Anti-Bullying Apps for your phone?!? Yep!

In New Jersey, the Harassment, Intimidation, or Bullying (HIB) law was enacted for the the 2011-2012 school year. While it certainly is the most comprehensive, methodical law in the US today (you can read the law and the HIB process here: http://www.state.nj.us/education/parents/bully.pdf), it’s creation, formation, and opinions are stemmed from a variety of external factors. Factors include movies, websites, and even apps that you can use on your smartphone. I recently downloaded two apps and wanted to share with you my thoughts on them.

  • The first app I downloaded is called Stop Bullies. Free of charge, it offers to collect your personal information (name and contact info) and then send a bullying incident to authorities. The app gives you an option of sending a photo, a text message, or a video. You can send the incident as yourself or as ‘anonymous’ (I know what you’re thinking, but the anonymous piece is very important, as many state laws allow you to file complaints in this fashion). It also has a resources button that offers nine different links to various webpages (from defining the word ‘bully’ to “the ABC’s of bullying for students, parents, teachers, and administrators).

My concerns: from the administrative standpoint, I don’t know where this information is going. I have never heard of this program / app before, and as far as I know, nobody else has either. Is the company just collecting data or are they sending it to the District? Students and parents already have the opportunity to report HIB incidents anonymously in NJ (the district has to provide the tool to do such as well). I’ll be wataching to see if anyhting comes along via the Stop Bullies app.

  • The second app is called Take A Stand Together. Also free, this app was designed for students in Australia; I was hesitant at first to download, but bullying is universal and has no bounds. I’m glad I downloaded it. Take a Stand Together has five different links on the main app, but you need to build your avatar before “unlocking” areas. The avatar is fun to make, and you have to choose form ten anti-bullying statements. You give it initials, state your grade (designed for grades 1-12) and you province. I just clicked ūüôā Going back to the main page, each link takes you to a tip sheet tailored to what you clicked on offering scads of advice. Should you want more, you can click on links to websites out of the app, and on all pages you can click on the ‘get help!’ button and get additional tips, along with further contact information.

My Concerns – I don’t have any! I wish this app would be copied by a company in the US and updated with US contact information. Definitely worth checking out.

20120925-195710.jpg

20120925-195720.jpg

5 Back-To-School Night Tips for Principals and Teachers

For those that just started school, the infamous back-to-school open house nights have or soon will be arriving. When I was teaching, I remember being nervous for the first few years, with “what can I possibly cover in such little time” always being the top concern. ¬†I’ve had classes where we meet for 15 minutes, I’ve had seven minutes, and I even once had a free-for-all where parents can just walk up and ask questions.¬†

Whatever your format may be, and whomever you may be, here are some tips for your grand performance that evening:

1. Keep it simple!  Many parents have spent the day working and want just the facts.  Over the years, I have seen administrators and teachers ramble on and on about issues that are not relevant (myself included).

2. Give a shout-out to the PTA! The PTA is the backbone to every school, and whether you see it or not, they are helping you achieve your goals every step of the  way.  This is the biggest event of the year for the PTA in terms of membership.  They deserve a plug.

3.¬†Provide a hand-out. ¬†While we are all trying¬†adamantly¬†to ‘go-green’, giving a slip of paper with your contact information and a link to your website or school’s website is beneficial. Wanna get really snazzy? Generate a QR Code with a link to your website and post it on your door for parents to scan out! You can learn how to make one here:¬†http://www.qrstuff.com

4.¬†Project your voice. ¬†Whether it’s your classroom ¬†or the auditorium, your voice needs to be heard. ¬†It can easily be drowned out from late entries, the fan, or the PA system.

