Online Gaming is the New Social Currency!

Written by Jacey Dexter, Elementary Principal on .

Many parents feel like this guy!

Here are some key issues to be aware of if your child is going to be involved in online gaming.

Today’s families are faced with the challenge of navigating the ever-changing complexity of technology with their children. How much screen time is too much? When should your child get a smartphone? Should your child have access to social media? Should your child game online?

Believe it or not, there are many benefits to your child gaming online if they are mature enough to do so. Gaming can improve processing speed and problem solving skills, multitasking skills, and encourage leadership qualities. It can also allow your child to expand his/her social circle and make new friends. However, you need to know and understand that by gaming online, your child may be exposed to more peer pressure, it can put personal information at risk, and your child may become painfully aware of differences between your family values and the values/expectations in other families’ households. The online gaming world is vast, and your child will test boundaries with language and behavior.

The key to making online gaming beneficial to your child is to be engaged in their experience. Talk to your child about the importance of privacy and set boundaries. Once you establish rules and boundaries, do not negotiate. It’s good to establish the ground rules in collaboration with your child, but be clear about these boundaries, consistency is key. Pre-plan what to do if they are exposed to something that makes them uncomfortable (it will happen!). Keep online gaming out of their bedrooms - I encourage you to keep their experience in a public space of the home where you can hear the conversations that are taking place. I would also suggest avoiding headphones altogether.

One way to understand if your child is mature enough for online gaming is to consider whether they are capable of separating from the game appropriately, based on the house rules you establish. If the rule is no gaming after 7pm, but your child has a tantrum when it’s time to put the game down, then they are not ready for online gaming. The same rule can be applied to younger children using iPads, phones, even the TV. An unhealthy relationship with technology can lead to social isolation, addiction, and attention deficits. If your child is already struggling with separating from their technology, you’re not alone. You can read the article - How to End Screen Time Without the Struggle for some helpful ideas. Remember, the benefits of gaming are negated if your child isn’t spending time outside playing regularly and fostering healthy peer relationships in real life (IRL).

Ultimately, almost all of the questions about technology and online gaming will be answered differently by every family. Online gaming is not inherently bad and can be very beneficial to children but can be harmful when elementary-age children are gaming unsupervised. You can also check out the presentation from our Coffee and Conversation about Online Gaming with additional information including setting parental controls on different devices.

Exciting News - 5th Grade Legacy Gift

Written by Seth Pozzi, Head of School on .

Our 5th grade class spent some time today deliberating and ultimately voting on their Class of 2019 Legacy Gift. Part of today's discussion included looking at a video from the 2019 Morehouse College Commencement, at which Robert Smith announced his family will pay off the graduates’ student loans. This is quite a legacy to leave. 

While we don’t necessarily have that same level of resources to work with laughing, we wanted to help put the funds our 5th grade families raised this year to good use. Today, the children debated three options:

Image result for manual outdoor bottle filler station Image result for scholarship

Outdoor Café

Add high top tables and seating outside the library for students (and/or teachers) to enjoy.

Water Bottle Station

Purchase/install a water bottle refill station for children to use, instead of the drinking fountain.


Establish a one-time need-based scholarship to assist a family with a portion of their annual tuition.  

In the end, here is how the votes broke down.

In the very near future, we will be purchasing and installing the new water bottle filling station. As soon as the station is installed, we will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony on campus. While we anticipate that the installation will happen after the end of the school year, the class of 2019 will be invited to attend (in person or virtually) for the ribbon cutting. We will also have a plaque representing the class. Stay tuned for more information.

And, thank you Class of 2019!

Emotional Intelligence: Why teach it to teachers?

Written by Robin Gee, Preschool Director on .

Emotional Intelligence
Why teach it to teachers?

February (2019) School-Wide Professional Development
As you know, Preschool closes early twice a year for school-wide Professional Development. Last month’s workshop: Emotional Intelligence (EI) in the Preschool Setting was led by Gwen Bagley, one of the preeminent experts on EI in Early Childhood Education. EI is the ability to utilize emotions and apply them to tasks, for example thinking and problem-solving during a highly emotional event or situation. Having the ability to manage emotions, including controlling your own, as well as cheering up or calming down another person is Emotional Intelligence.

At the workshop, Gwen outlined four key components of EI: self-awareness, self-management, managing distressing emotions, and social awareness. As adult learners, we tried out some tools to help us understand our own strengths and develop areas where we are less strong. We also looked at how “emotional hijacks” can get in the way of effective relationships.

Why do we need Emotionally Intelligent Teachers?
EI is critically important for Early Childhood Educators for two reasons:

  • Reason 1 - Teachers with higher EI are more effective, have better parent-partnerships and make better decisions.
  • Reason 2 - In order for teachers to help children develop EI, they must be able to model and discuss their own emotions with children. You can't teach if you can't do!

Emotionally Intelligent people know how to make the workplace, and the world, a better place. Daniel Goleman, one of the best-known writers and researchers on Emotional Intelligence (Why It Can Matter More Than the IQ) states that it is Emotional Intelligence that drives a person to excellence both personally and professionally.

