In the Aftermath of the Tragic Shooting in Connecticut

When the school year began in September, I never imagined devoting two Carol's Walls to tragedies that occurred in two very short months.  What happened in the Sandy Hook Elementary School was devastating for our entire nation.

We are a preschool and our students are very young.  Because some families have been able to shield their children from the news, I will ask all parents not to talk about the sad event in the waiting area or in the classroom.  Young children do not always appear to be listening, but often, they are.  I am aware that there will be some children who heard about the terrible event, and for those children, we will listen.  I can assure you that the entire staff will offer reassurance and we will all do what we can to make your children feel safe. 

From a security standpoint, I will be reviewing our current security policy to see if we can make our children and staff even safer. Please know that in the interim, we will stay vigilant, making sure only authorized people enter our school. 

At this time, I also want to share some sage advice from Mr. Rogers:

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."  Fred Rogers

Please visit this site for more advice:

http://www.fci.org/new-site/par-tragic-events.html

Today and tomorrow (Winter Sing days) we will be in the classroom, busy preparing for the show.  Please know that if a student mentions anything at all about the horrible event in Connecticut, we will be there to talk and comfort.  When the teachers return to school in January, we will be listening to the children, making sure they feel secure. We will follow their lead.

I am devastated by this even, as a mother, a teacher and a human being...but on Monday, I will smile and proudly listen to the children sing the songs they have been practicing for the last few weeks.  We are all part of a school family, and we will stand together and listen to our children sing and we will get through this together.

For more support in dealing with your children’s questions, you might want to look at the following articles:

• An Exchange article by Diane Levin:  "When the World is a Dangerous Place — Helping Children Deal with Violence in the News."
• A New York Times article, "Tips for Talking to Children About the Shooting."
• Advice from National Child Traumatic Stress Network, "Talking to Children about the Shooting."
• Advice from the National Association of School Psychologists, "A National Tragedy: Helping Children Cope."
• A resource from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "Tips for Talking to Children and Youth after Traumatic Events."
• Fred Rogers' advice from Family Communications, "Helping Children Deal with Tragic Events in the News."
• Advice from the American Psychological Association, "Helping Your Children Manage Distress in the Aftermath of a Shooting."

Grading School Isn’t the Answer

Food for Thought:

Grading School Isn’t the Answer.  It’s the Problem. – NYTimes.com     11/22/12     

Many articles come across my desk and I thought it might be good to pass along some of the ones I find most interesting.     

This article speaks of the recent history of education in America and mentions policies like RACE TO THE TOP and NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND.  How does this concern you?  It’s hard to imagine that this educational policy will affect your young preschooler but in the not so distant future, it will. 

Our current educational system is mired in a culture of testing.  Politicians want to fix failing schools, and the way to measure whether those improvements are working is to test students.  Principals are held accountable so they pressure their teachers to teach to the test.  There is little independent thought in teaching to a test, as the student is given a test so they can to regurgitate the information learned from direct instruction—there is little room for independent thought.

This article is written about a school in faraway Texas, but it could be a school right here in New York City.  What I took away from this article is that even in a failing system, individual educators found a way to reach students by coaching basketball, starting a marching band and telling students they were loved.
“They improved the numbers.  Mostly, they did it through passion, intelligence, grit and love.”

Children need to know that they are cared for. Maybe I would be more willing to embrace testing young children if caring was something that could be measured on a test.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/23/opinion/grading-schools-isnt-the-answer-its-the-problem.html?smid=fb-share

In the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

All of us in the CHP community and on the East Coast have just experienced a natural disaster the likes of which we have never seen before.  Many people in our community, our friends and loved ones still suffer from the hurricane’s devastation. 

I believe that the toughest job in the world is being a parent, and sometimes, parents need a little guidance too.  I thought at this time, it might be best to share something you might find helpful. Here are some suggestions from ExchangeEveryDay, an Early Childhood publication I subscribe to:

"Don’t be afraid to talk about what happened, and be patient with your child’s repetitive questions. Let them take the lead. If your child mentions the subject, listen, talk about it, answer questions, and provide comfort and support.”

“Keep reminding children that you will do everything possible to keep them safe.  Remain calm and reassuring and emphasize safety. Your children do sense how you feel. If they sense that you are upset, disorganized, confused, or anxious, they may avoid talking about the trauma, and that will make their recovery more difficult. Share with children ways you handle things that upset you, e.g., listen to soft music; go for a walk; take slow, deep breaths. Children need physical reassurance that you can provide by sitting close together, offering hugs and smiles, and holding hands."

When the teachers return to school, we will be listening to the children and making sure they feel safe.  We will follow their lead, but will not allow the hurricane to dominate everything we do in the classroom. We will find out what children think and feel and answer questions giving honest answers and using accurate vocabulary.  

I learned a lot after 9/11.  When we reopened the school, the children were so happy to be back—the teachers were the same, their friends were the same and the toys were the same.  They found comfort in that, and so did I. Children and grown-ups feel safe when they follow routines.

I would like to offer our children the opportunity to help families in need.   I would welcome suggestions from the CHP community on this effort.  The best way to contact me would be via email: carol@cobblehillplayschool.com

CHP will reopen on Monday and in the meantime, please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you all.

11/27/12  A student's dictation and drawing about his Hurricane Sandy experience.

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