Friday, May 22, 2015

Verbal and nonverbal messages

Radio Commentary

Communication has two parts, verbal and nonverbal. Both aspects convey vital information to the listener.

Verbal, of course, is the portion that is spoken out loud. It includes the words used and how they are put together.

Nonverbal communication is everything else — it includes facial expression, tone of voice, eye contact, posture, hand movements, and other indications of meaning, whether intended or not.

For this reason, it’s important to be very aware of what tone of voice you are using when you speak to your children.
Often it’s not what you say but how you say it that conveys your underlying message.
Children are particularly good at picking up on these cues, especially with their parents.

Pay attention to how loudly, softly, quickly, or slowly you speak.
Remember that you also communicate with eye contact and facial expression.
If you are looking away it can signal that you are either preoccupied or not being completely direct.
Saying something too quickly, or too sharply, can undermine the message.

Be sure that all your messages are consistent, in word and expression.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Creating connections

Radio Commentary

Several types of activities can help create and maintain connections with your children as they get older.

Share a hobby. Explore an interest that you both enjoy, whether it’s rollerblading, playing golf, or skimming through fashion magazines or websites. Time spent this way can result in hours of naturally-flowing conversation.

Look at baby pictures. A walk down memory lane is a great way to bring up other awkward topics including the many physical and emotional changes that occur throughout your child’s life.

Make time in the car for conversation. The moments you have together in the car can help you share important information and emotions.

You can also learn a lot about your child if you pay attention to conversations with friends while they’re riding in the back seat.

See your child as others do. Many parents only see their children when they’re at home. Get involved with your child’s school or summer program. Volunteer to help with extracurricular programs, such as theatre, clubs, or sports.

You may discover new and wonderful aspects to your child that you otherwise would have missed.

All these activities help you create and maintain connections as your children travel into adulthood. They also form the basis of shared experiences and close relationships throughout a lifetime.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Altogether fitting and proper

News release

In one of the most powerful speeches in American history, Abraham Lincoln sought to pay tribute to those who “gave the last full measure of devotion” on the bloody battlefield of Gettysburg in early July 1863. As our country prepares to honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in its wars and conflicts through the years, it is fitting that we consider some fundamental elements of citizenship that we as parents and educators hope to encourage in the developing minds of our children. While each of the three elements discussed below have historically strong military associations, they are by no means exclusive to the profession of arms. Rather, I would argue that these ideas are every bit as important for a civilian populace to learn, internalize, and demonstrate, too.

Respect. While the U.S. military has a rich tradition of customs and courtesies, our understanding of respect is by no means limited to “Yes ma’am,” “No sir,” standing at attention, and sharp salutes. Indeed, “respect” has a much wider application. The Golden Rule, generally defined as treating others as you would like to be treated, has its roots in antiquity, and is instilled in most youngsters in some of their earliest learning environments. Yet, as I have noted in these pages before, at some point along the path to adulthood, that admonition to treat others with dignity and respect is often exchanged for rancor, partisanship, and expressions of self-interest. I sincerely hope that this erosion in common decency and valuable dialogue is reversed. It is relatively easy to be respectful of those whose ideas and opinions accord with our own. The challenge, however, is to extend that same respect to those with whom we disagree. In order to recapture a discourse that is constructive and edifying to our society, we would do well to remember the importance of treating others with respect.

Courage. The examples of courageousness in our country are simply too numerous to count. From the bold signatures that 56 Founders put on the Declaration of Independence, to Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on that crowded Montgomery bus, to the intrepid battlefield gallantry of Medal of Honor recipient and California native Clinton Romesha, American history is replete with instances of ordinary people undertaking extraordinary actions. But acts of courageousness need not be so conspicuous as the three examples I provide above. Bravery can just as easily take the form of doing the right thing when no one is looking. Indeed, those moments that test our integrity, which many of us encounter every day, can be more imposing or challenging than the more obvious opportunities for a demonstration of courage. “Right” and “easy” do not often go hand-in-hand, but it is our personal and collective commitment to the former that will have positive, lasting impacts on our families, our schools and workplaces, and our communities.

Sacrifice. On the last Monday of every May, our country pays tribute to those brave women and men who paid the highest price. But we should also be willing to accept a much broader understanding of sacrifice. In a recent conversation I had with Colonel Keith Balts, the current wing commander at Vandenberg, I learned one of the Air Force’s core values: “Service Before Self.” There are countless ways for us to demonstrate subordinating our own interests to a greater good. Perhaps it comes in the form of sacrificing our time and our talents by volunteering in our local community. Sacrifice can also come in the form of charitable contributions. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, American donations to charities have increased by over 20% since the end of the Great Recession in 2009. One need only conduct a casual survey of any given day’s headlines to know that there are many societies less fortunate than ours. But the ways in which we can help ease the burdens of those in need are legion, too. There is nobility in sacrificing some of our abundance in an effort to improve the lives of others. And doing so invariably makes the world a better place.

