Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Keep Calm and "Christmas" ON!

Well, we did it! We made it to Christmas break. The students & teachers are eager to begin their holiday vacations and spend time with their loved ones, both near and far.

For most people, the holiday season is a time of joy, togetherness and excitement. However, according to many psychologists, Christmas can also be a time of significant stress. Some experience loneliness and isolation and are reminded of those they have lost. The added stressors of gift giving, increased expenses, family feuds, travel and the kids at home for long stretches of time can also wear on parents and on the kids themselves!

Here are some tips about how we can deal with holiday stress, brought to you by the staff and students at Seisen who contributed to my bulletin board!

Suggestions include:
  • Meditating
  • Breathing in and out
  • Counting from 1 to 10
  • Talking with friends
  • Making a stress ball and squeezing it
  • Going for a run
  • Dancing
  • Going outside
  • Watching YouTube 
  • Spending time with loved ones
  • Petting animals
  • Giving hugs
  • Humming
  • Sleeping
  • Reading
  • Hitting a pillow
  • Doing homework

Thank you to all those who gave suggestions about how to "RE-LEAF" stress. Many thanks to Mr. Towse for his always fabulous puns. Have a wonderful, happy, and healthy winter break filled with love and memory-making moments. See you in January! 


~Ms. Carnright

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

R-E-S-P-E-C-T for All



In the wake of this year's US election, it appears that we've lost our moral compass when it comes to respecting others. Many people have used the election as a platform to spew hate, disrespect, and prejudice, most notably through social media platforms towards those that have voted in a manner that they do not agree. It's quite disconcerting and worrisome that a great many individuals seem to be unable to discuss the outcome of the election in a way that's mindful of others' feelings and without judgement--no matter which side of the political spectrum they're on.

As a PYP school, Seisen aims to teach our kids about tolerance and celebrating diversity while encouraging understanding and empathy. We continuously strive to have our students "put themselves in another's shoes," and to approach conflict with the purpose of expressing our opinions in a respectful, solution-focused manner. I can imagine that most parents and other adults attempt to instil similar values. The question I sometimes ask myself is this: Are we practicing what we preach?

Recently, I went into one of our grade 6 classrooms to talk with the girls about respect: respect for themselves, respect for the environment and respect for others. We started the conversation on this very broad topic, which will become much bigger when we get into talking about stereotypes & prejudice, which I'll also link to our assumptions about political parties.

For now, I'll introduce what I put on the board (from goodcharacter.com) in grade 6, to give them a bit of a think:

Are You a Respectful Person?
  • I treat others the way I want to be treated.
  • I am considerate of other people
  • I treat people with civility, courtesy and dignity
  • I accept personal differences
  • I never intentionally ridicule, embarrass or hurt others (gossip, rumours, etc.)
Mr. O'Shea followed up this brief discussion by having the students actually rate themselves on these using "Never," "Sometimes," and "Always." Though this was just a small exercise, I feel as though it's important to have the girls continuously reflect on their behavior and attitudes towards others equally as much as they reflect on their schoolwork. Here were some additional thoughts by a few of the students:

"Most of my answers were 'sometimes' so I would like to make those 'sometimes' answers 'always' to become a more respectful person."

"I ALWAYS treat people the way I want to be treated because treating each other without respect is not fair especially if the person is very innocent and didn't do anything. I SOMETIMES accept peoples differences because sometimes when I learn something about something else that I find weird, sometimes my voice just comes out like oh my gosh or something like that. I NEVER segregate people with their skin colors because I think that skin color was just not chosen just like flowers and their petal colors. They are all so pretty."

"I ALWAYS accept peoples differences because everyone is different to everyone else like for example if their religion was different I don't care.  I SOMETIMES talk behind peoples back but not like bad things but good things, but I don't want them to know. I NEVER gossiped before and I think that it is so rude to that person."

One of the books I plan on using with them is called Mr. Peabody's Apples, by Madonna (yes, the singer!), which was inspired by a 300 year old Jewish story by the Baal Shem Tov. What's its moral? We must choose and use our words carefully to avoid spreading untrue rumours and causing harm to others. We must also be careful about what we believe and, therefore, repeat.

Parents, I'd encourage you to discuss what respect looks like and what it does not look like. When you see an example of respectful or disrespectful behavior, please point it out. There is plenty of it on TV, in movies, and in the news media. For grades 4 and above, the book Wonder is a fantastic fictional story (but showcases a very real genetic disorder) about how we should treat others who are different than we are. It was highly enjoyable to read even as an adult, and easily lends itself to conversations about respect, empathy and tolerance. Another book that is a great example of a lack of respect, in the form of group bias, is The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss.  It involves characters (Star-Belly Sneetches) that deem themselves as better than the Plain-Belly Sneetches simply because they have stars on them. As stated previously, in the coming weeks, I will begin to have the conversation about prejudice & stereotypes, and will be looking to this book as a teaching resource.  More to come on this topic!

