Sunday, May 26, 2013

12 Things Your Child's Teacher Wanted to Tell You...But Couldn't

Please help me give this week's guest a warm welcome!  She helps us all have a new perspective on what many teachers would like all parents to know.  Enjoy!

Hey y'all! I'm Christina and I blog over at The Scrappy Housewife. Before I was a blogger though, I was a teacher. At the time, there were many things I wanted to share with parents, but couldn't, so when Jenny asked me to guest post, I knew this could be my only chance! Below, you'll find a list of twelve things that teachers desperately want you to know, but don't often have the opportunity to tell you. I hope you will be encouraged by it and that it helps you and your child grow in your walk through their education.

1. We don't like those standardized tests either - There's a lot of talk these days about standardized testing and how teachers "teach to the test". The sad truth of that is that yes, we do. Often, we have no choice. Teachers are often faced with losing their jobs if students don't perform to a certain level OR we're required to check off a thousand boxes in a set list of standards.

With that said, testing is necessary. Teachers know that we need to assess a student's progress, but it should only be a tool, not the make or break, stress inducer it has become. No child should be anxious or stressed out by a test.

2. Grades aren't everything - We get it, you want your child to make all "A"s. We want that too. Really. But we also really want you to know that a C in second grade doesn't mean your child won't get into a good college. And a C isn't a "bad" grade either. I had a wonderful administrator once who told parents that C means "average" - it means your child is where they should be for their age and grade level­. If your child is making all "A"s, that often means that they're exceeding what's required. Children, especially those in the primary grades (K - 3), are still very young and grades are often not the full picture of what they are learning.

What we as teachers really want to see is progress. As long as your child is progressing, learning and improving, we feel they are successful. We want you to feel that way too. We want you to celebrate progress and not just a letter on a piece of paper.

3. Your child probably isn't gifted or in need of special education - Along with grades, we want you to know that making all "A"s on a report card does not mean that your child is "gifted". Gifted children (those meeting the requirements for gifted and talented programs) meet a very specific set of requirements and grades are only a very small part of that.

In that same vein, if your child is making Cs consistently, that doesn't mean they need special education services. Just like the Gifted and Talented program, special education has a very specific set of requirements and grades only play a small role in the decision to place a child in special services. Remember, Cs really mean that your child is meeting grade level standards. They are a good ol' average kiddo.

4. Children grow and develop differently - and that's OK - It's very easy to compare your child to another, especially when you see them with their friends and classmates. We, as teachers, don't. We know that while your child may cut proficiently at 4, another one might need a little help until they're 6 - and that's OK! We want them to succeed, and to feel that success, but we know that pressuring them to look like their classmate can make them shut down and not want to perform at all. That leads to hating school! It's important to remember to celebrate your child where they are right now. Please don't point out what the other children can do in an effort to push your child to do more. Your child will get there. We'll be glad to help with strategies that can both make your child feel successful and get them where they need to be.

5. We want to work with you - So often in this day and age, teachers are seen as the enemy. Every small mistake or oversight sends parents to the principals office to complain - or worse - to the county office! Here's the absolute truth - we can't help you, if we don't know what the problem is. We truly want to work with you. We want to be an ally in this journey with you. Please come to us first. We aren't out to "get" your children and often what might get relayed to you at home isn't entirely accurate. That same sweet administrator I mentioned above, used to say - "If you promise not to believe everything that you hear about school at home; I promise not to believe everything that's said about home, at school." ;)

6. Please allow your children to have milestones at appropriate ages - Here's something you might not have considered, but we teachers think about it a lot. That limo you rented your second grader to attend the Taylor Swift concert, isn't as innocuous as you might think it is. Children need age-appropriate milestones or they're going to grow up way too fast. If your child's teacher could tell you, they'd want to tell you that they want your children to be children as long as possible. Things "get old" for kids very quickly. Once they get that limo or those fish net stockings (sadly, I've seen that on a second grader - I couldn't make that up if I tried) - they'll look for other "grown up" things to do next - most of which are not age-appropriate. Consider the implications when they're 15.

