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Archive for the ‘school’ Category

My good friend, Ken McArthur is standing in a circus tent today
asking 2,000 people to spread a message of hope to teenagers who
don’t think that life is worth living.

I think it’s a great message of hope for anyone and would love to
see all of my readers think about spreading it today.

Here’s Ken’s simple message for for giving hope (and maybe saving
someone’s life!):

G – Greet and meet: talk to others, smile, say hello, ask
someone how they are doing

I – Involve yourself and others: find a cause you can support,
volunteer, pledge resources. Get the people around you
involved, especially if you see someone beginning to
withdraw. Invite them to participate in some activity, to
“get out” of their comfort zone

V – Validate others: tell others that they matter – especially
family members and friends that you tend to see daily but
may take for granted, give genuine complements

E – Empathize: be a listening ear, take time to be fully
present, don’t try to solve – just acknowledge someone’s
feeling/hurts.

Spread this message today!

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       Ok, here we go…a few months ago, i heard about a lawsuit on one of the ABC news programs between Mattel, the makers of the Barbie doll empire, and MGA Entertainment, Inc the makers of the Bratz doll line.  The issue seemed to spring from Mattel’s allegation that the designer Carter Bryant was working for them when he came up with the concept for the Bratz doll line; and therefore, they felt that it infringed upon their copyright since he was under contract to them at the time of the design; the jury seemed to agree.

         The jury awarded Mattel $100 million dollars in compensation today.  Wowie…that would pay for a whole lot of Barbie cars, Barbie swimming pools and certainly alot of Barbie mansions.   Now that $100 million, was nowhere near the amount that Mattel was seeking; it was more in the area of $1Billion dollars that they felt MGA should owe them with the success of the Bratz dolls,  toys and other assorted items MGA endorsed with the Bratz line. 

          I don’t know if you have ever seen the Bratz dolls but their heads are large…and they wear exceedingly seductive outfits and they have long hair and heavy makeup on these dolls.  They are very sensualized dolls that have been marketed to young girls and preteen girls as the heighth of fashion dolls.  In comparison, Barbie has been a mainstay in the toy market for years..but, since the sales began on the Bratz line…Barbie sales have fallen.  The competition seemed to pit the “good girl image” with the “bad girl image”…what image do you think young girls in a hurry to grow up wanted mom and dad to buy them?  Their choices are influenced by the things they see in our culture as “grown up”.   With growing concerns about body image and a healthy attitude towards their self concept…we need to understand the connection that takes place in a child’s world view and how that affects their emotional development! 

           Teaching young girls to value their bodies as something more than window dressing to get attention used to be the norm; that is no longer true.  Experts have been dealing with an increased awareness that young women are not happy with their bodies and will go to extremes to try to achieve the “look” that is in vogue.  We have young women (and young men) who are tortured with anorexia, who are struggling with obesity, who pay for plastic surgery to get their bodies to fit a certain mold, putting foreign substances such as botox into their bodies, breast augmentation, etc.   Educating them to the truth that the images they see in magazines and on television are adjusted with the magic of photo retouching and airbrushing techniques…that no-one has a perfect face or figure.  It is time to stop and teach young people the importance of self acceptance.  Stop allowing them to think that they don’t measure up to someone else’s standards of what is the ideal.

           We really need to examine the culture that we expose our children to from magazine articles, to television shows, to media advertising, to fashionable clothing lines that seem to say it is ok to dress our young girls in clothing meant for older teens or young adult women.  Everything is sexualized or sensual in it’s design…this marketing technique needs to be addressed.  We are allowing this, when we purchase these types of products for our children and then wonder why behaviors seem so out of synch with the type of behaviors that should be appropriate to their ages.

           Parents are the ultimate stop gap for their children…it is their money, for the most part, which purchases these items.  If we raise the bar on what we expose our children to…then, the industries that our dollars support will have to adapt to the demand for a more traditional age appropriate level of decency in the children’s clothing, toys, accessories, music, television programing, advertising, etc. 

