Does Your Child Have These 4 Skills Before Starting Middle School?

Other than the first day of kindergarten, the first day of middle school may be one of the most anxiety-producing days for students and parents alike. The good news is that you and your child CAN and WILL survive this transition – especially if you help.  Just ask yourself: can your child do these 4 Skills Before Starting Middle School?

  1. Teach your child to pack their own lunch – and a good snack. When my kids were little, I always figured if they weren’t hungry or tired I had a chance of surviving the day. This didn’t change as they grew up; the basic needs just get a little more difficult to enforce. Middle school students expend a LOT of energy, and they are hungry all the time. I’m not kidding. If you can teach your child to pack their own lunch – or at least a healthy, energy sustaining snack, not only will your child’s teacher be happy, but you also have a good chance of having a stable child at the end of the day! Reusable water bottles, fruit, protein bars and whole grain crackers are great snacks that help keep students alert and on top of their game. And be sure they pack it themselves- teaching simple self-care techniques prepares them for taking control of their health and wellness and will reduce stress.4 skills before starting middle school
  2. Practice self-awareness. This skill tags along with self-care, and also helps develop an awareness of their emotions and feelings. Middle school students have rapidly changing views and experiences; teaching your child to reflect on life milestones, accomplishments, and successes and challenges from the previous school year helps them to learn about themselves as a learner, as a friend and develops a growth mindset. When school gets challenging, having self-awareness skills to fall back on helps develop confidence and a calm approach.
  3. Teach your child to write an email. Thanks to technology, today’s educators are much more accessible. If your school uses a management system, make sure you and your children understand how to log on and how to contact teachers. But parents – resist the urge to be the first point of contact with teachers. Have your child reach out with a simple, direct email that states their question and asks for help. I also advise middle school students to set up a professional email address that is used for college contacts; Gmail is an excellent service. Developing self-advocacy skills will ease the communication anxiety and provide valuable training for high school and college.
  4. Help create an organization system with specific weekly goals. To develop strong study skills and create a peaceful after school environment, your student should create an organization system that works for them. Binders, color coded and labeled folders, digital systems, and traditional paper calendars are all ways middle school students can stay organized. Setting measurable weekly goals, and reflecting on progress, are ways to teach your child about self-monitoring and problem-solving. Not every system works for every child, so it’s important to listen to your child’s ideas and give things a try, even if it isn’t YOUR way. Setting up a reward and logical consequence system alongside to weekly goals will offer a tangible reason for your child to work hardto meet their expectations.

Helping your child develop these 4 skills your child needs before starting middle school should ease the transition for everyone. Remember, your child is likely nervous and anxious about all the ‘newness’ they are experiencing, and while it may seem as if the last thing they want is your advice, just knowing you’re there and paying attention can open the door for supporting them through this exciting time.

Can Your Child Do These 4 Skills Before Starting Middle School?

*This post first appeared on The Educator’s Room – please visit The Educator’s Room website here for more about teaching and parenting.

 

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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My Heart Is Heavy As I Watch The Hate Unfold In Charlottesville Today

My Heart Is Heavy As I Watch The Hate Unfold In Charlottesville Today

My heart is heavy as I watch the hate unfold in Charlottesville today. I try to distract and distance myself by puttering around in my garden, moving the sprinkler from one dry patch to another, hopefully coaxing a few more blooms into fall. I dodge the bees in the veggie garden and catch a glimpse of a red throated hummingbird as it delicately feeds on my front yard red salvia. My four legged pal naps on the shaded wicker couch as I move in circles, trying to avoid confronting the hatred and violence I know is consuming my news feeds.

I don’t usually write and publish on the spot like this. I’m more of a pensive writer, allowing thoughts to mull in my mind, forming connections and thinking deeply about how I share my voice in this vast Universe of creative people. I typically journal and notetake and combine what I read and hear and see into hopefully, some version of hope and gratitude for all that I am and all that I have to learn.

But as I watch the hate unfold in Charlottesville today I find myself heavy with sadness, climbing the stairs to my upstairs writing perch. My phone has been exploding with Twitter updates and live videos from the New York Times, and I find I can only watch and read the smallest amount without having to shut it down.

It’s part self-care, part bewilderment, part fear – combined with an enormous amount of guilty helplessness as I sit safely tucked away, in my white family in my suburban home in my liberal northern California town.

my heart is heavy

But that’s part of the problem, isn’t it? Those who stay safely tucked away in their beliefs, teetering on the edge of exploding and showing their real selves. I meant to be writing about my children today, about having seniors and about college and starting school years.