~Ms. Carnright















Thursday, December 1, 2016

REPOST: X, Y and Zzzzzzs



In today's world, after school activities and busy work schedules can really get in the way of a structured bedtime routine and, as a result, an adequate sleep. With that being said, getting your children to bed each and every night can be a difficult task for parents, but I believe it to be one of the most important ways to maintain their physical, emotional and cognitive health. Research I've come across from the National Sleep Foundation suggests that, while we sleep, our brains are actually cleaning themselves (e.g., getting rid of brain "garbage") and making way for new neural pathways and connections.

Here is a bit of additional yet important information taken from the National Sleep Foundation:

Preschoolers
  • Typically sleep between 11-13 hours per night 
  • Difficulty falling asleep, waking up during the night and nightmares are common
  • Sleepwalking and night terrors peak during this developmental time
  • Should sleep in a room that is dark, quiet and TV free
*Ensure your child has a bedtime routine that ends in the room where the child sleeps. This can include a warm bath, story, songs, etc. This should NOT include screen time. 
*Consistency is key 

School Age Children
  • Require 9-11 hours of sleep per night
  • Are prone to sleep problems and disorders
  • Should also follow a regular and consistent routine
  • Should avoid caffeine (in general, but particularly 4+ hours before bedtime) 
  • May benefit from reading before bed, which can help promote sleepiness
  • Should NOT be going sleep with a TV, iPhone, or iPad in their room. Parents, please confiscate their mobile devices before bed. Yes, they won't like it, but they'll learn to accept it as long as the rule is enforced. 
*Some children may benefit from a nightlight, stuffed animals and other toys/objects that serve to comfort while sleeping. This is perfectly OK and age appropriate. 

From my experience, if you're having difficulty putting your children to bed and/or keeping them in their beds at night, again, consistency in your response is critical to achieving your desired outcome. One of the best methods I've seen (and read about) is demonstrated in the video below. I feel for this parent but, the bottom line is, if you stay strong, it WORKS!




Usually within 3-4 nights, the struggle should minimize significantly, if not altogether disappear. Children will continue to test the boundaries, however, which can be expected. Like with other forms of discipline, the benefits of a good night's sleep (e.g., increased concentration, elevated mood, greater academic achievement, etc.) far outweigh the emotional turmoil experienced by many parent's whom have to cope with the aftermath of setting these limits. If your gut feeling is that something medically may be going on that is preventing your child from falling and/or staying asleep, please consult your child's pediatrician.

For more information on all things child development & parenting, please visit one of my favorite websites, www.ahaparenting.com




Monday, October 31, 2016

Executive Functioning--What's all the buzz about?

For the last 20 years or so, more and more research has been devoted to examining the "executive functioning" of humans. In laymen's terms, executive functioning is basically our capacity to self-manage. Staying organised, task initiation and follow-through, controlling impulses, memory (think remembering 2-3 step directions), and being mentally flexible all fall under the umbrella of executive functioning. Of course, all of this research has corresponded nicely to the rise in mental health diagnoses in children, more specifically Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Children with these diagnoses struggle with self-control/regulation and with tasks involving planning, setting goals, time management and keeping their belongings organised, among other social-emotional challenges.

I managed to sneak in some lessons about executive skills with Mr. Lewis and Ms. Meyer's classes a few weeks back when I taught them about how exercise affects the brain. To illustrate the concept, specifically self-control, I had the student's watch a video documenting a famous (and many times replicated) experiment titled, the Marshmallow Test. Check it out; the girls LOVED it.....and then wanted to take part in it!


I also asked for a couple of "risk takers" to engage in a little test (Stroop Color Word Test) that I had borrowed to demonstrate the brain's ability to cope with "distractors," ignore impulses and remain focused. I had students read the words aloud from the following chart, as quickly as they could. One student was also chosen to be the timer.

                             

Initially, the brave volunteers were able to read the words quickly and without hesitation: RED, GREEN, BLUE, YELLOW, etc. 

But then, I switched it up a bit and asked them to read the COLORS of the words as opposed to the words themselves: GREEN, YELLOW, WHITE, PINK, etc.

The result? It took them almost double the amount of time in some cases to get through the chart! What each student described afterwards was as predicted: it was REALLY HARD ignoring the word and just focusing on the color. They were not only distracted, but they had to control their impulse to read the words. What a perfect example of executive functioning at work!

So, what's the connection to exercise? Well, here it is in a nutshell: exercise can increase our self-management skills! Not only does more exercise increase the blood flow, but it has positive effects on our brain's gray and white matter, each of which plays a role in attention, memory and, as a result, learning. It can also help parts of the brain "talk" to each other with increased speed, which allows us to "think" more efficiently.

