2016-2017 CC

June 2017

And somehow we’re at the end of the school year.  I hope everyone had a great year and is looking forward to some lazy, hazy summer days.

Even though summer is often downtime for our students, there are some “real-world” tasks they could begin to develop.  As anecdotal evidence shows, many young adults aren’t demonstrating the life skills needed for independence.  Starting to cultivate these skills, even as early as kindergarten, is important for building a foundation for self-sufficiency.

The article “The key life skills parents should be teaching their children” in the Washington Post makes suggestions, broken down by school-age group.  (Click here for the full article.)  A few highlights:

Elementary school: Talking to others. Children need to know how to look people in the eye and carry on a polite conversation. Kids can practice by ordering food at a restaurant, paying for items at a store and asking a librarian for help locating a book.

Middle school: Kitchen safety. Kids should know how to use the stove and knives properly, as well as what goes into cooking a meal. Assign your tween one evening a week to cook for the family to allow him to practice these skills. Three of my kids — ages 13, 11 and 9 — each have a night to make dinner for the family, although I cook alongside the 9-year-old to guide him.

High school: Money management. Mary L. Hamilton of Waco, Tex., started teaching her children to be responsible with money by giving them an allowance when they were preschoolers. She built upon that foundation when her kids hit their teen years by setting up bank accounts for them, with both a savings and checking account. “By the time they went to college, they understood they could only spend money that’s already there, and all three are good money managers. This sets them up for financial success as they get into the job market and start earning bigger money,” she said

On a personal note, I want to share the exciting news that I am expecting my second child this summer and therefore, will be on maternity leave for the beginning of next school year.  I wish you all a wonderful summer.


May 2017

With the end of the school year quickly approaching, it’s important to think about all that our Stepney students have achieved this year and how to recognize those accomplishments.

As a parent, we all want to see our children have success.  An article in Inc. magazine “Want to Raise Successful Kids?  Science Says Praise Them Like This (but Most Parents Do the Opposite)” addresses this topic by looking at research conducted by Carol Dweck at Stanford.  (Click here for the full article.)  Dweck’s expertise is in the field of motivation, specifically mindset.  The chart below details some of the differences between a fixed and a growth mindset. 






Intelligence is innate

Can develop intelligence


To look smart

To learn


Effort means you don’t have innate ability

Effort is required to unlock ability


Use boredom as a cover-up for difficulties

View schoolwork as puzzles/challenges to figure out


The findings from Dweck’s studies emphasizes that praising children for the strategies and processes they use is more beneficial than praising for their innate abilities e.g., intelligence.  In fact, children praised for intelligence were less likely to enjoy learning compared to children praised for their approach.  The children in the latter group were more willing to try even if they were not met with early success. 


April 2017

As our upper grades will participate in state testing (SBAC – Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) over the next few weeks, it seemed appropriate to share some thoughts regarding positive self-talk.

Author Daniel Pink shares in this short 2 minute video (click here to watch) that positive self-talk is certainly better than negative self-talk but there’s a way to improve upon the standard “I can do this” or “I’ve got this”.  Interrogative self-talk, asking yourself questions such as “Can you do this?  And if so, how?” proves to be the most effective way to mentally prepare for a task or challenge.  Because questions require a response, you have to come up with the way(s) you can accomplish what’s coming. 

This might be a little advanced for our Stepney students to do on their own; however, as you’re talking with your child/children, be mindful that encouraging them is great, but giving reasons for how or why they can achieve is better.

March 2017

Working as a high school counselor I wrote around fifty college recommendation letters each fall.  And for the vast majority of them, I listened to Adele’s album 21.  If only I had known my productivity would have increased by not listening to music at all.

“The Best Music for Productivity? Silence” in The Atlantic (click here for the full article) sheds light on the fact that listening to music while working, whether because we like to or because we’re trying to block out other noise, does not help us complete our tasks more efficiently.  It’s true that early research in this area showed an increase in productivity when listening to music but the subjects in those studies were completing repetitive, maybe even boring, tasks.  For tasks that require sharp cognitive focus, silence is best.

As our students are really just beginning their academic studies, it’s important to keep in mind the environment within which they are working.  Are they able to truly focus on their academic work or is something helping to distract them?  As the article states “…most people can’t pay attention to very much at once.”

And for those of you wondering, I did write this piece with silence.

February 2017

As many of us watched the Super Bowl a few weeks ago and are gearing up to March Madness in a couple weeks, I started thinking about these highly talented athletes.  An article “What Separates Champions From ‘Almost Champions’?” in New York Magazine discusses some of the key differences noted in a recent psychological study.  (To read the full article, click here.)

Interests: Champions loved both competing and practicing their sport.  (And played multiple sports.)

