Archive for July, 2012

See Something/Say Something

July 26, 2012

   Once again in the last week our country has been shocked by the actions of a young man in Aurora, Colorado, and we’ve lost adults and children, many people are suffering from injuries, and who knows how many people have felt the feelings of loss associated with this terrible incident?  Many people have suggested a variety of solutions to this rare, but devastating behavior and many others will respond by withdrawing from various activities in an attempt to avoid those kinds of things happening to them.  Some parents will undoubtedly place more protective procedures in place to protect their children.  And, many people will react to fears – both real and imagined.  So, what can we do to assist our law enforcement people and those who work to protect all of the people in this wonderful country?  Well, there is something, and I think it’s a step in the right direction. 

In July of 2010, Janet Napolitano and the department of homeland security initiated a program they called, ‘See Something/Say Something’.  In short it requests that people who see some suspicious behavior need to say something to someone.  People who were responsible for bringing this program forward warned that factors that identify people as different from us alone are not grounds for reporting and we need watch for behavior and situations.

Reporting the sighting of someone trying to break into some place, a bag left unattended in a public area, bullying, would be areas where we can bring attention to potentially dangerous events.  I believe with all my heart that we could all be safer if we’d take responsibility to say something when/if we see something suspicious – and I believe that reporting these suspicious behaviors might save a lot of despair and pain in our country.  

   See Something/Say Something!  Let’s make that our personal motto!!

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Learning the Language of Feelings

July 19, 2012

Over the years I have had the pleasure of working with young people in the area of writing – desiring that they develop the ability to express their feelings as well as do the more formal kinds of writing necessary for their futures in the world of work.

One of the truly fun-filled activities I presented to my students was the act of their learning to express their feelings.  I would give the students some kind of ‘prompt’ and ask them to write as many ‘feeling’ type words that described how this prompt made them feel.  I am one who believes that the purest expression of feeling is music, followed closely by art, and then by dance!  Doesn’t it seem just strange to you that when schools are faced with budget problems some of the first programs being cut are music, art and physical education?  Is it any wonder that we’re bringing into the world some really bright technicians who don’t have a clue about listening to someone talk about feelings nor to discuss their own feelings?  Medical schools today are beginning to require the students in training to get some feel for what will later become ‘a bed-side manner’ with patients – nothing more than listening to someone discuss feelings and being able to converse with those people.

So, what kind of prompt could I use?  One of my favorites was to take my students for a short walk away from the school, letting them stomp in the leaves from the deciduous trees.  The sounds, the smells, the beauty of leaves falling, the beauty of each individual leaf provided a treasure trove of ‘feeling initiators’.  After one such walk, a tenth grade boy described a leaf as a ‘ . . golden slice of sunshine’. I thought that pretty well summed it up for him (and for me!).

Now, I’ve placed a picture of a Swan At Sunset on my e-mail device and sent it to all of my correspondents (for those of you reading this without access to my email; <jimkern@gvtc.com> will take you there). Take a look at this beautiful swan and think about what you might write if you were to be in one of my classes. What feelings does this evoke in you?

Living With A Pre-Teenage Child

July 13, 2012

    One huge challenge for many parents is living through a summertime with a pre-teenaged person in your home!  They are often too young to drive!  They often cannot find work that suits their age and ability close enough to home so that they can walk there.  These kids often have pent-up energy for a time, and then want to sleep for the rest of the time.  They can be very moody. Sometimes we parents wonder what we’ll do to make it through with everyone’s mental health intact come August when the schools re-open.  So, let’s take a very brief walk down the lane of ‘Raising a Pre-teen and Maintaining Your Sanity, Too’

    A couple of things to keep in mind:  1) They are struggling to become independent and at the same time ‘fit in’, especially with peers/friends, 2) There is no such thing as an ‘instant adult’ (time and patience are necessary possessions for you), 3) They need lots of love (even though at times you’ll hear them say, “I just hate you!” What they likely mean is that they hate what you’re doing to/with them.), 4) They need a strong, caring adult to help them learn right from wrong and to become aware of the boundaries they will need to know in order to become a loving, creative, contributing adult.  

    From the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, some tips for living through this period in parenting:  1) Do things together with your pre-teen (listen to his/her ideas and opinions); 2) Get to know your pre-teen’s friends (invite them into your home and help your pre-teen learn to be a gracious host as you’ll learn lots more about all of them when they’re together); 3) Make it a point to be present at ALL events in which your pre-teen participates (they will remember every time that you’re not there!!); 4) Answer ALL of your pre-teens questions (and answer them honestly and without any hesitation – your non-verbal behavior contains about 80 % of the message you’re sending!!) 5) Talk about ‘respect’ and ‘responsibility’ every chance you get (you will start to hear statements like ‘I know that!’ or ‘Here we go again’ or ‘Mom (Dad)!!’ Just smile and bring these things up again and again.  You cannot say them too often – be a ‘broken record’ here); 6) Practice this line and say it often:  “YOU CAN DO IT!  I KNOW YOU CAN!”