7. Bullying isn't what you might think it is - I can't tell you how many times I've gotten calls from angry parents claiming that their child is being "bullied" when in fact, it's just that a couple of kids had a bad day and said an unkind word or two to each other. Here's something we teachers want you to know - bullying is a repeated act. If little Johnny says something mean to your child on Monday, that does not make it bullying. Bullying would be Johnny saying mean things to your child every day - over a period of time. Most of the time, children have a rough day, say things they don't mean to say, or are less than kind, but that doesn't mean they're bullying each other. Consider this - You might have a bad day at work and snap at a coworker. You aren't bullying that coworker. You're just having a bad day! Kids are the same. Give it a couple of days and see how things play out.

Please note: This does not include acts of physical harm or things that could put your child in immediate danger. Kids are creative and they can often hide things, even from their teachers. If you feel that your child is truly in immediate danger report it immediately.

8. Please be open to what we have to say - Often, as teachers, we have to say things to you that we know you don't want to hear. You can trust me when I say to you that we measure our words carefully and say these things out of concern for your child. We want your child to be the best they can absolutely be, and sometimes that means they need extra help. We don't take these decisions lightly and we aren't bringing these subjects up on a whim. If a teacher wants to talk with you about any of the following, listen carefully and keep an open mind:

- Special education services

- Behavior issues


9. Please schedule appointments with us if you want to discuss your child's progress. (Emphasis on "schedule") - I cannot tell you how many times I and my colleagues have arrived at work, to find a concerned parent at the door. Often it's because of something they've heard at home the night before. They want to have a conference right now - in the few minutes before the bell rings while we're getting children settled in for the day. This is not the right time to discuss what are often private concerns.

Here's why: You really don't want other children and parents hearing our conversation. I don't either. I want to protect the privacy of you and your child. Also, we don't often have time to adequately address your concerns at that time. Consider this: When you get to work, do you want a disgruntled coworker/patient/client standing at your office door? Can you calmly address their concerns in the few minutes you have before your day begins and things get hectic? Nope.

Scheduling a conference will ensure that we are in the moment with you, we are prepared, and we can spend more time with you.

10. There's a time to step in and there's a time to let your child work things out on his/her own - In this day and age of "helicopter" parenting, we teachers often see parents stepping in for their children way too quickly. Children argue, they refuse to share, they may find a mistake in the way we graded their paper. I could go on. The rule of thumb we would love for you to follow is this - If your child is not in danger, let them try and handle things first. By rushing in to make sure they feel no sadness or frustration, you are robbing your children of quality problem solving opportunities. School is a "safe-zone" for children to practice maneuvering in the real world. This is where they learn to stand up for themselves and others in a safe environment. Bad things are going to happen in life. What you don't want is your child never learning to be resilient and strong in their own right. This is an integral part of their development. Without being able to solve their own problems, you are ensuring that as adults, they won't know how to handle adversity.

11. Let your child be bored - We currently live in a world where children are drastically overscheduled. So often I've heard parents say, "Well, I want my child to be well-rounded." I totally get that. But here's the truth - boredom is a good thing. Downtime on their own is important. This is where children learn to be creative and to fill time. When we provide multiple nightly activities, tutoring, lessons and playdates a week (or even every night!) children don't have the opportunity to spend time with themselves. These "down" times are often where you can learn a lot from your child - what they love and are interested in; how their mind works. It can be a wonderful opportunity for growth!

Teacher's Note: This is not a free pass to plop down in front of the TV or video game time. This is a time to unplug. No electronics.

12. Be present/talk with your children - Have you ever been to a restaurant and seen an entire family plugged in to a smart phone, tablet or video game? Teachers often cringe when we see that. Dinner time should be the time when everyone is unplugged. It might be a cliche, but children grow up so quickly. Be present (and unplugged!) with them as often as you can. Talk to them, and most importantly listen. The sad truth is that children are educated by the world all the time - not just at school, and not just in your presence. If you don't take the time to talk with them daily, about the little things, they won't come to you when the big things come up. You don't want them learning about things from their peers. Build that relationship when they are small.

