Published with Blogger-droid v1.7.2
We all make decisions about which schools to send our kids to based on various reasons. This decision has deep ramifications for the whole family and it can be very stressful getting to a decision. I strongly believe that most parents pick schools based on more external qualities, such as school popularity or online ratings and may not necessarily really know the inner workings of the school before making a decision on a school for their child. As a teacher of 14 years, I will share a few key qualities to look for when making this decision. These clues will not be found in an impersonal online number rating, yet, will better guarantee a positive experience for your child if followed.
First and foremost, you want to place your child in a school where being smart is cool. The minute your child enters any school culture where 'goofing off', cutting class, or talking back to grown ups is highly admired by most peers, you will be swimming upstream until you get your child out of that setting. Unfortunately, you will not know if this is true about your school until you are IN the school, yet, it's a very important factor to look for and one to not ignore for sure.
Second, if you have a son this next one will be of most importance. I believe gender-balanced schools insure less bullying and help grow more expressive, emotionally-balanced and self-accepting boys; and girls too of course. Girls are usually more flexible in the social-emotional arena than boys. So as a mother of a boy, I have to deliberately make choices to raise my son to express himself emotionally and to embrace himself fully and that can only truly happen in a gender-balanced setting. In schools where extra-curricular activities are gender-specific (such as where only boys play football for example) the danger lies in the absorption of very finite, rigid, and stratified gender roles for both sexes. These rigid distinctions lay the groundwork for higher incidences of bullying and unhealthy social interactions. As a parent, determine whether your school is gender-balanced would be easy to determine before walking through the school doors. Ask around, do boys and girls have soccer teams? are there any boys in knitting class? check their website, etc.
Third: The classroom teacher. The classroom teacher can make or break a child's year, period. There is no magic formula for knowing how this relationship will pan out in advance, but use your child as a barometer to determine if this relationship is working for him/her. Don't be afraid to advocate for your child if you notice things are not working out. You can be at the lowest rated school, but if the teacher has truly connected with your child in a positive way, your child will learn a lot more that year than years where the connection was lacking. It's been my experience that human connections are the most powerful agents of growth and change, therefore, a positive teacher-child relationship should be every parent's top priority when choosing a school.
Now, here is my disclaimer. I am absolutely not one of those parents who worry about college while my kids are in elementary school. I am not trying to shape their entire future by 'playing the field' or strategically stuffing their days with clubs to make them more college-ready. Instead, my main goal is to influence their future happiness and personal success by making sure they have a magic-filled childhood with unconditional love, constant support, a nurturing environment and most importantly, our time. When looking at any school, my child's social-emotional needs are first and foremost always. Having worked on myself for years to overcome my rocky beginnings, I feel very strongly about the importance of an emotioanally balanced childhood. One could be the richest person in the world, or even the most powerful and still be at war in their heads daily. This is so because we ultimately only are where our minds are. Having our mind be in peace and open to all that life has to offer is THE ultimate marker of success in my book.
Parenting should mirror agriculture in that you can't control the outcome of this child you have before you. No matter how hard you try, you can only set the groundwork for good growth and allow the rest to come from them.
We've all heard about what some top factors for future personal success are. Some say it's the teacher, some claim it's the child's ability to persist, some say it's small class sizes. I'm here to say it's the parent....period.
Now before we more forward I should describe what I mean when I say 'success'. Having been a teacher for the last 14 years, I'm that last person to tout success as synonymous with large accumulations of money. As the rich will tell you, money does not always bring happiness, but that is a whole other blog post. Success in it's broadest form and in the least bring about a sense of personal satisfaction in one's accomplishments. To some, it very well might include large accumulation of money, but to others the aim might not be anywhere near lofty financial gains.
Back to parents. Have you all heard the term, "a face only a mother could love."? I am always tickled by that term. But in it lies a HUGE truth. Only involved, loving parents hold the one key piece that can make a world of difference in that child's future; and that is true, unconditional love. Only we know our child so deeply, so intimately, that we are in the MOST unique position to help him pave a path for himself that will be personally meaningful and fulfilling. Yes, good teachers are great, yes, a great school can be helpful. But an involved and loving parent is by far more effective at getting a child to future success. I have to make a distinction here for not all parents are involved in their child's life and not all that are involved have the child's best interest in mind. Some parents raise their child using their own personal agendas and not the child's; a phenomena I find to be even more harmful than non-involvement.
