Monthly Archives: November 2012

Bullying Effects

Studies have show that bullying touches the lives of up to 25% of school-going children on a daily basis. Bullying may take the form of taunting and teasing, verbal abuse, aggression and physical harm. Bullying inflicts lasting emotional and physical scars, compromises the secure and friendly school environment and severely hampers learning. You need to know that your child may be too scared or embarrassed to tell you, as their parent or educator, about their experiences. Thus, it is up to you to ‘read’ the signs of bullying.

There are several warning signs that you can look out for that will help you to identify a child that is being bullied. Some of the behaviours that suggest that children are being bullied include:

  • Frequent illness; stomach aches and headaches can be a result of anxiety associated with bullying. Students may also be trying to avoid school by staying at home.
  • Sudden changes in behaviour such as moodiness or shyness.
  • Heightened anxiety, panic attacks, fearfulness, nightmares and a reluctance to attend school.
  • Sleeplessness and exhaustion or sleeping too much.
  • Wanting to change buses, classes or their walking route to school.
  • Needing extra money for lunch and possessions that are often damaged or lost.
  • Increased aggression at home towards younger siblings or other children.

What can you do?
If you suspect your child may be a victim of bullying, speak to them about it. Listen to their concerns and explain that they don’t deserve to be treated badly. Do not put the onus on your child to overcome the problem; instead work with them, their teachers and the school to resolve the situation. Discuss coping strategies with your child and try to help restore their confidence. Role-play possible scenarios so that your child learns how to respond to bullying behaviour from their peers. Encourage your child to engage in social and extramural activities. This will help them to create a circle of friends and bolster their self confidence.

Talk to the school and the teachers. All schools ‘should’ have a policy in place to deal with bullies. Discuss possible solutions with your child’s teachers and the school councillor. Encourage your child to report bullying to an adult when it occurs so that immediate action can be taken. Be aware though that sometimes schools are anything but helpful: One study showed that 25% of teachers actually see nothing wrong with bullying…I know it is hard to believe this, but I have actually heard it first-hand from some teachers I know.

If your child is a victim of cyber bullying through their social media interactions, teach them how to block people who are sending negative messages and how to limit their online presence so that only their friends and families have access to their personal information.

Unless bullying is proactively addressed by schools, parents and community leaders, it will lead to serious consequences for all students. For those who are being bullied the consequences include higher dropout rates, more incidents of violence in school, lower self-esteem, fewer friends, declining grades, and increased illnesses. Lifelong problems promoted by bullying include involvement with the criminal justice system, mental health issues, and poor relationship development for both the bully and victim (Ballard, Argus, & Remley, 1999; Rigby, 1999; Sagarese & Giannetti, 1999; Schmitt, 1999; Simanton, Berthwick, & Hoover, 2000). Whatever pains parents and schools take to prevent bullying, the numbers suggest it’s all worth the effort. Indeed as an article on the Great Schools web site states:

…the cycle of violence triggered by bullying shouldn’t be underestimated. According to a 2002 report by the Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education, most school shootings were perpetrated by children who had been the victim of extreme bullying. And multiple studies have suggested a link between bullying and criminal behavior and delinquency, both for victims and perpetrators.

For me the bottom line as a parent is that I need to be aware of my child behaviors and actions that might indicate they are bullying or are being bullied. If I suspect something I need to address it and search for solutions and support ASAP.


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Filed under Academic Advice, My Experiences

Home for the Holidays

It is almost upon us … Christmas break! That means trying to find things to do during the Christmas break for your children and you. In this post we’ll look at what the college student can do during the break.

While the Christmas holidays are a welcome respite from the busy school calendar for most college students. This holiday is too short to get a new job or tackle a large project, but they are long enough for you to catch up on your sleep and spend some quality time with friends and family members. Although getting some rest and relaxation is important for you to recharge, you can also use this opportunity to prepare for next semester.