Most of all, remember that we are with your child eight to nine hours a day and we know your child pretty well. We care for and love your children as though they are our own. We only want the best for them, and for you. Any teacher worth her salt will bend over backwards to help your children learn and grow.

Thanks again for letting me guest post Jenny! I hope all of you will visit me over at my blog too. I'd love to have you. :)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

10 Ways to Celebrate Birthdays without Spending a Lot of Money

In our family birthdays have always been a BIG deal. My mom and dad raised three children and they always found a way to make our birthdays special.  My parents were masters of helping us have fun without spending a ton of money.  So, instead of keeping all these great ideas to myself, I thought I'd share with you tonight!  Let's see if we can come up with at least 10 ways to celebrate birthdays without spending a lot of money! 
1. Start with family.  In our house we start our celebration with family. We all gather on the birthday morning and wake up the birthday person together with singing, smiles, sharing memories, and lots of hugs!  You can make phone calls, send an email, or pop on over to the birthday child's house to help them celebrate their special day!  You don't have to spend $5 on a card to send a warm greeting!
Yes, that's me and my mom with my Raggedy Ann cake made by Aunt Doris when I was about 3 years old.
2. Celebrate with singing.  If you would like a little more than just the traditional rounds of "Happy Birthday" check out this cd by Red Grammer.  Our family favorite (as well as our Conscious Discipline Favorite) is "On the Day You Were Born".  We sing and dance and act out the verses of the song with motions that go along with the words.
Here is a link to Red's Website where you can find more activities to go along with this song. 
3.  Establish and treasure traditions.  In our family we have a few traditions that although they may be a bit annoying to the kiddos, they would totally miss them if we didn't do it!  :)  One thing we love to do every year is look back at the scrapbooks and share their "birth"-day story.  Let me tell you there is lots of eye rolling when they hear me say, "I feel so much better than I did this time 12 years ago..." just like my mom has done with me for the past 40 years! 
Yes, I drag the birthday hats out of the cedar chest every year!  They have been getting their pictures taken in it since their first birthday and they are just thrilled about it!
This is our celebration mug alongside the birthday hat.  The mug is special because my husband painted it a couple of years ago when we went to Color Me Mine, a paint your own pottery place in Carmel, IN.
4.  Focus on their favorites!  We try to start the day with the birthday child's favorite breakfast food.  For my son that is what we call Lava Lava Island.  We take two waffles, put a scoop of ice cream in the middle, then drizzle it with chocolate syrup and maple syrup.  He knows we only have it on special occasions and that makes it even more special!

I also take special requests for dinner on their birthday.  All year long they talk about what they will have for their special birthday dinner.  Sometimes its fondue, steak, salmon patties, or grilling out hamburgers and hotdogs.  It doesn't really matter to us what it is as long as it is something the birthday person likes!

5. Get creative with the cake.  I remember one year when we made banana racecars for my dad's birthday.  We used cookies for wheels and marshmallows and cherries on top.  It doesn't have to be a traditional cake to be special. 

When I was 11 years old my parents baked a birthday check right in the middle of my cake.  I wondered why the cake was so hard to cut!

This was an idea I found on Pinterest called the Exploding Cake.  Now, remember that my son turned 12 this year.  He is old enough to safely handly a joke and a little fun with this "special" cake.  I would not recommend doing this with young children or those who have a lot of sensory issues!   Honestly, I thought the cake looked strangly similar to a Thanksgiving turkey and didn't think he's fall for it, but he did--hook, line, and sinker!

He was posed and ready to cut into what he thought was a delicious cake his grandma made for him.

Surprise!  It was a balloon covered in icing.  It made a little pop and splattered little bits of icing throughout the room, but it was so worth it!

The room errupted into laughter, hugs, and reliving the moment over and over again because it was so much fun!  Can you see the chocolate icing on his neck and upper lip?  Some of it even flew across the table an hit me in the cheek!  You better believe we will be talking about that for years! 
6.  Go over the top!  Birthdays are so special that we want to make it colorful and lots of fun!  We started this tradition last year.  During the night, we decorate the house with balloons and streamers so it will be tons of fun when the birthday child wakes up.  It makes their day even brighter!  