But I can’t. My heart is too heavy watching the hate unfold in Charlottesville today, and it simply feels selfish.

I know that racism exists. I know that there are those who believe in the ‘white right’ and above all else, feel victimized and as if they are somehow having their centuries old rights and ancestry stripped away by those who are different. From those who have darker skin, or religious differences, or who love people that they love even when being told that the Bible calls them sinners.

I know all that. I see it hiding in my community, occasionally creeping out in my classroom with greater frequency since last November. I understand the responsibility of raising a white male and think deeply about how I can use my life to make the world a better, kinder, more loving place.

I use my position as a teacher leader to teach compassion, to offer evidence from history about learning from the past, and employ my voice and my words to somehow attempt to do my part.

My Heart Is Heavy As I Watch The Hate Unfold In Charlottesville Today

But today, my heart is heavy as I watch the hate unfold.

I want to blame 45, but I know he didn’t suddenly cause people to think this way. What he has done since November is offered validation for those shallow, spiteful, fearful souls to empower themselves and speak out, lash out, and spew their hateful words into our Universe.

I know signs of hope and light will surface – the first to appear was John Pavlovitz’s “Yes, This is Racism”  for which I am holding onto while my news feed screams “Charlottesville remains on edge ahead of “Unite The Right” rally”, the governor declares a state of emergency, and a car plows down protestors. Violent clashes erupt as people supporting Black Lives Matter join in counter-protest. 45 tweets “Am in Bedminster for meetings & press conference on V.A. & all that we have done, and are doing, to make it better-but Charlottesville sad!”

All that we have done? Who are WE? It’s not me. It’s on you now, 45. All that YOU have done – and what are YOU doing to make it better? Get off your golf cart and step into reality.

Sitting in my writing room, gazing out at the green treetops and the sun dappled grass I feel so far removed, so helpless. I do not agree, I do not believe, I do not support. This isn’t MY America. This isn’t my view of how history should be formed. This isn’t what I want to teach.

This IS racism. This IS hate. This IS fear and vulnerability and small-mindedness.

This is NOT what I choose as the future for my son, my daughter, and the hundreds of children I’m about to share my heart with this school year.

I stand in unity with those using their bodies and voices and hearts against hate. I stand with the women and men and children to whom this is nothing new – just more visible.

I walked with women and men and children in January in hopes that my heart wouldn’t feel so heavy today; I write with hope for tomorrow.

THIS is how I fight back.

My Heart Is Heavy As I Watch The Hate Unfold In Charlottesville Today

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Indonesia shopping

Teaching In Indonesia: What’s Similar And Different To The U.S.

*This is an update of posts chronicling my teaching in Jakarta, Indonesia, during Ramadan. As part of the U.S. State Department of Education’s IREX program, 10 teachers and I spent two weeks traveling, teaching, and creating friendships with Indonesian students. This trip was life-changing for me as a woman and a teacher; so many stereotypes of the Muslim religion and Ramadan were altered due to my ability to meet the Indonesian students, teachers, and families and observe what their daily life was like, what they valued, and how many similarities American and Indonesian teens share. I’d like to share some of my experiences traveling in a Muslim country during their most holy time. I’d love to hear your stories of international travel and how it has changed your world, too.
~Jennifer

 

Indonesia teaching highlighted similarities and differences to the United States. We began with an early teacher meeting at IMAN Cendekia School.  Asked to speak about green school and International Baccalaureate programs, we arrived to meet with a few interested teachers.  We’ve witnessed an attempt at recycling awareness on many campuses in the form of posters and some class assignments, but noticed an alarming absence of trash and recycling containers.  While the teachers asked many questions about our recycling programs, it soon became evident that their infrastructure problems with sanitation halt their progress.  We suggested that they don’t wait, but rather start teaching the children, ideally in primary grades, about how to reduce, reuse and recycle.  We’re hopeful that we can continue to provide them with examples through Skype or email when we return to the US.

Indonesia teacher
Indonesia teacher

The assistant principal, interestingly, changed the subject several times to ask us about the ‘Seattle Sound’ and bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana.  He also wanted to chat about American movies, wondering if our schools were like “Mean Girls”, and told us his favorite actors were Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks.  We continue to be amazed at what a dominant role American media plays in their beliefs about our country, and how often incorrect they really are.

Indonesia teaching

We were able to ask the teachers some of our essential questions and found that they believe that Indonesians are generally shy and don’t share their opinion, in fact, they will often go along with something they don’t agree with.  They have no word for love, and no polite way to be angry.  They believe that boys and girls are treated equally and that men are generally more polite.  They think their students need to study American history to know what are the best ways to run their country, so they choose to study the American Revolution, the Boston Tea Party, the Civil War, and Malcolm X.