Catch up on your reading during your Christmas break. Ask your teachers for reading lists and get started on reading you will struggle to find the time to do next year. Read books you are interested in so that you can still relax. Reading a couple of books during your break will really help take the pressure off you in the new year and leave you with more time to pursue other interests.

If you are working towards your college or university application, consider using this time to volunteer. There are many volunteer opportunities as people who usually volunteer are away on holiday. Consider a volunteer job in the field that you wish to study. Not only will this help with your college application, but you will also find it a hugely rewarding activity and an avenue for personal growth.

Get moving! Healthy bodies mean healthy minds and if you don’t have much time for your favourite sports, use your break to catch up on your exercise. Christmas break gives you the opportunity for skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, skating, hiking or indoor sports. Have some fun, get a little exercise and help your body to reduce toxins and build muscle.

Get a hobby. Whether your hobby is building model airplanes, cooking or learning a new language, participating in a hobby that interests you will give you the opportunity to learn new skills and meet new people. Hobbies make you a more interesting, well-rounded individual and reduce the stress you have accrued during the school term. If you are not sure what hobbies suit you best, try the list of 101 hobbies or the world’s largest list of hobbies.

Christmas clean ups help you to sort through your closets and get your room in order. You won’t have time to get your living space organized during the school year, so take this opportunity to go through your closets and collect everything you don’t need or use. Encourage the rest of your family to join in and then donate the stuff you don’t want to a charitable organization. If you have valuable items, sell them on eBay and use the money to buy Christmas meals and gifts for those less fortunate.

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Kitchen Science Lab

Cooking with your children teaches and improves valuable skills they learn in school math and science classes and associated labs. Learnings from this ‘simple’ activity can include:

  • quantity, weight and volume measurements
  • the importance of nutrition and what vitamins and minerals they can find in the foods you prepare
  • reading and following instructions
  • chemical reactions induced by mixing and cooking

Leaning to cook gives kids control of their nutrition and calorie intake while imparting skills that benefit their ability to work in a lab and perform complex experiments.

The first step is to get your kids to look up recipes on the Internet or in a cook book. Watch YouTube videos which demonstrate different cooking techniques. At Halloween my daughter especially liked the numerous videos for spider cupcakes.

Once you have agreed upon a recipe, get them to make a list of all the ingredients. The next step is to set out all the implements and ingredients. This helps to reinforce the importance of preparation before starting an experiment in the lab. Check that everything is in good working order. Discuss stove and electricity safety. This is an excellent way to learn how to safely handle equipment in the lab.

Ask your child to read the recipe from start to finish. Reading and following recipes teaches them how to follow instructions; a skill that will help with exams, lab work and experiments at school. Get your child to read the instructions out loud so that they can practice reading at the same time.

When encountering unfamiliar cooking terms such as folding, whisking or beating, ask your child to use the index where they can find definitions. This will help to reinforce the idea that unfamiliar words should be looked up. Teach your child to measure accurately. Accurate measuring techniques will ensure success with both baking and experiments. Older children can investigate the chemical reactions that take place as the ingredients combine.

Remember that the most important thing you should strive for in this activity is that everyone has fun. This is not only an excellent learning opportunity, but it is also a great activity to share and interact with your children. This can be made into a time when your kids (and you) can have fun playing with their food.  Here is an easy recipe for cutout sugar cookies that are perfect for the holidays and for the beginner chef.

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour

In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high-speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Stir in the flour.

Divide dough in half. Shape each half of dough into a 6-inch-long roll. Wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Roll out and cut with a cookie cutter and place onto an ungreased cookie cooking sheet pan. How thick you roll the cookies out is your preference but we try for a little less than a quarter of an inch thickness. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 6 to 8 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Carefully transfer cookies to a wire rack; cool. Decorate with icing sugar and candy. Admire for a moment and then test the finished experiment!

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Filed under Improved Learning, Nutrition Education, Parenting

Sunday Morning Shout Out

 “…..If struggle indicates weakness—a lack of intelligence—it makes you feel bad, and so you’re less likely to put up with it. But if struggles indicates strength-an ability to face down the challenges that inevitably occur when you are trying to learn something—you’re more willing to accept it.”    