Here is a great graphic that I showed to grade 3 students that clearly shows the increased amount of brain activity after a bit of exercise. 

                              
As children get older, their executive skills inevitably get better and most learn to compensate for weaknesses. As adults, we know when we need to make lists to stay organised or write reminders to ourselves to get specific tasks done. Sometimes, kids need a little help in this realm, and can often benefit from small accommodations. I really love checklists, and these can be used for any routine or task (home or at school). They are really easy to create and personalize. Here are some examples:


Just like anything else, skills that are practiced end up being more refined, so parents play a significant role in their development. There are countless books for parents on this topic, so don't hesitate to consult the reviews on amazon if you feel like you could use a bit of help with your child. One book I've recommended (and have on my bookshelf) is Smart but Scattered, by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare. I've also heard great feedback on the book That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week, by Ana Homayoun. Though written mainly for boys, reviews indicate that the strategies/tips are just as applicable to girls. 

As always, if there are any concerns you'd personally like to discuss, please feel free to reach out.

~Ms. Carnright




Monday, October 24, 2016

Digital Citizenship: Advice and Resources for Parents

"Our kids are growing up on a digital playground and no one is on recess duty."

"Digital Citizenship" is a hot topic in education nowadays given the technology that's available to students at a younger and younger age. Mr. Towse (Seisen ICT teacher) and I have prioritized educating our ES girls about the pros and cons (dangers included) of our marvelous digital devices and internet usage. We have hemmed and hawed about what should and should not be a part of the curriculum/pedagogy for Digital Citizenship with the primary goal of keeping our kids safe online.

www.commonsensemedia.org


Common Sense Media offers many fantastic resources for teachers and parents about this subject matter, and Mr. Towse and I plan on incorporating many of their lesson guides into the curriculum. Topics include:

www.commonsensemedia.org
  • Self-image & Identity               
  • Relationships & Communication
  • Digital Footprint & Reputation               
  • Cyberbullying & Digital Drama
  • Information Literacy
  • Internet Safety
  • Privacy & Security
  • Creative Credit and Copyright

To protect our kids, I believe knowledge is power. We have to know what they are up to online and do digital "check-ups" to make sure that privacy settings are appropriate for their age. 

With that being said, I feel as though it's important to remember that......

*Age limits/restrictions for app use (e.g., Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, etc.) exist for a reason, not just to annoy our kids which causes them to annoy parents about getting their own accounts. Most of these apps require that children are 13 years old.  Here's what I found on linkedin.com

It's also important to talk to your kids openly about what they're experiencing in the digital world, to include any cyberbullying that's occurring, what's being talked about in chat groups they are a part of, Minecraft "stalkers" and the like. Discuss the consequences of posting pictures and/or videos (e.g., possible criticism, feelings being hurt, etc.) online and how their "digital footprint" is created. 

Paul Rodgers
(taken from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/06/screen-addiction-is-taking-a-toll-on-children/?_r=0)

Lastly, let's not gloss over the possibility of technology "addiction" and the over-reliance on our devices. When my iPhone was frozen about a month ago, panic immediately set in. I felt suddenly disconnected from the world as if I were stranded. I've worked with kids who are similarly drawn to & almost obsessed with technology in such a way. I've also observed many parents who rely on phones and iPads as babysitters or merely as a tool to keep kids quiet. With that being said, I would encourage you to read this article from the NY Times. 

So, what else can parents do? A few noteworthy suggestions:
  • Create contracts with your kids for internet and/or phone use. A great example can be found here, but there are loads available if you search for them. Just don't forget to STICK TO IT!
  • Use timers to limit the use of phones, computers, iPad's, etc.
  • Know your kids passwords, privacy settings (as previously stated) and do random device "safety" checks. As I often tell kids who complain about the personal invasion: It's NOT your phone if you don't pay the bill! 
  • Take devices away at night....please, please, I'm begging you! Trust me when I tell you that your kids are up late at night texting, using LINE and/or watching videos if you allow them to sleep with their phones in their rooms. 
  • The older kids get, the more ownership they should get. This means that restrictions should change as your child matures and becomes more responsible. I would encourage all parents to have kids help you make the rules surrounding their cell phone and internet use. 
Some more great info can be found on one of my favorite parenting websites, www.ahaparenting.com. Here is an awesome article titled, "The First Cell Phone: Rules for Responsibility." Check it out!

Parents, if you are aware of any cyberbullying or inappropriate internet use by ES students at Seisen, please do not hesitate to get in touch with your child's teacher, Ms. Sandra, Mr. Towse, or I. It's crucial that we are kept in the loop about these matters to ensure the safety and well-being of our students. 

