Sex Ed for Kindergartners? The Dutch Model

Take a look at the following article about the Dutch and their approach to teaching sexuality in schools and in their communities in general. No surprise that their rates of teen pregnancy and STD’s are some of the lowest in the world. They present frank subject matter in a proper context from a young age and bring parents into the mix to inform and help in the sexual education of their children. What an incredible model to adopt.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/spring-fever/

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Addressing Mental Health in our Schools

images-4A friend just brought this article to my attention. It is a really important read about new approaches to identifying and helping students with mental health issues by offering in school support. It also takes a look at influencing factors in students’ lives and what we as parents and educators can do to tackle these issues with a holistic approach to mental well-being.

http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/05/22/how-schools-can-help-nurture-students-mental-health/?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20150523

Pushing Our Kids to be Just Like Us

As a parent of an almost teen I have a lot to learn and a lot of mistakes that I’m sure I’ll make. In fact, I’ve already started to find myself caught up in a sea of confusion, tears, fragility, moodiness, and anxiety that we are both going to have to learn to navigate through.

Introvert vs Extrovert

What compounds this even more is that my daughter is an introvert and I am very much an extrovert. I’m more reactionary and have an outward approach to my surrounding environment.  I get to the point quickly, have vast amounts of energy, like to try lots of new things, and like being surrounded by large groups of people. A person like me can easily fatigue an introvert. My daughter on the other hand is more pensive, a quiet observer of the world.  She is sensitive and her focus comes from within. She is thoughtful and makes logical decisions about the friends and activities that best suit her personality. She is one of the truest friends you could ever find and because of this she is happy with just a few friends otherwise her energy would be depleted. As I’m sure you can imagine the dichotomy between these two personality types can result in a mountain of frustration between us as she anticipates the wrath of the mom overlord and I anticipate a fragile broken winged butterfly dropping to the ground in a heap of defeat.

Getting it Wrong

Over the years I have tried to get my daughter to be an extrovert. When she was little I joined playgroups and worked at getting her to have a full social circle. In grade school and told her not to be shy and that she should raise her hand in class so the teacher would think she was an active participant. In middle school I recommended that she join clubs and team sports. When my introverted husband interjected and said the orchestra that she played violin in was a good team sport I rolled my eyes in exasperation. In junior high I found myself suggesting to her that she might want to explore hanging out with the extroverted girls who are socially advanced and already into boys because she might expand her circle of friends and have more fun. Did I really say that?   I had clearly forgotten that I once was an introvert who cowered by my parents at the playground, never wanted to be called on in class and was considered socially naive by the more experienced girls when I entered into High School.

Characteristics

I know I shouldn’t completely blame myself for pushing the qualities of an extrovert on my daughter. The reality is that our society sets it up in a way  that we appear to give more value to these characteristics. From our early years of school through to our later years of life we are taught how important it is to be popular, a team player and a leader to become a successful, well-rounded person. We learn that if we embody these characteristics we will have a greater impact on the world. Take a look at the characteristics of an extrovert:

  • Are social – they need other people
  • Demonstrate high energy and noise
  • Communicate with excitement and enthusiasm with almost anyone in the vicinity
  • Draw energy from people; love parties
  • Are lonely and restless when not with people
  • Establish multiple fluid relationships
  • Engage in lots of activities and have many interest areas
  • Have many best friends and talk to them for long periods of time
  • Are interested in external events not internal ones
  • Prefer face-to-face verbal communication rather than written communication
  • Share personal information easily
  • Respond quickly

Conversely the characteristics of the introvert listed below are often misconstrued  as having negative connotations such as shy, socially awkward and an inability to easily adapt.