7.  Keep it novel.  Although there is certainly a place for traditions, the novelty keeps it fresh and exciting.  When we decorate with balloons and streamers we put up enough balloons for every year of their life.  What could you do to give their birthday a special twist that makes it even that much more special?  Take something you are already doing and add a little twist.  The element of surprise keeps it fun! 

We put one dollar in each balloon. The birthday child has all day to think of different ways to pop each balloon, but they have to wait until after dinner to do it while the whole family watches.

8.  Give them "one to grow on".  This year, when we did the balloons, we added a 13th balloon for "one to grow on".  We challenged our son to use this 13th dollar to do something good.  He could do it with just $1 or he could grow the $1 with a creative idea and use that larger amount to make a big difference in someone's life.  This is hopefully the gift that keeps on giving!

9.  Put a special focus on noticing the person with a birthday.  In our preschool classroom we "make a birthday cake" for the birthday child.  The child (or adult) sits in a chair and we talk about all the "special ingredients" in our cake.  Those "ingredients" are all the special things we love about that person.  For example, we might talk about ways they are helpful, kind, patient, enthusiastic, creative, and energetic, any characteristics that you want to highlight.  We "ice" the cake by interviewing them and asking questions about their favorite things, how old they are and other little bits of information we want to know.  Now that the cake is complete the birthday child picks a number of friends that equals their age and these friends are going to be the candles on the cake.  They will dance around the child in a circle as the whole class sings the Happy Birthday song.  When the song is over they "blow" out the candles and each child "melts" by falling to the ground.  Of course the birthday child gets to wear special glasses, a hat, and a necklace too!  This birthday ritual has a very special place in the life of our School Family.
10. Don't wait to celebrate!  Celebrate with your family all the time!  What we offer to others, we strengthen in ourselves.  You will find that when you focus on celebrating even the smallest accomplishment, BIG things can happen.  Don't wait until their birthday to get out the special cup and plate!  Get them out today and celebrate just because it's FRIDAY and the weekend is here! 
 This is a video of my friend Shelly as she shares the song she sings to her boys every Friday.  They enjoy this song as she is waking them up on the "best day of the week."  Have fun celebrating!!

Great BIG Giveaway Celebration!

Hold on to your hats! I have some good great news for you!  My friend Amy, over at One Artsy Mama, has reached a big milestone on her Facebook page.  She surpassed 4000 likes yesterday!!!  So, several blogging friends have joined together to help her celebrate with a HUGE giveaway!

One lucky winner will get their choice of one of the following prizes:  a Silhouette Portrait (which will come with a fabric blade, 2 types of fabric interfacing, and a $25 download card), a $200 Amazon Gift Card, OR a $200 Target Gift Card!  Wow!  It would be hard to decide!  With so many positive choices--you can't lose!

I am so excited to share this opportunity with you!  Make sure that you follow my blog while you're here and visit all my bloggy friends who are joining me in this celebration as well!
Rafflecopter is very user friendly.  It will walk you through the steps to enter the giveaway.  I wish you well and thanks again for stopping by!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway is open to entrants ages 18 and over and ends at 12:00am EST on May 30, 2013. Approximate retail value $200.00. Number of entries received determines the odds of winning. One winner will be selected. This is a giveaway sponsored as a group buy, which means the bloggers pooled their money together to purchase this product for you. All liabilities and responsibilities with the product itself is directly responsible by Silhouette America. Winner will drawn by from all verified entries, contacted by the email provided when entering, and announced on this page at the end of the contest. Winner has 48 hours to respond or prize will be redrawn. Entrant is responsible for the email address they provide, whether through typing it directly or through the Facebook entry method. One Artsy Mama is not responsible for lost, misdirected, or undeliverable emails. All prizes will be awarded, no prize substitutions allowed. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with Facebook and we hereby release Facebook of any liability. Information is provided to One Artsy Mama, not to Facebook, and your information is never sold or shared. Facebook, Target, Amazon, and Silhouette America are not a sponsor of this giveaway. Prize is mailed or emailed directly by Amy of One Artsy Mama. Protected tweets do not count as an entry method for tweeting; tweets must come from a public account. Bloggers in this group giveaway and their immediate family members in their household cannot enter or win the giveaway. International entrants are not eligible to receive the Silhouette Portrait unless they provide a valid US Shipping address.  No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited by law.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Chocolate-Covered-Cookie Tantrum