~Ms. Carnright

Monday, October 3, 2016

I Gotta Feelin.......


The Grade 2's first Unit of Inquiry,"Who We Are," encouraged the children to reflect on their interests, attributes and emotions, and connect these to how they think and act. Given this, it's no wonder this is one of my favorite units of the year!

My objectives? To teach and have the girls learn the following:

      • The definition of a feeling/emotional response
      • How feelings can affect our bodies (think butterflies in the stomach, stress/tension headaches)
      • Most of the time, we CAN control how we feel, even though we cannot always control what happens to us
      • Positive vs. negative self-talk
      • Coping skills when feeling sad, angry or frustrated
I started the lesson by showing them a picture of a snake, and telling them that it was my pet, Penelope. This IMMEDIATELY elicited some gasps from the girls, with even bigger responses given when I told them that Penelope was here in the classroom to visit. 

Once I told them that I actually did not have a pet snake and therefore she was not at Seisen to visit, I heard both groans and sighs of relief. This was the perfect way to initiate a discussion about feelings and how differently individuals process the same information. 

After lots of wonderful input about our emotions and the connection between the mind & body, I asked the girls to create their own 5-point scale of anger. This is modelled after the great work by Kari Dunn Buron, who developed the use of the Incredible 5 Point Scale. Here are some examples of what the girls were able to come up with--I was so impressed!!


















What anger looks like and feels like to grade 2 students. Some of the girls were able to "go further" and write what they can try to do when they experience these emotions. Note the various faces and details that some of the students used.






















Lastly, I focused on negative vs. positive self-talk, or, what we tell ourselves when we experience disappointments, frustration, anger, sadness, etc. It was especially important for me to let the girls in on a secret: that they CAN be in control of their emotions! Our internal dialogue is central to our mental health and well-being, and the more we can teach our students to use positive self-talk (the sister to the now famous "growth mindset") I believe the happier they will be. Below is one of the slides I used to demonstrate this concept. Many thanks to Yura in 2B for allowing me to use her picture!
A storybook example came from the book, The Pout Pout Fish Goes to School, by Deborah Diesen, which tells the tale of a fish who is always thinking terrible thoughts (e.g., "I am not smart," "I don't belong," etc.) when things do not go his way.  The girls seemed to grasp how negative self-talk doesn't help to solve problems but only makes us feel worse.

Most impressive were their performances when asked to complete partner skits. Each pair was given a scenario that would prompt them to feel a negative emotion. An example includes, "You accidentally forgot your homework and the teacher is asking for it." The girls were asked to choose a part: either "Negative Self-Talk" or "Positive Self-Talk." It was really fun watching them play these roles yet, at the same time, demonstrate the idea that, through our thinking, we are sending our hearts messages. This is only the beginning of the conversation, but I believe it's never too early to plant the seed about the power of positive thinking.   ~Ms. Carnright

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Many "Apps" of a School Counsellor

At the beginning of the school year, I make it a point to go into classrooms, introduce myself, and let the student's know a bit about my role as the school counsellor. The older girls are pretty informed about my basic job duties and understand that I am someone that can be considered a trusted confidant (with limits in place, of course!). The younger ones, however, may be a bit confused and need the help of a good book to understand. I love to use The Rainbow Fish, by Marcus Pfister, and liken myself to the "wise octopus" to illustrate my primary responsibilities as both and advocate and someone who can help them when they are struggling.
 


"I have been expecting you," said the octopus in a deep voice. "The waves have told me your story. Listen to my advice: give every fish one of your glittering scales. Then you may not be the most beautiful fish in the ocean, but you will be happy again." 



To better help the upper elementary girls (and those middle and high schoolers passing by my office) to understand more about a school counsellor (and to keep these descriptors fresh in their minds), I decided to turn to my bulletin board for some assistance. I can't take complete credit, as this amazing idea came from Pinterest!


Can you guess how each "app" represents the role of the school counsellor? A particular favorite was the use of the Pokemon Go icon, considering its popularity. Here is the up-close version!


As you can see, like teachers, school counsellors wear many hats, and no one "app" is more important than the next. Also, it's important to know that these responsibilities are managed through 1:1 counseling (both short-term and long-term, depending on the situation and student), group counselling, consultation with teachers and through lessons in the classrooms. The best approach, of course is one where all systems (school, home, community) come together to help our children develop the necessary skills they'll rely on as they get older.

Parents, hopefully the start of the school year has been a smooth one for you and your child. As always, please do not hesitate to connect with me regarding any concerns you may have.

~Ms. Carnright

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Peace Be With You and Begins With You



Peace One Day, which Seisen ES will celebrate on September 21st, along with International Mindedness Day, forces us to think about our individual role's as peacemakers. In grade 5, we are exploring this at length during the Peace & Conflict Unit of Inquiry. Students are not only learning about global and historical issues, but also about interpersonal conflict and how to both prevent and deal with problems that arise.