            In an age where we try to protect our children from predators on the streets, in our schools and in every other area of life; we need to understand that if we send the children mixed messages about what is appropriate role modeling; how can we expect them to know when someone inappropriately crosses the line in their conduct?  Children learn their boundaries from the adults in their lives who set limits…so we need to re-examine how we condition our children by the choices that we make. 

            Children may still want the Bratz dolls over the Barbie dolls…who knows…children don’t always know what is in their best interests; however, the adults who care for them should know…shouldn’t they?

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          Suicide is not a pleasant subject.  It is a word that makes most people cringe.  People who have lost a loved one to suicide cringe too; they have more of a reason to be disturbed by the word.  Most of us don’t stop to think about suicide death on a daily basis…but maybe we should.  For those directly affected by a suicide…it is an especially difficult thing, to grieve…because there are so many added things to work through. 

          Loss is one thing; that is bad enough…but, add to that… justifiable feelings of abandonment, anger, denial, financial distress, shame, isolation, shock and even rage for being rejected by the loved one; for something as unknown and final as death, many times without any warning that suicide was being considered. 

           It is a hard subject to talk about because studies often have shown a correlation to discussions about suicide and the rates of suicides that have increased after say a media interview or article that is published in a large viewership.  So how do you address such a terrible thing as suicide without taking the risk of an outbreak of suicides?  I am not sure…but i do know…that listing some of the signs or risk factors is important…because it is possible to at least become aware of some signals that may alert friends or family to a person who is contemplating taking their own life. 

            Some of the obvious signs are:  sudden changes in personality or behaviors, drug or alcohol use, life changes such as loss of job or marriage, verbal comments such as life isn’t worth living…, depression, neglecting personal well-being or appearance, loss of interest in things the person previously enjoyed, extreme mood swings, sleeping excessively, giving away precious things, avoiding close friends or family, isolating themselves, gaining or loosing noticeable weight without trying, lack of effort at school or job, listless, a feeling of hopelessness or failure, lots of negative or sad comments, focussing on negative circumstances and obsessing about them.

             There are times when people are more at risk than others, for some it is during their teenaged years if they struggle with acceptance and sometimes depression, for others it is in middle age when possible sudden life changes are perceived as failures or loss such as divorce or forclosure, the elderly are often at risk of suicide because of health issues, isolation from friends and family and many times because of financial issues.   It is important to remember that some medications carry the risk of increased thoughts of suicide…so talk to your doctor about these issues if there is any concern at all.

            All ages and sexes are at risk of a potential suicide.  People must get better at listening to each other; and, they need to stay connected by communication on a regular basis.  No one wants to think of friends or family doing the unthinkable; but, it can happen to anyone. 

            Many people try to respect people’s privacy and back off when in fact, it is at these times that they are needed more than ever.  Fear of not knowing what to say or do is common.  When in doubt…it is always best to contact a professional.    Here is a national hotline to contact if you or someone you know is dealing with the idea or fear of suicide:   1-800-273-TALK.
www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

                The impact of suicide is long lasting on those survivors who are left behind.  Every life that can be saved is a gift…every person has value.  We must begin to find ways to open the opportunities to share with one another the hurts and disappointments in life and find ways of overcoming the effects of those things in our lives and in the lives of people that we care about.  Do you know someone who was able to turn the corner and avoid the tempation of suicide?  How did they do it?  Do they share with others about their experience?  Many people in schools, nursing homes, and professionals in your local communities could benefit from that knowledge so that they can help others.  How can those experiences benefit others?

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       The principal at Gloucester High School, John Sullivan, has resigned his position; if you remember he was the principal that made news headlines a few months back by allegedly, claiming that there was a pregnancy pact at his school when pregnancy rates climbed to four times the norm, in his school…17 young women were pregnant, during the school year.  To the best of my knowledge the idea of a “pact” has not been proven; in fact, some of the girls actually denied the claim.  The former principal says that he often relied on information gathered through his staff and from monitoring student chatter which when put together was generally reliable and he chooses to keep that information confidential. 

        John Sullivan appears to feel somehat betrayed by the mayor of the town because when all of this hit the media…he made some statements that criticized the principals ability to “remember” who told him about the alleged plan to become pregnant.  He also says that the superintendent remained silent in the rush of public opinion to condemn him for alluding to the girls deciding to become pregnant.   He feels that both the mayor and the superintendent allowed him to take the brunt of the news reports without standing up for him. 

