Friday, October 28, 2016

Integrating Mindfulness Into the Classroom

by Tracy Allen

Last Friday, I attended a conference on integrating mindfulness into the classroom. I have been following the research on the benefits of mindfulness and even shared my mistaken understanding of it with my 7th graders (who are now sophomores), equating meditation with mindfulness. They are not the same.   The dictionary's definition of mindfulness is "a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique." Meditation is just one way of getting there. 

We know many of our students are stressed and not with just good stress. When kids are in a heighten state of stress, cortisol is released as part of the fight or flight response. This elevated cortisol level can interfere with learning and memory. One of the many appealing aspects of mindfulness is that it can bring down the cortisol level, thus making students more available for learning. 

At the conference the importance of building one's own practice was as highly emphasized as bringing it to our students. Who could not benefit from lower levels of cortisol?  There were many simple activities that I have started bringing to this year's 7th grade guidance classrooms. As I learn more and work on my own practice, I hope to be able to share more with the students, the staff and the community. It's not very present to say this but more to come.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

How to Monitor Social Media

By Jen Dondero

On October 18th, Russ Becker and I hosted the 8th grade parent coffee. We discussed a variety of topics, but one that always leads to great conversations and sharing of concerns and  ideas is Social Media. The main concerns were how to monitor it, when to monitor it and when to step in and get involved. It's easy to understand why there is confusion and uncertainty, my quick google search of “How much should I monitor my child’s social media” came up with millions of articles and after reading 7 articles, it is clear that even the experts have very different opinions on how to best monitor and protect your child while he/she is online. Some experts say “Have discussions but there is no need to monitor” while others advocate “using technology to monitor their technology use” (apps such as MamaBear send alerts when their kids send or receive friend requests, use certain words, or are tagged in photos. They also provide GPS tracking). The advice is dizzying and the pace of technology makes it difficult for parents to keep up with the ever evolving app choices. My best advice to to find a middle of the road approach. These are my tips for navigating the digital world with your adolescent

  1. It should be understood that iPads/phones/computers are owned by the parent and therefore not the child’s personal belonging. They can be taken away as a consequence for poor choices on technology.
  2. Regular communication about expectations and rules must occur so that both parent and child know the boundaries and also consequences for infractions. The conversations should center around safety and making responsible choices.
  3. There is no way to monitor everything your child is doing online. Some experts believe over monitoring will lead children to become more sneaky and secretive online. However, spot checking should be expected. Children should know that whatever they type/send/post can be recaptured and resent to others and there is no expectation of privacy online. You are spot checking not to invade their privacy but instead to keep them safe and ensure they are being responsible digital citizens.
  4. As children age from “tween to teen” monitoring (especially of text messages) can decrease if a child has shown they are mature and capable of balancing online activities and real life expectations (homework, extracurriculars etc). Caroline Knorr of Common Sense Media recommends “parent should discuss boundaries and appropriate online behavior with their children and to ‘parent around the device’ by ‘doling out features sparingly’ when the phone is new. She suggests opening up more features as the child demonstrates the ability to ‘follow the rules and meet expectations and understand consequences.’”
  5. Set the expectation that if your child is on a social media site (Instagram, snapchat, Facebook, twitter) they must friend/allow you to follow them. Again, nothing posted online is private and therefore if they are posting something publicly they can expect their parents to see it.
  6. Set device free times in your home. Some families choose to have technology free hours at dinner, in the car or after 9pm. Only allow cell phone usage at certain hours in the evening or after homework has been completed. If you have teens of driving age, the most important rule to enforce is that under no circumstances should cell phones ever be used while driving. Phones should be kept off so incoming text sounds aren’t a distraction or should be kept in the glove compartment, out of reach

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Anti-Defamation League's Peer Leaders

by Matt Marenghi

It is with great pride that I will be co-advising Blake Middle School's Anti-Defamation League's Peer Leaders for a third consecutive year.  We will certainly miss the ADL Peer Leaders that have moved on to the high school, but we are also very excited to work with the students who were selected to be new Peer Leaders.

