Why can’t I reach my child?

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Advisory: 22 Ways to Build Relationships for Educational Success

Taken from:Nashville Big Picture High School

A shy and quiet ninth-grade student, Harley didn’t want to make friends when he entered Nashville Big Picture High School. He didn’t think he could. “Freshman year, I didn’t think I could really do anything,” remembers Harley, now a Nashville Big Picture alumnus and a rising college freshman. “Now, I believe in myself.”

On the first day of school, everything changed for Harley in his ninth-grade advisory when he met Michael, today one of his best friends. “He helped me to expand myself, talk more, and become friends with more people. I can now easily go up to somebody, shake their hand, and start a full-on conversation with them out of thin air,” notes Harley. His confidence shows in his senior capstone project, a 20-minute documentary honoring his graduating class. “I interviewed every student, every teacher, and most of the staff that we have ever interacted with,” recounts Harley. He also interviewed his peers about student voice and choice for Edutopia.

Relationships are the hub of advisory. Students stay with the same peer group of about 15 students — as well as the same advisor — throughout all four years. “Advisory gave me a place in school that I looked forward to,” recalls Harley. “In middle school, I would dread every day having to be with those kids again, but at Big Picture, I looked forward to seeing not only the group of people I considered friends, but the group I considered family.”

Students at Nashville Big Picture attend advisory Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (their on-campus days) for 15 minutes in the morning before classes and two hours at the end of the day. (They’re off-site at internships on Tuesday and Thursday.) During advisory, they have individualized learning time where they work on projects and assignments for their classes; ten-minute one-on-one meetings with their advisor weekly (the frequency and time can change depending on their students’ needs); and relationship-building activities, like family meals, problem-solving discussions, and games of Uno.

Nashville Big Picture has a 95 percent attendance rate and a 98 percent graduation rate. “They want to be here because they feel welcomed,” says Chaerea Snorten, Nashville Big Picture’s principal. “They feel like they matter. They feel loved and appreciated.”

If you want to create a culture where your students feel supported, appreciated, and safe to open up to you, here’s how you can adapt Big Picture’s philosophy of building intentional relationships, both inside and outside of advisory.

How It’s Done

22 Ways to Build Intentional Relationships With Your Students, Even If You’re at a Big School

If you can’t fit advisory into the master schedule, you can implement a lot of what Big Picture does during homeroom, in your classroom, or during lunch and break periods. At the heart of advisory is building intentional relationships with your students. Here are 22 ways to do that.

1. Know your students’ names, suggests Snorten. When you use someone’s name, you’re recognizing their identity. It’s simple, but it helps your students know that they’re being seen.

2. Recognize something that your students like. “Even something as simple as, ‘I know your favorite color is green,'” recommends Snorten. “Or, ‘I know your favorite football team is the Washington Redskins’ — anything like that. It’s a talking point.”

3. Notice something about your students. “‘Hey, I love your blouse. It’s really pretty.’ That extends itself for a conversation,” explains Snorten.

4. Ask your students about their experience in after-school activities. You can say something like, “’Hey, I know that you were able to go speak in front of the mayor. Tell me what that experience was like for you,’” suggests Snorten. “Or, ‘You all had a softball game the other day. I understand it was pretty tough. Share some fun things about it.’ These kinds of conversations are quick, and they don’t take hours and hours to build.”

5. If a student is late (or acting up), check in with them. “Instead of saying, ‘Go to class,'” suggests Courtney Ivy Davis, Nashville Big Picture’s school counselor and internship coordinator, “start a conversation, and say something like, ‘Hey, I’ve seen that you’ve been late for the past couple days. What’s going on? Do you need some help with anything?'”

6. When you’re having conflict with a student, use that as an opportunity. As a teacher, you’re positioned to help students problem solve and work out their issues. The language that you use in these situations is key, and Snorten advises asking the following questions:

  • What happened with this situation?
  • Was there something that you could have done differently? What would the outcome have been?
  • What are resources that you can use to help you work through issues or concerns that you have?

Related Resource: 13 Common Sayings to Avoid

7. Have your students address you by your first name, offers Snorten. This helps humanize you to your students. You’re not just their teacher or principal, but you become Miss Courtney or Mr. Gary who has two cats and loves to freestyle rap.

8. Know that it takes time to build relationships. Whether the role of advisor is new to you, or your advisory group just graduated and you’ll be starting over with freshmen again next year, remember that building relationships takes time. “It takes time to get through your students’ walls,” says Derick Richardson, a math teacher and advisor. “I have an awesome young lady in my advisory. It took a few years for her not to blow up on me whenever we had conversations revolving around conflict. Now I know how to present things to her so she can receive it.”

