Last weekend, I took a motorcycle safety course. Don’t worry, I am not heading to Sturgis or hitting the open road this summer; I’ve just always wanted a Vespa and a side car. (I want to put goggles on my dog and cruise the neighborhood.)
I passed the class, barely. I graduated dead last. I am not yet a proficient cyclist, but I did learn some valuable information. My main takeaway—be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention.
I’ve been hyperaware while driving this week, and I’ve picked up some road wisdom. The motorcycle class was like an eye exam, and I now have my road glasses. On Monday, on the way to school, I noticed a bumper sticker on the back of a Subaru that read “Bark Less, Wag More.” (Have you noticed that a typical Subaru averages five message bumper stickers? Subarus are a good source of advice.)
What does it mean to “Bark Less, Wag More?” Let’s breakdown the phrase.
Over the past few days, I have been reflecting on Dr. Sax’s thought-provoking parent presentation. I enjoy pop culture (Bravo, all music, the occasional TMZ update, People Magazine, and the cooking shows on VICELAND). So, I was troubled when Dr. Sax cited pop culture as a leading cause of teen anxiety and a factor in the “collapse of parenting.”
Sax partly blamed the lyrical content of modern music (Bieber, Bruno Mars, Miley Cyrus) for the rise in a culture of disrespect among children. When I was in middle school, I was blasting Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction. Bieber seems mild in comparison. Has pop culture really grown cruder in the last 25 years?
At St. Paul’s, we have always believed that the k-8, or in our case, the toddler through 8th grade model is the optimal design for middle school student growth and development. Turns out, we’ve been right all along. In a September piece for NPR, Anya Kamenetz reported on a recent Syracuse University study regarding the experience of middle schoolers in three distinct school designs: k-8, 6-8, 6-12.
Yesterday, I was in our weekly program meeting. (The admin team gathers to talk about the week ahead and plan for any critical issues.) During the discussion, I was asked a question, and I was not paying attention. I owned my lack of focus and shared the reason for my distraction. I was multitasking—preparing for my class, and, wait for it…reading an article about active listening.
I have been slacking on my blog, so I thought I would continue the slack by recycling a version of the chapel lesson that I shared last week with our 3rd through 8th graders.
I love music. On my Spotify account, I have three playlists: one dramatically called “My Life,” one labeled “The Gym” (heavy doses of Guns n’ Roses and Rage Against the Machine), and one simply named “Country Favorites.”
As promised, I am moving away from my social media and technology rant (for now.) I recently read an article about metacognition and academic performance. When a student asks how to improve her grade or perform well on a test, our first suggestion is usually, “study more.” The better advice, according to the Stanford research cited in the piece, is “study smarter.”
As promised, this will be my last technology themed blog to start the year. (I do reserve the right to return to my soapbox at a later date.) Since the start of my crusade, several of you have shared a recent The Atlantic article, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” The piece, by Jean Twenge, is an abridged version of her upcoming book, iGen, Why Today’s Super-connected Kids are Growing up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.”
I promise that I will only send two more technology related notes to start the year. Last week, I shared Dr. Leonard Sax’s piece about the magnified impact of technology on girls. Dr. Sax suggested that children should not have any technology in their bedrooms. Turns out, at least with cell phones, Dr. Sax’s recommendation is backed by research.
Sadly, I am dependent on my phone. I am notoriously disorganized, and my phone (at least I have convinced myself) helps me with executive functioning. Last Tuesday, I left my phone at home, and I was literally anxious for the first hour and a half of my day. I am accustomed to the constant pinging--helpful notes from my calendar, distracting Alabama football updates, and the arrival of new emails.
I realize that I am on a bit of a soap box about social media, but I feel strongly that the constant connection is having a negative social and emotional impact on our students. Last week, I shared my recommendations for managing your child’s digital life.
When your child goes to bed, the cell phone and other devices must go to bed (in a separate room.)
Set some device free times: dinner, car rides, or Saturday mornings.
Talk to your child frequently about your expectations.
Last May, I sent a blog post about texting and social media. As we start the year, I am, once again, asking for your help. We value community, and we expect our students to meet our community expectations: “As a member of the St. Paul’s community, I pledge to be honest, to respect others, to take responsibility for my actions and words, to be kind and inclusive, and to help others do the same.”
For the most part, our students live the pledge, but texting and social media can be landmines.
It’s hard to be optimistic. But, it’s possible. Life is stressful, and we can easily fixate on the negative. As we end the Thanksgiving season and prepare for Christmas, I encourage you to celebrate our many blessings.
This morning, I read a brief, but fascinating article, about the impact of stress on mice pups. Psychologist, Alison Gopnik, in her Mind and Matter series, summarized two recent studies on the development of mice.
We are in a tough stretch of readings in our lectionary. Honestly, we are struggling to find connectivity for younger audiences in my Chapel Leadership class. Last week, we studied the “Rich Man and Lazarus.” With my limited biblical knowledge, I expected to hear the story of Jesus bringing Lazarus back to life. I was wrong. Did you know that there was another Lazarus?
This Lazarus was sick and hungry. The rich man knew that Lazarus was there, and the rich man knew that Lazarus needed help. The rich man could see Lazarus. But, the rich man refused to reach out and help Lazarus. After reviewing two commentaries on the parable, the Chapel Leadership Team decided that Jesus was issuing a call to action.
We value chapel. As an Episcopal school, we seek to awaken and instill spiritual values through daily chapel services. On our updated website, we posted a piece, “Why Choose an Episcopal School?”
One Reason: “Episcopal schools integrate the ideals and concepts of equity, justice, and a just society throughout the life of the school. Community service is an integral part of the life of the school.”
I am currently working my way through Dr. Richard Weissbourd’s book, The Parents We Mean to Be. (Dr. Weissbourd is a psychologist and faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.)
I encourage you to read the book, but, in our busy world, I realize that a parenting guide may not be on your agenda. Luckily, Dr. Weissbourd, offers a one page strategy guide for parents (and all adults) that you can read in less than ten minutes.
As part our teambuilding last week, our administrative team took the Myers Brigg type indicator and shared the results with one another. By sharing our types, we (hopefully) developed a better understanding of how to work together.
I am a contradiction; I don’t like structure, but I flounder when I don’t have a routine. In the summer, my sleep pattern falls apart because of vacations, a later start time, Netflix binges, and Bravo. (Teresa is out of prison!)