At Parents’ Night for the Middle School, there was an optional informational session on social media. It was a brief summary of what apps the middlers are using, the pros and cons of social media, and the Middle School position on students use of social media. Shared below are the slides used during the evening presentation, including resources and a video from 60 Minutes. Also included in the presentation slides are some parenting tips that may be useful at home and with a student(s).
Adolescence and the middle school years are challenging, but essential to the development of academic and life skills to prepare students for Upper School, college, and the working world. Recently, a lot of folks in the education world have been discussing, sharing, liking, and retweeting an article first published in The Washington Post. The article, written by Phyllis Fagell, author of Middle School Matters, highlights seven ways parents and educators can assist the child’s experience in middle school. The seven include: trust them with responsibility; help them with self-identity, give them ways to serve, foster relationships with adults, help them relate to peers, build in opportunities for play and make it safe to fail.
These are items we work to build each day with our middlers in classrooms and in all of our learning spaces. If you are working on building any of these elements at home with your child(ren), please let us know how we can provide any guidance or assistance. As always, thanks for your ongoing partnership and support of the Middle School.
Learning never stops, and one of the best ways to learn is to read and then discuss with others. While our children and our experiences are all unique, we also share similarities and can learn from our reading and from each other.
As we kick off the school year, I invite any parents interested to join me in book discussion centered around The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey. In her book, packed with case studies and practical advice, Lahey demonstrates how disappointments, rejections, and criticism that students face are actually opportunities in disguise. She urges readers to step back and trust our children, and allow them to experience the joy of succeeding on their terms rather than ours.
For those interested in taking part in a discussion, please email me, and I’ll set up a time for our inaugural meeting during the first weeks of school, as well as what sections of the book we will discuss in our opening meeting.
A copy of the book can be found on Amazon here or at your local bookstore.
Parents play an important role in educating their child(ren) around the use of digital devices. It starts at an early age. Are they allowed to use my phone to FaceTime with a relative, to watch a movie on Netflix, to play a game, to prevent a meltdown in public? We’ve all faced these difficult dilemmas and questions, and they do get more challenging as students grow older. When do I give my child(ren) a Smartphone? Whey do they start to use social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tic Toc)?
We’ve entered a new age and we, as parents, play an important role. In an article published by Mindshift, pediatrician Jenny Radesky, who sees patients at the University of Michigan and is one of the top researchers in the field of parents, children and new media, suggests the four roles a parent may play.
- Put your phone away whenever possible when you’re with your kids.
- Stop using the phone as a pacifier — for you or your kid.
- Before you post a picture or share a cute story about your kids on social media, think twice and get their permission if possible.
- Don’t use technology to stalk your children.
Read the article further to learn more about each suggestion provided, and as always, know we are here to support you and collaborate with one another.
Today’s world is saturated with media and information. Data, research, and news are at our fingertips 24/7. This information can enhance our daily lives, yet needs to be managed appropriately. As we jump headfirst into the 2019-2020 school year, consider setting expectations with your child(ren) around their use of a smartphone or digital device. Expectation setting is helpful as you look to start the year on a positive note, especially as your middler begins to reconnect with or start new friendships with other students.
A good resource for parents with students of all ages is the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The APP recently created a Personalized Family Media Use Plan to assist families with mentoring and monitoring their child(ren). As the site says, “By creating a Personalized Family Media Use Plan, you can be aware of when you are using media to achieve your purpose. This requires parents & users to think about what they want those purposes to be. The tool below will help you to think about media & create goals & rules that are in line with your family’s values.”
A part of growing up is knowing where the line is and trying to extend it further. I did it. You did it. Our children do it now. Teens and early adolescents push boundaries. Sometimes it’s done with purpose. Other times, it’s a lack of recognition. We see this every day in the Middle School. Middlers, when asked, sometimes do not know why they did something. They just do it. While this is frustrating to hear, I believe it to be accurate. Middlers react quickly oftentimes without using good judgment or understanding the impact of their actions. The same happens in our homes.
Raising a teen can be challenging, some would argue it’s the most difficult aspect of raising a child. Cheryl Maguire recently wrote an article in the New York Times called, “How to Stop Thinking Your Teen Is ‘Pushing Your Buttons.’” In the article, Maguire states, “at some point, most parents feel as if their teenager is acting in ways to intentionally make them angry. But experts say that the interaction is often more about the way the parent responds than about the teenager’s behavior.” We’ve all been there in that moment when tensions rise quickly and soon it leads to frustration between adult and child. The author offers three suggestions – control your reaction, be on the same team, troubleshoot.
