Monthly Archives: October 2012

Telling Teacher: 5 Important Things to let your Educators Know


Your student’s teacher is a trained professional. He/She is generally the best possible person to recognize learning styles, social issues, learning difficulties, special talents and a wealth of other aspects associated with education. Your teachers have years of training and experience that give them a unique perspective. However, nobody knows your students as well as you do. Thus, it it important that if there is essential information you should share you should do it ASAP.

When parents communicate the special needs of students to their teachers, the teachers can adapt their techniques to achieve the best results. Teachers can also highlight areas that need work or behavioural issues so that parents can address them at home. Parenthood.com has a nice article on the 10 rules for parent-teacher communication that are useful. When parents and teachers work together as a team, everyone wins!

Health issues
Disclose everything from allergies and asthma to ADHD. This will help the teacher to deal with a health emergency should one arise or provide extra activities for students who have trouble concentrating.

Changing circumstances
All families go through tough times and when there are issues at home or circumstantial changes, it’s really important to alert the teacher. This will help the teacher to be more understanding and sympathetic and will help them to recognize behavioral changes that may need to be addressed. Even if you feel like your child is adjusting well, they may act very differently at school.

Behavior issues
If your student is very shy, prone to moodiness or has other behavioral idiosyncrasies, its best to alert the teacher to the possibility so that they can deal with situations better when they arise.

Strengths and weaknesses
It’s a good idea for you to discuss these with each other on a regular basis so that you can present a united front at home and at school. If some behaviour is acceptable at home, but not at school (or vice versa), it will make both your jobs more difficult. Recognising areas that need work will help you both to focus on these and help your child to improve.

Learning styles
Einstein said: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” You probably have a good idea of your student’s learning style, but asking your teacher for their advice will show you the best way to present information to your students. If your teacher is not able to help you in this regard, it is essential that you get a tutor. Tutors are specially trained to recognise learning styles. They can then help to present information and teach skills in a way that your student understands. This will vastly improve their grades and their confidence.

Happy Halloween!

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Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy


For those readers who are impacted by Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy, TutorDoctor WNY is keeping you in our thoughts. Here are a few things we’ve found that can help your child deal with the stresses of a storm.

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/hurricane-sandy-talking-kids-storm-halloween-17588659

http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2012/10/keep_your_children_entertained.html

http://mommypoppins.com/kids/hurricane-sandy-how-to-have-fun-with-the-kids-when-youre-stuck-at-home

Most importantly, of course, please stay safe!

 

 

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


 

Anais Nin said, “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” That is why I love to write! I need the chance to review and reflect. Yet part of this blog needs to be feeling, checked by fact, at least as far as certain subjects go. One of these subjects is this week’s reaction to my third grade daughter’s homework load.

To say that my daughter gets a lot of homework feels like an understatement.  Four regular math sheets; plus two extra math exercises; plus new reading fluency sheets; plus a regular spelling test and a  vocabulary test, are typical homework for this girl. She also is expected to read 80 minutes a week, which is fine for my book loving daughter. Yet I am not sure this is abnormal. Perhaps this is the normal progression from 2nd grade. Perhaps this is one of those “new normal” situations.  Yet, I do not remember much homework at all, until I was considerably older.  I know times have changed. There are the demands of “No Child Left Behind” and New York State’s Core Standards. It has all seemed okay, until the night she seemed to come undone by it. That is when I got concerned; a little upset; and a whole lot of weary! When my girl’s tears start, my concern and examination of this issue grows.

What is the proper amount of homework for a third grader or any grader?   Liberty Mutual’s website, “The Responsibility Project,” asks this question in their piece “The Homework Revolt,” by Andrea Bennett. In the article, Bennet reacts to a “New York Times” piece that looked at this issue.  Dr. Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, states in the article titled “New Recruit in Homework Revolt: The Principal” that the ten minutes per grade has generally been found effective for students and teachers. At this point, lessons and good study habits are being reinforced. But Dr. Cooper cautions against a point of diminishing returns, once ten minutes per grade level is passed.  The Times article states there is little research showing a lot of homework increases learning or improves grades. The article then examines various school district reactions to homework. Many administrators and teachers are listening to parents and reducing the homework load. Yet other critics are saying such policies are breeding the “wimpy factor” in our children, and leave them unprepared and lagging behind.