5.¬†Smile. All eyes are on you. ¬†You represent your school, and you are proud of it. Show everyone that you love what you do. It can help break any tension and¬†awkwardness along with showing everyone that you are not that ‘meanie’ that the kids described you as ūüôā

How teachers can have a great day, every day

If I could, I’d lay money on the claim I’m about to make: If you do the one little thing I’m about to suggest, you will have a great school year. Here it is:

At the end of every day, identify three things that went well in your classroom. That’s part one — what went well? When did you see indicators that your students were learning? That they were happy to be in school?

And part two: For each thing that went well, what was your role in it? What action did you take that resulted in the positive outcome?

Let’s say, for example, that the thing that went well was that the first day of school was calm and everything went as planned. When you explore your role in this successful first day, you might name that your lesson plans were three pages long, your materials were all organized five days before, and you got a good eight hours of sleep the night before.

This exercise can be done mentally, perhaps on the drive home. It is even more powerful if it’s written down and you compile a record of these daily successes throughout the year. And finally, it can also have a tremendous impact if it’s verbalized — perhaps shared with a colleague as an end-of-day ritual together. The key is that it becomes a habit of mind.

So what is this habit and why is it important?

This habit trains your mind to find the positive in every day and to identify your own agency in creating that positive. Rick Hanson, the author of The Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom, describes our brains as “like Velcro” for negative experiences — we dwell on them, and “like Teflon” for positive experiences — they slide right out of our minds. Our minds are practically programmed to notice and remember the things that aren’t working — and as teachers we know there are plenty of those each day. The little successes, growth, and positive moments are washed away by the tidal waves of what’s not working in schools.

As the waves of what’s-not-working batter us day after day, our emotional resilience erodes. We burn out. The practice I’m suggesting can be as an antidote. It won’t resolve all the problems we deal with in schools, but it can help us build emotional fortitude so that we maintain our energy. If every day, you can identify what’s going well within your sphere of influence, and how your actions resulted in those going-well moments, you might have a very different kind of school year than you’ve ever had. Try it!

Read and read other comments here: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/great-school-year-secrets-elena-aguilar

The NJ report that all NJ Educators & Administrators should read

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Christie wanted to task force assembled to look at that state’s various education laws and see if some could be addressed (or just eliminated) I’ll admit it – -I thought¬†Education Transformation Task Force¬†Initial Report (available at¬†http://www.state.nj.us/education/reform/ETTFFinalReport.pdf¬†) was going to be very slanted. ¬†After reading thoroughly, I thought there were some great¬†recommendations¬†and some I disagree with. Here’s what I took away from the report:¬†

  • The report tore up the QSAC (Quality Single¬†Accountability Continuum) and NCLB for about half of the report, calling both extremely time consuming, meticulous, and a bug waste of time with nothing really coming out of either except a fancy check list and pats on the back for¬†dedicating¬†so much time so said checklist.¬†
  • Makes a¬†recommendation¬†that if you need QSAC, do it with no checklist (I don’t really know how that would happen, since 99% of QSAC IS a checklist!)
  • Eliminates the 100 hours of¬†Professional¬†Development¬†for teachers and makes the¬†argument¬†that PLC’s can replacement actual workshops (I somewhat agree with this — PLC’s should account for much more, but a PLC can’t and won’t replace an excellent workshop.)
  • Makes several¬†recommendations¬†to eliminate several rules on the books based on the recent 2% cap that was implemented (In NJ, you’re budget does not have to get voted on if you if you raise your budget by 2%) – so a variety of rules on the books, ranging from record keeping to the 1 Custodian for every 17,500 sq. ft. rule.
  • Switch to electronic record keeping and not having to keep paper copies of student records for 100 years.
  • Eliminate the Early Childhood Advisory Council (ECAC) because it’s objective does is not ‘one size fits all’.
  • Cut the “program of studies” of school Nurses from 9 areas to 2 so more in the workforce can apply.
  • Add the phrase “and other¬†relevant¬†data” after “state assessments” when¬†determining¬†student achievement. ¬†I’m a huge fan of this – every educator with common sense knows that state assessments are not the end all, be all..
  • Allow School Administrators to the number of classroom Aides are needed, not state code. ¬†I like this, but cane see where abuse may come into play….
  • Lets Districts choose the buses they purchase and allow them to buy what’s best for them, not just based on enrollment.
  • Change requirements for school ¬†business administrators (BA’s) so they can get their permanent certification easier by allowing them to work in private / charter / handicap school instead of just a public school.
  • Cut or ‘relax’ the space requirement for Pre-K.
  • Instead of having mandatory home instruction offered after 10 consecutive days of school absence, offer other opportunities to learn, like an online program or “Creative use of technology” as the report put it.
  • Eliminate the requirement of¬†Commissioner¬†& BOE approval to just¬†Commissioner¬†approval. ¬†Not a fan of this; it allows whatever political appointee is there to call shots that can be politically charged.
  • Reduce the water safety¬†requirements¬†for those schools that have pools. ¬†I thought the list was kind of¬†ridiculous!