Failure: an act or instance of failing or proving unsuccessful; lack of success; nonperformance of something due, required or expected.
Failure is generally not a word we like to hear; however, a lot of growth can occur when we fail at something. It can lead to skill development, and also to success. Jessica Lahey, educator, speaker, and writer, wrote a book in 2015 called “The Gift of Failure,” which explores parenting around failure and helping children to succeed. This New York Times bestseller provides excellent feedback that can help parents at home and in an academic environment. As a parent of two lower schoolers, I’ve found her advice to be helpful and also lead to some reflection and revisitation of some of the practices that I’ve used at home. A particular passage that resonated with me reads, “Every time we rescue, hover, or otherwise save our children from a challenge, we send a very clear message: that we believe they are incompetent, incapable, and unworthy of our trust. Further, we teach them to be dependent on us and thereby deny them the very education in competence we are put here on this earth to hand down.”
Don’t be afraid to let your child appropriately struggle, to let your child forget something at home because you didn’t pack it for them, or not bring something to school on their behalf. This is very hard to do, and yes, I am guilty of it, too. It’s up to us as parents and educators to provide the freedom to fail and to then transform this failure and challenge into a successful moment and learning experience.
We are all aware of the undeniable reality that social media has a significant impact on the lives of middle school students today. In my everyday work as Dean of Students, I grow more and more concerned about how what happens on cell phones outside of school has an impact on our students during their school days here at Moravian. Last month, I was fortunate to participate in a webinar given by Sameer Hinduja of the Cyberbullying Research Center. Although current data confirms my concerns, the great news was that Moravian Academy is already doing so many things that he recommended to help prevent cyberbullying among our students.
The number one prevention tool is school climate, and here at the Middle School our constant programming reminds students of our school mission to create an “atmosphere of love and understanding.” Engaging students in purposeful acts of kindness through our service activities, all school reads such as Wonder, assemblies that value diversity, highlighting good deeds with our monthly Lions’ Pride Awards, and our advisory activities using the Developmental Designs approach are just some of our efforts that help create the kind of school climate every student deserves and encourages those same positive behaviors in our students when they interact on social media.
Success in preventing cyberbullying relies upon a partnership with parents. I encourage you to take a look at some resources below, which include guidelines for talking with your teen about technology as well as tips for both parents and students for what to do if cyberbullying does occur. You may even wish to explore the website of the Cyberbullying Research Center. I know I am looking forward to employing some new ideas for programming highlighted in the webinar.
Let’s continue to partner in our efforts to help students choose the path of kindness.
Below are some additional resources that you may find useful:
Our friends at The Swain School extended an invitation to Moravian Academy families to their free viewing of “LIKE” on February 27th at 7:00 pm.
A film by Indie Flix, “LIKE” is an IndieFlix Original documentary and series that explores the impact of social media on our lives. The goal of the film is to show that social media is a tool and social platforms are a place to connect, share and care but is that what’s really happening? Technology is here to stay.
By understanding the effects of technology and social media on the brain, on our lives and on our civilization we can learn how to navigate it more safely together. Swain is hosting a showing to inspire people of all ages but especially kids to self regulate. It’s not about blame. It’s about looking in the mirror and empowering ourselves to create balance in our lives and to learn to be there for each other.
Learn more and register for the free event here.
During the past few weeks of school, middlers have been preparing for Student Led Conferences (SLCs). Sixth, seventh and eighth graders have used portions of advisory and/or classroom periods to maintain a portfolio of work collected from their classes. Students have also set goals for each class and determined an action plan for how to reach these goals. Classroom teachers and the advisor have guided the students, step by step through the process. This year’s SLCs will occur on Thursday, February 7th (3:30 – 7:00 pm) and Friday, February 8th (8:00 am – 3:00 pm).
The most important person in any school conference is the student, yet in traditional conferences, the student is not present to provide input. A student-led conference places students accountable for sharing their schoolwork, goals, strengths, and challenges with the parents and the advisor, and allows them an opportunity to take an active role in their own education.
Here is some advice for parents as you prepare for the conferences.
- Let your child take the lead. They can do it!
- Be positive. Celebrate the successes. Small wins add up quickly.
- Ask what he/she is most proud of.
- Ask what you can do to support your child’s learning or to help them achieve their stated goals.
- Ask for clarification if you do not understand something.
- Praise effort and skill development over grades.
- Save sensitive family or social topics for a private meeting with the teacher.