“The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here,” Lincoln said with characteristic modesty and understatement in his Gettysburg Address. “But it can never forget what they did here.” Our 16th president was correct: it is imperative that we remember. In modern times, Memorial Day weekend is too often associated with mattress sales, new car deals, and appliance closeouts. But this weekend I would encourage you to give consideration to the more substantive, lasting ideas of respect, courage, and sacrifice. These ideas have long been — and must continue to be — essential to the growth and development of the extraordinary country in which we live. 

Decrease in biking

Radio Commentary

Just a few generations ago, in the 50s and ’60s, half of all children bicycled or walked to school. Today, only one in 10 does so.

In fact, even among school-age children who live within two miles of school, only about two percent ride bicycles to get there.

These figures have implications for health, fitness, and safety.

The Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition cites several major reasons for the decline:
  • As we widened roads for cars, we decreased safety for bikers and walkers, leading to a lack of space for children to walk and bike safely.
  • Excessive media stories about the dangers of child abductions, gun violence, drugs, and often other real-but-overblown-concerns add to a sense of danger and worry for parents.
    The truth is that automobiles are by far a bigger threat to children than all these other potential threats combined.
  • With both parents working, for longer hours, many try to compensate through the perceived ‘gift’ of driving children around.

These changes have contributed to increased rates of obesity among young people.

They have also helped foster a loss of independence that comes from bicycling.

As was the case with recycling and smoking, it will take changes of awareness and attitude to change this condition. We should all try to help.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

County preschools earn prestigious distinction

News release

“We know that the first five years,” Bill Gates told a group of business, civic, and philanthropic leaders in a 2007 speech, “have so much to do with how the next 80 turn out.”

It is this recognition of the importance of a strong intellectual and emotional foundation that inspired members of the Santa Barbara County Education Office’s Child Development Program as they recently sought re-accreditation for the six state preschools in Santa Barbara County.

The office oversees a number of vital initiatives which directly impact young children and their families, including school age family education, the child care food program, Health Linkages, and state preschools for Santa Barbara County. It is the lattermost program that occupied a great deal of their time for the last several months. But the efforts of county officials and the preschool site supervisors recently paid off. In April, all six of the state preschools in Santa Barbara County were simultaneously awarded full accreditation by the National Association of Educators of Young Children (NAEYC), the regulatory and accreditation body based in Washington, D.C.

That puts the Santa Barbara County state preschool program in some pretty exclusive company.

Child Development Program Director Trudy Adair-Verbais and her team started on this journey almost 12 years ago. It was their idea to seek the initial accreditation for all the county preschools in one initiative.

“When we did it the first time,” she says, “we were one of the first offices to put forward all of our schools at once. The industry standard at the time was to submit just a single school or site. People told me we were crazy. But I felt strongly that we would be better served going at it from a team approach. Each teacher could support other teachers, and as an administrator, I could better support the process if we underwent it together.”

“It was a collective commitment to excellence,” says Adair-Verbais. “And we knew it was a huge undertaking. You don’t just wake up one morning and decide that this is what you’re going to do. It is a lengthy, detailed process,” she concludes, “but the teachers and supervisors at those schools, as well as my staff and I, felt very strongly about.”

NAEYC’s standards are based on a very specific, lengthy set of criteria that outline what constitutes a quality early education experience for kids. They accredit programs for infants and toddlers, preschool, after-school care, and family childcare.
“You have to achieve demonstrable measures of quality,” says Kathy Hollis, Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services for the County Education Office. “NAEYC is known for applying intense scrutiny; it a very high quality review process. But Trudy’s team wanted to achieve national accreditation,” Hollis continues. “It took them two years of intensive prep work to get there.”

The assessors conduct classroom visits, interviews, portfolio reviews, training documentation, observations of health and safety records, handbook reviews, and other items that ensure teachers are meeting children’s academic, emotional, and physical needs.

“Their team is looking at over 140 different indicators of quality,” Adair-Verbais says. “They don’t leave a stone unturned.” After their site visit, the inspection team returns to Washington to score the programs they just reviewed. It is an anxious waiting period, but for three successive reviews, Santa Barbara County has exceeded standards at every site.

Congratulations to the state preschools and site supervisors who did so much work en route to full accreditation:

La Honda State Preschool at La Honda Elementary (Site Supervisor: Rosalinda Fletes)

Just for Kids State Preschool at Hapgood Elementary (Site Supervisor: Rebecca Arreola)

Learning Place State Preschool at Crestview Elementary (Site Supervisor: Shari Bostwick)

DeColores State Preschool at Clarence Ruth Elementary (Site Supervisor: Anna Patterson)

Santa Ynez State Preschool at College School District (Site Supervisor: Lynda Wright)

Los Alamos State Preschool at Olga Reed Elementary (Site Supervisor: Luz Bernal)

You say you want a revolution

News release

Left to right: Jim Hurley, CEO of Santa Barbara-based
education company Lesson Planet; Matt Zuchowicz,
director of educational technology services; SBCEO
“I have eight programmers who work for me,” a smiling Jim Hurley said as he talked with the assembled students. “Four women and four men. And let me tell you,” he concluded, his voice brimming with excitement, “It is obvious from the energy and enthusiasm they bring to work every day that they love what they do. So keep at it. Keep learning, keep improving, and keep doing great work!”