In talking to parents of other third graders, I know homework can vary by teacher and by school. I know reactions can vary with students. My daughter is a very intense, small little girl. She wants to excel! The jury is still out for me about what I feel on this situation. Thing is that you don’t get a second chance to educate your child. Looking at the history of USA education since the 1950’s there is a definite ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to perceived threats that we are falling behind other countries in respect to education. Problem is we and our children pay the price for these massive swings in education policy.

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Scary House Under $30


Create an amazing attraction for your students and their friends this Halloween. You can turn your home into a spine-tingling haunted house for under $30 by using recycled goods. This is also a great way to reduce the carbon footprint of your Halloween and save some money for candy!

Decide where you want the haunted house to be. Using your garage or garden is a great idea as it’s easier to transform these places into scenes of disturbing horror. If you want to do it in your home, choose a room and move as much of the furniture out as you can.

Cut black plastic garbage bags open along the sides and lay them down to create a path or tape them to furniture and walls to create a corridor down which your victims must walk. You can buy cheap black plastic on large rolls from the hardware store for large areas. Use fishing line to hang strips of cut black plastic from the light fixtures and ceiling.

Create a scary atmosphere by playing spooky Halloween soundtracks. You can download these for free download or tune into Halloween radio stations. Here are some you can try:

Spooky Soundtracks
The Blue Smoke Band

Free Halloween Online Radio Stations
AOL Radio – Halloween
Slacker.fm Halloween
Pandora – Halloween Music
Halloweenradio.net
Doomed SomaFM

Create some gruesome and scary scenes or tableaus along the path through your haunted home. You can make a cemetery by using polystyrene packaging from your local appliance stores. Use a knife to cut out tombstones. Use a sponge and some black acrylic paint to give the tombstones some character and paint the names of party guests onto the tombstones.

Get a pile of your old clothes together. Pick a few items and stuff them with the leftover old clothing. Now add masks as faces or cut off arms and legs and add ketchup to make severed limbs. Put ketchup on your hands and make bloody handprints on windows and furniture or drag your fingers across the floor to leave ketchup marks. Attach fishing line to the dead bodies and severed limbs so that you can make them move and twitch.

Turn off the lights and use candles instead. Place them in mason jars or vases to prevent fires. Using coloured vases will add to the mood. You can also replace your light bulbs with red or blue bulbs for added effect. Jack-o-lanterns make the perfect candle holders.

Get volunteers to line the path and dress them up in scary costumes. They can jump out at students who are walking along the path, or touch them on the shoulders as they pass by.

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Improving parent-student communication


Do you find your student stoic at times and reticent to talk about their school day? Even though it may be tough to talk to your student, keeping the lines of communication open is vital to maintaining a cohesive family unit. There are ways in which you can encourage communication or create the prefect conditions for sharing thoughts.

Timing is everything
Trying to talk to students after they get home from school can be counterproductive. They are usually tired and, after a long day, they need to unwind before they’re ready to talk about their school day. There is the danger of your student retreating to their room for the evening, so it’s a good idea to plan a family activity for a couple of hours after the end of the school day. This can include dinner, eating out, movie night or a family outing. Eating together at a table away from the TV helps to create an atmosphere conducive to discussions.

Take the time to listen
As parents, our natural instinct is to advise and comment on everything our students say. But set aside some time to simply listen. If your students feel like they can talk to you without judgement, they are more likely to do so. Of course it’s your job to advise, but create a space in your lives where it’s all about them. This can be an activity every week were you and your student spend time together away from other family members.

Janet Russell, mom of three, recalls her special relationship with her dad; “I came from a family of four girls and every Sunday morning, my dad would take one of us out to breakfast. We did tons of things together as a family, but I really cherished those Sundays when it was my time to spend alone with him. It made me feel like he really wanted to know what was happening in my life.”

Being a good listener is the best way to contribute to a constructive conversation.