I would like to introduce you to my guest this week, Emily.  I am so privilaged to have such talented experts among my blogging friends! 

Hi there, my name is Emily and I have a little blog called "A Tossed Salad Life." The blog focuses mainly on my recipes, crafts, and my family. Jenny and I participate in a blog mentoring group together, and she mentioned that she was interested in starting up a series of guest contributors. When she asked if anyone might be able to assist, I was delighted to volunteer!

While my blog discusses slow cooker recipes and sewing projects, I have a day job as a developmental psychologist. I have spent
too many  a lot of years studying early childhood development, particularly social-emotional development. I find those first five years of a child's life to be an amazing period. I can't help but marvel when I compare the primitive newborn that comes home from the hospital with her parents to the interactive, social and talented little person that celebrates her first birthday one year later!

I thought that I would talk today about temper tantrums. Temper tantrums are very common experiences in children who are between the ages of one and four. They are completely normal! Every parent who has taken their toddler/young preschooler out into the world has had their child tantrum to some degree, at some point in time!

Just because tantrums are extremely common:
1) Doesn't mean that they aren't frustrating;
2) Doesn't mean that some children have worse and more frequent tantrums than other children;
3) Doesn't mean that you are a bad parent!!!

I have vivid memories of my 10-year-old screaming and carrying on in a restaurant one night when he was about a year and a half old. He wanted to explore and it was getting close to his bedtime. He started screaming, and I took him into the foyer of the restaurant. I then must have spent a good fifteen minutes calming both of us down before returning to our meal. Around this time, I decided to change the way I was thinking about tantrums. I knew in my head his tantrums were not meant to be elaborate plots to disrupt things, but when they were happening, I felt angry and upset at my son for his behavior and at myself for my inability to manage them.

The Chocolate-Covered-Cookie Tantrum
Luckily, I found this book called the Chocolate Covered Cookie Tantrum, and my son and I read that book a lot. It discusses the perspective of the tantrum from the little girl, not the parent. When I read the book, it reinforced everything that I knew about tantrums, but it gently reminded me about how my son must be feeling when he was tantruming. Toddlers feel out of control when they are tantruming. It's a whirlwind of emotions-- rage, sadness, frustration, impatience, and exhaustion. The author and illustrator of the Chocolate Covered Cookie Tantrum really captures the intensity of the emotions that a tantruming toddler is experiencing.

One of the things that we started doing with my son is labeling what was going on during his tantrums. We gave him words to help explain his emotional tornado. As adults, we use language to help regulate our own emotional experiences. Think about when you start feeling mad or frustrated or anxious. You have the physiological reaction, and then you start labeling how you are feeling, and thinking about solutions. All of this involves using your words!

Little guys don't have those words, and lots of times, don't even know what they are feeling-- they just know it feels bad... and big... and scary! For my son, we started talking him through his tantruming. What I was trying to do was giving him the words that he didn't have yet. "You're so mad. You are so mad that we had to leave the park. You liked the park. You wanted to stay. You feel mad when Mommy says it is time to come home. You feel so sad that you can't play all day at the park. You are mad that you can't do everything you want to do..." It basically is giving a running dialogue for the tantrum. It is a technique that I have recommended to parents since, and have heard others' recommend to parents.

I want to point out that I wasn't telling my son that it was okay to tantrum. I wasn't condoning his tantrum, just trying to help him develop some skills to prevent future tantrums. I was being matter-of-fact. Sticking only to the facts, but including emotional language. If he had started to hit me, or slap me, or become physically aggressive, I would have needed to address that. This was for my son who was just flailing about on the ground, screaming and wailing.