Tweens and teens, from my experience, tend to struggle most with peer relationships. Fitting in and securing meaningful friendships are of the upmost importance at this stage of life. Peer pressure and the desire to be seen in a certain light also makes adolescence extra challenging, all the while trying to figure our who you are and laying the groundwork for who you want to be. 

During my lessons with Mr. Carroll and Ms. Christine's classes, we focused heavily on deciding on "the size of the problem" (link to my chart here), and a short video was used to sum up what was learned.


We also discussed stereotypical "girl problems" and strategies to solve them. Using the resource, "When Girls Hurt Girls: A Girl's Guide with 13 Effective Ways to Solve Hurtful Friendships," by Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner (2008), I outlined common friendship weapons that many adolescents experience, such as: cyberbullying, exclusion, gestures (eye rolling, glaring), gossip, lying, manipulation, name calling, possessiveness, silent treatment, secret sharing and rumours. The girls were given two particular tools/frameworks for solving conflicts with friends. Below is my favorite!

                  1 = Ignore                       
                2 = Walk Away
                3 = Keep it Light
                4 = Get Clear
                5 = Speak Up
                6 = Distract
                7 = Agree
                8 = Team Up
                9 = Give it Time
                10 = Take a Time Out
                11 = Try Out New Friends                      

The very last option (12) should be to ask an adult for help. Being in 5th grade, most students can solve friendship issues by themselves or with the help of their peers. As adults, it's important that we grant them the autonomy to do so without getting involved (even though we simply want to help!).

Lastly, the grade 5 students were asked to complete short skits about confronting a conflict using an AGGRESSIVE, PASSIVE, or ASSERTIVE approach. They truly enjoyed coming up with ways to demonstrate these concepts, and much laughter accompanied their efforts. Enjoy the pictures below!

 
          

               


I absolutely loved the enthusiasm of Mr. Carroll and Ms. Christine's students. The first month of school is off to a great start!

~Ms. Carnright





Monday, August 22, 2016

"It's the Most, Wonderful Time, of the Year!"--BACK TO SCHOOL!

Welcome back parents, teachers and of course, students! I hope you had a fantastic summer vacation filled with fun activities, vacations, and plenty of relaxation.

A new school year brings excitement, a sense of renewal and, for teachers and students, the chance to create personal and professional goals/objectives that can be worked towards. For some kids, however, the transition back to school and the many adjustments (new teachers, new set of classmates, different routines, standards and pressure) can cause increased stress and anxiety.



To help ease with the transition and to continue to encourage healthy habits, here are some tips:
  • Start your kids on sleep schedule--this means allowing your elementary age child to get a MINIMUM of 8-10 hours of sleep per night. During the summer, it's not uncommon for children to go to bed later and for routines to be less fine-tuned, but it's important to shift things around so that your kids are going to bed at a decent hour. Remember, TV's, smart phones, tablets and computers emit a light that has been shown to making falling asleep more difficult, so be sure to take these devices away prior to bed time. 
  • Designate a homework area and an after school routine--this means allocating a distraction-free area of your home where your child can get her homework done...preferably one without the blaring sounds of a television. Decide when your daughter will complete her homework (though, I tend to believe the earlier, the better) and sit down and discuss the weekly schedule of extracurricular activities to ensure that there is enough time for school work, reading, and down time. 
  • Make time for unstructured time--this means exactly what it states. All kids, no matter the age, need time to themselves EVERY DAY where adult interference is kept to a minimum. I used to babysit a small child who, after 8 hours at daycare, wanted more than anything to just play pretend with her own toys without anyone's input/direction. I realised at that time that all of us deserve this kind of autonomy, and kids should be given the chance to create their own fun. 
  • Get back to healthy eating--this means planning meals and snacks that are optimal for learning (e.g., "brain food"), maintaining focus and leaving your child feeling good and full. If your family's habits are anything like mine, summer plans often interferes with calorie counting and normal portion sizes. Parents, research has indicated the need to be extra mindful of so-called healthy foods that have a lot of added sugar (think juice, sports drinks, fruit yogurt, peanut butter, cereal) and opt for more natural alternatives (think homemade smoothies with real fruit, oatmeal, plain yogurt with a bit of honey or raisins, etc.). Consider swapping out white rice for brown rice, quinoa or whole grain couscous. 
  • Anticipate small, temporary changes in your child--this means to expect that the first couple of weeks of school may be difficult, and she may experience a bit of anxiety or nervousness. This may manifest into moodiness, an upset stomach, headaches, and health-related complaints, all of which are relatively common. Set aside 10-15 minutes (phones away!) per day to check in with your child to see how school is going. Brainstorm solutions with her for kid-sized problems (which, of course, she will experience!) and remember that part of growing up is learning positive coping skills, many of which need to be modelled for her.  Also, don't be afraid to reach out to her teacher to ensure that she is connecting with her peers, is engaged throughout the day and typically presents as happy and well-adjusted. 
As always, if there is anything I can personally do to assist your child at school, please call or send me an email at tcarnright@seisen.com. I'd be more than happy to connect! 