         He says he does not remember using the word pact…however, he still is convinced that the young woman became pregnant on purpose.  He resigned he said because he does not feel that he has the confidence or support of the leadership in his community.  John Sullivan was at a place where he could have retired, so he did.  However, he did so while at the same time encouraging the students “to continually check their moral compass and do what is right even when swimming against the tide”.

           Regardless of whether the young women became pregnant by choice or not…the school system and community leaders would do well to increase it’s preventative educational programs.  This trend is one that we all pay a price for…with our taxes, with our young people, with social services, and in the short and long term with our families.   The school system is review it’s policy to ban distributing contraception in school. 

          In my opinion, the school system should work closely with parents groups, clergy, health care professionals, school counselors, and the students themselves while drafting a plan to combat the increased numbers sexually active students and occurances of teen pregnancies. 

           With the recent culture of movies that tend to gloss over teen pregnancy and all of the complications that go along with it; we need to examine how our environment/culture encourages our young people to engage in sexual activity, and begin to discuss ways to educate and combat all of the mixed signals that our youth are exposed to in this area of life.  Exposure to STD’s is rising in certain parts of our population, the AIDS numbers are climbing; and with the difficulties in the economy, and cut backs in programs that help to educate and help prevent exposure for our young people; we are waging a war for the health and well being of our children. 

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     In my family (and I expect many other families as well) there was an unwritten sibling rule.  It was understood that no one else, in my presence, could pick on any of my siblings.  It would be a punnishable offense to pick on one of my siblings; if i was around…no one was allowed to do that…unless it was me, of course.

       Oh to be sure, we had our differences…every family does.  However, on the school playground, in the neighborhood, on the buses or anywhere for that matter…we protected one another.  It was a matter of loyalty. (more…)

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        You know what…i don’t know much about foreclosures on a home; but, my family came closer to it than i want to think about this past winter.  I know that foreclosure is happening to more and more people.  I live in a state where the economy is all but paralyzed.  People are loosing their jobs, left and right.  The cost of living is skyrocketing.  I know people who are working two jobs and still are struggling to survive.   I also know people who have gone to donate blood and plasma just so that they had gas money to drive back and forth to work.  This puts the quality of life into the depression era, as far as I am concerned.  Foreclosure can happen to anyone because, right now, the economy stinks.

         This past week, we have heard about a couple of high profile people, Evander Holyfield and Ed McMahon, who are possibly loosing their homes to foreclosure.  One of them, Ed McMahon seems an unlikely candidate to loose his home to foreclosure…however, Ed explains his situation.  He says that he wasn’t paying attention to how his money was managed by business people.  He also says some personal difficulties such as divorce and a broken neck decreased his finances and his ability to work.  He says that he worked hard all of his life.  Alot of people are in the same situation…maybe they can’t even retire or pay for their child’s college because of their financial situation and the possible loss of their home.

           Ed McMahon talks about the million, or so, people in the United States that are now facing foreclosure and says that he understands how people are working hard and due to their personal circumstances they could lose their homes.  Many of them, Ed says, didn’t do anything wrong…maybe they lost their jobs or face medical, financial difficulties…but because of those situations…they are being forced out of their homes that they worked so hard to have.  He says he would like to tell them to find the best help available and to not give up. 

         Those explanations are real life for alot of people.  It has been recently estimated that 1percent of home mortgages have gone into foreclosure from January- March of this year alone; that is around 447,723 families.  Divorce, job downsizing, health issues and the economy are putting more and more people in jeparody of loosing their homes.  For most people, their home is one of their biggest assests or investments.  How does this concern you?   Let’s take a look… 

