I'm guessing many of you read last week's hugely popular Momastery post which relayed the inspiring tale of a middle school math teacher who, every Friday, asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down who'd they like to sit with the following week in class. Her intention, though, is not to appease the "I want to sit with my best friend" masses. Instead, she uses the ritual as an ingenious way to find out which students in her class are falling through the "social" cracks.
The teacher is brilliant. And I love how the post's author Glennon Doyle Melton thanks those at the helm of classrooms with these words, "TEACH ON, WARRIORS. You are the first responders, the front line, the disconnection detectives, and the best and ONLY hope we've got for a better world. What you do in those classrooms when no one is watching -- it's our best hope."
But I don't fully agree. Of course teachers are an incredibly important part of solving the social isolation epidemic among our youth. But they are not the "ONLY" hope we have.
Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.
Buchko, mom to fifth-grader Julia, who is on the autism spectrum, wrote the following newsletter piece (reprinted, with permission, below) as a reminder to all parents that it's not just the schools and teachers who can help create a kinder, more welcoming environment for all kids. Mothers, fathers and other caregivers, she beautifully urges, need to take responsibility, too. She reminded me that I have an obligation to go a step further than to ask, "How did the math test go?" or "What did you have for a snack?" during my daily dinnertime debriefings.
As I have learned from Suzanne, and Julia, I need to start asking my kids, daily, the most revealing question of all.
What did you do that was kind today?comments powered by Disqus
Imagine that every parent in our Franklin-Randall community asked his or her child this question at the end of the school day or at the supper table or before turning out the child's bedroom light. What did you do that was kind today?
Our schools do all they can to teach and encourage kindness and to discourage bullying. My daughter's teachers at Franklin and Randall have gone far beyond their job descriptions to instill the ideals of inclusion and open-heartedness among their students. And I have often pondered what more can parents do? How can I reinforce the character-building that she is learning at school?
What did you do that was kind today?
This morning I observed once again that the kids on the school bus went to great lengths to avoid sitting with my daughter.
My daughter is one of those kids who will always be picked on and excluded. Someone will be mean to her perhaps every day for the rest of her life, and she is not the only one. My heart hurts for her and it also hurts for all the others. I can't stop other kids from excluding, segregating and being mean. As a parent, I've felt powerless in the face of mean girls and cool boys. But I can teach my daughter about kindness. I can teach her how to create the world that will include, nourish and cherish all people. I want to build on what she is learning at school. I want her to help bring an inclusive, loving community into existence.
And so, I will begin asking her every day when we sit down to talk about her school day, "What did you do that was kind today?" I will ask her if she saw anyone who needed kindness, and I will suggest how she might be kind tomorrow. Further, I will intentionally model kind behavior and I will talk about that behavior with her.
Will you join me?
What did you do that was kind today?
Like many parents, I look at the wide world around my kids and do my best to prepare them for life. We talk about working hard, being kind and responsible, Internet safety, stranger danger, and the (gulp) birds and the bees. But what about a topic such as race?
If you're like me, looking around your house in the weeks before Christmas will probably have you convinced that the last thing your kids need to find underneath the tree is a pile of new toys.
I spend a lot of time talking to my kids about how lucky we are to have what we have. Though our house is tiny and our van is unequipped with automatic doors, we have all we could ever need, and a lot of what we want.
On the evening of Nov. 6, a throng of people gathered at Monona Terrace. They were there to attend an impressive anniversary shindig, but the real buzz of excitement centered on the event's guest of honor.
You may call them "play dates," but I like the term "mom dates," especially since my kids are still too young to really care that there's another small person to squabble over toys with.
If there is an excuse for not working out and eating healthy, I have used it: I don't have time. I'm too tired. I'll start tomorrow. I'm no good at this, I give up. I don't know where to start. Yes, I have used all of these and more.
At almost a year old, my kids are in the blissful stage of life where they'll eat nearly anything that I put in front of them (at least as long as it doesn't require much in the way of molar action).
My family recently went through something that we have not experienced in over eight years. We have become a household that no longer harbors a crib or a changing table.
"There really is no wrong way to do it." That's how Madeline, age 13, describes creating artwork. She and her classmates at Prairie View Middle School in Sun Prairie are honing their artistic skills by participating in the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art's Art on Tour program.
I'm having trouble enjoying the season, because I can't keep myself from thinking about the miserable weather that's sure to be following close on the heels of the crisp, pleasant fall we've been having. I am not at all emotionally prepared to be the parent of two toddlers during a Wisconsin winter.
I've always been a supporter of companies that empower women and girls, and when the creator of such a company is a fellow Wisconsinite, I get even more excited. When Melissa Wardy of Janesville got fed up with stereotypes found in clothing for girls, she started her own company.
Do you have a little reader or an aspiring teenaged writer in your house? If so, you may want to venture to the Wisconsin Book Festival this weekend, to whet their appetite for wonderful words as well as your own.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I had two names picked out. Upon her arrival we had not yet come to a conclusion on what that name would be. Everyone told us that when we saw her we would just know. We didn't.
At age 10 months, my kids have seen the zoo a lot already. I was a zoology major in college, and I have something of a zoo addiction still, so the twins (and their dad) are more or less condemned to a future rife with zoo visits.
Home-schooling can be a lonely proposition. Even as a college professor, Juliana Hunt remembers struggling to find support to home-school her now-grown daughter. "I was always hoping to find like-minded people who were in the same position as me," she says. "I know that children learn best through a give-and-take, question-and-answer process of teaching and learning, but where do you find mentors who can make that happen?"
After sleep patterns, I think the next biggest parenting concern I have and hear about revolves around the topic of food. How can I make sure my kids are eating enough vegetables? Did I pack them a lunch that is healthy enough? What can I feed them after school that doesn't come from a box? How many gripes am I going to get about the dinner I'm about to prepare?
As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.
The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.
I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?
Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.