Indonesia school
Indonesia school – students interested in recycling and Western culture.

The average wage of an Indonesian teacher is $100/month, and for $75/month they feel they can live well, although they may need to commute far for work.  Earning $200/month is considered middle class, enough for school, rent, food and little savings.  $10,000 will purchase a good house.  We found most items very inexpensive, especially food.

Traveling to Sekolah Tunas to visit a K-12 school provided a radically different glimpse into Indonesian education.  We were greeted by a British man, Mr. Paul, hired to be their resident native speaker.  The primary school children were adorable, full of questions like “do we go to rock concerts” and “would we like some chocolate milk”.  Their command of English was excellent   – due in large part from efforts to have students learn conversational English.

Observing on Friday meant students weren’t in uniform, making religious affiliation more difficult to discern.  These students looked so much like our American students; in fact, one young girl was excited to see a photo of my daughter wearing the same shirt!

Indonesia school concert
Indonesia school concert

We were treated to a traditional gamelan concert, questions and answers by the 10th-12th graders, student leadership tour guides, and a look at music and dance (modern and traditional) electives.  As this is a private school, students pay a fee to attend between the hours of 7:30 – 4.

We spent our afternoon taking the train to a 13-story wholesale shopping center.  Interestingly, Indonesian trains have pink and purple cars for women only, created in response to protect them from sexual harassment.

Jakarta shopping
Jakarta shopping

Exiting the train took us into what our guide called ‘real Jakarta’, and we couldn’t agree more.  This was by far the most crowded, dirty and lively section of town we have seen.  We entered an outside bazaar and began crisscrossing through the maze of vendor booths selling clothes, food, pets, shoes and household items.  The path was narrow and at times we wondered if we would make it to the mall.  We emerged into an open area where the men were just finishing their afternoon prayer.  As it ended, they picked up newspaper they knelt on and went on their way, and we entered the mall.

A teacher, Eva, met us there because she was deemed the best bargainer.  She proudly told us, ‘this is not comfortable for shopping, but comfortable on the wallet.’  And she was right-we spent the first hour in shock and amazement as she led us up escalators to the thirteenth floor, through labyrinthine paths to find the items we want and back out again.  When the mall closed at three we went upstairs to the mosque so our guides could pray, then back down to find a taxi.

Jakarta mosque
Jakarta mosque

Jakarta traffic is unlike any other city.  Buses and taxis have an easier time, especially when they drive up onto the curbs to scoot past the cars and motorbikes.   Although the train would be
faster, our guides felt it would be unsafe for us to utilize it during rush hour.  Two hours later we were happy to arrive at the hotel, break our fast and fall into bed.

Indonesia shopping
Indonesia shopping

Today I was reminded of the disparity between schools in Indonesia.  The difference between the strict, traditional religious education and the more modern structures is a perfect reflection of what I see happening in the country.  I’ve noticed a conflict between those who would like to stay true to their traditions and culture, and those who want to embrace modern living.  It feels like holding on too tightly to the past is causing problems with looking forward into the future; I’m hopeful the children can figure out a balance that will keep everyone happy.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Teens aren't all that different in Indonesia

Teaching Teenagers In Indonesia – They’re Not So Different From American Teens

*This is an update of posts chronicling my Teaching In Jakarta, Indonesia, During Ramadan. As part of the U.S. State Department of Education’s IREX program, 10 teachers and I spent two weeks traveling, teaching, and creating friendships with Indonesian students. This trip was life-changing for me as a woman and a teacher; so many stereotypes of the Muslim religion and Ramadan were altered due to my ability to meet the Indonesian students, teachers, and families and observe what their daily life was like, what they valued, and how many similarities American and Indonesian teens share. As so many today are celebrating Ramadan, I’d like to share some of my experiences traveling in a Muslim country during their most holy time. I’d love to hear your stories of international travel and how it has changed your world, too.
~Jennifer

Sitting in my western style hotel room, sitting in a comfortable bed sipping coffee and watching CNN, I might think I’m at home in America.  Then I hear the faint strains of the morning prayers broadcast outside, and am instantly clear that outside this window is a completely different world than what I’m used to. Teaching teenagers in Indonesia is opening up my ways of thinking.

Indonesia
Indonesia city view

Systems in Indonesia

After only 76 hours in Indonesia, I’m beginning to understand some of the systems.  The Indonesian people are all about hospitality and helpfulness, even when they don’t speak my language.  I’m having a hard time learning Indonesian phrases – for some reason, they don’t hit my ear correctly and I cannot memorize even the simplest words. Teenagers in Indonesia aren’t really all that different than teens in America – but the schools are. Gender separation, strict uniforms, and forcing the teachers to move rooms instead of the students are unlike U.S. schools, but the goals and interests of Indonesian teens are amazingly similar.

