Rules of the School - 2013-14

Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand.
-Chinese Proverb

Before I came to CHP, I worked at the Mary McDowell School for a number of years. I took over a class in an established classroom where I found a factory-produced poster on the wall which said, RULES FOR FIGHTING FAIR.  The rules were appropriate and sensible, yet it struck me, why weren’t these rules written by the children in the class?  What a missed opportunity! 

The first fall when I started working at CHP, I introduced the project and the children dictated the rules which were posted front and center in the classroom. 

When the time came that I needed to step down as head teacher/director to wear only my director’s hat, I passed the job on to Nicole.  She asked if the children could illustrate the rules (what a grand idea!) which they did and then the rules were posted on a bulletin board in the classroom.  The illustrations and text were so wonderful that we decided to publish a book to share with every child who attends CHP.

This year’s version is called KINDNESS AND SAFETY RULES AT CHP. This project works in many ways: It allows children to use fine motor skills, number concepts, communication skills and more. Even if your child is too young to actively participate in the process, you can read and share what makes CHP a fun and safe school at home.  The activity strengthens the home/school connection while you sit with your child and read the rules at home.

Twenty Years at CHP: A Retrospective of Some of the Many Things I Have Learned About Children

Twenty Years at CHP, a Retrospective of Some of the Many Things I Have Learned about Children...

Three weeks plus twenty years at CHP equals the time it took me to compose this Carol's Wall, to record a list of what I have learned about children from the prospective of an educator and a mother.  Some of these things I thought I knew when I started at CHP, and most I learned along the way.  Here goes...

  1. Children thrive with a semblance of structure. Structure makes children feel safe because they know what to expect so they are not scared.  Yes, life can be unpredictable and sometimes routines do need to fall by the wayside.  The point here is that even when life pokes a hole in your attempts at structure, you need to get back on track, pick up the ball and begin again.
  2. Children are not miniature adults.  Adults and children are entirely different entities.  Yes, we are both the same species, but our thought processes and approach to life comes from such a different place.  Do not expect your child to think and react to things the way you do, try to remember how long they have been on this planet and how much they have to learn.  Adults are able to pull up information from our short and long term memory.  Children do not have as many memory files as adults do, and they are still figuring out how to pull up those files.  Remember this when you ask your child a question and he or she answers you the next day.
  3. Little kids forget.  Do not expect your children to consistently perform to whatever standards you set for them.  Children are affected by so many different things:  Lack of sleep, too much sleep, too much activity, not enough activity and so on. When they forget, you need to remember so that the next time you are in a similar situation you can help your child be successful by prompting them. A little bit of prep goes a long way.
  4. Imagination is a wonderful thing, nurture your child's need to make believe and go with it. 
  5. Children cry, it is okay.  Recognize your child's feelings out loud.  If you think they are sad, say so, "I'm sorry you are sad."  If you are wrong, and your child says he or she is mad, you need to change gears and say that too.  Asking a child why he or she is sad or mad can make them more upset because they may not know why they feel the way they do.  Asking them what's wrong might make them worse, because they may not know why they are crying.  Recognize the feeling and wait a bit.  Don't speculate, just comfort your child and go with it, you just might find out why your child was upset in the first place. 
  6. Celebrate the effort--spending a long time on a project, cleaning up, or walking that extra block without complaints.  One of the biggest mistakes I made as a young mother, second to giving my children junk food, was by constantly telling them how smart they were.  I wish I would have sung the praises of hard work and tenacity as loud as I announced their brain power.
  7. This one is a toughie. Do not relinquish too much control to your child. By all means, give your children opportunities to choose, but make sure their choices are simple and appropriate for a child, not another adult.  For example, if your child insists on wearing summer clothes in the dead of winter, make sure those summer clothes do not find their way back into the dresser.  Now you can allow your child to choose from the appropriate winter wear found in that drawer.
  8. You will find this in another Carol's Wall installment:  Try not to read something to your child that you do not love.  I believe the love of reading can be sparked by the person who reads aloud to a child who has not yet begun to read on his or her own.  Even if you are reading a book you do not necessarily love, make sure you never read a book "cold."  Children's picture books should be read with feeling, so that the young listener is enveloped into the book.
  9. Do what you can, each day, to make your child laugh.  Being silly does not get nearly the credit it deserves. On that note, singing is good too, for both of you. 
  10. Tell your child that you love them, every day.  Remember that when you get angry, it's okay to get angry, but don't forget to tell your child that no matter how angry you get, you always love them. 

I left the easiest one until last.

The Get-Into-School Card

For those of you who did not see this recent article from the Real Estate section of the Times, I thought I would pass it along.  I especially liked the "Score Card"at the end of the article.  I thought it was a wonderful starting point when searching out the best school for your child.

Score Card

You know where you would like to live. Now what about the schools? Here are five things to consider when evaluating a school, particularly in changing neighborhoods.

Leadership Is Key School advisers agree that a charismatic principal with a clear vision and a deep respect for students is crucial. Enthusiastic teachers and active parents tend to follow.

Attendance Rising attendance rates — a sign that more families are being drawn to a school — are often a leading indicator of improvement.

Beyond Scores Although the number of students meeting state standards is important, improvements in school quality may not be reflected in test scores until the kindergartners who benefited from new teaching methods, for example, are tested for the first time in the third grade.

What’s on the Walls? Proudly displayed student projects that demonstrate individual thought and creativity are what you want to see, rather than cookie-cutter art projects or decorations made by the teacher. You can also tell a lot about writing skills by what students have composed.

Link to NY Times Article

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