Though this school year is still relatively young, the ADL Peer Leaders have certainly been busy.  Motivated by our all school September 11th assembly, the Peer Leaders have collectively decided to clean up and revitalize Blake's courtyard which actually contains a 9/11 memorial within it (a former student's Eagle Scout project from 2004).  The following picture to the left shows them hard at work out there.
We’ve also started our weekly meetings.  Among other things we’ve discussed, the Peer Leaders were challenged to examine the federal discrimination case brought against the Boston Latin School.  In small groups, the Peer Leaders followed the case from the student uprising and protests last winter which lead to the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation this past September.  Our Peer Leaders then discussed how students really can be a force for positive change in their schools.

This past Friday, October 14th, our new Peer Leaders participated in one of three full day trainings provided by a representative from ADL.  This training prepares our students to use the positive power of peer influence to promote respect and civility in their schools and beyond.  The topics of diversity, prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination were collaboratively examined and presented on.  The Peer Leaders left with a strong sense of the societal challenges that these issues present, and also with the passion and hunger to be catalysts for positive change.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Car Conversations

By Stephanie Worthley

Jen Dondero hosted an 8th grade parent coffee on Tuesday morning, October 18th. Topics included expectations of 8th grade, social skills, social media, and adolescent development. Mrs. Dondero made mention to parents that the car is a great time to have a conversation with their children. “When they are trapped”! I began to think about how it is sometimes difficult for a parent to engage a child in a conversation, and how it is often difficult for a child to open up. In counseling programs, they teach that asking open-ended questions is a way to engage a person in a conversation. I found this blog post by, 30 Questions to Ask Your Kid Instead of “How Was Your Day?”. It might be worth trying the next time you ask your child “How was your day?”, and they answer “fine.”

Questions a kid will answer at the end of a long school day:
  1. What did you eat for lunch?
  2. Did you catch anyone picking their nose?2
  3. What games did you play at recess?
  4. What was the funniest thing that happened today?
  5. Did anyone do anything super nice for you?
  6. What was the nicest thing you did for someone else?
  7. Who made you smile today?5
  8. Which one of your teachers would survive a zombie apocalypse? Why?
  9. What new fact did you learn today?
  10. Who brought the best food in their lunch today? What was it?
  11. What challenged you today?
  12. If school were a ride at the fair, which ride would it be? Why?
  13. What would you rate your day on a scale of 1 to 10? Why?
  14. If one of your classmates could be the teacher for the day who would you want it to be? Why?
  15. If you had the chance to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you teach the class?
  16. Did anyone push your buttons today?
  17. Who do you want to make friends with but haven’t yet? Why not?
  18. What is your teacher’s most important rule?
  19. What is the most popular thing to do at recess?
  20. Does your teacher remind you of anyone else you know? How?
  21. Tell me something you learned about a friend today.
  22. If aliens came to school and beamed up 3 kids, who do you wish they would take? Why?
  23. What is one thing you did today that was helpful?
  24. When did you feel most proud of yourself today?
  25. What rule was the hardest to follow today?
  26. What is one thing you hope to learn before the school year is over?
  27. Which person in your class is your exact opposite?
  28. Which area of your school is the most fun?
  29. Which playground skill do you plan to master this year?
  30. Does anyone in your class have a hard time following the rules?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Welcome Mrs. Guellnitz!

We would like to congratulate Mrs. Kathy Mahoney on the birth of her baby girl, Aisling Rae Mahoney! Mrs. Mahoney will be on maternity leave until mid-February. In the meantime, we would like to welcome Mrs. Genevieve Guellnitz to the MHS Guidance Department. Mrs. Guellinitz is an experience guidance counselor, most recently working with the students at Belmont High School. Mrs. Guellnitz earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Stonehill College, and her Master of Education in School Counseling from Cambridge College. Please join me in welcoming Mrs. Guellnitz to Medfield High School!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Freshman Guidance Meetings

By Kathy Mahoney

Throughout the month of October, the guidance staff is meeting with their freshman caseloads to welcome them to MHS, check in about how the year has started off, and to provide them with some helpful academic, social, and emotional resources. The meetings are a casual way for the guidance counselors to get to know their newest students and to help them make a connection to their new school.

Freshman parents are invited to attend a Parent Coffee on Tuesday, November 1 at 7:45am in Room 125 for some general information about what to expect over the next four years.

For a list of strategies and tips for a smooth transition to high school, please click here.