9. Be open, honest, and vulnerable with your students. “There’s nothing off limits,” says Gary Hook, a Big Picture history teacher and advisor. “I’m honest with them, I’ll say, ‘Hey, I had an argument with my wife this morning. I’m sorry if I’m in a bad mood. We’re going to get through it.’ I’ll say that, and it disarms them, and they may say, ‘I had an argument with my mom this morning, and I’m feeling …’ I like to take that approach because, at the end of the day, I know the real student versus a false personality. We get in touch with the human side of one another.”

10. Bring your personality into your advisory. If you walk into four advisories at Big Picture, you’ll notice that each one is different, and each one reflects the advisor’s personality. In Hook’s advisory, for example, they’ll sometimes have freestyle Fridays. He has been a fan of hip-hop since he was ten, and now he uses hip-hop as an avenue to connect with and engage his students; they challenge him to freestyle rap battles. “I’m pretty much undefeated,” he says. Another Big Picture advisor ends each advisory with a game of UNO, which has become an ongoing tournament.

11. Help your students learn that not knowing the answer is OK. “The number one thing that students think about is not wanting to appear as if they don’t know something,” says Laura Davis, a history teacher and advisor. “That’s a big hurdle to get over, getting them comfortable with asking for help.”

12. Guide your students to become resources for each other. “They learn who is good at computers, who is good at art, who’s good at organizing, and who is good to practice their presentations with,” says Davis, “and that is a life skill.” Help your students recognize their strengths — as well as the strengths of their classmates — so that they can support each other and know who they can reach out to for help.

13. Make sure you take care of yourself. Staying balanced is necessary, says Hook. As a teacher, you’re always thinking about your students. The same is true for being an advisor, and maybe even more so. When considering your students’ needs, don’t forget your own in the process. If you’re burnt out, you won’t be able to be fully present for your kids.

14. Create advisory expectations with your students on day one. “The most important thing in ninth grade advisory, from day one,” emphasizes Davis, “is setting what the culture of the room will be like. What are the expectations for the students and for the adult?” Have your students create the classroom norms, but allow yourself veto power. Be clear on each expectation and what that looks like. If be respectful is an expectation, what would being respectful look like?

15. “Whatever happens in advisory stays in advisory,” stresses Davis. It’s important to include confidentiality in the advisory expectations so that your students are comfortable sharing their feelings, struggles, and successes in a safe space.

16. Focus on teaching your students skills with long-term benefits. “Teaching them how to manage their time, their projects, due dates, syllabuses, and multiple apparatuses of online tools — that’s extremely key,” says Davis. “Reflecting, journaling, we do that every day. That happens at the very beginning. I want them to take these skills with them all four years. These are things I model every day.”

17. Check in with each student for ten minutes. If you have an advisory or homeroom, use some of that time to check in with your students one-on-one. “We talk about school, internships, life, and things they want to let me know,” explains Davis. “If you’re in a school with 500 students,” adds Hook, “and you don’t have the ability to connect with a small group, start having conversations about how to do that. Could it work if you add 15 minutes to your day, or if you take ten minutes away from your lunch?”

18. Do something fun. “If you have a homeroom of 36 kids, what could you do tomorrow to build relationships?” asks Davis. “Do something fun to get your students to start slowly breaking down their walls.”

19. Let your students do walk-and-talks when they’re having a hard day. When Davis’ students are having a difficult day, she lets them leave class momentarily to walk with her (while someone covers her class) or with a peer so that they can share what’s on their mind. “I think that’s really important for kids to know that they have a supportive group of peers — and an adult — that will listen,” says Davis.

20. Use family meetings to resolve conflicts. If there’s an issue, “we gather in a Quaker Circle and talk about what has happened and where we move from here,” explains Davis. “It prevents the ‘he said, she said,’ dialogue. Anyone can call a family meeting. I can, or the students can.”

21. Host family meals. “Every first Friday, we pick a menu, and every person has a responsibility,” explains Hook. “They bring in their food, and we eat, hang, and laugh together. That’s just my way of bringing them all back to this space, refocusing our energy, and hitting home the idea that we’re a unit, and we’re moving forward.” Family meals initiated from a holiday brunch. Hook’s students loved coming together to cook for each other, and they came up with the idea to have a family meal to celebrate all of the birthdays for each month. Hook begins each family meal with a lesson or philosophical question, like discussing what is wealth, or what traditions the modern American family no longer follows and what’s the impact of that. “Sometimes they entertain my questions, and they want to talk about it,” says Hook, “and other times, they’re just like, ‘Oh, gosh, here he goes again.'”

