Telling Authentic Stories

African author, Chimamanda Adichie, shares her story about discovering the importance of writing about things she recognized.   Enjoy this inspirational TedTalk!


Three Phrases

I’ve never been a big fan of Super Bowl commercials.  Though they tend to be more creative, clever, and humorous then the typical commercials on prime time, the goal of these 30-90 second segments is to manipulate me so I will remember a brand and ultimately purchase something that truly won’t make me happy.

However, while watching all the commercials that flashed across my television, one had a profound impact on me.  It was a commercial by Google promoting its Translation Service.  Of course the commercial had the typical images that tugged at the heart strings while also promoting astronomical success (e.g. over 100 billion words translated each day – now I sound like a commercial!).   Yet, there was one part of the commercial – a fact provided to the viewer – that opened in me a new perspective on humanity.  During the commercial, Google announced that the three most translated phrases across the globe are:

“Thank You”
“How are You”
“I Love You”

In our society, we often hear of the hatred, prejudice, and fear that divides us – especially those who look different, act different, or embrace different beliefs.  Yet, the majority of people dwelling on this beautiful blue-green orb are seeking to connect through expressions of gratitude, care, and love.  These three simple phrases reaffirmed my belief that now, more than ever, children need to learn how to behave with empathy, compassion, grace and courtesy.  At FWM, I am convinced that our children are at the tip of this “emotional intelligence” spear that is emerging in education; they are learning the behaviors mentioned above while also practicing how to build healthy relationships and connections with other human beings.

 

 


The Case for Recess

“If you wish to give the means to the child for his development you must give them in such a way that the child can, and must move. …In all her books, lectures, conversations, Montessori incessantly returns to this great theme of the importance of movement.”
—E.M. Standing Maria Montessori, Her Life and Work

At FWM, children have the freedom to move throughout the day.  There is research that points to the importance of having children take regular breaks and find time for movement.  Results show that children who do so, are more likely to do well in school and beyond.

Below is an article by Rae Pica titled, “Why Children Need Recess” that builds a solid argument on why recess is so important in schools.

More and more, parents are protesting school policies that allow teachers and administrators to withhold recess to punish student misbehavior. Common infractions include tardiness, acting out in class and failure to complete homework—everyday childhood behaviors that result in numerous children having to go without recess on any given day.

The research is clearChildren need recess. It benefits every aspect of childhood development—physical development, of course, but also social, emotional and intellectual development as well. Following are seven reasons why, if we want our children to succeed, recess should not be denied.

  1. Everyone benefits from a break. Research dating back to the late 1800’s indicates that people learn better and faster when their efforts are distributed, rather than concentrated. That is, work that includes breaks and down time proves more effective than working in long stretches. Because young children don’t tend to process information as effectively as older children (due to the immaturity of their nervous systems and their lack of experience), they benefit the most from taking a break for unstructured play.
  2. Recess increases focus. Dr. Olga Jarrett, with her colleagues at Georgia State University’s Department of Early Childhood Education, approached an urban school district that had a no-recess policy. They received permission for two fourth-grade classes to have recess once a week so they could observe the children’s behavior on recess and non-recess days. Their results showed that the 43 children became more on-task and less fidgety on days when they had recess. Sixty percent of the children, including five with attention deficit disorder, worked more and/or fidgeted less on recess days.
  3. Natural light improves wellness. Sunlight stimulates the pineal gland, which is the part of the brain that helps regulate our biological clock. It is vital to the immune system, and simply makes us feel better. Outside light also triggers the synthesis of vitamin D, which a number of studies have demonstrated increases academic learning and productivity.
  4. Recess reduces stress. The National Association for the Education of Young Children recommends unstructured physical play as a developmentally appropriate means of reducing stress—a valuable benefit given that stress has a negative impact on learning and health. For many children, especially those considered “hyperactive,” recess is an opportunity to expend energy in a healthy, suitable manner. Outside, children can engage in behavior—loud, messy and boisterous—considered unacceptable indoors
  5. Recess develops social skills. Recess may be the only time during the day when children have an opportunity to experience socialization and real communication. Children don’t engage in the neighborhood play of earlier generations, so once the school day ends, there may be little chance for unstructured, natural social development. After all, in class children generally are not encouraged to socialize, but rather are expected to conform and remain quiet. Some school policies even go so far as to prevent children from talking to one another during lunch. How can children with so few opportunities to socialize and communicate be expected to live and work together in harmony as adults? When and where will they learn how?
  6. Exercise is healthy. Many children suffer from obesity, but even children at healthy weight levels benefit from physical activity, and in fact require it for optimal health. The outdoors is the best place for children to burn calories, practice emerging physical skills and experience the pure joy of movement. Research has even shown that children who are physically active in school are more likely to be physically active at home, and children who don’t have the opportunity to be active during the school day don’t usually compensate during after-school hours.
  7. Physical activity feeds the brain. Thanks to advances in brain research, we now know that most of the brain is activated during physical activity—much more so than while sedentary. Movement increases the capacity (and possibly even the number) of blood vessels in the brain. This expedites the delivery of oxygen, water and glucose (“brain food”), thereby optimizing the brain’s performance. Furthermore, numerous studies have shown that students who are physically active improve their academic performance, achieve higher test scores and demonstrate a better attitude toward school.

There is one more reason recess should not be withheld from children as punishment: It doesn’t work. Experimental studies and anecdotal evidence point out that in any given school, it’s generally the same children who tend to have their recess withheld, indicating that the threat is ineffective. And, as Eric Jensen, author of several books on brain-based learning, tells us, remaining seated for periods longer than 10 minutes “reduces our awareness of physical and emotional sensations and increases fatigue,” resulting in reduced concentration and discipline problems. Demanding that children move less and sit more is counterproductive. Research, and our own common sense, tells us we should be doing the opposite.