Jin Li, Professor of Education and Human Development, Brown University

A recent study that was featured at the National Public Radio (NPR) website titled “Struggle for Smarts? How Eastern and Western Cultures Tackle Learning” looked at research that examined learning differences between Eastern and Western students. The article first discusses Dr. Stigler’s,Professor of Psychology UCLA, research and reflections on the subject.  He recalls his early days as a graduate student observing Japanese students. He remembers watching a Japanese teacher call a boy up to the board to draw a three dimensional object. His first thoughts were why would he call the boy who was struggling up to the board to do his work?  In our culture, he thought, it

Yang Liu’s Infographic Portrait of the Individual in Western and Eastern Cultures. Image Source:

is usually the student who is excelling. The boy struggled and struggled at first. The teacher would periodically ask the class, “Class, does he have it right?”  No!,  ” they would answer. This continued. Stigler grew more and more concerned for the young boy. He watched the visibly anxious young boy struggle and plod his way through the problem. After sometime, the boy was able to draw the three dimensional figure. Proudly smiling, the boy did it and received the enthusiastic applause of his class.

In another study, Stigler and his colleagues gave American first graders an impossibly difficult math problem. After 30 minutes, the students stopped working, saying they could not do the work because it was beyond them. Their Japanese counterparts were given the same problem. After one hour, the researchers had to tell the students they had to stop because it was an impossible math problem.  The students had to be let in on the fact this was a research project and that they would not be able to complete it.  He had learned in his research that Asian educators often purposely make their students work a little beyond them so they get use to the challenge and working through it. Challenge and it’s role in developing ‘grit’ is an important component in a students educational and career success as proposed by educational writer Paul Tough.

Dr.Jin Li, who was quoted above, also looks at cultural learning differences in her work. She looks at two different conversations. In one, there is an eight year-old American boy and his mother. The mother is praising the boy’s love of reading. A great student, she tells him that smart people like to read books and they become smart adults who like to read books. In what she is saying, she indicates to the boy that his intelligence is the reason he has succeeded in school. This compares to the Taiwanese mother and her young son’s exchange. With this, the mother is praising her nine-year old son for winning a piano competition. But she connects his strong piano performance to his consistent practicing and the energy he put into it, even when it was very difficult and challenging.

Not saying one way is better than the other or is a preferable, both professors suggest there maybe something to take away from each other’s approach to and culture of learning. A strength of Eastern learning styles is that it places emphasis on the challenge and struggle, and working through it.  A strength of Western learning style is that it places emphasis on individual contribution, whether it be intelligence or creativity, when it comes to learning and problem solving. When it comes to math and science, American educators and the American public have voiced concerned about Americans lagging behind Asian countries. When it comes to learning, Stigler discusses how many Asian educators worry about their students being robotic and unimaginative.  By being aware of these differences, perhaps educators and parents alike can assign more value to both types of learning styles and appreciate their merits.

For other graphic representations of the differences between Western and Eastern social, psychological and cultural patterns the Infographic Portraits by Yang Liu provide an interesting perspective. Her ingenious East Meets West infographic series, provides perspectives on everything from differences in self-perception to evolution of transportation. The series originally done in Germany by Ms. Liu does not seem to be in print in English yet but there are sites/blogs on the internet (B six 12, Neversocial) that have printed the pictures that generally need no explanation

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Choosing a School

So you survived Thanksgiving, Pumpkin Pie and Black Friday, but these pale to the challenge and anxiety of moving and changing schools (or looking at a private school) for your children.

If you are moving in the near future, you’ll want to find the perfect school in the general area you are moving to for your children before you settle on a neighborhood. There are a number of ways that you can go about investigating your schooling options.

Start by visiting GreatSchools which gives the location and general description of each school as well as a rating out of ten. GreatSchools will give you information on the principal and teachers of the schools in your new area. The site offers directions to the school as well as a listing of homes for sale in the neighborhood.

