Friday, October 9, 2015

Calendar habit

Radio Commentary

Which people are the most successful in life? Sometimes we see that it is not necessarily those who are the brightest or the most highly educated or the most well-intentioned.

Whether a child is in school or outside the classroom, being organized before showing up is an important trait that can make a real difference.

One good way to help children get in the habit of being organized is to buy them a big calendar. It should have lots of space to write on each day. The bigger, the better.

Encourage children to write key dates on the calendar, such as birthdays, school holidays, medical appointments, and planned outings.

Have them mark the dates they have to be somewhere regularly, such as after-school sports practices or music lessons.

Next, have them add the due dates for homework assignments, especially those that will take time to complete. And be sure they write in dates for exams.

Help children get into the habit of checking the calendar every weeknight for the next day’s activities. Talk about what needs to be done to prepare. Sunday night is a good time to check on what’s happening throughout the following week and to add new things that are coming up.

In many families, a calendar has proven to be the key to helping children schedule time wisely and stay organized — a habit that proves valuable throughout life.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Activities for preschoolers

Radio Commentary

Children between the ages of 3 and 5 are always eager to learn and try new things.

Parents can play with their children in more creative ways, which encourages learning, increases self-esteem, and creates stronger family bonds.

Here are some easy ways to engage your preschooler in everyday tasks and playtime activities.

While driving, tell a story together by alternating sentence by sentence. Start the story with any sentence and have your child say the next sentence.

Continue until one of you decides on how the story will end.

After washing the dishes, ask your child to try to match the lids and bases of plastic containers and stack them neatly on a low shelf.

While waiting in line, practice standing on one leg — your children will love being silly in public, and it will also help build their balance.

At a restaurant, use a menu to do an A-B-C search: Start with the letter A and work your way through the alphabet.

Be on the lookout for new ways to incorporate play into your daily routine. It can be fun for the whole family.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Self-esteem tips

Radio Commentary

There was a time when no one even considered a child’s self-esteem. Shame and blame were acceptable forms of child-rearing and schooling. Feelings were never considered.

Then several studies showed that children with higher self-esteem actually performed better. They were less afraid to ask questions if they didn’t understand. They had more courage to tackle difficult problems.

They had more perseverance when things went wrong. And they generally were more successful as a result.

Then the tables turned again.

Somehow, efforts at building self-esteem were blamed for low test scores. Building a child’s self-esteem took a back seat to drilling the basics.

The truth is that self-esteem is important, and that those who have it are happier and still outperform those who don’t.

So here are some tips for parents who want to help develop their children’s self-esteem:

  • Give your child responsibility. Encourage volunteerism. Doing good makes one feel good.
  • Develop a social network that includes family, friends, school, and the community. 
  • Never humiliate your child. Try to use only constructive criticism, emphasizing that no one is perfect and that everyone can learn from mistakes. 
  • And finally, let your love be unconditional, based on your child’s worth, rather than on specific “successes.”

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A dream today

News column

As millions of schoolchildren across the U.S. were preparing to head back to school in late August 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. addressed over 250,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

He told those who had assembled there about his dream.
A year later, at the age of 35, King became the youngest man to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

King’s oratory and vision transformed a nation.

On Sept. 26, 2015, over 60,000 people gathered in New York’s Central Park to hear about another dream from another visionary: 18 year-old education activist Malala Yousafzai.

“I have a very small kind of dream,” Malala, in her characteristic humility, told those gathered in the park, and millions of others watching the event live on their televisions and computers. “That is to see the world a happier place. A place where every child can have the right to go to school.

“Where every child and every person has the freedom to live a happy life. To live a peaceful life. To live in safety.

“That is my dream.”

That Malala is even alive to articulate this dream is nothing short of miraculous. By now, her story is well chronicled: as an adolescent in Pakistan she advocated for the rights of young girls to receive an education. That message outraged local Taliban members. One day, a gunman boarded the bus Malala was riding and shot her in the head at point blank range.

