Welcome to Episode 20! In the commentary, I say Episode 19 because I checked the archive page and the links to Episode 19 never made it into the archives.
Which is an appropiate window into life these days. School is back in session. I teach part time. The beginning of the year is a flurry of preparation and energy as we establish community with our new students. It’s fun and very busy. So it makes sense that a few little details slip past me :)
We started the show talking about Apple. I tried the Apple Magic Trackpad at an Apple store recently. I was pleasantly surprised. I expected it to be a like a laptop mouse-pad with the sensitive pressure tapping with drives me crazy. But the trackpad had a click feature with a slight give and an actual click. I could see it being a great feature for navigating around the computer, especially if gripping the mouse becomes an issue. It is a little expensive, $69. May be worth the investment.
We received an email from Paul with additional hints about iMac shortcuts: Because of my visual fluctuations I find by pressing the CONTROL key and moving my finger up on the magic mouse the screen gets bigger — and likewise the opposite. I also like moving web pages with using 2 fingers left or right on top the magic mouse. Also do you know when entering text and you see a checkered line under a misspelled word — pressing the CONTROL key and putting the curser over that misspelled word and pressing down on the magic mouse you will have words listed to correct the error?
Thank you, Paul! He also asked if we have contacted Apple about screening products or receiving help bringing you information. And if we could have support making the show more interactive with call-in features. I have contacted Apple a few times over the summer. Still waiting to hear back . . . must be busy over there :)
We do enjoy the Live Shows. They are simply tricky to organzine consistently with the kids being so little. When the kids get older, it will be easier. For now, we do the best we can :)
Giovanni joined me to talk about Pandora.com, a radio website that makes custom stations for you. I discovered Pandora a couple of weeks ago and I love the ease of use and the creative music. I discover all sorts of new artists. Very cool.
Around 33 minutes, I talk about extraordinary kids returning to school. I share my thoughts as an extraordinary teacher and former extraordinary student :).
I am feel the pressure of all the newness these days. The emotional journey of new routines and schedules tires all students. So our extraordinary kids need a little (or a lot) of extra support and planning.
Team: We cannot always be on the same page as the school or teacher. But hopefully we can be on the same team. As a teacher, I respond best to families that approach me with an open mind and a sense of togetherness in this journey. How can we work together to make this the best year for everyone? Teacher, family, and student. Bring the teacher on board with offers to discuss and support.
Realistic Optimism: We like to believe that summer will change everything. Kids will mature. The new class, new teacher, new peers will create a new space and the old problems will, poof! disappear. Except they often do not disappear. Approach the year with cautious optimism. Hope for the best but plan for the stresses. The many changes may even aggravate challenges that were fading in the spring. Hold your student in confidence, but try not to be too disappointed if the stories begin again.
Positive Teacher Association: Make the teacher fancy, special, the beginning of good things. If your student needs extra support, ask for good notes coming home before the challenges begin. Emphasize the positive. If the teacher becomes the disciplinarian that triggers bad-feelings, students will not want to risk around him or her. They will avoid him or her. Or confront him or her. So before challenges begin (if they begin:)), establish positive relationships. Work towards rewards between school and home, not in a punitive, take-away, didn’t-earn reward, but an attainable reward with a prize like going for an ice cream, or, even better, going to the library. If you need extra-positive associations, give the teacher small prizes to give your student in moments of recognition (these can be done privately, at recess of after school so other students don’t notice/compare). Stickers, matchbox cars, legos, little pet shops, any token prize that casts a winning light upon the teacher. Sometimes, simply sharing a ‘hook’ with a teacher will build a bridge towards positive associations. Knowing a student loves zebras, or cars, allows a teacher to ask about the favorite topic and have shared conversations about that favored topic. In this way, positive moments build trust, understanding, and a foundation for a productive school year together.
Written Information: If possible, write accommodations, symptoms, and triggers for teachers. They may not have time to talk to you before school or at pick up, but this way they can take the information and use it to best influence your student’s day in the classroom.
Behavior and Attitude First: Academics come later. Students need to be calm and present in order to learn. One of the big lessons from my workshops last year was to think of behavior as communication. Look at the source, the trigger moment, rather than punish or reward the behavior into extinction. Look at the broken behavior and learn a new way to express that moment. So take the time to rest, to reflect, and build that foundation. Allow for a few extra rewards to make this time a positive transition. Once students have integrated into the routine and expectations, added challenges will not be as difficult.
Listen: Slow down and listen to your student. Try not to solve their problems. Instead, brainstorm solutions together. Managing challenges will be a lifelong journey. School is the place to practice communication, accommodations, and compensation strategies. Listen for tiredness, fatigue, or stress. Listen for effort that feels frustrated or futile. Remember the beginning of the year is intense for many reasons. We are the best support and inspiration for kids on this new adventure. Believe in them. At the same time, be sensitive to when they are maxing out their energy levels. Tired, frustrated kids may act out with growing behaviors. Sharing our stories allows us to express whatever challenges are making a day especially difficult. Or wonderful. The beginning of the year may be a wonderful time as well.
Rest and Nutrition: Early bedtimes, nutritious snacks, avoid high sugar foods. Take care of the basics :)
Placement: If school is constantly stressing your student into high-anxiety, you may want to consider placement. I taught traditional school for many years before starting a homeschool program. It was a revelation for me. Six hours (or more) with random peers, being challenged mentally, emotionally, and physically, may not be the ideal model for your student. In addition, you may live in a lucky area with free charter schools (like our area in Nevada County) that offer alternative settings for learning. You may want to look outside the classroom for more flexibility in social interaction and instruction.
And finally . . . Celebrate your student! The beginning of the year is a great promise. It is the story of childhood. We help students see themselves, either as dependent and weak, or empowered and strong. Self-perception lasts long after the spelling test is a dusty memory. And childhood really does go that fast! Students I taught as first graders are now applying to college. Try not to stress. Ultimately, kids need encouragement, validation, and inspiration. We inspire them. And they inspire us.