Communicating in an Indonesian school.
Communicating in an Indonesian school.

 

What NOT to do in Indonesia

I’ve learned not to take photos in a grocery store, to use my hand in a downward flat palm position when I need to push through a crowd (personal space is very limited), and that cold Bintang beer tastes great after a day hanging out with a Komodo dragon in the 91-degree humid weather.

I’ve learned that teachers in Indonesia worry about many of the same things we do in the US – how to celebrate and teach diversity, how to engage students who are more interested in social media than school, and how to preserve their cultural identity, all on a salary of $150-$300/month.

Indonesian school project about climate change.
Indonesian school project about climate change.

Learning from each other

Today I begin teaching in a religious boarding school.  I’m hopeful that I make easy connections with the students and can understand what we can do to make our world a little bit better by working together.  I know the Indonesian people are as eager to learn from us as I am from them.

Teens aren't all that different in Indonesia
Teens aren’t all that different in Indonesia.
Teaching in Indonesia
Teaching in Indonesia.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Follow Me:
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Indonesian school

Teaching In Jakarta, Indonesia, During Ramadan

*This is an update of posts chronicling my teaching in Jakarta, Indonesia, during Ramadan. As part of the U.S. State Department of Education’s IREX program, 10 teachers and I spent two weeks traveling, teaching, and creating friendships with Indonesian students. This trip was life-changing for me as a woman and a teacher; so many stereotypes of the Muslim religion and Ramadan were altered due to my ability to meet the Indonesian students, teachers, and families and observe what their daily life was like, what they valued, and how many similarities American and Indonesian teens share. As today is the start of Ramadan, I’d like to share some of my experiences traveling in a Muslim country during their most holy time. I’d love to hear your stories of international travel and how it has changed your world, too.
~Jennifer
Arriving in Jakarta during Ramadan was really exciting – after three flights and countless hours of layovers and sitting upright, I was ready to explore.  The Indonesian language is difficult to decipher, so I followed the crowd to get bags, exchange money, and find our guide, Lilia.
Indonesia

I had heard about the infamous Jakarta traffic and prepared for the 36 km, nearly two-hour drive from the airport to the hotel.  Indonesia is 14 hours ahead of California, so we essentially missed Wednesday and arrived on Thursday.

Indonesian breakfast
Indonesian breakfast

After an interesting breakfast – Indonesians eat rice at every meal, as well as meats and seafood – we headed off to our guide’s public school – SMP 49 in east Jakarta. During Ramadan I wasn’t sure I’d be able to eat or drink much, so I fueled up!
Indonesia

As we drove into the school, we were greeted by students hanging over the railings and the teachers and administrator in the parking lot.  We were surprised to learn that it was a school holiday for the start of Ramadan, yet the students and teachers came to school anyways just to meet us.  They made us feel like celebrities as we exited our bus!

Ramadan
Indonesia school

 We began with a faculty meeting to discuss global education and get to know each other.  It was interesting that the principal began and ended the meeting with prayers. Indonesia

We spent the next hour working in classrooms.  To our surprise, the English teacher wanted us to teach his students, so we launched into a discussion about our schools, families, and culture of America.  Notice the uniforms in this 8th grade English classroom – especially the sneakers!  My partner, Amy, is from Chico, California, and we had prepared a Prezi on her iPad which really came in handy.

The classrooms were sparsely decorated and moderately air conditioned.  Students here test into the school, so they are considered high-achieving.  They are extremely fluent in English, although some are reluctant to speak.  It was interesting to me that a student leader rose when we entered, then asked the rest of the class to do the same.  They greeted us, said a prayer, then took their seats.
Indonesian school
Indonesian school
They are fascinated with American teens and really loved hearing about our own kids and students.  They said they love Twitter and American movies!
Everywhere we went and everything we did they documented with video and photos – the teachers are so eager to learn about what American classrooms are like and how we teach.  I was impressed with the emphasis on behavior and respect, as evidenced by signs all around the school.

I was touched by how delighted the school was with our visit, and how honored and respected they made us feel.  I really think that these students and teachers have so much in common with us in the US – they want to learn, improve and have great hope for their futures. We left with happy hearts and new connections to help us learn to be better global citizens.

Typical meal at Ramadan breaking the fast
Typical meal at Ramadan breaking the fast

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Follow Me:
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