Amazingly, Malala survived the brutal ambush, and in time the reach of her message became wider than her thuggish Taliban tormentors could have ever imagined. In 2014, just two years after the brutal attack, Malala became the youngest recipient ever of the Nobel Peace Prize.

The recognition came exactly 50 years after King had been similarly honored.

Instead of silencing her, her would-be murderers amplified her.

On Oct. 8, nearly three years to the day of the attempt on her life, her story and her message will get even wider amplification, with the release of “He Named Me Malala,” the much-anticipated documentary from director Davis Guggenheim.

In the official trailer of the film, the off-camera interviewer is talking with her father.

“You named her after a girl who spoke out and was killed,” we hear the disembodied voice say. “It’s almost as if you said, ‘She’ll be different.’”

“You’re right,” her father says proudly.

Malala’s story is an important one for children of all ages to hear and understand.

Thanks to the generous support of a group of local women, over 1500 area schoolchildren will get the chance to hear that important message. “Santa Barbara Friends of Malala” have underwritten tickets and transportation through local school districts for two screenings of the film on Oct. 15 and 16 at the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara.

“I am excited about working with you to bring what could be a life-changing event to a select group of your students,” said Lompoc native Ginger Salazar in her note to school officials.

Two homegrown educators—Deputy Superintendent Susan Salcido of the Santa Barbara County Education Office and Maria Larios-Horton of the Santa Maria Union High School District—will welcome students and teachers with some remarks prior to the screenings.

“I’m delighted and honored,” Salcido said of the chance to address students at the film. “Malala’s message is inspirational, and the generosity of 'Friends of Malala' to help promote that message speaks to the remarkable commitment we have in this community to children and to education.”

It’s a commitment that would have resonated with King. “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically,” he once said. “Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” Malala’s words and deeds indicate that she agrees wholeheartedly with King’s message.

Two visionaries. Two victims of unspeakable violence. Two giants whose words were mightier than any weapon. And two messages that reverberate across generations, across countries, and across cultures.

Quite a dream.

Fire drills

Radio Commentary

This is a good time of year for families to brush up on fire-escape strategies.

First, plan an escape route for everyone in the home. Outline at least two escape routes per room. Practice with the lights out, since most home fires occur at night. Children must understand not to hide from fire under their beds or in closets.

Set off the smoke alarm so everyone will recognize the sound.

Have children practice crawling, which is the best way to escape a smoky room or hallway. Emphasize that they should keep their heads within 12 inches of the ground, which helps them avoid the smoke in the air and the toxic gases that can be even closer to the floor.

Show them how to test a door that is closed: If it is hot, do not open it.

If it is not hot, open it cautiously, but if smoke rushes in, quickly close the door and exit through a window instead.

Remind children that if they ever are trapped in a fire, to keep doors closed and to stuff door cracks and vents with clothes or towels. Then wait at a window for firefighters.

Make sure children can give the family’s name and full address, and know how to dial 9-1-1 to report a fire. Agree in advance on a place where the family will meet once everyone escapes.

Finally, practice “stop-drop-and-roll” with all family members. This is the best response if someone’s clothes catch fire.

And remember: Safety practices are strengthened by constant reinforcement. 

Monday, October 5, 2015


Radio Commentary

A very serious threat to the well-being of children is one that many parents still know too little about: cyber-bullying. Its effects can be devastating.

We have all read news reports of young suicide victims, bullied into believing life was no longer worth living because of relentless attacks over the Internet.

One can only imagine the ripple effect these tragedies have had on the victims’ families, and their communities, and even on the perpetrators.

Most young people who take part in cyber-bullying do it as a joke, and don’t pause to consider the impacts. Throughout human history, young people have shown they can be mean to each other, but the Internet has provided them with the tools to be truly cruel.

Many parents are simply not up to speed when it comes to social network sites or the online places their own children visit. New sites seem to emerge each day.

Add in the presence of text messages and video messages, and it all means that parenting in the age of cyber-crimes is more challenging than ever.

It might seem like a good idea to give a young child a cell phone with Internet access, but parents should consider the trade-offs they are making when they do so.