22. Reflect on your practice. At the beginning of each school year, as well as bi-monthly with their professional learning community, Nashville Big Picture’s staff looks at how they can improve what they’re doing. “We don’t just sit in one place,” says Ivy Davis, “and say, ‘Hey, this works,’ and leave it that way. No, we’re always looking at, ‘Is this still working? Do we need to keep it? How can we enhance this?'”

Building relationships is one of the most critical elements at Big Picture, says Snorten. “That’s key because it’s the catalyst. When a student can relate to you, and they know you care, that makes a big difference.” Nashville Big Picture has cultivated a relationship-focused culture, and advisory allows them to deepen those relationships.

8 Signs You Should See A Therapist

think

Photo credit: Kaspiic

Everyone experiences periods of stress, sadness, grief and conflict, so when you’re feeling off it can be hard to know if it’s time to see a professional about the problem. And apparently, those who would benefit from some therapeutic intervention are not seeking it enough: While one in five American adults suffer from some form of mental illness, only about 46-65 percent with moderate-to-severe impairment are in treatment, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

And while identifying and managing diagnosable mental illness is a priority in the psychiatric community, psychological help for those without a clear condition to manage can be just as important. Aside from suffering needlessly, those in distress may actually make the problem worse by avoiding professional help.

“The earlier someone gets help, the easier it is to get through the problem,” says psychologist Daniel J. Reidenberg. “There will be less time and less strain and stress involved in that.”

Psychologists attribute this low rate of treatment to the stigma and many myths attached to seeing a therapist. Among them, the concern that only “crazy” people need therapy or that accepting help is a sign of weakness or that the treatment options will be time-consuming and expensive. These are not true, says psychologist Mary Alvord, Ph.D.

“Your treatment doesn’t have to be analysis four times a week; I have some patients who come for just two session consultations or for a cognitive behavioral therapy for a year,” she says. “People feel like they’ll get stuck and that’s just not true.”

And while treatment can be very expensive and is not always covered on par with other medical treatment in most health insurance plans, there are cheaper options out there, including many university-associated treatment centers and therapists who will charge on a scale of affordability.

“There is still an unjustified stigma around mental illnesses, but we’re not even talking about mental illness,” says Reidenberg. “We’re just talking about life and how hard life can be. The benefits of pscyhotherapy [can be viewed] more like stress-relievers like exercising and eating right — just strategies that help make life easier and help to remove stressors.”

So what are some signs it might be time to set up an appointment? We asked Reidenberg, Alvord and psychogist Dorothea Lack to reveal some indicators we can all look for during times we’re feeling low. The biggest takeaway? It’s simply a question of measuring to what extent you can manage — anything that makes you feel overwhelmed or limits your ability to function is fair game for a therapist, social worker or psychologist.

Everything you feel is intense

intense sad

“We all get angry and sad, but how intense and how often? Does it impair or significantly change your ability to function?” asks Alvord.

Feeling overcome with anger or sadness on a regular basis could indicate an underlying issue, but there’s another intensity to be on the lookout for: catastrophizing. When an unforeseen challenge appears, do you immediately assume the worst case scenario will take place? This intense form of anxiety, in which every worry is super-sized and treated as a realistic outcome, can be truly debilitating.

“It can be paralyzing, lead to panic attacks and even cause you to avoid things,” says Alvord. “If your life gets more constricted because you’re avoiding a lot, it is probably time to see someone.”

You’ve suffered a trauma and you can’t seem to stop thinking about it

The pain of a death in the family, a breakup or job loss can be enough to require a bit of counseling. “We tend to think these feelings are going to go away on their own,” says Alvord, adding that this isn’t always the case. Grief from a loss can impair daily functioning and even cause you to withdraw from friends. If you find you aren’t engaging in your life or those around you have noticed that you’re pulling away, you may want to speak to someone to unpack how the event still affects you. On the other hand, some people respond to loss with a more manic reaction — hyper-engagement with friends and acquaintances or an inability to sleep. These are also signs that it is time for professional help.

You have unexplained and recurrent headaches, stomach-aches or a rundown immune system

tissues

“If we’re emotionally upset, it can affect our bodies,” says Alvord. Research confirms that stress can manifest itself in the form of a wide range of physical ailments, from a chronically upset stomach to headaches, frequent colds or even a diminished sex drive. Reidenberg adds that more unusual complaints like muscle twinges that seem to come out of nowhere (read: not after a big workout) or neck pain can be signs of carried stress or emotional distress.

