in my classroom. Ok, I can hear you now thinking, "What does she mean, take a risk?" "Don't I have enough to do already?" Don't worry, I also have many things to do and lots of pressure to get my students ready for first grade in these last 7 weeks of school. With all that in mind, I  decided to try something new by experimenting with GarageBand, an application on this Mac laptop so graciously loaned to me by my school district.  In honor of Earth Day this week, I wanted to record my students talking about how they plan to take care of the Earth. It sounded like a good idea, right?  I have only played around at home on Garageband and have never tried recording voices or making any kind of podcast.  On top of that lack of experience, I am always a bit apprehensive about using new technology with my students out of fear something won't work; I am also worried about their short supply of patience. The truth is: when an adult models working hard at learning something new, kids are very helpful and patient!  Not only did I manage to record the kids voices, I also recorded Miss Harrington and I talking about the interviews (during our lunchtime, of course!) I edited for about 3 hours last night (because I am still learning!) and also added the kids responses to a fun site, Wallwisher, where I posted our class wallwisher . On my class website, in the weekly blog I invited parents to chime in on how they will help the Earth by adding a note to the wallwisher. I also posted the recording of the kids answering the question: "What will you do to help the Earth?"
So, after all that rambling, what's the point of this post? In case you missed it, here it is! Kids need to see adults learning new things, experimenting, and taking risks to create something new. If we want to develop kids who are willing to think critically and work hard, then we must model these behaviors ourselves so that we can facilitate a love for learning.
How do you show kids that you are open and committed to learning new things? Please chime in and share!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

An End to Spring Break..

It's Sunday night, the last night of spring break and I am trying to stop the emergence of stress, the pressure of anticipating a busy back to school day tomorrow. It's not like I don't love my job or my class. Truly, I do!  It's just that transitions are difficult for all of us, especially 5 year olds; after nine days of not having to get up early and be on a structured routine, they will be groggy and probably restless as they ease back into the routine. As I write I am brainstorming how I will make the transition easier!
First, I will give lots of "talk and share" time tomorrow for kids to catch up with each other and find out what they did over spring break. I gave them "Spring break Journals" to write in before break and I will let them project their stories on the big screen throughout our day tomorrow.
Next, I think I will take any opportunity to be outside with my class. Perhaps I will take my story time outside as I introduce our new Language Arts theme: Spring is Here. It looks like it will be a beautiful day tomorrow so why not go outside and do some hands on observation of what spring looks and feels like! Maybe the birds will give us a nice song as well.  In the afternoon, during math, I am thinking of making a few number lines with sidewalk chalk. I will teach the kids how to use the number line and give them some fun opportunities to learn while practicing addition by jumping across it!
Finally, I will just enjoy "being in the moment" and try to be patient as they adjust to the long school day. I am feeling better already as I remind myself that each school day does not have to be perfect. It's important that kids come to school and experience a safe, stimulating place where they can explore and become excited about their learning!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Power of Awe, Fascination, and Wonder : Part II


Back in November I wrote a post about The Power of Positive Emotions and Engagement in the classroom. I discussed how I would use a photo each day to inspire awe and wonder in my kindergarten kids, primarily to promote positive emotions in the classroom, which many researchers claim leads to more engaged learning. I also promised to post a picture of the "Inspiration Board, so here it is! ( yes, better late than never!)
I often see kids gazing at this board, conveniently positioned by the sink/drinking fountain, pondering what it would be like to be one of these animals. It's a great positive distraction space when someone is having a tough time letting go of a negative experience on the playground or even a difficult beginning at home that morning.
As a follow-up, I am incorporating this board with the themes we are studying in Language Arts. For example, during our theme "Wheels go Around" I showed kids, via my projector and laptop, pictures of different awe-inspiring vehicles and items with wheels. I did not print these pictures, unfortunately, because I frankly have used tons of ink at home.  In the future, for our upcoming "World of Animals" theme, I plan to announce via my class blog that kids are welcome to bring in inspiring pictures to share via the document camera and then for posting to the board. I also plan to have the students write "speech bubbles" or "captions" for the pictures. It will be fun to see what they write in response to pictures they can choose to respond to.
What strategies do you use to inspire awe, fascination and wonder in the classroom? Do you think it's worth the time spent to consciously create a positive classroom environment? 