An involved, loving parent will find activities that match the child's interest, an involved parent will advocate for the child's needs to the teachers, to the school, to the District, to congress if needed. One very powerful story I carry with me about parent involvement is the story of Mark Zuckerberg's childhood. His parents recognized early on that he liked computers and hired a computer programmer to teach him what they could not. Mark's father said it best, "The best thing I can say is something that my wife and I have always believed in," he said. "Rather than impose upon your kids or try and steer their lives in a certain direction, to recognize what their strengths are and support their strengths and support the development of the things they're passionate about."
Unfortunately the American school system is misdirected in many ways and are not really structurally set up to be as supportive as they could be. One major problem with it is that is does not seek to, 'recognize children's individual strengths' and support it's development. The American school system, especially in the past 10 years, simply cares about how 'smart' you are and placing each individual on a strictly academic continuum; losers on one side and winners on another. A better school system has everyone winning and no losers. A better school system would be asking, what are our kids smart at? Our national obsession with 'College-readiness' is a way to keep some people up and some down. Must all kids excell academically in order to lead a successful life?
My 6-year old son loves to gloat, to anyone who will listen, all he knows about the universe and looks puzzled when he notices that not everyone finds all his 'facts' fascinating. I always tell him that everyone single person on earth has the potential to be an expert at something they love to do and that each human being must find out what that special something is in the course of our lives. I always add that what fascinates him might not fascinate others and that's perfectly normal but oh, what an amazing gift it is to know what fascinates you at such a young age.
In two months I lost 20 lbs. While I am nowhere near my goal I could not be happier. I've been wanting to lose some of this extra 'baby weight' for some time, but somehow had never been ready enough to stick with it long term. Yet, there are some unlikely sources that have helped me enormously in staying on track and I thought to share them with you here.
* YOUTUBE: above all other sources I have used to keep me inspired, YouTube has been the TOP contributor. I have watched countless hours of videos from people on: *healthy cooking recipes, *people who juice, *Raw food folks, and on and on.....every time I would feel that my progress was slowing down I would just stay up late and watch some of these inspirational people. Try it, put in a search for healthy recipes and you will see hundreds of videos of people actually showing you how and what to do with food.
* Netflix: I swear by my Netflix stream account. they have these amazing documentaries about food that you can stream anytime. They have been seminal in getting me motivated to even start on a healthier lifestyle.
* Public Library: Find amazing free resources for recipe books. Rent one or two and go shopping. If you like it copy the recipe on a card and keep them in a box.
* A phone APP: I have this application on my android phone called 'simple weight' and I weigh myself once a week and record my progress on this app. They have this neat chart that visually shows you your progress and it's so motivating to see the line sail down every week. Some also have the BMI and some tell you how far you've come, etc. Shop around and find the one that suits you.
* Email: Every month I use a measuring tape to take my dimensions (waist, hip, chest, etc). I email the dimensions to myself and that way I have the dimensions date-stamped and saved. When I take new dimensions I just search for that email and forward it to myself with the new information.
* Pedometer: I wear one daily and keep track of how many steps I take a day. Some days I challenge myself to reach a certain number.
* NUTS!!! : I know they are expensive, but I buy a lot of nuts, all different kinds and keep a bag of them in my purse at all times. That way, when I am out running errands I can snack on something heavy and healthy. My favorite are salt-free sunflower seeds from Whole Foods, they are less than 2$.
* Dehydrator: I bought myself a dehydrator. Sounds pretty boring right? wrong!! now I can buy fruits in bulk that are on sale, for example, and eat some the way they come but also use the rest to make dried fruit 'snack' for later or to store for when those fruits are not in season. I also make tons of other foods with my dehydrator such as chewy granola-ish snacks, dry herbs, 100%fruit roll ups, etc. All ultra-healthy.
* My eyes: I love, love, love eating. When I started this it was very, very important for me to continue to enjoy my food. So I look at healthy-bent recipe books and find recipes that look good and make them. I make food that LOOKS good to me. None of that mush we all initially think about when we think 'vegan' or 'vegetarian' or 'healthy eating.'
* Healthy friends: I have gotten tons of advice and inspiration from friends who have managed to begin and continue a healthy lifestyle. I truly believe that in the end we are an accumulation of everyone we have ever met. I drink 3 glasses of water in the morning because a friend of mine did it and was able to always maintain her weight. Take time to find out what systems others have developed to make their healthy living possible or easier.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.7.2