First Day Jitters…. everybody still gets em!

Well, here we are again. ¬†A new school year, loaded with learning and opportunity for administrators, teachers, and of course, students! ¬†With year 12 being added to my belt, I still had those restless nights… pondering a plethora of questions in my head.¬†Did I do everything I could to be ready for Day 1? Did I give all of my resources to my teachers? Is my building up to code? Are my students going to pull it off like they always do and have a great first day?

Many of my friends are teachers and administrators.  They too are having the same thoughts.  Over the weekend, several of us discussed our annual jitters and what we do to get through them, because, we all do get through them!

Some of my rituals to ensure that I am doing everything I need to do —

Make an outline.  I taught 8th graders how to do this for years, and I always felt that I needed to practice what I preached.  I always outline everything that I plan to do on Day 1 Рwith students and staff.  Upon making the list, I immediately start revising.  I try to cut as much as I can; the attention span of students and staff is limited.  I try to say the really important stuff, then follow-up with that AND the other stuff in an email.  That should have links, attachments, or both.

Send what you can out ahead. ¬†Teachers are planners by nature; they spend 180 days doing it in their classrooms and most of them have a similar routine outside of work. ¬†I always found it¬†courteousness¬†and informative to send out information in advance so those can take it all in. ¬†My back-to-school e-packet was over 20 pages this year. ¬†Most of it had the same-ol, same-ol mandated stuff, but those other small bits of information are crucial for Staff to have in advance. ¬†If anything, it gives a sense ¬†of relief. ¬†If there are assignments, people like to know what they’re doing ahead of time. ¬†Yes, you’re giving more time and opportunity for the complainers to complain more, but let’s face it, they would be complaining anyway.

Keep it simple. No teacher or students wants to face a lecture laced with edu-babble and fear. ¬†Keep your conversations simple. ¬†It’s appreciated all around.

Use humor. Working in a middle school environment for most of my educational career, you have to laugh, and often. ¬†If you don’t, you’ll be miserable.

I used the four above, and once again, I got through my first day. ¬†I’m looking forward to many more.

The “Summer Slump”

Julie O’Connor is a writer for the Star Ledger, a New Jersey newspaper. Her editorials often fire people up, but her points are often well¬†received. ¬†Below is a piece about students when the return to school after their summer recess… often overweight and typically a month behind academically. ¬†Some schools in NJ are trying to combat it. ¬†Fun read, especially for those for make the great-return to school tomorrow.

 

Your kid can hum the jingle of an ice cream truck in perfect pitch and lip-sync every word of the pop hit ‚ÄúCall Me Maybe.‚ÄĚ But now that summer is ending, it‚Äôs time to examine the aftereffects: According to national experts, the average American child has grown over the past three months ‚ÄĒ and not in a good way.

What they mean, to put it bluntly, is stouter and stupider.

Call it the summer slump. This is not the carefree summer of freedom you might recall from your youth or a Mark Twain novel. That’s not reality for most kids. They’re just bored.