          The problem is…as the economy worsens…more people loose their homes and that means that more homes are on the market.  Say you want to sell your home…how are you going to do that with all of the houses sitting empty on your street, in your neighborhood, or your town or state?  And if you are lucky enough to find someone who wants YOUR house….will they give you what you have to have financially for it?   Housing that is devalued further complicates the issue.  Propety values plummet in areas where there are many foreclosures.   When people owe more on their house then it is worth, because of the devaluing of it…they can’t sell it without taking a huge financial loss; not to mention coming up with the money to move somewhere else.  The stress and the emotional toll it takes is devastating.  It is a bit like a chain reaction…because then their credit is damaged…and finding another place to live is difficult, relationships take a beating in times of financial crisis too.  Other people can be quite judgmental and often people feel ashamed of what they are going through.  The changes that a family has to go through in a foreclosure has a far reaching impact on schools, jobs, relationships, health and emotional well-being.  I heard a random number tossed about in a news report of between 7-8,000 people enter into foreclosure procedures a DAY!  Those numbers are staggering…and devastating to our economy.

         There are those who say…well, those people shouldn’t have tried to live outside of their means.  That may be true in some circumstances; but, many of those in foreclosure had good paying jobs when they bought that home in good faith, they may have been in perfect health when they bought their home, the economy might have been healthier at the time of the home purchase.  Life is full of changes; foreclosure can happen to anyone!

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         It is June and the end of the school season.  That means that there are many more children out and about.  I just want to take a few minutes to remind people about child vehicle safety.

          Last week there was a horrible reminder of how easy it is for an accident to happen, with the loss of Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman’s 5 year old daughter.  She was killed when she somehow got in the path of a vehicle driven by her teenaged brother.  Our prayers go out to the whole family at their time of loss.  But, the period of grieving is going to be complicated because of their son being the driver of the vehicle.  There are so many emotions to deal with, in addition to loosing their daughter.

          Teen drivers have less experience watching out for the little ones.  They are new to driving and it only takes a second for a distraction to cause an accident.  With cell phones, radios and passengers along for the ride there is much to distract a driver these days.  Also, reminding elderly drivers about taking extra precautions around driving near young children is a good idea.  Every driver needs reminding about such things.   Teaching the little ones to play away from parking areas, away from the curb, or away from the roadways is very important. 

        Educating teens and reminding all other drivers about the extra dangers of the importance of watching out for kids at play…especially when balls, bikes, skates or skateboards are involved.  Quick decisions by young children aren’t based on …is it safe for me to chase my ball that just went out into the road, or is it safe for me to skate across the corner of the road…or am i fast enough to get by on my bike…they just make quick decisions that can put a driver in a bad situation.

         My adult daughter lives in a housing development in a cul -de- sac.  This is a housing development that has alot of young families; as well as a day care, right next door.  I am paranoid when i go to visit because of the parking available.  Whenever i arrive or leave, i take several exta moments to check where all of the little ones are because; they are riding little electric cars that are low to the ground, they are running and chasing each other, they are often riding little bikes and push toys.  It is hard to see them.  I am terrified that i will miss seeing one of them while backing out of the parking space.  Apartment buildings, beaches, parks and school zones are all areas that require extra focus and attention watching for children at play.

          The neighbor who runs the day care, in my daughter’s neighborhood, is very good about keeping an eye on the children and no-one plays out of doors without adult supervision.  However, it only takes a moment to be distracted as parents arrive to pick up, or, drop off their children.  There are other neighbors, who get visitors, who do not always watch their children vigilantly.  It only takes a few extra minutes to make sure where everyone is located; and, to make them aware that a vehicle is coming or going.   It could save a life and alot of legal responsibility.

          As long as we are talking vehicle safety and wee ones…let talk about the electronic windows.  It is so easy for little ones to accidently get trapped in the electronic windows.  Every year we hear of deaths or severe injuries caused by little arms or heads that somehow get rolled up in the electronic windows.  Please, please, please, make sure the children are strapped into their seat belts or their child restraint seats properly.  That way, you can be a little more confident that they are not playing with the buttons on the windows while you are driving.

          Children love playing and hiding in out of the way places.  Cars are a temptation. If there are abandoned cars in your neighborhood…get them removed or locked up.   Please, keep your vehicle locked when you are not using it…even if it is parked in a garage.  Children sometimes get into the vehicles and can’t get back out; or they climb into the trunk and the same thing happens.  Teach children not to play in a vehicle; but still, protect them and yourself by locking the vehicle.

