Monday, April 4, 2016

Let’s Raise Powerful Self-Confident Girls
Dr. Wendy Ghiora
Posting #134 – April 4, 2016

What exactly is a powerful, self-confident girl? Self-confident girls grow up feeling secure in themselves. They learn to take action, making positive choices about their own lives and doing positive things for others. They think critically about the world around them. They express their feelings and acknowledge the feelings and thoughts of others in caring ways. Powerful girls feel good about themselves and grow up with a “can-do” attitude. Of course, strong girls may (like all of us) have times of insecurity and self-doubt, but these feelings aren’t paralyzing because the girls have learned to work through their problems. Powerful girls will grow up to lead full, valuable lives.

Here are some of our experts’ ideas to help you raise powerful daughters:

1.            Let her have a voice in making decisions.
“Whenever possible, let her make constructive choices about her life. Let her choose her own clothes, within appropriate limits. Give her a voice in what after-school activities she participates in and how many she wants to do (as long as it works for the rest of the family, too). Remember that knowing what she cares about most will come from trying some things and finding she doesn’t like them, as well as from finding things she loves to do,” recommends Jane Katch, Ed.D., author of They Don’t Like Me. “Your daughter might need to make a commitment for a short time for an activity (one soccer season) but when that’s over, it’s okay to try something different!”
2.            Encourage her to solve issues on her own rather than fixing things for her.
“When parents take over, girls don’t develop the coping skills they need to handle situations on their own. Ask your daughter to consider three strategies she might use to deal with a situation, and then ask her about the possible outcomes. Let her decide what she wants to do (within reason). Even if you disagree with her choice, you give your daughter a sense of control over her life and show her that she is responsible for her decisions,” says Simmons.
3.            Let your daughter know you love her because of who she is, not because of what she weighs or how she looks.
“Encourage your girl to eat in healthy ways, but don’t over-obsess over what she eats. Listen to her opinions (about food, and other things) and show appreciation for her uniqueness, to help her develop herself into the person she wants to be,” says Steiner-Adair. “Comment on the way she carries herself into a room or the ideas she is expressing before commenting on her looks. She needs you to know her insides and validate the developing person within, as well as noticing her emerging young womanhood,” adds White.
4.            Allow her to disagree with you and get angry.
“Raising a powerful girl means living with one. She must be able to stand up to you and be heard, so she can learn to do the same with classmates, teachers, a boyfriend, or future bosses,” says White. Lyn Mikel Brown, Ed.D., and Sharon Lamb, Ed.D., co-authors of Packaging Girlhood, write, “Girls need guidance about how to stay clear in their disagreements, and they need support for not giving up their convictions to maintain a false harmony. Help girls to make considered choices about how to express their feelings, and to whom.” Steiner-Adair notes that “Not all girls will want to do this, especially shy girls, but you can still help them develop the skills.”
5.            Make regular time to listen to your girl.
“By creating consistent, predictable times when she knows that you are receptive and available to listen — like riding in a car, taking a walk, or just sitting reading — you will eventually be let into her inner world. Let her use you as a sounding board to sort out what she is going through, without solving problems for her. The answers that come from within her are the ones she will eventually live by,” says White.
Listen more than you talk.
“When we talk to girls, they often experience it as us talking at them, and they not only stop listening, they stop thinking and reflecting. But when we listen to them, they have to think about what they are saying, and they tend to reflect more. And we need to keep an open dialogue — we can’t dismiss their chatter about ups and downs of friendship as trivial, and then expect them to talk to us about the important stuff,” says Lawrence Cohen, Ph.D., co-author of Mom, They’re Teasing Me.
6.            Acknowledge her struggles but keep a sense of perspective.
“We have to acknowledge the pain our daughters are experiencing, so they feel heard and accepted and empathized with. But we also need to put it into perspective, to stay calm and listen to what they are experiencing without projecting our own experiences onto theirs. Your daughter is having a different experience than you did, even if there are surface similarities,” says Cohen. “After all, she has something you didn’t have: you.”
All of the points listed here are important for developing  self-confident girls who will be well-equipped to possess the initiative, drive, and intentness to be successful and respected as an equal, but there is one more that may be the most important. The mother must set the example. Teachers, like mothers, can dispense important information to students.  Nothing helps those children become successful adults quite like the example that teacher or parent sets.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

