Backyard Blast

It rained about three inches in a short period of time on Springfield’s west side on Wednesday.  When it rains that much that fast, the little creek in my backyard floods and the water moves very swiftly down the length of three or four backyards in my neighborhood.  Sometimes the water moves so fast it carries a few of my fake animals downstream to a neighbors’ yard.

Well, this particular day, the neighborhood kids were ready for the river in our backyards.  They brought inflatable rafts!  These kids range in age from about 4 or 5 at the low end to about 12 at the high end.  These kids had a blast “white water rafting” in our neighborhood…that is until the rain subsided and the water receded.

The point of the above story is that the kids were out playing after school.  Most days when I drive into the neighborhood there are kids on bikes, or playing wiffle ball, or shooting baskets, or on skateboards, or are playing soccer in the yard.  Wait!  This is not 1973, this is now and kids are outside playing.  I love the parents in our neighborhood who encourage their children to be outside after school until the sun goes down.

In this age of electronics and social media it is refreshing to see kids with sidewalk chalk and flying kites.  Now, I am not an anti-gaming, anti-social media, anti Youtube dude.  I believe these forms of entertainment and communication have a legitimate spot at the appropriate developmental stages.  However, I am also a huge proponent of physical exercise and kids socializing with one another.  It’s called playing outside.  Can you imagine the memories those kids will have of white water rafting in the backyard?

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Bombs: Not a Joking Matter

This past Wednesday all students were evacuated from Sherman Elementary School when administrators were notified that someone had written “BOMB here” on a bathroom stall.  I would not have been surprised if the message had been written “Bomb hear” or “Bom here”.  Sherman Elementary only goes up to fourth grade and apparently has good spellers…assuming a student wrote the aforementioned note.

Earlier in the week Williamsville High School was evacuated for a similar inscription.  This was the second time the high school had been evacuated over the last couple of weeks.  Of course there has also been numerous evacuations of high schools in the Springfield area as well including multiple evacuations of Springfield High School and Southeast High School.

Threats of violence in an elementary school, junior high, high school or college is a serious matter.  I have personally talked with teens who have made such threats and the answers as to why have been varied.  Several have said they were only joking.  Another indicated it was for attention.  I suppose another motive would be to get out of school or to miss a test.

Regardless of why kids make these threats, the fact is that the toll it takes on schools, staff and students is significant.  At the very least much instructional time is lost.  Other damage includes the emotional toll it takes on our students (kids get scared when you rush them out of a building), the time and resources that law enforcement devotes to the problem, and the potential of the “boy who cried wolf” syndrome where our response to these threats might become lackadaisical at the wrong time.

Communication at all levels is essential in stemming the proliferation of these threats.  At the macro level, law enforcement must make it clear that these threats are crimes, that they will be investigated, and that the perpetrators will be prosecuted.  Administrators must make sure that their handbooks are up to date that appropriate consequences are in place for those students who make threats.  Also, it is important for administrators to speak with their students about this topic.  Students apparently need to be told in clear terms that calling in a bomb threat, leaving a bomb threat note, writing about a bomb on a wall, drawing a picture of a school exploding…those types of actions can lead to serious consequences.  Parents would be wise to have that conversation with their children.

At Little Flower School we have had those conversations in our classrooms.  We advise our students to let a teacher know if they hear of a threat of harm to others or self-harm.  Our students become part of our safety.  We all look out for one another.  Again, clear communication among law enforcement, administrators, faculty, parents, and students will likely lead to a decrease in these events in the future.

 

 

A Close Call

Yesterday, in my backyard we were treated to a mama duck parading with her 9 newly hatched ducklings down our narrow creek.  The precious ducklings were so happy frolicking in the tall grass and swimming in the slowly moving water.  What the mama duck and babies did not realize is that our backyard “creek” empties into a storm drain in my neighbor’s backyard.  Sure enough, two of the ducklings got a little too curious and careless and fell through the grates into the storm drain.  The mama duck screeched and herded her remaining babies to a spot of safety and called for her lost ones.  It was a moment of crisis for sure.

Luckily for the ducks, I have a very resourceful wife who has a soft-spot in her heart for animals and birds of all kinds.  She also has had previous experience rescuing some of God’s creatures in peril.  She called to me to help while she frantically reached far down into the drain (my arm likely would not have fit).  After a bit of a struggle, she was able to capture one duck and handed him off to me.  I made sure that duck found its mama while Sue was trying to capture the other duck.  After a few more minutes the other lost duck became tired as was rescued.  He waddled off and quickly found his fleet.  The mama duck quacked a sigh of relief.  Tragedy averted.  I love happy endings.

I immediately saw this episode as a metaphor for all parents, Sue and I included.  We try as parents to protect our children and teach them everything we can about life to keep them safe.  Sometimes, like mama duck, we fail to see the storm drain ahead.  Sometimes despite our best efforts, our children become too curious or too careless and fall into the darkness.  We can only hope and pray that when that happens, God will provide a rescuer so that our children will be able to come out of the darkness a little stronger and a little wiser.  I love happy endings.

I have one lingering question though.  When the two lost ducks joined their brothers, sisters and mama, the mama marched them all triumphantly into the woods.  How did that mama duck know she had all nine of her ducklings?  I didn’t know ducks could count!

 

I Will Never Grow Old

“Some say that as we grow up we become different people at different ages…but I don’t believe it.  I think we remain the same throughout.” Peter Pan 1960

This weekend Little Flower School presented its annual spring musical.  This year’s production was Peter Pan Jr. directed by Mrs. Bri Dondanville.  Peter, Wendy, Tinker Bell, Captain Hook, Tiger Lily, and a band of scallywags, mermaids, and fairies danced on our stage and in our hearts for two performances.  The fifty four students in the cast all looked like they were having a great time and, in fact, they were.  The importance of this musical and the many musicals and plays that take place across this county transcends kids having fun.  So many positive outcomes take place when so many children work together for a common cause, when these same children see adults volunteer behind the scenes for the same common cause, and when the children see their parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, classmates, and teachers come out and watch their performance.