          Communities are becoming much more pro-active about teaching and inspecting child seat restraints.  Often community police or rescue personnel will offer a safety inspection of your child safety seat.  They will make sure that they are properly installed and offer tips on how best to make sure that your child or grandchild is safe.

         Finally, now that summer is here…the warm weather is too.  The air in a closed vehicle quickly heats up and becomes unsafe for little ones to be left in a vehicle; even for just a few minutes.  Always, always take your child into the store or gas station.  For safety’s sake, do not leave them in the vehicle.  Even when the vehicle is empty, crack the windows a bit; or, open the vents in the back of the vehicle to let out excess heat so that the vehicle is not overly warm when you and your child get back into the vehicle.  That blast of heat can damage young lungs and it can be painful to the skin to touch hot seats.

          Every year we hear tragic reports, on the news, of another child that died as a result of being left in a hot vehicle.  When transporting your child to day care on your way to work…place your brief case, lunch bag, purse or some other such reminder in the back so that in your haste you don’t forget that your child is strapped in the back.

           Put a reminder in the front seat near you such as a toy or a bottle, to remind yourself that your child is in the back; especially if you are transporting your child in an out of normal circumstance of your daily routine.  Or, put a post it note in a bright color on your steering wheel; these reminders are important, because forgetting your child is not an option.  If the child falls asleep and is quiet, in your haste to get to work or whatever your routine is, if you normally dont transport your child at that time every day…it can happen that you “forget” that your child is in the vehicle with you. 

             It seems silly to go over these safety issues…but, take the time to remind yourself of them.  It is worth taking a few extra minutes to go over them if it saves one life…and a lifetime of guilt and regrets.  Have a safe and fun summer!

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         Support is a simple enough word; but, more importantly it is a powerful tool.  My dictionary says this about support:  To hold or bear weight, to tolerate, to give assistance, approval or aid.

          Quite often we hear the word in association with divorce as in spousal or child support.  This is usually in regards to finances.  This too is important in life…because truthfully, needing money to survive is a basic necessity in our world.  But there are many types of support that we need to survive.

           We need physical support throughout life such as encouragement through hugs, pat on the back, a kiss, food, water, shelter, a high five now and again.  We need emotional support that carries us through the hard times.  Most often the emotional support comes in the form of a mixture of physical touch and verbal words of encouragement.  When our words and our body language don’t match…people pick up on that and feel rejected.  But when you combine words with positive body language…that has the power to lift people up and help them to overcome obstacles and challenges that they face.

          Today, my family will be supporting three wonderful human beings that our family has been blessed to know.  All three are teachers at the core of who they are…in fact, they are “professionals”…teachers also by trade.

          One teacher, Mrs. K, has been battling cancer since her son was born 4 years ago.  She is a young woman who has given so much to her special education students and their families.  She has been making an impact on those around her by inspiring and teaching even during her illness.  

          Her husband and child have been a source of love and encouragement.  Her former students (she has not been able to work for the last 2 years because of her treatments) have motivated her and connected with her to communicate their love and support for her.  She has touched the lives of so many people that i think it surprises her how many people care about what she is going through.  Today, there is a community fundraiser to help her family out financially; as she continues to fight against the cancer that has spread in her body, even though her treatments have been aggressive.  This community support, i hope, goes along way to bring a surge of love and support to Mrs. K and her whole family.  I pray that they are lifted up and touched by the level of love (and finances) sent their way.

         Today also, we will go and support and celebrate a marital union of two other teachers who have been a big part of our family, for years.  They are blending a family officially and legally.  But more importantly, they are blending a family physically and emotionally.  One is a special education teacher who has been bringing educational support to our community’s families who have children with challenges.  We are blessed to know Mr. S.    His bride, J, will soon be Mrs. S.    She has waited 5 years for this day.  Together they will have 5 children in their family.  “J” has been teaching one of my children in a homeschool environment for the last year.  She has brought much love and support to our family as well.

         The thing about support is that it requires sacrifice.  What you put out there into the world comes back.  Support, either you’ve got what it takes…or you don’t.  Who can you find to support today?