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Daring Greatly

Society sends messages to our children about what it means to be happy, beautiful, and successful.   At times, these messages can promote a culture of shame that stifle their ability to take risks and dare greatly.

In this interesting and provocative TedTalk, NY Times best-selling author and national speaker, Brene Brown, discusses how “shame” has become an epidemic in our society and why vulnerability is part of the cure.

Enjoy!

Chris


“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”

On Monday, January 21st is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  On this day, we remember a man whose message of hope, perseverance, and non-violence changed the trajectory of America.  Though a gifted orator, his courageous actions and ability to meet hatred with love is what defined him.

This April will mark the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination.  Though a half century later, our country is still burdened with bigotry, racism, and prejudice.  Our children need to hear the stories and learn about the lives of brave individuals like Dr. King who sacrificed everything in the name of love.  By doing so, we help our young people see that heroism is not about wealth, fame, beauty, and power.   Being a true hero is about being that beacon of hope and strength in the midst of an overwhelming darkness.

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Hello, London…

In 1927, the first transatlantic call from New York to London occurred.  The entire correspondence lasted three minutes.  The call cost $45 which is about $550 by today’s standards.

When one thinks of how far technology has advanced since that first historical communication across the pond, it is truly mind-blowing.  The rapid development of new technologies has allowed people to connect, interact, and amalgamate in ways that were once unimaginable.  Our children are growing up in a world where the abilities to communicate with and relate to different people will be important and vital skills for future success.

On January 17th at 6pm, FWM is fortunate to have Dr. Steve Pearlman speak at our school.  Dr. Pearlman’s presentation will focus on the skills and abilities children will need to be successful in a global community.  His research in neuroscience, education, and psychology has led to a body of work that focuses on how education can best prepare children for college and beyond.  I strongly encourage all FWM parents to attend this important presentation.  As mentioned in previous school communications, childcare and pizza are FREE for parents attending.  I hope to see you there!

Chris

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Successful Resolutions

The return from the Winter Holiday Break marks the start of the 2nd half of the school year.  I hope you and your family enjoyed the hiatus from the school routine and are ready for the New Year.

As we enter into 2019, people begin to think about the changes they hope to make in their lives this year.  For some, it will be a personal change like eating healthier, getting more sleep, or exercising.  For others, the change may involve the family – less screen time, eating family dinners together, or spending more time together on the weekend.

The data tells us that less than 10% of all New Year Resolutions are actually achieved.  If you want to make a change by eliminating a bad habit, you must replace it with a new.  In an article by Susan Weinschenk in Psychology Today, Dr. Weinshenik shares a plan for creating a new habit.  The article says that if you do the below three steps for 3 to 7 days in a row, your new habit will be established:

  1. You MUST pick a small action. “Get more exercise” is not small. “Eat healthier” is not small. This is a big reason why New Year’s resolutions don’t work. If it’s a habit and you want a new one it MUST be something really small. For example, instead of “Get more exercise” choose “Walk 1/3 more than I usually do” or “Take the stairs each morning to get to my office, not the elevator”, or “Have a smoothie every morning with kale in it”. These are relatively small actions.
  2. You MUST attach the new action to a previous habit. Figure out a habit you already have that is well established, for example, if you already go for a brisk walk 3 times a week, then adding on 10 more minutes to the existing walk connects the new habit to an existing one. The existing habit “Go for walk” now becomes the “cue” for the new habit: “Walk 10 more minutes.” Your new “stimulus-response” is Go For Walk (Stimulus) followed by “Add 10 minutes.” Your existing habit of “walk through door at office” can now become the “cue” or stimulus for the new habit of “walk up a flight of stairs.” Your existing habit of “Walk into the kitchen in the morning” can now be the stimulus for the new habit of “Make a kale smoothie.”
  3. You MUST make the new action EASY to do for at least the first week. Because you are trying to establish a conditioned response, you need to practice the new habit from the existing stimulus from 3 to 7 times before it will “stick” on its own. To help you through this 3 to 7 times phase make it as EASY as possible. Write a note and stick it in your walking shoe that says “Total time today for walk is 30 minutes”. Write a note and put it where you put your keys that says: “Today use the stairs.” Put the kale in the blender and have all your smoothie ingredients ready to go in one spot in the refrigerator.

Wishing you must success and happiness in 2019 to you and your family!

Chris

Head of School

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Seeing into the Heart of the Child

This Wednesday at 10:00 am, children in Primary through Middle School will be performing in our annual Holiday Celebration.  Today I was privileged to watch the rehearsal in its entirety.  Children sang, played instruments, and rocked to the beat of the music.  Knowing how much hard work was poured into the practices made the performances this morning all the more meaningful.

The importance of the final product when it comes to music can’t be understated – the show is the pinnacle of the children’s time and effort.  However, for me, one of the most wondrous parts of this process is witnessing the evolution of the children when they step onto the stage. Children who are typically more reserved in the classroom, become animated – like a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis and opening its radiant wings.  These children belt out songs; wave their arms with zest and determination; and move their bodies in unbounded, exaggerated motions to the rhythm of the music.  Watching such unabashed joy always makes me smile; I  consider these moments precious and significant.  Precious because I feel like I am seeing into the heart of the child and significant because I am reminded of the importance of making music a part of the lives of children.

I hope you will join me on Wednesday for this beautiful and special annual event at our school.

A Very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Healthy New Year to you and your family!

Chris

Head of School

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