What kind of reader are you? Are you a reader who gravitates towards non-fiction books, or possibly one who selects a historical fiction book that lifts you away to a different era?
As part of my New Year's Resolution, a busy mom of two, and principal of a school with over 725 children in attendance, I needed to put more energy towards reading more to empower myself on all levels, whether it was focused on successful parenting tips for the toddler years, or how to get a better work life balance, or possibly even just for pleasure to decompress.
Every idea needs an action plan to become a reality. So, I started a book club with five of my best friends, including my sister, Kristen, and we would meet approximately every 4-6 weeks. Our first pick was titled, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, which I highly recommend, but it didn’t come close to my original goal of focusing on the “self-help” books, as a genre. This book reminds me of the complexity of relationships between families, friends, and even enemies in the best and worst of conditions.
Why does it always come back to the power of relationships in this world? If we are raising self-aware children who can manage their own emotions, and have an understanding and acceptance of others, then as parents we have officially graduated. This is our daily work as parents, a job that is complicated, trying and absolutely fascinating all at the same time. After all, it’s our most proud endeavor in this world.
So, as we plan for the February break, I thought I would leave you with a few book titles that I am considering digging into over the holiday. And yes, they are all related to empowering myself, as a parent. Knowledge is Power, and Parenting is a Journey.
Last week, I came across a hand-out titled, What Are the Key Features of High-Quality Standards for Social and Emotional Learning while surfing on the CASEL (http://www.casel.org) website. After reviewing some school sytems that have comprehensive SEL standards across the five domains, including self-awareness, self management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making... I stumbled upon this extremely informative parent tool on the CASEL website that can help you stay connected to your child's educational journey. It's called the Parent Toolkit and can be found by clicking on this link: http://www.parenttoolkit.com
This toolkit utilizes a range of experts in the field, including CASEL’s Roger Weissberg, classroom teachers, college professors, pediatricians, dieticians, psychologists, and parents to make the resource robust and useful. The Toolkit focuses on may aspects of your child's development, because we know that there is interconnectedness between being happy, healthy, and connected with others makes a child succeed in many ways throughgout their life. So, let's just say... this resource is sort of like shopping on Amazon, you get everything you need to support your child in a few clicks. It's pretty hard to believe, it could be that easy! Your shopping cart, or bucket is filled with the knowledge you need as a parent.
Parents as partners.
Recently, I came across a blog post naming 13 powerful children's books that send children of all ages important messages that kindness matters in our world. As adults, and children we all need time to pause and think about our social interactions and how our actions positively or negatively impact other people, and the energy around us each and every day. When we take time to know each other's story and listen to the meaning behind the story, we are opening our hearts and minds to imagining what's possible. When teaching our children about doing the "right" thing, we try our very best to model how advocating for self, and making the right decisions is definitely a decision to stand by what you believe in. Our hope is that all children take responsibility for their own actions, stand by what they believe is fair, and support one another along the journey of learning to practice and accept what is...These are all messages at Chatsworth, we value and believe will guide our children to "not judge a book by it's cover". We, as the teachers and parents are trying our best to instill the importance of the invaluable trait of being kind to others!
With that said, please take some time to enjoy one of these picture books with one, or all of your children. See if your child/children can identify why being kind matters, or maybe how the character stood up for his beliefs, or possibly why the giving tree never stopped giving no matter what the conditions. I guess, it's true, we can never underestimate the power of a good book to teach us life-long messages. Kindness Matters!
On Tuesday evening, we had the privilege of sharing our hopes and dreams for our children at Chatsworth. Our discussion was focused on sharing our beliefs, and practices that we believe are important to continuously develop.
-Best practices in literacy
-Social and emotional intelligence
-Authentic learning opportunities
We hope these slides provide you with a glimpse of what makes Chatsworth a special place.
Often as educators and parents, we tend to have books that are our "go to books" - you know those books that are within our comfort zones. I tend to gravitate towards reading self-help books lately, but as a child, I always wanted to get a laugh as I read the words across the page when getting to know my characters closely. As a teacher, I typically chose read alouds that sent powerful messages to my students. Thank you, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco was always a definite in my third grade classroom; this is a book that shares the messages of perseverance and the impact a human being can have on a child's life. Our choices tend to stay within our comfort zones.
This year, our classrooms have received an infusion of new classroom library books that inspire our children at Chatsworth. We are continuing to open our minds to the choices our children make about the books they read! What motivates each individual child is vastly different and informs us about students' passions, topics of interest, and next steps as readers of multiple genres, authors and series. Who knows, maybe we can even learn how to read a graphic novel, such as El Deafo or Dog Man from your child. Our readers are way beyond just being a reading level. The real work is getting to know each individual child and his or her own story to encourage their own choices.
As I visit classrooms, the children are so engaged in their books.... they don't even notice me! Please take a moment to read Cynthia Lord's blog entry on The Power of Choice.
I was reminded of this article after seeing how choice impacts engagement. As you begin the weekend, think about how you empower your child to make their own choices about the books they read.
The Gail Boyle Outdoor Classroom
We started the 2016-2017 year off with the opening of the Gail Boyle Outdoor Classroom. Once we cut the ribbon, the applause was representative of the excitement the children, teachers and community feel around this newly developed green space for outdoor learning. The classroom is designed to provide all children an opportunity to observe, explore, discover, question, and collaborate. This can take place in the science and engineering station, or perhaps while spending time engaged in the art and expression station. Whatever the children choose to do, we know that the outside air, feeling of nature and calm surroundings will only promote a feeling of positivity, which impacts student learning. A few students have already created their own ecosystems that led to research and sharing of information with the entire school. The possibilities are endless.
The community also came together to honor, our former colleague Rita Peters, who served as a teacher's aide for almost twenty years, at Chatsworth. We named our new garden space, Mrs. Peters' Garden to remember and celebrate her spirit.
Thank you to everyone who joined in our celebration!