The challenges associated with autism are costly to the affected individuals, their families, and society. Individuals with autism face difficulties in communication and socialization, as well as increased risk of behavior problems that can severely impact their ability to participate in everyday activities.
Like most youngsters at 14 years old, I sometimes came home from school and said to myself, "I could kill that kid." Of course I never meant it and never once did I think it was even within the realm of possibility. Things have changed. After the Columbine Massacre, I tried to find out why.
There is nothing quite like the sound of children on a playground at recess. As a former elementary school teacher, such sounds remain a pleasant sense memory for me. Unfortunately, on school playgrounds across the country and for many of the children on them, there exist sounds that are not as pleasant as those I recall. As educators, we all know from our own experiences that the less structured spaces of a school such as the playground are often sites of name-calling, harassment and bias.
I had a conversation a few months ago with a parent about being a school principal. We were talking about the various demands of the job, from the different constituents that a school principal has to work with to the environment of a school. The parent asked me how I would define the job if I had only one word to use.
The word I chose was safety. The parent expressed some surprise and intrigue at my answer. We proceeded to talk about safety on multiple levels, beginning with physical safety, moving to emotional safety and finishing with academic safety.
From natural disasters to economic meltdowns, from wars abroad to tragic shootings close to home, this year brought to light the increasing complexity of the world in which we raise kids. Our natural instinct as teachers, parents and caretakers is to protect children from hardship, yet we know walking between the raindrops of adversity is not possible. Instead of sidestepping challenge, we can teach kids to cope positively, to learn and grow from adversity. We can arm our youth with skills of resilience, and these lessons can begin in the classroom.
Early in the school year, Mr. Spriggs asked me to sit in on a conference with his most challenging student. Jon rarely participated appropriately in class, instead drawing attention to himself by "accidentally" dropping books, suddenly having coughing spells and loudly expelling air from either end. It was considered a relative victory when his disinterest expressed itself more quietly through slouched shoulders, bored yawns and feigned sleep.
In this nine-part series, we will look at important factors that influence the happiness and social and emotional learning of elementary school age children. These are very useful in helping students learn, manage emotions better and increase empathy. Each blog features one letter of the acronym HAPPINESS:
Many parents and teachers are at a loss about what to say and how to reassure their kids after the horrific, "unspeakable" events at Sandy Hook. The right words, especially with younger children, need to blend explanation with reassurance. At this difficult time, you might find that the following words will provide a helpful guide:
You already know collaboration is essential to today's classroom -- especially in the age of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills Framework (P21). Students who truly collaborate construct knowledge together. When we ask students to collaborate, we’re asking them to take responsibility for their learning.
Okay. You get it. Collaboration's important. But how do you motivate productive collaboration within your classroom? First, figure out what's going on with the uncollaborative student.
Drug addiction, pregnancy prevention, and eating disorders are all part of the curriculum in the high school health education class I teach. As attention-getting as those topics may be, I like to start the semester by focusing on a health issue that affects almost all teens in high school today: stress.