How You Can Advocate For Your Child
Dr. Wendy Ghiora
Posting #133
January 29, 2016

As a former school principal and classroom teacher, many of my friends and acquaintances ask for advice when their child hits some sort of a road block at school.  These are highly intelligent, very caring parents, who simply don’t understand how schools work. To professionals in the field, it seems like a piece of cake; but to an outsider it is like me trying to understand nuclear physics.

As a parent, the most important thing to remember is, you are your child’s best education advocate. This will remain so until he’s old enough and informed enough to speak up for himself. You know your child’s strengths and challenges, and you can help identify and push for the assistance your child needs in order to achieve success. Here are some tips to help you advocate for your child at school.

Keep Documents in a File

Make sure to keep copies of all report cards, progress reports, evaluations, educational assessments, IEPs, medical records, homework samples and other documents. Many middle schools and high schools require their teachers to provide an outline of each course at the beginning of the school year. This is an important document to save as well, as it may also contain due dates of major projects, etc. Documents can provide insights into your child’s learning issues and how much progress she’s making. It is important to schedule and attend teacher/parent conferences and also PTSA meetings. Take notes at important meetings and keep copies in a file.

Be Prepared

Read and attend workshops. Know what is expected of your child in each subject area. Build relationships by meeting your child’s teachers, counselor, and principal.  Most teachers give their school email address to their students to allow students to communicate with questions or problems they may be having with assignments.  Email also provides parents with an avenue for direct communication with teachers.

Get to know your child’s teachers as well as the school psychologist, speech therapist and anyone else who can help you help your child. Building relationships with these people will help keep the lines of communication more open. There’s less of a chance of misunderstanding if everyone knows each other. Feel free to ask questions at any time.

Copies of requests you have made to school personnel should include the date you sent them. It might also be helpful to keep a log of whom you spoke to and when.

Know when Open House is taking place.  Be sure to attend any event where your child will be presenting her work, or performing in an activity such as a play or concert.

Take Your Time

It can be a frightening experience when you schedule a meeting with your child’s teacher because there is a problem you wish to resolve. Remember that the teachers and other school staff members involved are there to help, even if you disagree with them. The process will go more smoothly if you listen and keep an open mind. Make a list of the topics you want to cover in important meetings. Take deep breaths. Consider bringing a friend or relative who can take notes for you and help keep you steady. Remember that you’re in control.

Parents should never feel pressured by school staff to make a decision. Ultimately, you’re in the driver’s seat. So while it’s important to be receptive to the school staff’s thoughts, don’t agree to something you think goes against what’s best for your child. Usually, if you make a logical suggestion that will be beneficial for your child, the teacher will agree.

Know the law

Learn about your child’s rights to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Your child might have the right to extra time on tests and other accommodations or modifications. Keep informed about your school’s legal obligations to provide your child an evaluation and other services. You can also request that the school provide a parent advocate to help you during important meetings.

Talk to your child

Understanding what your child is experiencing in school is essential to advocating for his needs. For example, the 30 minutes he’s supposed to spend each week with a speech therapist might only be 20 minutes because the therapist keeps showing up late. Asking your child detailed questions will also help him understand what it is he needs. This will help him advocate for himself when he’s older.

Learn "The Talk"

Find out whether the speech therapist and other service providers are “pushing in” (working with your child in the classroom) or “pulling out” (taking your child to a separate location). This is important because your child may say he didn’t go to speech that day, but it could be that the speech teacher pushed into the classroom.

If a major review is supposed to occur for two days before a final exam, and you discover the teacher was absent on those days and the substitute didn’t do the reviews, you have the right to ask the teacher if he or she can re-schedule the exam until the review has been done.  This is another example of why it’s important to know what is going on in your child’s classroom.

Whenever there is a problem with a certain class, always talk to the teacher first.  Remember, there are always two sides to a story.  After your child has told her side of the story; be prepared to listen to what the teacher says; then, and only then can a fair decision be made.