Hurley, CEO of Santa Barbara-based education company Lesson Planet, wasn’t speaking to an upper-level computer science class at UCSB. He was addressing the attentive, bright-eyed third grade students of Heather Cash, teacher at Brandon Elementary in the Goleta Union School District.

Cash was one of eight Santa Barbara County teachers who, with several of their students, gave engaging presentations at the 2015 Showcase of Innovative Learning, held at the Santa Barbara County Education Office Auditorium on May 6. Hurley’s Lesson Planet was one of the leading local technology company sponsors of the event. He, along with Matt Zuchowicz, Director of Education Technology Services for the Santa Barbara County Education Office, visited several of the schools that had participated in the Showcase to applaud the efforts of those students and teachers.

“At this point it is almost passĂ© to say that technology is revolutionizing the education experience for school kids,” Zuchowicz says. “But the fact is, it’s true. And it’s especially gratifying when I get to connect local technology companies who are doing amazing things in the private sector with schools and teachers and students who are eager to push the ‘technology envelope’ in the classrooms.”

“It’s fun to watch that dynamic unfold,” Zuchowicz continues. “You really do get the sense that it is a mutually beneficial experience, for both the corporations and the students and educators. They feed off each other’s energy.”

That energy was clearly present when Hurley and Zuchowicz visited Russ Granger’s auto shop class at San Marcos High School. “Auto shop in high school for me was oil changes, mounting and balancing tires, and an occasional tune-up,” Granger says. “Auto shop for my students is using programs like SolidWorks and SketchUp to create 3D CAD designs for their Electric Motorcycle Project. They blog about their experiences in electric vehicle forums. They use Photoshop and Illustrator to design the graphics and logos. My students are constantly thinking critically and using technology to problem solve in a transportations-based environment.”

Clearly, this is not your father’s shop class. It’s not even your younger sibling’s classroom. Hurley, taking his smart phone from his pocket, reminded Cash’s third graders of the rapidly evolving state of technology. “This really is a super computer,” he marveled. “And by the time you guys are fifth graders, the technology inside these things will be twice as fast, twice as powerful.” Cash’s students, who use Google Sites to archive and curate the year’s accomplishments, as well as all those other students and teachers in Santa Barbara County making innovative use of technology, are, to use Cash’s term, “true digital natives.”

In addition to Granger and Cash, special thanks go to the following Santa Barbara County teachers who, with their students, gave presentations at the Showcase: Brian Malcheski (Open Alternative School, Santa Barbara Unified School District); Candice Grossi (Fillmore Elementary, Lompoc Unified School District); Paul Muhl (Santa Barbara High School, Santa Barbara Unified School District); Chris Parra (Ellwood School, Goleta Union School District); Sara Metz Outland (Miller Elementary, Santa Maria-Bonita School District); and Sharon Ybarra (Taylor Elementary, Santa Maria-Bonita School District).

To learn more about the Innovation Showcase, or about ways in which Santa Barbara County Schools are incorporating developing technology in their learning environments, contact Matt Zuchowicz, director of educational technology services, at 964-4710, ext. 5247.

Reducing gun violence

Radio Commentary

Sadly, firearms are second only to motor vehicle accidents in their claim on young lives.

Research indicates that educational efforts aimed at persuading young people to behave responsibly around guns are limited in their effectiveness.

Parents must monitor children’s exposure to guns and protect them from unsupervised use. Any stored guns in a home should be locked, unloaded, and separated from ammunition.

Community leaders can also help. They can promote young people’s safety by sending unequivocal messages that gun violence is not an acceptable way to resolve conflict.
It’s also been shown that requiring safety features on guns can reduce unintentional shootings among young children and adults.

In addition, emerging technologies will enable manufacturers to personalize guns and prevent unauthorized users from operating them.

Most important, as a society we must limit the flow of illegal guns to youth. Federal and state laws regarding gun sales should be tightened so that fewer weapons are accessible to young people.

The physical, economic, and emotional toll of gun violence against young people is unacceptable, regardless of one’s position on adult ownership and use of guns.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Building esteem

Radio Commentary

Building self-esteem in children can be the most lasting gift an adult can give.

Take a tip from Thomas Edison, who had thousands of failed experiments when trying to invent the light bulb.

With each failure, Edison said he learned something that didn’t work, so he was one step closer to finding something that did.

That attitude can be found in most successful people. They don’t seem to think in terms of the word ‘failure.’ They talk about a ‘glitch,’ a ‘problem,’ or a ‘snag.’

And even when something doesn’t work as planned, they try to learn from the experience.

We can all help teach this mind-set to our children.
When they don’t succeed, we should help them find something to learn from the experience.
A good question to ask is: “What would you do differently next time?”
Sometimes that lesson is more important than the task that didn’t get accomplished.

We should always let our children know we’re proud of them for trying. That support gives them the confidence to try again.