Motivation: Champions were internally motivated to improve and competed against their own best performance rather than being motivated by prestige or ranking.

Adversity: Champions faced challenges as an opportunity to grow and had a positive outlook.  “The greats rise to the challenge and put in persistent effort; the almost-greats lose steam and regress.”

While this article focuses on athletes, the message is applicable to any talent, interest or pursuit.


January 2017

Recently I’ve read a few articles (see below) on the topic of multitasking and the unintended negative consequences.  While most of these articles are geared toward working adults, I couldn’t help but think how this might apply to our Stepney students.

Technological advances have provided us with so many devices and while all have their benefits, there are some drawbacks too.  Shifting our attention, even for the briefest amount of time, impacts our original task.  A quick glance at a text message or to see what’s newly posted on Facebook, Snapchat, Musical.ly or Instagram, reduces our productivity and increases the time spent on the task at hand.  Whenever possible, working without interruption is recommended.

Now back to our Stepney students.  Their academic work at home – reading, homework or studying – is a time for them to practice “single-tasking”.  Here are a few simple strategies that can become part of their homework routine:

  • choose a consistent public location (dining room table, desk in the family room)
  • aim for a consistent time each afternoon/evening
  • ipads/ipods/iphones in another location
  • television turned off
  • be around to help (if asked)
  • build breaks into the schedule (use a timer if helpful)

Read This Story Without Distraction (Can You?)

A Productivity Lesson from a Classic Arcade Game

December 2016

As 2016 comes to a close it’s nice to stop and reflect on the year.  We’re often caught in the hectic pace of the holiday season and can benefit from thinking about all that we’re grateful for. 

A group of high school teachers in Missouri took this idea to heart earlier this fall and created the “Oak Park Positivity Project.”  Teachers were asked to select a student who inspired them to come to school every day.  Their genuine, heartfelt messages and reactions can be viewed here on their video.

One small statement, one small act of kindness can have a profound effect.  Think about the children in your life and how they inspire you.  Does their commitment to an activity, kindness toward a sibling, or perseverance when facing a challenge make you proud?  Share it with them.

Enjoy this special time with family and friends, and best wishes for 2017!

November 2016

All of us, adults and children alike, have thoughts and worries that can make us anxious at times.  Every person has a different way of expressing his or her anxiety but there are proven strategies that work to reduce these feelings.  The website GoZen! provides tools for working with children including the article “49 Phrases to Calm an Anxious Child”.  I’ve shared three of the approaches below and the full list can be found here.

1. “Can you draw it?”  Drawing, painting or doodling about an anxiety provides kids with an outlet for their feelings when they can’t use their words.

25. “What is the first piece we need to worry about?”  Anxiety often makes mountains out of molehills.  One of the most important strategies for overcoming anxiety is to break the mountain back down into manageable chunks.  In doing this, we realize the entire experience isn’t causing anxiety, just one or two parts.

29.  “We’re going for a walk.”  Exercise relieves anxiety for up to several hours as it burns excess energy, loosens tense muscles and boosts mood.  If your children can’t take a walk right now, have them run in place, bounce on a yoga ball, jump rope or stretch. 


October 2016

Happy Fall!  Even though it’s October, many of our students are still acclimating to their school year routine.  As parents you will be the first to notice any changes in your child’s behavior or attitude with regard to school.  Here are some highlights and tips from PBS parents.  (For the full article, click here.)

Going to school can be completely exhausting for many kids. The school day can be physically, emotionally and mentally draining. … They have rules to follow, work to complete and responsibilities to fulfill. … By the time they get home from school, they are quick to fall apart.

The bad news is that kids tend to save their most difficult behavior for their parents.  The silver lining is that they trust us to help them through those trying moments and to love them anyway.

Leave questions for later.  A simple greeting and hug or high five is a great way to connect and provide emotional space from the day.

Play together.  Spending time playing quietly together or reading together helps ease kids out of the overwhelming feelings that the end of the day brings and into a calmer state of mind.

Create a homework routine.  Prevent homework wars by setting up a clutter-free spot to work and trying to do the homework at the same time each day.  Set a timer and allow for plenty of breaks.


September 2016

Welcome to the 2016-2017 school year - I am very excited to begin this school year with your children!  As I was preparing for the start of school, I came across a list of back-to-school tips.  While many are geared toward older students, I did want to highlight a few.  (If you’d like to read the entire list by Challenge Success, it can be found here.)

Make time for PDF:  playtime, downtime, family time. Research shows PDF is critical for overall well-being.

  • When your child wants to talk with you, stop what you are doing and engage. Does "I hate school" really mean something else:  "I am being bullied" or "I don't fit in?"
  • Create a technology-free environment during mealtimes. Every adult and child can benefit from a break from constant interruptions and distractions.

I look forward to a great year together.