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Environment is Key: Keeping it Calm and Positive

I have long believed that environment is critical in helping kids become their best selves. As a teacher, it is critical that I provide a safe place where kids can take risks, grow socially, academically and emotionally and become independent learners ready for 1st grade! 
As I write this, I become even more painfully aware that this environment is in jeopardy each day as more and more cuts impact education. In some school districts, including a district where I previously worked, K-3 classes are going to rise to 34 students and upper grades: 38+ students. My school will go to 24 students in primary classes next year.  Now if all kids were coming to school healthy, emotionally regulated and ready and able to learn, perhaps there would be less of a  problem.
There seems to be a trend that kids are coming to school with more intense physical and emotional needs; many display challenging behaviors requiring intense individual intervention. From Autism Spectrum Disorders, such as Asperger's to serious food allergies, to asthma to ADHD, not to mention emotional regulation challenges, the average teacher has at least a few students who meet such criteria.
In my class this year, for example, I have at least 5 students who are identified as having asthma. When the weather changes, or after even something as simple as an upper respiratory infection many of those students are given medications which make them absolutely bounce off the walls. I have several highly emotional students whose "meltdowns", particularly in the afternoons when they are tired, are stress-inducing for other students.
Although I am not allowed to diagnose and even further, dislike "labeling" kids, there are at least three students who meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD in my class. These students have great difficulty sustaining attention, cannot sit for more than a few minutes, and disrupt those around them who are ready to learn.  Three of those students are also in the asthma group. Coincidence?
In addition to those with issues of inattention and constant activity, several of my students have recent life changes that impact their daily emotional stability. Divorce, new babies at home, parents laid off or returning to work, parental long-term illness and other issues seriously impact kids each day.  We must arm our kids with tools to deal with their emotions so that they can be in a state of relaxed alertness, ready for learning. 
So, what do we do?
First, we must be sure that we give kids strategies to work through emotions. In class today, we discussed what we can do when we are upset, angry or frustrated. The students came up with some ideas: count to 10, breathe deeply, talk to someone, walk around for a few minutes, get a drink of water, and try to not think about it! Not long ago one of my students came up with a helpful strategy for himself; he says that when he gets upset at school he can "walk around it" in his mind and come back to solve that problem later. Of course, what he says isn't necessarily what he does as he can be observed on many occasions when he doesn't get his way yelling, "I guess you just don't love us!" across the classroom. Although these wise 5 year olds can say what they "could do" they surely need practice and adults who regularly model healthy expression of feelings. 
Not only must we model and explicitly teach healthy ways of expressing anger and frustration, we must also be cognizant of the media influence on young minds. Kids often use video games, movies, tv, and even music lyrics as both models and excuses for their behavior and outbursts. How do they learn to use such excuses at the tender age of five?  Parents may not "allow" their five year olds to play violent video games or watch "mature content" shows, but if someone in the home is doing so with the child walking in and out of the room, the exposure is certainly there. 
Providing a calm, emotionally and physically safe environment must be a team effort between parents and school. The experiences in both environments greatly impact the child and his capacity for learning. We must be vigilant to keep kids feeling calm and safe. Only then will we see optimal growth for each child.
How do you keep the environment safe and positive for your kids, at home or at school? Please share so that we can all learn from each other!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

This is Why I Teach

This letter arrived yesterday, from a boy I taught in Kindergarten(2004/05 school year) during my two years of teaching at Shackelford Elementary. ( If you click the picture above you can read the entire letter!)  My friend Jen, who still teaches there, mailed it to me  (Thanks Jen!)  after Miguel made a point to visit her classroom to give her the letter. 
This letter made my day, as any contact from former students usually does.  The class that I taught that year was my first year in Kindergarten, filled with many little ones completely unprepared for school, and lots of kids like Miguel who would say almost all day long, "I just want to play with the toys!" I can still hear his high-pitched voice ringing in my mind.  Miguel was, and is an adorable kid with deep dark eyes and hair he loves to slick or spike up.
I think I like the part where he asks me to come to visit Shackelford, which I hope to do during my spring break. Or maybe my favorite  is the part where he says that I am the best teacher in the universe. Looking more closely, I think both the last line: So I guess this is the end of my lovely letter and the P.S. I will always remember you are at the top of my favorites.
When was the last time a former student contacted you? What did he/she say? It inspires me to hear about lasting impact and  connections between teachers and students, so please share your stories here!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Helping Parents to be Better Parents




I have had several conversations this week with parents concerned about social-emotional development. They are concerned and committed to ensuring that their child is growing up strong, resilient, able to self-regulate and able to take risks in learning! I find myself often referring parents to the following resources, so I decided to list them here:
  • One of the most helpful websites I have found that helps parents understand factors for building emotional resiliency, empowerment, and overall well-being for kids is Fishful thinking, hosted by Dr. Karen Reivich, co-director of the Penn Resiliency Project, http://fishfulthinking.com/  On this website, there are parent questions and answers, videos, activities for kids, and links to a wealth of resources parents can use to become more aware and better able to meet their child's emotional needs.
  •   Another researcher who has impacted and affirmed my beliefs about kids and success is Carol Dweck from Stanford.  Her book Mindset and links to her work are in great detail here:  http://www.mindsetonline.com/
Both of these websites are filled with a wealth of resources. I often revisit them when an issue with a student leaves me searching for more understanding. I love to find resources to help parents understand and empower their children.
What are your favorite sites to help parents become better parents?