Yes, children will be able to stay in touch; but the risk is real, especially with young children whose judgment and decision-making skills are not yet fully developed.

Our office is working closely in partnership with District Attorney Joyce Dudley to address and reduce incidents of cyber-bullying. Parents need to be active partners in these efforts as well.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Safety instructions

Radio Commentary

Concepts of trust and danger, which are virtually meaningless to a two-year-old, make perfect sense to older children.
It is critical that parents use safety instructions appropriate to a child’s age if they want them to be followed.

For example, two-year-olds respond to rules and are old enough to know that certain actions bring their parents’ disapproval. Express strong disapproval if a child wanders away at the mall. Two is also a good age to plant the idea that some actions require permission.
Three year olds begin to understand the concept of trust. Tell them exactly who they can turn to for specific kinds of help — the babysitter, a neighbor, etc.

Four-year-olds are risk takers, so it is an important time to reinforce safety rules and step up supervision. Children at this age can begin to understand that not every person they meet is trustworthy.

At five, children start school and interact with many new people, including older children who could be intimidating or unkind. It’s a good time for parents to reinforce positive perceptions of people.

By six, most children have begun to develop intuition. This is the time to encourage them to trust their own instincts:  if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Using instructions appropriate for a child’s age helps make sure the directions will be followed. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

New teachers, mentors, Teacher of the Year to be honored at gala reception

News release

Seven exemplary educators in Santa Barbara County will be honored Nov. 14 at the third annual “A Salute to Teachers” event hosted by Cox Communications and the Santa Barbara County Education Office (SBCEO).

Three teachers have been chosen as Distinguished New Educators, while three others have been recognized as Distinguished Mentors. Capping the evening will be a presentation to the 2016 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year, Brandon Sportel.

The gala event, emceed by Andrew Firestone, will be held this year at the historic Lobero Theatre in downtown Santa Barbara. A Salute to Teachers partners SBCEO with Cox and a variety of sponsors, including Village Properties, Fielding Graduate Institute, Montecito Bank and Trust, Anthem-Blue Cross, Noozhawk and others. Cox has sponsored a similar celebration for 25 years in San Diego, and is honored to continue this great tradition of teacher recognition for Santa Barbara educators.

The Distinguished New Educators, nominated by their peers and chosen by a committee through the SBCEO, are:

  • Christopher Hanna, Ellwood School, Goleta Union School District
  • Genevieve Bishop, Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District
  • Erin Van De Roovaart, Kermit McKenzie Jr. High School, Guadalupe Union School District

The Distinguished Mentors, selected in the same fashion, are:

  • Francisco Diaz Real, Lompoc High School, Lompoc Unified School District
  • Janis Spracher, Monte Vista School, Hope School District
  • Clanci Chiu, Carpinteria Unified School District/SBCEO

These six honored educators are all participants in the Teacher Induction Program at the SBCEO, which pairs experienced mentors with new teachers who are beginning to apply what they have learned while completing their first years of teaching.

Sportel was named Teacher of the Year in May and is a candidate for California Teacher of the Year. He is a special education teacher at Canalino Elementary in the Carpinteria Unified School District.

“It’s a special privilege to be able to recognize the contributions these teachers make to both the education of local students, and to the constant improvement of their profession,” said Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone. “This event provides an opportunity to highlight outstanding new teachers and the hard work they do to create bright futures for students, and we’re grateful to the business partners whose support makes the evening possible.”

In addition to the awards presentation, the evening will also feature student musical performances and other entertainment.

“A Salute to Teachers 2015” will be broadcast in its entirety on Cox Channel 8 later in the year. At that time it will also be available for viewing online at

Tickets to the event are available for purchase through the Lobero Theatre box office by calling 966-4946. For more information about the awards or the event, go to or contact Steven Keithley, SBCEO Director of Teacher Programs and Support, at 964-4710, ext. 5281.

For more information about the SBCEO Teacher Induction Program, go to or contact Gina Branum, program director, at, or 964-4710, ext. 5426.