You’re using a substance to cope

If you find yourself drinking or using drugs in greater quantities or more often — or even more often thinking about drinking or drugs — these could be signs that you’re hoping to numb feelings that should be addressed.

That substance could even be food. As Reidenberg notes, changes in appetite can be another sign that all is not well. Both over-eating or not wanting to eat could be signs that a person is dealing with stress or struggling with the desire to take care of himself.

You’re getting bad feedback at work

bad news work

Changes in work performance are common among those struggling with emotional or psychological issues. You might feel disconnected from your job, according to Reidenberg, even if it used to make you happy. Aside from changes in concentration and attention, you might get negative feedback from managers or coworkers that the quality of your work is slipping. This could be a sign that it’s time to talk to a professional.

“Adults spend most of their time at work,” says Reidenberg. “So people who notice are those who have to compensate, just like in families.”

You feel disconnected from previously beloved activities

If your clubs, friend meet-ups and family gatherings have lost their previous joyfulness, it can be a sign that something is amiss, explains Reidenberg. “If you’re disillusioned, feeling like there’s not a lot of purpose or a point or feeling a general sense of unhappiness, seeing a therapist could help you regain some clarity or start in a new direction,” he says.

Your relationships are strained

couple argument

Have trouble communicating how you really feel — or even being able to identify it in the moment? If you find yourself feeling unhappy during interactions with loved ones on a regular basis, you might make a good candidate for couples or family therapy, according to Alvord.

“We can help empower people to make better choices in how they phrase things — and we teach people that it isn’t just about what you say, but about your body language and overall attitude,” Alvord says.

Your friends have told you they’re concerned

Sometimes friends can notice patterns that are hard to see from the inside, so it’s worth considering the perspectives of those around you.

“If anybody in your life has said something to you along the lines of: ‘Are you talking to anybody about this?’ or ‘Are you doing okay? I’m concerned about you’ — that’s a sign that you should probably take their advice,” says Reidenberg.

 

Article obtained from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/08/11/8-signs-you-should-see-a_n_4718245.html

Working Together Strengthens Family Bonds

by | Jul 1, 2015

Working Together Strengthens Family Bonds

1. Give your children household chores. Chores given at an early age helps children build a lasting sense of mastery, responsibility and self-reliance. It also teaches them how to be empathetic and responsive to others’ needs. Richard Rende, a developmental psychologist says “Parents today want their kids spending time on things that can bring them success. But ironically, we’ve stopped doing one thing that’s actually been a proven predictor of success—and that’s household chores.” Chores, when done in the spirit of cooperation strengthens family cohesion.

2. Create a schedule. Children feel more secure when they know what to expect from day to day. Similar to a teacher, in order for the day to run smoothly, teachers have a daily lesson plan. At home the structure may be – children get up at a reasonable time,  help in preparing breakfast, cleaning up the living areas, then playing outdoors. Reading, indoor activity and lunch followed by quiet time / nap time. Also, make time to play and structure time to chill and relax.

3. Help your children develop a healthy relationship with time. Manage down-time creatively.  Children have a variety of activities at their disposal. When not active or being entertained with a gadget, help them learn to manage quiet time. Encourage them to read, try new things, and stretch their imagination.

Spend time outdoors. Riding bikes, playing ball, climbing and gardening are excellent ways for children to get their sun exposure (Vitamin D). Richard Louv, author of the book “Last Child in the Woods” says “outdoor experience isn’t just something nice for kids to have, they have to have it. Neuroscientists tap interaction with the natural world as a primary player in children’s sensory development. Ditto for physical development, as running around outside is critical in refining children’s large and small motor skills and achieving full brain activation.”

4. Plan meals together. Before heading off to college a child needs to have skills to take care of him or herself. Meal planning, purchasing as well as making meals together is a great bonding experience where everyone can enjoy the finished project. Remember to teach them how to make a special dessert!

5. Set aside some time every day to have fun. Whether it’s running through the sprinklers together on a hot afternoon or counting the stars on a blanket in the backyard before bedtime, do at least one thing a day to connect and have fun. Remember, what matters is always how it FEELS, not how it LOOKS. Your child doesn’t need an activity to keep their interest; just a loving connection with you.

6. Make a photo board. The last week of the summer, print out all your summer photos and make a photo board. Have a little family celebration on Labor Day weekend where you talk about everybody’s favorite parts of the summer. Remind each other of the things that seemed like disasters at the time but are now funny (every family has some of those!). If you do this every summer, you’ll create precious family memories.