~Ms. Carnright

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Discipline Dilemma: To Spank or Not to Spank




Peter Dazeley / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images
  as seen in 
http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1983895,00.html
"The more children are spanked, the more likely they are to defy their parents and to experience increased anti-social behaviour, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties, according to a new meta-analysis of 50 years of research on spanking by experts at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan." https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160425143106.htm
This blog post is perhaps the most meaningful and personal that I've written. I first decided that this would be a topic I would write about because of the number of student's I've had come into my office and discuss the manner in which they have been disciplined at home. One of the difficult jobs I've faced as a counsellor is listening to stories of parents use of corporal punishment and, as best I can, trying to frame my response to this in a non-judgemental, "I don't want to tell you that what you've experienced is WRONG," kind of way.

But it is wrong. 

Growing up in the 80's & 90's, spanking in households was pretty much the norm in the US. With that being said, I would never categorise my experiences with corporal punishment as abuse, and spankings were few and far between. In short, they never left any lasting physical and emotional scars. However, I consider myself fortunate: fortunate that my parents were almost always willing to talk through problems and disagreements with me, provided me with unconditional love and nurturing, and that physical discipline only occurred when one parent had (truly) reached their breaking point.

But not all kids are that lucky.

We teach our kids in school not to hit or put their hands on anyone in an aggressive, unkind way. We make sure to educate our young girls about personal boundaries and the importance of respect...both for our bodies and for others. Day after day, teachers work tirelessly to teach children to use positive, non-violent coping strategies when faced with conflict or when someone has made us angry.

Corporal punishment goes against all of this. And the message that is sent to kids is confusing. 

If you hit someone in the workplace who has made you angry, the consequences can range from being fired, suspended or perhaps even brought up on assault charges. In most cultures, striking a spouse is illegal. Yet, when we respond to children in this manner, adults get a free pass. Why is this so?

Here is a quote from one of my favourite websites:

"The only positive outcome that's ever been shown from spanking is immediate compliance. That sounds like a good outcome, right? The problem is that corporal punishment is also associated with less long-term compliance. Corporal punishment has repeatedly been linked with nine other negative outcomes, including increase rates of aggression, delinquency, mental health problems and problems in relationship with their parents."

Isn't this enough of a reason to consider using other methods when disciplining children? 
More on this topic next time. 

Full article with the quote above can be found at http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/positive-discipline/should-I-spank-my-child.















Sunday, February 28, 2016

I'm a Barbie Girl



As someone who always considered herself more of a tomboy than a girlie-girl, athletic pursuits such as a playing catch with my dad, riding my bike, kicking the soccer ball around and roller skating were my preferred activities growing up. Despite this, like millions of young girls, I also enjoyed playing with Barbie dolls: dressing them up into various clothes, putting on fashion shows, and pretending that she and Ken were going on dates. 

With increased knowledge around the "ideal" standard of beauty and its effects on body image and self-esteem over the last several decades, however, the view of Barbie has shifted. Do we really want our young girls idealizing a doll that, if she were real, would not be able to stand up? Do we want them to believe that they themselves should strive to look like Barbie when, in actuality, most women in the world are not blond, blue-eyed, super skinny or have milky-white skin? One might say, "Well, it's just a toy," which is true. Nevertheless, our kids are bombarded with photoshopped images in magazines and kids television shows and movies promoting an unrealistic version of "beauty," and one could argue that Barbie is encouraging the same. 

So, I was quite excited when one of our fabulous teachers, Ms. Ingrid Chen, showed me the new set of dolls created by Mattel that aims to incorporate a bit more diversity into the once compact Barbie world. Take a look below!

http://www.thenational.ae/world/americas/barbies-makeover-now-can-we-stop-talking-about-my-body
The new dolls come in petite, curvy and tall. They also offer more variation in skin tone, eye color and hair texture. While I truly appreciate Mattel's efforts, there is still a long way to go in helping our girls feel secure and happy with their bodies and all of the changes that accompany growing up. I also came across another doll, called the Lammily doll, that appears to be the first of its kind to showcase typical body proportions:


I especially enjoyed the video below, which depicted children's reactions to the doll's looks (including her body) and how the Lammily doll compares to the original Barbie. 