I hope these tips will help make the navigation of your school an easier process.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Dr. Wendy Ghiora
Posting #132
August 15, 2015

"If Only..."

I have never done this before in a Blog Posting; however, sometimes, as the saying goes,
"A picture is worth a thousand words."   

In this case, the picture is a short video.  It is a Sports Center parody.  In addition to the entertainment value, it was also quite thought provoking.  What if star teachers were respected and compensated for their skills in the same way as star athletes?  

As we prepare for the new school year, just remember:

Teaching is the one profession that creates all other professions.


Here is the link to the video.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Dare to Compare; Really?
Is comparing U.S. High School Test Scores to Scores of Schools Abroad Fair?
Dr. Wendy Ghiora – Posting #131 – April 28, 2015

I recently attended the National Conference for Future Educators of America.  I was amazed at the ability and confidence displayed by so many potential teachers. The keynote speaker was, Amanda Ripley, author of, The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way. Although she never explained, “how they got that way,” she was sure to point out how United States high school students score so far below many foreign countries in reading and math. This is a favorite point of journalists to get Americans all riled up about why our students just aren’t measuring up academically to students in the rest of the world.

What we aren’t told, is that the comparison is not a fair one.  To use a cliché’, it’s pretty much like comparing apples to oranges.

The United States, being the great democracy we are, believes every child is entitled to an education at an academic high school.  This notion really kicked in during the late 1960’s, coincident with the Civil Rights Movement.  Prior to that, it was common to include business and technical tracks in high schools for students who preferred to get a head start toward a job or profession they desired to enter.  Due to this and many other changes made to provide equal opportunities for all, when academic tests are given, all students take those tests.  This includes mentally challenged children and children that barely speak English. All students are included in the national test scores.

In countries abroad, the academic high school population has been well vetted.  You might say, their high school students are the academic “cream of the crop”.  Following are a few examples.

One of the top countries everyone is looking at today, due to high scores on high school examinations is Finland. Admission to academic upper schools in Finland, is based on GPA, and in some cases academic tests and interviews. For example, during the year 2007,  51% of the age group were enrolled in the academic upper school. This means, 49% were not admitted to their academic high schools.  Hmmm, how much could 49%, if included in the testing, have changed the scores?

Almost all Asian countries require an entrance exam for students wishing admittance to an academic high school.  In Singapore, hopeful students take the PSLE, Primary School Leaving Exam, in order to be admitted into an academic high school.  In Japan, students in junior high school must take the Center Exam National Test to get into the academic high school of their choice.  Once a student gets to high school, they are usually set on a specific path to certain universities (or no university at all). As such, the high school entrance exam is something not taken lightly.  In Hong Kong, students must pass the Hong Kong Certificate of Examination in order to attend an academic high school. Obviously, students not bright enough to pass these tests are not admitted to high school and therefore are not included in later high school test scores.

In Israel, junior high school aged students take the PET, Psychometric Entrance Test, a tool for predicting academic performance.  This test will determine the type of high school (i.e., academic or trade oriented), a student will be admitted to.

Similar requirements are true in most of the developed countries in the world.  Our counterparts in the U.K. require students to pass the CEE, Common Entrance Examinations in order to attend an academic high school.  In Australia, students must pass exams such as the VCE, Victorian Certificate of Education, given in Victoria, Australia. Again, 8th grade students who don’t pass these tests, go elsewhere and are not included the high school test scores.

Now you know the relevance of the apples to oranges reference.  This does not mean all is good with the learning going on at U.S. High Schools.  We still have much work to do.  However, next time you see a comparison of U.S. high school performance to performance of high schools abroad, please consider the ingredients that have gone into the final product. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Reflection, The Key to Perfect Lesson Design
Dr. Wendy Ghiora – Posting #130 – March 1, 2015

Most teachers are well prepared with the basic elements of lesson design.
However, from personal observation as a school principal, I noticed the last element, “Summary/Reflection,” was often missing from the lesson.

This routinely neglected element could be considered the most critical to making the lesson a real success for both students and teachers alike.