One of the great aspects of Catholic education is that our students get the benefit of wholesome, good clean fun in many of our extracurricular offerings.  We strive to ensure that our students are well supervised and receive positive life experiences and memories from taking part in our extracurricular opportunities,  Here are some tangible positive takeaways from our Peter Pan Jr. rehearsals and performances:

  • “I got to express myself on stage in ways that I cannot in a classroom”
  • “Soooo much work went into this but it paid off in the end”
  • “I got to know and interact with kids at other grade levels”
  • “It’s the most incredible thing I have ever done in my entire life” (this quote was from a 7 year old)
  • It was a celebration of family as there were many family members there to support their children in this extracurricular endeavor.
  • Most students will fondly remember being in this play for their entire life.  I still remember being in The King and I at Sacred Heart Academy when I was in the 6th grade.
  • It is a bonding experience for the cast.  For many students it is a sad experience when it’s over.  This is also a positive take away as it is desirable to experience a full range of human emotion.
  • It is important for our children to be exposed to positive role models whether it be our musical director, our set designer, our costume and make-up coordinators or our stage volunteers.

For all of the reasons listed above, Peter Pan Jr. enhances the mission of Catholic education.  God had his hand in this event and this was evident in the gatherings after the performances.  As one second grader said to me after the play, “I can’t explain why but it was the most amazing ever”.  With youngsters like her around, I will never grow old.

Peter Pan

Texas Teachings

Today is Holy Saturday, 2018, and I am located in El Paso, Texas.  It is a balmy 80 degrees and feels like I went from winter to summer and skipped spring.  I’m visiting my daughter and son-in-law and their two children Johnny and Luke.  Johnny is 4 and Luke is 2.  These boys are no strangers to Little Flower as they have been to Springfield and hung out in the gym and my office.

One thing I noticed during my stay here in Texas is that at the kitchen table Kaitlin has three placemats…not really sure why three.  Anyway, one of the placemats is a map of the world, one is a map of the United States, and one is a chart of the human body including the muscular, skeletal, and circulatory systems.  I have been surprised how much normal meal time conversation involves geography and physiology.  Also, math.  It is amazing how Cheerios can be a conduit to teaching math…if I have five cheerios and ate one, how many do I have left?

We at Little Flower School are dedicated and committed to childhood education.  We partner with parents to teach our children essential facts and concepts.  One little example that we do at LFS is each day we do a little trivia quiz.  Oftentimes it involves a historical fact relating to U.S. or World History, sometimes a geography question involving the state or a foreign country…sometimes a science related matter.

I feel it is important that students know the educational basics…that the capital of Texas is Austin, that Ecuador is in South America, that 8 x 9 is 72 (and that you do not need a calculator to figure that out).  At Little Flower we are exposing our students to these basics and much more.

Well, I’m going to get back to Johnny and Luke.  We’re getting ready for the Easter Bunny!  Happy Easter everyone!

A Little Toughness Can Be A Good Thing

When I pulled out of my driveway this morning, I glanced at the temperature reading on my dashboard gauge.  It was a balmy 40 degrees outside.  There was no rain and a little wind.  As I cruised through a far west neighborhood, I noticed a phenomenon that I have been aware of for several years.  There are many cars with school age children in them parked with the engine running waiting for the school bus to arrive.  Today I saw a boy aged 13-14 bolt out of a car, cross the street, and amble into a bus that had been waiting for him.  And, he had a Starbucks with him.

So I can understand a ride to the bus stop if a child is injured or has a physical disability.  I can understand it for a variety of reasons.  My understanding wanes, however, if parents are coddling, pampering, or facilitating entitlement.

Children can benefit from a brisk 2 or 3 block walk in the morning and afternoon.  Children can benefit from being out in cold weather for short periods of time.  Children can benefit from interacting with other children at a bus stop…off of their cell phones.

Sometimes parents try too hard to protect their children…from the cold, from experiencing adversity.  Children can benefit from how to rebound from tough circumstances.  Strength, resiliency, and adaptability are wonderful personal assets and they can be acquired in childhood and adolescence.

Balance: Key to Thrive

So this is the weekend that we say goodbye to Central Standard Time and say hello to Daylight Saving Time. At 2:00 AM on Sunday morning our clocks spring forward one hour.  Most of us will be deprived of one hour of sleep…which leads me into my blog topic: the importance of sleep, proper nutrition, and exercise in the life of an elementary school age child.

Many studies have demonstrated the importance of the right amount of sleep to overall successful academic performance of children and teens.  Primary school age children ideally would get 10 – 12 hours of sleep per night, intermediate grade levels 10 – 11 hours per night, and junior high 8 – 10 hours per night.  Sleep totals significantly less than this can lead to a variety of negatives including reduced ability to concentrate, impaired memory, increased irritability, increased anxiety, and increase in oppositional behaviors.  It is best if bedtimes are consistent each school night and that children are  not allowed to have electronic devices after bedtime.

Proper sleep hygiene is just one component of establishing a healthy lifestyle.  Nutrition, exercise, leisure and relaxation, social activities, study, spiritual activities, and family time are other components of our everyday lives.  Th key to an effective, productive student experience is a good BALANCE among these components.  Students run into trouble when the balance goes haywire.  Going to school without breakfast leads to fatigue…too much social media leads to problems…not enough sleep leads to problems…no exercise leads to physical and psychological vulnerability.  Every so often it is a good idea for parents to do an assesment regarding balance in their childrens’ lives and make changes when needed.