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        A Kindergarten teacher in Indiana told a young 5 year old kindergartener, named Gabriel Ross, that he “tortured and tormented” her all year.  Young Gabriel kept telling his mother and step-father that his teacher was mean to him.  He said that other children didn’t like him because he was bad.  Who told him he was bad?  The parents were concerned enough that they sent him to school with a tape recorder in his pocket in April.

         On a four hour tape they were able to record shockingly hurtful comments that the teacher allegedly made to Gabriel; and about Gabriel, to the other students in the classroom.  She allegedly told him that he was “self-absorbed, pathetic and ignorant”.  These comments were supposedly made by a teacher with 13 years of experience.

          What i am wondering is; what other things had been said and done to humiliate this child during the rest of the school year; that didn’t get on tape?  Most schools start in late August or early September…this tape was made in April.  That is a long time to damage a young person’s self-esteem.  Most educators teach because it is their passion.  Those teachers teach with joy and skill…when they run into a challenging child…they try to find ways to reach that child and work with them.  If they can’t…at the very least…most will at least move the child to another classroom.

        If the teacher felt that this child was so out of control all year…why wasn’t she contacting the parents to get to the bottom of the issue.  After this tape came to light…the teacher’s association said that the teacher lost her cool.  But the things that were said and done, definately sound like someone who knew how to zero in and verbally annihilate another person’s feelings.  This venom was sounding as if it had built up from more than one difficult day.  Why wasn’t this teacher seeking help handling something that she felt was out of control all year long? 

        At one point, the teacher says that Gabriel is pathetic and that she hopes her words hurt him because he is hurting everyone around him.  Then, she goes on to say to the class…what do they think…is this somone that they want to be with?  Of course, the children all say…NOOOOOOO!   She very effectively made this child a pariah with his own classmates.    What the heck…who is the adult here? 

           How can you justify verbally attacking a child in your classroom?  If a child is out of control…you call in the school counselor, psychologist, principal, parents and evaluate why the child is acting this way. 

           Then depending on the results, you either find an effective way to discipline the child with appropriate boundaries; or you do some medical, psychological or academic testing to see what the problem is.  You find ways to figure it out without getting on the level that this “professional” teacher supposedly did.  There are lots of really good, skilled teachers who want and need jobs.  We dont have to settle for substandard teachers educating our children.

         In my opinion…this was a really horrible example of how not to teach our children. 

      

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         Are you safe and warm; do you have food to eat and clean water to drink where you are?  You are blessed.  China is in the middle of a mass of miracles and mourning after the earthquake this past week.   Families are suffering; and, grieving losses of people and possessions.  Many are without a safe place to live.  This devastation is large scale and overwhelming to those in need as well as to the aid workers. 

         Getting clean water, food and shelter to all those who have need is no easy task.  Adding the additional strain of flooding from rivers, streams and lakes that have been blocked by debris and backed up water flow; only makes getting aid supplies into remote areas more difficult.

         In a country that encourages a family practice of having one birth child, it has a significant impact because, the earthquake has taken the future from many families.  Many have honored the Chinese government’s policy to only have one birth child to cut down on the over-population problem.  Since this earthquake brought down many schools, hospitals and other institutions that housed children…the impact has devastating, life-long consequences on China’s infrastructure.

           Those most vulnerable are the elderly and the young children.  The future can be bleak for those who only had one child to care for them in their elder years.  If they are past the age of child bearing…this can bring an end to their family line. 

          In the center of all of this madness, the Olympics are to be held in China in 81 days.  The International Olympic Committee has decided to pause the torch relay out of respect for the victims.  There will also be three days of national mourning, starting on Monday.  

           There have been stories of miracles; people who have been buried, under debris and rubble since the quake, who have overcome the circumstances and survived.  There will be many such stories as communications improve and time goes on.  One man in particular survived 139 hours trapped in rubble from a hospital and came away with minor bruising.  

           Each miracle brings hope to the hearts of those who have missing loved ones; as experts have said that, a person could survive in these conditions for up to a week as long as they had some access to water and the temperatures were at a survivable level. 

      

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