We also started learning about emotions, just like we learned about shapes and colors and numbers. We got a number of books that talked about feelings and recognizing them. It is so helpful to kiddos to develop this skill. It gives them power over their emotions! Tantrums are the opposite of this-- a sense of being powerless over very big emotions! I want to tell you that it worked. My son got very good at labeling emotions. I remember having him tell me at four that he was frustrated or nervous. If you are looking for emotion labeling books. I particularly like this one:

(Everything I've talked about describes those typical toddler-aged tantrums that generally start subsiding by the later preschool period, around the age of four. If you have a little guy whose tantrums don't feel typical, or have much older child with tantrums the emotion labeling and emotion narrative will probably be less effective!)

Thank you Emily!  What helpful information about handling toddler tantrums!  For more information aboue emotional regulation, consider visiting the Conscious Discipline resource page and checking out the Managing Emotional Mayhem book by Dr. Becky Bailey. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

Our guest post today is written by Susan from Organized 31.  Susan and I met through the "Growing Together Blog Mentoring Group" that was organized by One Artsy Mama.  Please join me in welcoming Susan as she shars how her mom has inspired her to be the best in all she does!

Happy Mother's Day!  I'm Susan from Organized 31.  I was so excited when Jenny asked me to share my thoughts on what my mother has taught me about being a mother. 
I'm a wife to my wonderful active duty Air Force hubby, mother to 3 beloved and wonderful children, a parent educator with over 20 years experience teaching child development and parent education, and most importantly today, I'm the daughter of my wonderful mother.
I am who I am because of my mother.   I am the mother I am because of my mother.  She has taught me so many invaluable lessons by being the person she is and the mother she is. Can you tell that I admire my mom?
The first lesson my mom taught me is compassion.  Your child needs and wants you to love, comfort and understand them.  When they're little, they need you to kiss their boo-boos all better.  When they're older they need you to listen to tween and teen drama.  Your children need you to be on their side.  That doesn't mean that you blindly support their actions, but it does mean that you always support them.  My mom always told me,"There's nothing you can ever do to make me stop loving you.  I may not like some of the things you say or do, but I will always love you no matter what."  To this day, when I have a physical or emotional boo-boo, it's my mom that I want to run to first.
My mom taught me to be resilient and tenacious.  My mom's grandparents were dirt farmers (her description) in Oklahoma.  They didn't have much at all.  My mom's parents made sure that she went to college, which was unusual in that day for a girl from her background.  My mom has fought battles in her life that would break a lesser person.  She has fought through those battles with bull-headedness tenacity, resilience, grace and an incredibly positive attitude.  From my mother's example, I've learned to have determination and never give up.  Tenacity and determination are traits all parents need to parent successfully and traits I want to pass onto my children.  The world is an unpredictable place and our children need to learn to be resilient.

 My mom has a love of learning that was passed to her from her father.  My mother's family placed a very high value on education.  My great-grandmother graduated from 8th grade.  She worked incredibly hard on the farm to make sure her 7 children all graduated from high school.  My grandfather worked incredibly hard to send my mother and uncle to college to receive the education he had wanted for himself but was denied because the family couldn't afford it.  My mother and father worked incredibly hard to give my brother and I an unparalleled education.  Whenever my mother talks to my children she always asks, "What did you learn today?"   I love that she continues to want to learn new ideas and is interested in what my children are learning.  It's the love of learning that she passed on to me that led me to start my blog, Organized 31, just because I didn't know much about "technology" and wanted to learn.  As a parent, we are always in the process of  learning.  Just as we figure out the stage our child is at and how to best deal with that stage, out child grows into a new stage.  Parents must always be learning about their children and about being a parent.
I could tie up your entire day telling you about all that I've learned from mom.  I treasure all the life lessons she's taught me and let me just say, thank you, Mom.  I love you.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Hop into Fine Motor Skills for Preschoolers with "Five Green Speckled Frogs"

One of my all time favorite spring songs is "Five Green Speckled Frogs".  Preschoolers love this song and there are so many fun activities you can do with frogs.  What preschooler wouldn't rather hop than walk to their next destination?