While it's easy to criticise Barbie, promoting positive body image starts at home and at school. I've compiled a basic list from articles I have found online, but here is the general consensus regarding tips for parents on how to help your child develop a positive body image:

  • Discuss the effects of puberty and how our bodies change as we age
  • Encourage your child to challenge/criticise media messages and to question what she reads and hears from her favourite movies and TV shows
  • Make health and fitness a family priority 
  • Reflect on your own body issues to ensure your issues aren't becoming your child's
  • Advocate for positive, balanced friendships where your daughter feels uplifted and supported
  • Place less emphasis on your child's physical appearance and focus on praising her efforts and achievements
Lastly, be a role model! Remember: kids are always watching, learning & adopting our views and behaviours. 

Thanks for reading!

~Ms. Carnright


Resources for this blog were found at the following websites:






Tuesday, February 9, 2016

X, Y & Zzzzzzzzs



In today's world, after school activities and busy work schedules can really get in the way of a structured bedtime routine and, as a result, an adequate sleep. With that being said, getting your children to bed each and every night can be a difficult task for parents, but I believe it to be one of the most important ways to maintain their physical, emotional and cognitive health. Research I've come across from the National Sleep Foundation suggests that, while we sleep, our brains are actually cleaning themselves (e.g., getting rid of brain "garbage") and making way for new neural pathways and connections.

Here is a bit of additional yet important information taken from the National Sleep Foundation:

Preschoolers
  • Typically sleep between 11-13 hours per night 
  • Difficulty falling asleep, waking up during the night and nightmares are common
  • Sleepwalking and night terrors peak during this developmental time
  • Should sleep in a room that is dark, quiet and TV free
*Ensure your child has a bedtime routine that ends in the room where the child sleeps. This can include a warm bath, story, songs, etc. This should NOT include screen time. 
*Consistency is key 

School Age Children
  • Require 9-11 hours of sleep per night
  • Are prone to sleep problems and disorders
  • Should also follow a regular and consistent routine
  • Should avoid caffeine (in general, but particularly 4+ hours before bedtime) 
  • May benefit from reading before bed, which can help promote sleepiness
  • Should NOT be going sleep with a TV, iPhone, or iPad in their room. Parents, please confiscate their mobile devices before bed. Yes, they won't like it, but they'll learn to accept it as long as the rule is enforced. 
*Some children may benefit from a nightlight, stuffed animals and other toys/objects that serve to comfort while sleeping. This is perfectly OK and age appropriate. 

From my experience, if you're having difficulty putting your children to bed and/or keeping them in their beds at night, again, consistency in your response is critical to achieving your desired outcome. One of the best methods I've seen (and read about) is demonstrated in the video below. I feel for this parent but, the bottom line is, if you stay strong, it WORKS!




Usually within 3-4 nights, the struggle should minimize significantly, if not altogether disappear. Children will continue to test the boundaries, however, which can be expected. Like with other forms of discipline, the benefits of a good night's sleep (e.g., increased concentration, elevated mood, greater academic achievement, etc.) far outweigh the emotional turmoil experienced by many parent's whom have to cope with the aftermath of setting these limits. If your gut feeling is that something medically may be going on that is preventing your child from falling and/or staying asleep, please consult your child's pediatrician.

For more information on all things child development & parenting, please visit one of my favorite websites, www.ahaparenting.com




Sunday, January 31, 2016

New Year, Fresh Start


The start of the new year brings a sense of renewal, and the chance to make some much-needed lifestyle changes. Over the next 12 months, I am committed to learning more Japanese which will make my experience in Tokyo a much richer (and easier) one. Though I've not set any specific language goals, I plan on securing a tutor in the coming month, opening my neglected Japanese phrase book and attempting to study at least once per week. Hopefully, I'll stick to my plan and begin 2017 with some conversational Japanese.

Just because our self-management as adults are more refined than say, an eight year-olds, this is no reason not to begin to teach these valuable "executive" skills to our students and children. Why not have them set their own goals and resolution for the coming month? Year? I'm proud to say that, as a Seisen teacher, this is nothing new to our students, as they are used to creating measurable academic and personal goals for themselves at school.  But what about at home? It doesn't even have to be a personal goal, but how about a family one? Some ideas include committing to unplugging more (e.g., no cell phones at the dinner table), exercising as a family at least once per week, eating better ("fridge" makeover maybe?) and having a weekly read-aloud, complete with reading chart/book diary. Check out this great New York Times blog/article on this very topic!

If you're looking for some good ideas for resolutions for your children, here are some examples below that I found from the American Academic of PediatricsIdeally, you can meet with your child intermittently to have him or her "gauge" his or her progress. It's actually a great way for them to begin self-monitoring their own behaviour and accepting feedback from adults. In the adult world, we get this all of the time through performance reviews, evaluations, etc. It's a great start!