  • Are happy to be alone – they can be lonely in a crowd
  • Become drained around large groups of people; dislike attending parties
  • Need time alone to recharge
  • Are territorial- desire private space and time
  • Prefer to work on own rather than do group work
  • Act cautiously in meeting people
  • Are reserved, quiet and deliberate
  • Do not enjoy being the center of attention
  • Do not share private thoughts with just anyone
  • Form a few deep attachments
  • Think carefully before speaking (practice in my head before I speak)
  • See reflection as very important
  • Concentrate well and deeply
  • Become absorbed in thoughts and ideas
  • Limit their interests but explore deeply
  • Communicate best one-on-one
  • Get agitated and irritated without enough time alone or undisturbed
  • Select activities carefully and thoughtfully

Admittedly I’ve distorted these characteristics in the past as they pertain to my daughter and it’s taken me the better part of twelve years to realize it. The reality is that she’s a well-adjusted, active and intelligent person that reacts to her environment differently than I do. Studies show that introverts brains are actually  wired differently than extroverts. They have more gray matter in the frontal lobe of the brain that is linked to abstract thought than extroverts and they also produce less dopamine because they don’t need as much stimulation.

What I’ve realized is that there’s no one size fits all when it comes to personality traits, and it’s a disservice to an individual with unique qualities and characteristics to try to mold them into something they are not. The risk that we run if we take this approach is alienation, withdrawal and a loss of open communication, and that is one thing that I don’t want to loose as I navigate these sometimes choppy waters with my soon to be teen.

(Characteristics from: Hirsh & Kummerow, 1989; Keirsey & Bates, 1984; Lawrence, 1985; Myers & Myers, 1980.)

Keeping it Real With Condoms

images-3I’m finding a lot of good stuff to bring to people’s attention today. I also like to write about condoms which you might have noticed. In the article below there’s a 14 year old’s response to a condom survey. I guess the teacher wasn’t too happy  but I’ll  bet it would speak to a group of her peers.

http://elitedaily.com/news/world/teen-amazing-responses-no-condoms/1022735/?utm_source=comp&utm_medium=tr&utm_campaign=p10k80

Check this one out too. There was an outbreak of chlamydia in a school that teaches kids to practice abstinence. Hmm… think they’re curriculum is affective? The condoms in their community certainly aren’t.

http://thinkprogress.org/health/2015/05/04/3654650/outbreak-texas-sex-ed/

We’ve really got to wake up and change the way we educate our kids about sexual health.

Focusing on the Positive in the Classroom? Who’d a Thunk.

imagesI read something really great in the paper today. A charter school in Western NY has received a $575,000 grant from the US Department of Education to change the way they approach student behavior in the classroom. The school is going to be using a model called “Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support”. Instead of focusing on negative, punitive methods,  a common theme in classrooms nation wide, they will  adopt methods of positivity, praise, and reward to improve student teacher relationships, and the classroom environment in general. In preparation the school has been training faculty and staff on rewards-based solutions for positive behavior.  The idea is that if  kids are praised for a job well done they will feel greater self worth and be more committed to contributing positively in the classroom. This approach is based on the fact that student behavior is influenced by many factors and that we need to look at the individual student as we work towards a very necessary shift towards the model of “Whole Child, Whole School, Whole Community”. A foundation of wellness. Doesn’t it just make sense?

http://www.buffalonews.com/city-region/applied-technologies-charter-school-gets-575000-federal-grant-20150505

Giving Students A Voice

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I hear a lot about what’s wrong with our public education system in NYS from teachers, board members, and people in our state and local government. It’s usually delivered as a messy tangle of invective, finger pointing and name calling and it gets us nowhere. I’m always amazed by how infrequently I hear the voices of the students, many of whom are dealing with peer pressure, lack of resources, no parental support and teachers who have given up on them. If we would all stop and listen to the kids I think we’d find a very clear message of what their challenges are and how they affect school performance.

Below is a link to something our District is doing to give the kids a voice. Take a minute to listen then propose it to your District.

http://news.wbfo.org/post/focus-education-student-voices-part-i

I Wish My Teacher Knew….

This article was a tough read but so revealing of the issues that kids face outside of the classroom. Depression, absentee parenting, lack of money for food and school supplies, we can’t ignore the fact that these issues can directly affect behavior in the classroom. I wish all teachers would give their students this assignment.

http://wapo.st/1b9abMO