Ask the right questions
If your student doesn’t like to talk about school, try to ask specific questions rather than general ones like ‘how was your day?’ Here are some examples:

Who sits with you in class?
What did you do during recess? Who did you have lunch with?
What are you looking forward to this week?
What did you eat for lunch?
What was the best thing that happened today?
What was your least favorite part of the day?
Mutual respect

Even though a teenager may experience emotions or options that are extreme, showing respect for these emotions and opinions makes them feel heard and understood. They are more likely to respect your decisions and opinions when you respect theirs. Of course you don’t have to agree with each other, but validating and recognizing each other’s feelings will set the stage for positive and constructive conversations.
(NOTE: This post was originally placed on the Tutor Doctor web site on Oct. 14th)

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DIY Lighting Up Fonts


I’m a recovering design blog addict. I say recovering because I’ve now weaned myself down to only two daily design blogs that I check, and I’m only a member of three members-only discounted design websites.

Alright, so maybe I’m not so much in recovery, but my blog post earlier this week about budgeting made me start thinking about ways to amp up your decor without spending a ton of money. I tend to like quirky sorts of things anyways, and there are plenty of great DIY blogs who share my passion. So, in honor of school getting into full swing, my love of housewares, and the fact that we’re soon going to fall back because of how little sunlight we’re getting in the Northern Hemisphere, here’s The Swell Life’s Letter Lighting.

My favorite part of this lantern might be the way it casts awesome shadows on the wall! (Image Credit:http://swelldesigner.blogspot.com/2011/01/letter-lighting-fun-font-craft.html)

All you need for the craft is a simple paper lantern with a cord set (like this simple lantern and cord set I found at Pier 1 Imports for less than 20 bucks) and a set of vinyl letter (or number) type stickers, which can be found at any hardware or craft store for a great price.

This craft is not only pretty easy on the wallet and a great design piece, but it also has a lot of learning potential. For kids who are learning letters, it’s a fun way to practice letters and to keep them as a very visible part of life. Your child can also get involved in sticking on the letters with a minimum of mess, as there’s no glue or sharp objects involved!

What are some of your favorite DIY projects?

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Domestic Violence Awareness Month


I just came across a great article on domestic violence via my APA (American Psychology Association) affiliation.   Since October is not quite done and it is Domestic Violence Awareness month I figured I share a few bits of the article and the link so you can read the entire posting. The post is on the site PSYCHALIVE and is titled “Why Domestic Violence Occurs and How to Stop It“. The author Dr. Lisa Firestone, PhD, is the Director of Research and Education for The Glendon Association.

The reason I believe understanding more about domestic violence is important in education is that when it occurs the effect on a student are startling and will influence the child for life. How this influence can become either negative or positive is something that we as teachers, tutors educators and parents can impact. With family and social violence on the rise due to the difficult economic times it is also useful to increase understanding so we do not get into an ever spiraling increase in domestic violence, bullying, molestation and child abuse in the future. Typically breaking the reoccurrence and sometimes generation cycle of abuse of these types of crimes is difficult. However, this article by Dr. Firestone helps highlight two emotional dynamics that her research and work show contribute domestic violence. The first factor involves a destructive thought process (or “critical inner voice“) that abusers experience both toward themselves and their partners, thoughts like “You’re not a man if you don’t control her,” or “She is making a fool out of you.” The second factor involves a harmful illusion of connection between a couple, that she refers to as a “fantasy bond.” “This dynamic feeds into a sense that another person can make you whole and is responsible for your happiness.”

Dr Firestone goes on to highlight how individuals are getting help and breaking the cycle. She cites work at San Francisco’s Manalive program that has been successful in teaching male prisoners and domestic violence offenders how to make more reasonable decisions in terms of their behavior. As stated in the article:

The program directly challenges the destructive thoughts and critical inner voices that feed aggressive behaviors. This approach involves a person taking 100 percent responsibility for his or her actions. It means identifying the moments when they are triggered and realizing that no matter how provoked or infuriated they might feel toward their partner, these emotions will not kill them. The program teaches them about the division in themselves between a real self and an “anti-self” (incorporated from their own early experiences of violence). They learn that at those moments of stress when they get triggered, they have a choice — they can either stay with the open, vulnerable side of themselves or act out the defended “hit man identity” they’ve incorporated by identifying with the person or persons who abused them as children.

Help for victims of these crimes are touched upon and focus on breaking the fantasy bond to allow for more healthy and psychologically sound relationships. The article does not go into much on the effect of domestic violence on children but for that organizational sites such as the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence,  The UK based ‘The Hideout‘ and US Dept. of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families are of great value.  As the US Dept. of Health and Human Services states ‘Domestic violence is a devastating social problem that impacts every segment of the population.’

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