Preschoolers

  • I will clean up my toys by putting them where they belong.
  • I will let my parents help me brush my teeth twice a day.
  • I will wash my hands after going to the bathroom and before eating.
  • I will help clear the table when I am done eating.
  • I will be friendly to all animals. I will remember to ask the owners if I can pet their animal first.
  • I will be nice to other kids who need a friend or look sad or lonely.
  • I will talk with my parent or a trusted adult when I need help or am scared. 


Kids, 5 to 1 2 years old

  • I will drink water every day, and drink soda and fruit drinks only at special times.
  • I will take care of my skin by putting on sunscreen before I go outdoors on bright, sunny days. I will try to stay in the shade whenever possible and wear a hat and sunglasses, especially when I'm playing sports.
  • I will try to find a sport (like basketball or soccer) or an activity (like playing tag, jumping rope, dancing or riding my bike) that I like and do it at least three times a week! 
  • I will always wear a helmet when riding a bike, scooter or skateboard.
  • I will wear my seat belt every time I get in a car.
  • I'll be friendly to kids who may have a hard time making friends by asking them to join activities such as sports or games.
  • I will always tell an adult about any bullying I may see or hear about to help keep school safe for everyone.
  • I will keep my personal information safe and not share my name, home address, school name or telephone number on the Internet. Also, I'll never send a picture of myself to someone I chat with on the computer without asking my parent if it is okay.
  • I will try to talk with my parent or a trusted adult when I have a problem or feel stressed.
  • I promise to follow our household rules for video games and internet use.

Here's to a happy and healthy 2016! 

皆さん明けましておめでとうございます!


~Ms. Carnright

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Body Image & Self-Esteem


(5A stating what they like best about their bodies)

Ah...5th grade. Many of our students are morphing before our eyes into "tweens," and with that comes a host of hormonal, psychological and social-emotional changes that are both exciting and challenging (for the students and their parents!).

I was eager to be a part of this Unit of Inquiry to present on both body image and self-esteem. The students were highly engaged and provoked to think more deeply about their own perceptions of themselves and others. Intellectually, these young ladies are developing metacognition, or their ability to "think about thinking." They can now view the world and its influences with a more critical, thoughtful lens, and use this skill to understand more about themselves. I find myself reminding the girls (often) about how these changes are shared among ALL humans, no matter which race, ethnicity, gender, etc.

Initially, I utilised optical illusions as a metaphor for perspective taking, which is a crucial aspect of body image. Two individuals can view the same image and interpret it in a different way. For example, what do YOU see in this anonymous German postcard from 1888?

                          http://psylux.psych.tu-dresden.de/i1/kaw/diverses%20Material/www.illusionworks.com/html/perceptual_ambiguity.html

Similarly, we discussed how the "ideal standard of beauty" can vary based on geography. The girls were informed of a study which demonstrated this very idea.  The way in which our culture defines beauty can, as a result, affect body image. The students were also able to learn about self-esteem, or how we feel about ourselves, what constitutes a "healthy" or "low" self-esteem, and how we can develop a more positive self-image. They seemed to enjoy two wonderful and thought-provoking videos about photoshop and Dove's "selfie" project. Watch below!



Myself, Ms. Line, Mr. Carroll and Ms. Christine felt it important to focus on the positive throughout this unit, and to use this topic as a platform to promote the need to take care of oneself, both physically and mentally. Eating right, getting enough sleep, maintaining healthy friendships and being able to assertively express your feelings, thoughts and desires can make the growing pains a whole lot easier. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

World Record Attempt

Throughout the first half of the school year, several students have made appointments with me to discuss their online & social media activity. What I've observed is that some of these children have concerns about e-safety, specifically their interactions with strangers via gaming websites (e.g., Minecraft) and phone applications (e.g. LINE). Parents have also articulated their uneasiness about their children's increasing use of technology and their own ignorance regarding how to monitor their safety.

From these discussions described above, the idea was born to start the conversation with grades 3-6 regarding e-safety, to include cyberbullying. While the majority of these students have not yet been exposed to cyberbullying, this is something that they will inevitably witness or fall victim to.  As educators, we are also aware of our shared responsibility in teaching our students how to be responsible digital citizens, while being especially attentive to issues surrounding personal safety and the "footprint" that's created each and every time something is texted or posted online.

As a result, 16 presentations were given over the course of 1 week. Mr. Towse and I were clearly aiming for a world record. The students, most notably those from grades 5 and 6, were highly engaged and were willing to share many of their own experiences (both positive and negative) using social media and the internet. It is important to reiterate that many of these applications (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.) have age restrictions that were created with kids safety in mind. Parents, we ask for your help in ensuring your child is using the internet and social media responsibly and with your careful monitoring, to include limiting their time on their devices. We look forward to continued discussions about this topic and your feedback on how we can further educate you and your children.