They haven’t been climbing trees. They’ve been shooting avatars on Xbox. They didn’t have a ritzy camp, or even a decent summer program to attend. So they packed on the pounds and forgot much of what they learned the year before.

It’s a national scourge. Studies show kids return to school at least one month behind where they were when the previous school year ended, on average. And they put on weight in the summer two to three times faster than during the school year.

Why fight to raise test scores, only to see them crash? Why remove high-calorie sodas from school vending machines if kids guzzle them for three months straight?

We‚Äôve got to find ways to combat the brain drain and weight gain ‚ÄĒ as a top charter school in Newark already did.

By the end of summer, the average kid has forgotten roughly the equivalent of a third of a school year, research shows. That’s more than two months of math skills, gone. Think about it: How many parents want to spend their summer teaching long division?

Summer slump is worse in poor children. They also lose more than two months of reading skills, according to Harris Cooper, a professor of education at Duke University. In better-off families, it’s more common to read and have books lying around.

The result is devastating. By the end of elementary school, poor kids have fallen nearly three grade levels behind, primarily because of summer slump, Johns Hopkins researchers found. By ninth grade, summer learning loss can be blamed for as much as two-thirds of the achievement gap between income groups.

Poor kids, more prone to obesity, are also the most likely to put on weight during the summer, said Gary Huggins of the Summer Learning Association, a national group trying to reverse these trends. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs like pushing the rock uphill for 12 months,‚ÄĚ he said, ‚Äúand having it roll back on us for the last two.‚ÄĚ

One third of American children are overweight. Yet schools may do a better job than parents at keeping them in shape: A recent study of 5 and 6 year-olds showed they gain up to three times more weight during summer break than the school year. That’s probably because they’re stuck indoors while their parents are at work, with too much junk food and TV and not enough exercise.

spark-charter-school-2.JPGJennifer Brown/The Star-LedgerArt teacher Melissa Levine gives kindergartener Vonetta Kornegay, 6, a hug during a summer program at Spark Academy, one of Newark’s highly successful TEAM charter schools.

THE OUTLIERS

The best charters got ahead of the slump. Spark Academy, one of Newark’s highly successful TEAM Schools, recognized it years ago, when its first kindergartners made big strides that vanished by the fall. But there were outliers: nine kids out of 100 who actually grew over the summer. What could explain that?

Standout parents, it turns out. They read to their kids and kept them on a homework schedule. It inspired a whole new summer strategy.

The school asked those parents to coach the others. In addition to two weeks of summer classes, it added a summer-long homework regimen. Staffers checked in with families and helped them scrape together funding for camps. They gave kids age-appropriate books and a fall fiesta as incentive: ‚ÄúThe Summer VIP Homework Rager.‚ÄĚ

Across all grades and subjects, summer learning loss was reduced ‚ÄĒ sometimes dramatically. Between kindergarten and first grade, the summer slide in math was cut by half, and it was nearly eliminated in reading. By the start of second grade, the reading loss had turned into a gain.

The charter also got a head start on incoming kindergartners. Staffers visited parents in the spring to distribute cut-out flashcards. Weeks ago, dozens of kids started school, learning to walk in a neat line, hands at their sides, lips zipped, on their way to a healthy lunch.

STUCK IN THE SLUMP

Now consider the thousands of kids who didn’t make it into a top charter. The ones whose parents can’t afford summer camp or classes. They’re probably out of luck.

Parents juggling multiple jobs are often desperate to enroll their kids in a summer program. But there simply aren’t enough. Whether academic or recreational, most of the ones in Newark have long waiting lists.

They call this the ‚Äúfaucet theory‚ÄĚ: Academic resources for the poor get turned off in the summer, while better-off parents compensate to some degree with travel or trips to museums.

Summer school is not always an option, either. Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson has improved the district’s free program, tailoring it to specific skills that students lack and testing to see if goals were met. But it doesn’t take every kid; it focuses on those most in need of improvement.