    And, believe it or not, your pre-teen will appreciate knowing in advance what the limits of his/her behaviors are, what the consequences will be if violated, and what your expectations are at all times.  They will rebel, they will fight you, they will challenge you and they will tell you they hate you, but remember that part of caring is saying ‘No!’ in a variety of ways.  

    Here are a couple of tips for developing a process which at the same time encourages proper and safe behavior and the creation of an independent, self-controlled adult:  1) Set clear limits and boundaries; 2) Recognize that some limits are negotiable and others are non-negotiable; 3) Let the child’s safety be one of your top priorities; 4) Practice these questions:  a. who will you be with?, b. where will you be?, c. what time will you be home?, and d. are you dressed appropriately?  

    And, finally, you might adopt this as your own measuring stick: HAVE YOU ESTABLISHED HIGH, BUT REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS FOR YOUR CHILD, and DO YOU HAVE A FAIR BALANCE BETWEEN RULES AND FREEDOM?

The Toys Kids Choose

July 6, 2012

     Yesterday, Denise and I were treated to a ‘real life movie’ as we ate our lunch at a popular Mexican cafe in New Braunfels.  How many times have you purchased some expensive toy for a youngster only to have the child play with it for about five minutes, push it aside, and never touch it again?  And, how many times have you witnessed a child get into the drawer in your kitchen which holds the pots and pans and noted that the child couldn’t be removed from that place?  I very much wish I had taken a motion picture of this young guy – about five, I would guess – who was seated at a table with three grown-ups, all women.  I’m going to assume that he had finished his food before the others who were busy conversing and he put on a show from a distance for us! 

He picked up his napkin, established a place right beside the oldest of his companions, and started to play with it.  Just a boy and a napkin – doesn’t seem like this could result in much, right?  First it was a ‘cloud’ floating over the boy’s head, down to the floor, back in the air, dropped on companion’s plate, down to the floor, back up again.  Then, the napkin was a scarf – pulled tight around his neck, it complemented his ‘western outfit’ and we could see the ‘cowboy’ as he surveyed his surroundings.  Then it was a screen used to hide the boy from the vision of the companions.  Then the imaginary bullfight started with the ‘toreador’ teasing the bull on his right side, on his left side with the master moving deftly from one side to another waving the scarf appropriately.  Then, he folded the napkin in half as many times as he could until it was so small and thick he could no longer fold it.  He pounded the little square piece of cloth with his closed fist trying to get one more fold.  When it seemed he had pretty well exhausted the number of things he could do with a napkin, it was placed over his head as he looked straight up toward the ceiling and spun around until he nearly fell into the table (he caught himself just as the oldest woman was prepared to grab him to ‘sit him down where he belonged’).  He spun the napkin with his hands as if he were a pizza chef spinning the dough before baking.  It was a ball rolled into his hands and he feigned throwing a ‘fast ball’ to an imaginary batter.  It was thrown across the table – just once as all of the women deemed this unacceptable and threatened to take it away from him and once again letting him know that he was to sit with them.  The show continued:  One hand under the napkin as if he had a puppet, a wrinkled article of clothing which he pressed carefully with both hands, another attempt at a head dress, and on and on.  I think we watched for about five minutes at which time the gals had finished and they started out of the restaurant. 

At the door about to leave the foursome stopped and one of them returned to the table to replace the napkin where it belonged.  He nearly got his ‘toy’ with him out the door and into the car!  Next time!!! 

Now, which of these two gifts do you think would help produce an adult innovator – that napkin or a plastic make-believe gun which makes a ‘gunshot-like’ noise when the trigger is pulled?  Or a napkin or a doll which speaks when you pull and release a string?  Or a napkin and many other toys designed by the Toys-R-Us brain trust?  In his book, Creating Innovators, Tony Wagner tells of a mother who wisely gave the following gift to her child: “One of his favorite toys was something I gave him for his fifth birthday:  a large cardboard box and two sticks  — one six feet and the other four feet — and two lengths of rope.  That was it.  But he played with those same things for years.  For another birthday, I took Mac to a hardware store, gave him twenty-five dollars, let him pick out his own presents.  He was like a kid in a candy store.  As I recall, he bought a length of chain and some pulleys; he found some clear tubing and valves, as well.”

Well, there you have it!!  I looked into the garage of parents of three children ranging in age from about 13 to 7 and what I saw there was at best alarming – piles of plastic scooters, and play tractors, and many other toys which might have cost hundreds (even thousands of dollars), all stacked together.  I’ll betcha that many of these toys didn’t last as the center of the children’s attentions until the end of the day.  When the batteries ran dry, the toy went into the pile!!