Middle School is a great time of change in the life of children. Students are learning how to be more independent; learning how to choose the hard right over the easy wrong; learning how to make a mistake (or fail) and bounce back; learning how to manage themselves and their materials; learning how to balance their academic and social life; and learning to adjust to a body that is changing quickly. Middlers do a lot of emotional and academic growth during the 6th, 7th and 8th grades.
It’s not easy for the students or the parents. These years are challenging. Middlers are moving away from mom and dad and more towards their peer group. Unfortunately, conflict and social friction are a part of growing up. Some would say unavoidable.
As this New York Times‘ article entitled “How to Help Tweens and Teens Manage Social Conflict” states, “Don’t add to the drama. Take it in stride and coach your kids as they work to resolve things on their own.” While educators wouldn’t advocate that parents completely remove themselves from these situations, we do believe that the triumvirate of student, parent, and school, should play a role though on differing levels.
Please know we are here to partner with you, problem solve with you and consult with you. Sustained connections are important. We need each other and are here alongside you on the rollercoaster that is middle school.
Heather Miller, the director of an education firm in New York City and author of “Prime Time Parenting,” recently published two articles through Harvard’s Graduate School of Education entitled “Homework Help for Reluctant Children” and “The Power of Evening Routines.” Each has some wonderful tips to assist with middlers at home. A few highlights from each article are included below:
- Have children do their work at a communal table. Stay nearby, to alleviate the loneliness that some kids feel- and to prevent procrastination. Parents can help their students by serving as the “homework project manager” by monitoring, helping to organize, motivating and praising the effort a student puts forth
- Ask your child to unload her backpack and talk through assignments.
- Having supplies nearby allows the pre-work process to go more smoothly and helps a student think through the entire assignment, understand the assignment, and prepare to complete the assignment.
- Ask your child to put the assignments in the order he/she would like to do them. Encourage him/her to explain their thinking – fostering a sense of control.
- Use a timer. Challenge your child to estimate how long an assignment will task and ask if he/she wants to set a timer for that full amount of time, or less.
- By creating a “Done/To Do” list you are helping your student develop an understanding that larger tasks do not have to be completed in one sitting, but can be distributed over time
- Meaningful positive reinforcement assists a student feel like what they are doing matters and is helpful to learning
- A predictable structure can help families gain quality time
- “Doing the same things the same way at pretty much the same time each day facilitates the acquisition of skills and knowledge bit by bit, day after day…If you follow a routine at home, your executive function is better developed than it might be if your home life is unpredictable…The very practice of executing routines strengthens our capacity for learning”
- “In the digital age, when the constant stream of devices so frequently interrupts the flow of home life and face to face interaction, routines at home are more important than ever.”
Have you ever said or heard another person say, “Boys will be boys”? I wonder how you responded or how those around you responded.
In a March 2014 article written in Psychology Today by Elizabeth Meyer, Ph.D., she states:
“The expression ‘boys will be boys’ attempts to explain away aggressive behaviors that a small number of children exhibit by linking it with “natural” or “biological” impulses, without examining other reasons for the aggression. Linking aggressive behaviors with a child’s sex assigned at birth ignores all the other environmental (family, media influences, messages at school, etc.) and individual factors (personality, nutrition, body chemistry, etc.) that might be influencing behavior. It creates an easy excuse to fall back on so adults don’t have to examine other reasons for such aggressive behaviors. It is also often used to justify schoolyard bullying and causes many adults to accept negative behaviors as natural.”
These four words have always made me uncomfortable. We should not utter these four words to make excuses for bullying, mistreatment of others, or aggressive actions. It is not okay. Boys, similar to girls, need to be held accountable. I encourage all of us to remove this phrase from our parenting and educating vocabulary.
Boys also need strong relationships. They need to feel loved though they may not admit it until later in life. A Parents.com article entitled, “How to Handle Raising Boys,” has five pieces of advice:
- Monitor Aggression
- Model Good Behavior
- Emphasize Kindness and Sensitivity
- Encourage Emotional Expression
- Look Beyond the Dirt and Noise
For those looking for additional resources and reading materials, a leading figure on educating boys is Dr. Michael Thompson, author of nine books including the highly acclaimed book Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys. Thompson is a consultant, author, and psychologist specializing in children and families. He is the supervising psychologist for the Belmont Hill School, an independent school outside Boston, MA, and has worked in more than seven hundred schools across the United States, as well as in international schools.
How does this relate to a middler? What we do now will pay off, which is why our mission skills and our mission statement at Moravian Academy are so important. Social-Emotional Skills (SEL) are valuable for middlers now and after they leave the school setting. At Moravian, we are working to create a different outcome for our students, and we seek your partnership throughout the lives of our middlers to cultivate a society that believes in “love and understanding.”