This activity was inspired by a post I recently pinned from Deborah over at Teach Preschool.  I've made lots of sensory bags in the past, but this post inspired me to add my own twist to it with frogs and flies.


 Simple, simple, simple!  I just grabbed some green craft foam and cut out circles about the size of a quarter.  Then I used a green marker to add speckles to make our green speckled frogs.

The flies were even easier than the frogs!  We had an old jar of craft foam with random pieces in it including various black circles.  Some kids got some rather large flies for their frog to gobble up!  This opened up a great conversation about size and comparing what they had in their bag!

I prefer to use freezer bags when we make sensory bags.  They are heavier and less likely to leak.  The quart size bags are the perfect size.

Fill each bag with about 1/2-3/4 cup of any brand of hair gel.  I usually get mine at the dollar store.  This gel was perfect because it was already blue.  You can add food coloring to it if you want to change the color or make it more intense. 
Now all you need to complete your little "pond in a baggie" is a frog and a fly.  Throw one frog and one fly into each bag and seal it up tight.  For extra assurance I fold over the top of the baggie and tape it closed with clear packing tape.

I challenged the kids to help the frog "chase" the fly around the pond until they caught the fly!  They also enjoyed helping the fly get away!  Imagine all the fine motor and sensory skills you are strengthening as they work their way around the pond with frog and fly!  Several students kicked it up a notch and even tried this with the baggie on their head!  They loved the way it felt and really had to engage their brains to help them catch the fly without looking!

One of my favorite things about this activity is that they were working many of the same fine motor skills that they do when they cut and write, but they were doing it without a worksheet!  Fun for everyone!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Guest Post

I'd like to introduce you to a new weekly feature here at Ignite Learning.  Every Sunday we will be having a guest post from people around the globe who are using Conscious Discipline in their classroom or home.  Our first guest this week is Barbara from over at Grade ONEderful.  She is also the amazingly talented blog designer who designed my blog!  Let's give Barb a warm welcome!

Hi! This is Barb from Grade ONEderful and Ruby Slippers Blog Designs.  I'm very pleased to be guest posting on Jenny's blog. Thank you, Jenny!

I have to admit I was kind of nervous when Jenny asked me to share my experiences with Conscious Discipline on her blog, because although I've read the book (see above) and LOVE it, I haven't implemented any of the structures. Pretty embarrassing, right?

But after some thought, I realized I AM using many of the concepts because I think about them almost daily and they're starting to permeate my teaching.

One thing I did was make a STAR poster to remind me to Smile, Take a deep breathe AND Relax.  This one little step has been big for me, because although I'm generally a pretty patient person, I can also get excited (usually in a good way) but my voice gets louder and I tend to get the kids a little too jazzed up at times.

You can click on the poster to grab it.

Having the poster above my desk is a great daily reminder for me. Occasionally I ask the kids to close their eyes, smile and take a breath. It really is amazing how quickly a more peaceful tone envelops the classroom.

The other most noticeable thing that's happened for me is that I'm having much more success dealing with the occasional temper tantrum (the kids', not mine :)).

In Conscious Discipline Dr. Becky Bailey says, "It is important to remember that anger is a secondary emotion. It is a cover for fear. Every angry situation is a resistance to 'what is'".

This idea was HUGE for me and it really helped me deal with a child in my class who often shuts down and/or starts yelling when he's upset.  Most of the time I've been able to remain calm and remind myself that he's feeling powerless and that my job is to move him through that feeling in a loving and safe way.  If I remember to do this, then he always settles down quickly. I try to acknowledge the child's feelings and then quickly help him find a way to deal with whatever is upsetting him.

This is a beautiful book you can use in your classroom to introduce your children to mindful breathing, to reinforce the power of a smile, and to establish a peaceful environment. I purchased it last fall and I think it's a lovely way to supplement your Conscious Discipline routines.

Thanks again, Jenny, and have a great day everyone!