And that’s saying a lot. By third grade, only about 35 percent of Newark students are on track in reading. Only about 40 percent of eighth graders can read well enough to enter high school.

Even for kids who most need summer school, there‚Äôs a big deterrent: air conditioning. Unlike Spark Academy, the district doesn‚Äôt always have it. ‚ÄúThat was one of the biggest disincentives for students,‚ÄĚ said Justin Davis, a Spark teacher who previously taught the district‚Äôs summer school. ‚ÄúWho wants to sit in a classroom that‚Äôs 90-plus degrees?‚ÄĚ

NOT JUST FUN

Anderson is doing her best to fix the school year for Newark kids. But that alone won’t be enough, said Dale Anglin of the Victoria Foundation, which funds summer learning programs in the city.

‚ÄúIf we don‚Äôt address summer, she will not get to where she needs to be with those kids,‚ÄĚ Anglin said. ‚ÄúThey continue to slide in the summer no matter what she does.‚ÄĚ

So summer‚Äôs when everyone needs to chip in ‚ÄĒ and not just in struggling districts. Extending the school year isn‚Äôt an option for most public schools because of union contracts. But there are plenty of other ways to fight the slump. We need more good programs that combine academics with healthy food and sports. And parents who read with their kids.

It all begins with the parents, as Spark Academy found. Many had never heard of summer slump, or simply viewed it as a deserved vacation. But there’s nothing rewarding about long, hot days spent on a city stoop or in front of a TV screen.

‚ÄúYou know who figured this out?‚ÄĚ Anglin said. ‚ÄúThe charters. Those teachers tell their parents: ‚ÄėYou get them into a summer program.‚Äô We need everyone to be like that ‚ÄĒ and those of us who are older need to get rid of our notion that summer is just about fun.‚ÄĚ

You can comment and read other comments here: http://www.nj.com/njvoices/index.ssf/2012/09/if_summer_break_leaves_kids_st.html

Five excellent parent tips for anti-bullying

Americans are obsessed with lists, and research has shown that we are fans of quick, meaningful information in thos 21st century age. ¬†Here’s a great tip sheet from the US Department of Education for helping your child combat bullying in school.

 

5 Ways to Help Your Child Prevent Bullying this School Year

Posted on August 30, 2012 by Deborah Temkin

As children head back to the classroom, now is a great time for parents and guardians to talk with your kids about bullying. Here are five tips to help your child prevent bullying and to help them deal with bullying:

Back to School Logo1)     Establish lines of communication and talk for at least 15 minutes a day. Bullying can be difficult for parents to talk about, but it is important that children know they can talk to you, before they are involved in bullying in any way. StopBullying.govand our partners at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) have easy tips and tools that can help start the conversation.

2)     Make sure kids know safe ways to be more than a bystander. When kids witness bullying, it can affect them too. Helping kids learn what they can do to help when they see bullying can help to stop bullying. Click here for more suggestions on how bystanders can help.

3)     Know your state’s anti-bullying law and your school’s anti-bullying policy. Forty-nine states have laws requiring schools to have anti-bullying policies. Know what your school policy says and how to report an incident of bullying if you ever need to.

4)     Learn how to support kids involved in bullying. When you find out your child is involved in bullying, it is important to know how to respond. Whether your child is bullying others or is the one being bullied it is important to know what steps to take, and which to avoid, in order to resolve the situation.

5)     Take an active role in anti-bullying initiatives. The key to addressing bullying is to stop it before it starts. Work with your children, their school, and the community to raise awareness and take action against bullying. Toolkits like the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Community Action Training Modules can help you start an initiative in your community. You can get your children involved, too, by using theYouth Leaders Toolkit to help them mentor younger children.

Visit StopBullying.gov for more helpful tips on how to prevent bullying, and have a great school year!

Deborah Temkin is a Research and Policy Coordinator for Bullying Prevention Initiatives at the Department of Education