Here is a brief review of basic lesson design taken from Madeline Hunter (Using What We Know About Teaching).

1.   Objective (Learning Target, Goals and Purpose)
What, specifically, should the student beable to do, understand, and care
about as a result of learning?

Not only do students learn more effectively when they know what they’re
supposed to be learning, how their learning will be measured, and why that learning is important to them, but teachers teach more effectively when they have that same information.

2.   Anticipatory Set or Orientation
The Anticipatory Set or Orientation serves to put students into a receptive
frame of mind.

An introduction, model, example,question, key vocabulary term or activity engages students and their focus on the objective/learning target.  The“set” may be motivational or pique curiosity about what is coming next in the learning.

3.   Input or Presentation
Students must acquire new information about the knowledge, process, or skill they are to achieve.

New learning must be chunked into“digestible bits” or small portions tailored to students’ level of understanding.

During modeling, the skill, strategy,or task is named and given a purpose as students see and hear when and how it is used or applied.
This is followed by:
5.Guided Practice and 6.Independent Practice

7. Reflection/Summary/Closure
The teacher takes action to bring the lesson presentation to an appropriate

*Review and clarify key points
*Involve students in securing key ideas in their own minds
Closure is used to cue students to the fact that they have arrived at an
important point in the lesson or the end of a lesson.

Closure is the act of reviewing and clarifying key points of a lesson, tying
them together into a coherent whole and securing them to the student’s
conceptual network.

Students may be prompted to bring things together in their own minds, to
make sense out of what has just been taught.

“Any questions? No. OK, let’s move on,” is not closure.

Closure can help students organize and take stock of their own progress and
learning. Exit slips, sharing a summary with a peer or writing one are examples of closure strategies.

More on Reflection – Dr. Wendy Ghiora

After observing several classrooms where this part of lesson design was being neglected, I brought it up when conferencing with the teachers after my observation.  All of them had the same two responses for not including reflection:
1.   I forgot about it.
2.   I ran out of time.

This is why it is imperative to actually write this down as part of the lesson plan, so it will be included.  It is an excellent idea to have an outline that includes a timeline of sorts.  All one has to do is leave about 2-4 minutes for this at the end of each lesson.  Believe me, it is well worth it.

When students become reflective about the teaching and learning process, they are strengthening their own capacity to learn. Central to this is the principal of reflection as meta-cognition, where students are aware of, and can describe their thinking in a way that allows them to ‘close the gap’ between what they know and what they need to learn.

Reflection compels the student to think about and then put into words what new skill, knowledge or ability they have gained from the lesson. In this way, they are self-affirming an accomplishment. 

At the end of each lesson, for example, students can pair up and describe to each other, what they can specifically do now as a result of the lesson they have just completed.  Then the teacher asks for volunteers to share with the group what they told their partner or what their partner told them. 

As the teacher listens, it is the perfect assessment, for she now knows exactly what the students really understood and how they can use their new knowledge.

As a bonus, this is excellent PR for both the teacher and the school.  When the student goes home and the mother asks,

“So what did you learn in school today?”

Instead of the usual answer: “Nothing…”
The student will recall what he learned in your class. 
Why?  Because he was forced to:

1.Think about it.
2.Say it out loud to a classmate.
3.Listen to others (or maybe even himself or his partner) state what they learned.
4. Recognize his accomplishment and feel good about it.

The mother will then think,
“Wow, at least he is learning something in that class. What a great teacher that must be!”

This small, but important part of the lesson allows students to practice and develop explaining, rephrasing and clarifying skills. By listening to all of the student responses, the teacher can summarize by repeating the common elements or ideas presented and thank the students for their individual and team contributions toward understanding the topic more deeply.  This practice also engages students in learning to focus on the “big ideas,” and how to summarize those ideas.

The most significant outcome of this simple step is the knowledge the teacher obtains of what the students actually “got” from the lesson, and the certainty the students either have or don’t have when they leave the classroom. Now, the teacher can accurately plan the next day’s lesson.

Wouldn’t you agree, this is the key to perfect lesson design?