The Significance of Struggling

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In honor of International Mountain Day on December 11th, designated by the United Nations General Assembly, it is time to take a look at mountains in the metaphorical sense. The holiday itself is meant to look closely at sustaining the food and water supplied by mountain regions. However, classrooms are chock-full of mountains as well—challenges presented in an effort to garner grit, perseverance, and problem-solving. As much as our students may prefer to resist or bypass struggles, it becomes our obligation as educators to provide the very obstacles that students would rather avoid. The point is not to frustrate or deter a sense of success—quite the opposite, rather. Skills are best acquired when learners are presented with increased difficulty and complexity. The struggles—or mountains, if you will—teach our students innumerable life lessons about how to be successful learners.

Lesson 1: Struggles teach young people about the real world.
One difficult aspect of education is the microcosm effect—as much as we educators present real-world problems, realistic scenarios, and connections to our students’ lives as much as possible, what we do in the classroom is merely practice. Thus, we must be sure to provide practice that is rigorous, unfamiliar, and exceptionally difficult at times. By creating opportunities for students to encounter advanced material, we also prepare them for life lessons in the real world. College and adulthood can prove to be a rude awakening for many students. Beyond the difficulty with transitioning, it can often be the first time in young people’s lives that they have to rely solely on themselves. Providing students with the opportunity to practice perseverance before heading into the real world of adulthood allows them time to live and learn—to make mistakes before the serious consequences come into effect. The greatest lesson to be learned from falling down is how to pick yourself back up.

Lesson 2: Struggles allow students to see what they’re really made of.
Avoiding difficult tasks and challenges is a sure way to evade failure and mistakes. However, by circumventing the struggles, students also forfeit the opportunity to push themselves to a greater potential. The adage, “nothing worth having is easy” applies here. Battling through an unusually difficult task teaches students to muster up their own greatness—that no matter how tricky something might be, pure grit and the desire to achieve can overcome even the most formidable opponents or challenges.

Lesson 3: Struggles prompt creative thinking.
Consider this: students in our classrooms today are challenged with tasks involving problem-solving and critical thinking skills. If the “problems” that we place in front of students are elementary or mundane, how can we expect to cultivate the creative thinkers of the future? Much like the beliefs behind Socratic methods and principles, we must present students with opportunities to investigate, question, and analyze real-world problems for which even we, as educators, do not have all of the answers. By creating authentically difficult challenges, we are prompting students to think outside of the box—try something that no one else has considered. It may fail, but with that failure comes a slew of lessons and strategies to employ for the next attempt.

Tips for Middle Schoolers…Transition to Success

Tips for Middle Schoolers…Transition to Success

  1. Organization is one of the most important and necessary skills for being successful in Middle School.  Here are some tips:
    • Post your schedule inside your locker.
    • Color code your notebooks and folders for faster, easier class transitions. Example: Red notebook & folder for Math
    • Keep a small, magnetic dry erase board inside your locker to quickly write down after each class what books to bring home. Example: You leave math and know you have homework–write on your board math HW.
    • ALWAYS use your agenda.  You should be writing down any homework or upcoming tests/quizzes daily in your agenda. Do this before you leave your classroom before the bell.
    • A 3-ring zipper binder is a useful tool to hold pens, pencils, notebook paper and your agenda so that you are ready for every class. Note: D shaped binder rings tend to be more durable.
    • Get to know your locker combination and practice how to use the lock.  
  2. It is also important to communicate with your teacher.  If you do not understand something, wait for the appropriate time and ASK.  
  3. Do not spend too much time socializing in between classes.  Five minutes goes really quickly and tardies can add up fast. Several tardies can get you a detention. Use your lunch and after school to catch up with friends.
  4. Enjoy your time and get involved with clubs and other activities that are available.  Listen to what the teachers have to say and remember that being respectful can get you far.

Welcome to Middle School…Your Parent Guide

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  1. Check your child’s agenda book daily, and check not only homework, but completed homework on a regular basis.
  2. Keep lines of communication with school open. Don’t wait for school to contact you. Take the initiative.
  3. Get to know the teachers, keep in contact, and understand–regardless of what your child comes home and tells you–there is always another side to the story.
  4. Teach your child that every teacher is different, just as co-workers and bosses will be in life.
  5. Be prepared for change. Be prepared for the shock of academic and non-academic discussions in middle school about topics you never heard your child mention before.
  6. Tell administrators about teachers who make a positive impression. Do you enjoy being complimented? So do teachers.
  7. Reward positive accomplishments (agenda book completely filled in, perfect papers, etc.) on a weekly basis. A little goes a long way, and middle schoolers thrive on praise.
  8. Get involved. Research has shown that parents’ participation increases the child’s self-esteem, improves their academic performance, improves the parent-child relationship, and develops a more positive attitude toward school in both the parent and child.
  9. Ask your child to teach you at least three new things they learned each day! Listening is one of the greatest–and most neglected–skills of parenting. Don’t be too busy with the little stuff in life to miss the important moments with your child. When they tell you about their day, look them in the eye, and listen; really listen!

Be objective. Listen to your child’s teachers. Sometimes they may tell you things about your child you aren’t going to like or want to hear. But remember, your child at home is not necessarily the same child they see at school. You don’t have to take everything the teacher says as gospel, but make sure you really listen and consider their advice.

Kick Start Kindergarten With Success!

 

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It is Essential to kick start kindergarten with success! As exciting as the first day of school can be, first-timers can experience quite a bit of nerves in the beginning. These are the top ten ways to help reduce anxiety and ease into kindergarten!

  1. Picture it. Research shows that kindergartners are initially concerned with knowing where the bathrooms are, when lunch is, and who will play with them on the playground. Ease these specific concerns by writing a positive story about the first day of kindergarten. Include tasks like getting around the building, lining up for lunch, and making friends at recess. Then have your little one illustrate the story.
  2. Calm the fear of the unknown. Ask the school for a schedule and create a visual list of the daily kindergarten routine. Post it in your home and discuss what a typical day will be like. Knowing “what comes next” is a big hurdle when easing anxiety.
  3. Be an Explorer. Explore the school before the first day—take a tour, walk or drive by the school, play on the playground, visit the website, or talk about the school mascot. Ask questions, such as which way do you turn to get to your classroom?
  4. Say Cheese. At orientation, snap a picture of your child in the classroom with his or her teacher. Capture pictures of the circle time, the front door, the cafeteria, and the gymnasium. Place them on the refrigerator as a visual reminder.
  5. Talk it Out. Talk about the teachers and staff who will teach and care for your child during the day. Look ahead at the school’s event calendar and talk about special activities coming up. Interview a neighborhood child that has already experienced kindergarten. Validate any concerns by telling them about your first day of school.
  6. Let’s Play. Connect with kids in the neighborhood or new friends from orientation before the start of school. Arrange for kids in the class to meet at a local playground just before school starts. A friendly face is always welcome.
  7. Balancing Act. Try out “cafeteria style” eating at a local restaurant and practice opening food packages. Teach them to use their “milk thumb” to hold a round milk container when it is lying flat. This will prevent it from rolling off of their tray. A little self-sufficiency goes a long way.
  8. Rise and Shine. Adjust your child’s sleep schedule, including bedtime and wake-up time, several weeks before school begins. Ten hours of sleep is a good rule of thumb.
  9. Beat the Rush. Shop early for school supplies. Allow your child to select the necessary items. Have your child practice packing a backpack and walking around with it.
  10. Countdown. Anticipate the first day of kindergarten. Count down the days to the start of school, similar to an advent calendar. Ask a school-related question each morning or surprise them with a treat when they open a numbered bag.