For a more objective review, consult the school’s annual report card. These can be found on the state’s education department website and will give you a more accurate view of the school’s performance. Often a local business publication such as Buffalo Business First also does ratings of schools that are fairly comprehensive. The 2012 ‘Guide to Western New York Schools‘ has ratings of more than 1,100 districts and schools. Another option is to contact the local Tutor Doctor Educational Consultant for their perspective on the local schools.

Once you have chosen a couple of schools to choose from, ask each one for a school handbook. This will give you all the information you need about each school. Some schools allow you to sit in classrooms or take a walk around the grounds to get a better feel for the atmosphere and the facilities on offer. Not all schools will allow this, so check with the school secretary before you arrive.

Things to consider when selecting a school for your K-12 student include:

  • School culture; do the principals of the school culture fit in with those you teach at home? Ensure that the school has an established system to deal with social and emotional issues such as peer pressure or bullying.
  • Social aspects; will your child fit in socially with the other students that attend the school? Does the school have a warm, inviting atmosphere?
  • Are there too many students in each class? Lower student numbers mean that your child will receive more personal attention from teachers. Optimum numbers are 17 per class or less.
  • Is the curriculum balanced? This should mean that students get the opportunity for academic, sporting and creative pursuits.
  • What facilities does the school offer? Sports, lab, computer, library and other facilities are essential for the development of a well-rounded individual.
  • Consider the commute; if you have already selected a home, make sure that your travel time is minimized to reduce stress and save time. Ask questions; make a list of all the questions you and your children would like to ask prior to visiting the school. This will help you to gather all the information you need to make the best choice for your children.

Involve your children in the decision making process so that they feel empowered and excited about their new school. Moving schools can be a difficult and intimidating process for students of any age, so take your children along on the school tour so that they feel confident and are familiar with the school before they start their first day.

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Thanksgiving Day 2012: Revisiting 1965

Arlo Guthrie

Another Thanksgiving has arrived for us here in the USA. One of our little known traditions, at least it is a tradition for those of us who listen to classic rock stations, is the playing of Alice’s Restaurant. This year marks Forty-seven that have passed since Arlo Guthrie had a Thanksgiving Day experience that helped change the course of his life and gave the anti-war movement one of its best know anthems. It was on that day that Arlo littered because the town dump was closed for Thanksgiving. On the follow day he was arrested for his crime. Ultimately his friend and he were charged $50 and ordered to clean-up the litter by a blind judge.

Why this incident is important is that Arlo was later drafted to serve in the Vietnam War and because of his arrest and conviction he was not ‘allowed’ to serve in the military. Arlo wrote a ballad about his experience and despite being over 18 minutes long it was a hit. In 1969 a movie was made about the experience. Together, the song and movie had an immense impact on the anti-war movement and helped change the course of history. Always amazing how a bit of story-telling can be so powerful and remember….

‘You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant’
Happy Thanksgiving!

PS…you can watch a clip of the movie on YouTube and you can also find some versions of the song there. Or you can listen to it on Buffalo’s 97 Rock on Thanksgiving Day at Noon and 6pm

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Does It Matter?

Perhaps it doesn’t matter that Black Friday is fast becoming obsolete as more and more retailers are opening on Thursday. To me it does matter. Now instead of spending some time with the family on turkey day  it means we will be busy looking through the mountain of ‘black ads’ and planning our shopping strategies for that Thursday evening. Plus, there will be a number of family members who must leave early since they work at a retail establishment. All-in-all the quantity and quality of the time interacting will be diminished. Hopefully, we’ll be able to overcome these new limitations and fit in a few group games and still share some laughs as a family. It is times like these that a child learns a great deal about their family members, family history and their self. This helps build the child’s values, self understanding, self worth, and develops their roots. The memories of Thanksgivings long past are still with me. Thankfully my parents were able to provide the time and opportunity for these memories to be built.

We truly hope YOU and Your Family get to spend some memorable time together this Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving.

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