Tips for Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child

Acknowledge Perspective and Empathize  
You can’t prevent (and actually wouldn't want to prevent) most conflicts, upsets, or injustices. But when your child is upset, empathize. Just being understood helps humans let go of troubling emotions. Empathizing doesn’t mean you agree, just that you see her side, too. Remember she is entitled to her perspective. Feeling understood triggers biochemicals that travel in the neural pathways. Each time you empathize with your child, you’re strengthening these neural pathways to learn how to self-soothe. As your child grows, these pathways will be stronger and allow her to eventually self-soothe without your guidance. As adults, it is not our job to solve the problem. Empathize, and if necessary, help your child reflect on how she might want to resolve (or not resolve) the issue.

Allow Expression
Children can’t differentiate their emotions and them-selves. Accept their emotions rather than deny or minimize them. Minimizing a child’s emotions creates a belief that feelings are shameful or unacceptable (e.g. "Boys don't cry..."). Disapproving of fear or anger won’t stop him from having those feelings but it may well force him to repress them. Teach that feelings are understandable and part of being human. Your acceptance helps your child accept his emotions which in turn helps your child to resolve and move on.

Listen to Feelings
Rage doesn’t begin to dissipate until it feels heard. Listen to the feeling your child is expressing. Once the child feels they have been heard or expressed themselves, they can let go and get on with life. Resist the urge to protect your child from hurt feelings. The nature of healthy human emotions is to move through us, swamp us, and then pass away. Children can be terrified of their strong emotions, so they try to fend them off to feel safe. Tantrums are nature’s way to help children vent. 

Teach Problem-Solving
Teach your child to feel emotions and tolerate them without always needing to act on them. Once emotions are understood and accepted, the feelings lose their charge and begin to dissipate. This leaves an opening for problem-solving. Children just need our help to brainstorm constructive solutions to problems.  With coaching, we can empower children to handle their feelings in a positive way. It is important to not problem-solve for your child, but to be a participant in their problem solving.

Play it Out
When you notice a negative pattern developing, recognize that your child has some BIG feelings he doesn’t know how to handle, and step in with the BEST medicine: Play! Help him to work through those feelings by playing a game. Be creative, be silly, and change the tone, change the environment. All children experience BIG feelings on a daily basis. They often feel powerless and pushed around, angry, sad, scared, or jealous. Emotionally healthy children process these feelings through play. Your child cannot put these emotional conflicts into words, but he can play them out symbolically and resolve most of the time. Remember: laughter releases hormones similar to tears, but laughter can be a lot more fun!

Taboo Topics: Discussing with children

Written by Seth Pozzi, Head of School on .

“Why are some people racist?” How do you answer that question to a 4th grader? What if you are a teacher? How would you address this question with 24 children staring up at you? Or, how do you respond as a parent when your child asks an awkward question in public?

While the question in this TED Talk was not specifically asked in our school, it’s a salient reminder of the importance of small moments that happen all the time in school. It’s also a reminder that teachers have to make many consequential split-second decisions throughout the day.

February is Black History Month. We have some special conversations and presentations happening in different age groups and classrooms to further children’s interest and understanding of topics surrounding race and black history. Perhaps even more important than these teacher (or presenter) initiated conversations is how we respond when children ask questions during any month throughout the year.

This could be questions about race, puberty, fairness, LGBTQ+ issues, homelessness, religion, something they have heard about politics, the list goes on… If we simply shut down the topic or brush past it, this can send the message that their question is too taboo to talk about. It's not our job to teach children what to think. As Liz Kleinrock puts it: "It is about giving them the tools and strategies and language and opportunities to practice how to think."

Getting comfortable with uncomfortable conversations is a hot topic that will be discussed in our March 2019 newsletter. Stay tuned for some more tips about what this means in a school setting. And, if you watch one Ted Talk this month, let it be this one: “How to teach kids to talk about taboo topics.

To sweeten, or not to sweeten, that is the question...

Written by Jacey Dexter, Elementary Principal on .

Critical Thinking in Writer’s Workshop

You may have heard that the USDA recently rolled back restrictions on healthy school lunches. Since 2012, schools had been required to meet healthier school lunch guidelines, requiring whole grain-rich breads/pastas, lower sodium levels, and phasing out high fat/flavored milk. Beginning in 2019, these requirements are being lifted, and schools can once again serve chocolate milk, as well as partial grains and higher-sodium foods. While the political debate wages on, so does the debate at WHPS. Some of our Upper Elementary students are taking a deep dive into this issue, using and honing critical thinking skills in the process.

Thinking Critically (there are multiple perspectives on every argument)
In Writer’s Workshop, Room 19 students have been learning what goes into a strong Argument Essay. This includes some pretty sophisticated work: collecting evidence, developing a position, outlining, using evidence to back up a claim, and unpacking quotes to show how they relate to your claim, all while learning how to convey this information with their own “author’s voice.”

Connected to the Real-World
The chocolate milk debate serves as a model for children in learning to develop and argue their position. Each student had an opportunity to collect evidence and develop a strong position about the issue, in this case chocolate milk. They then learned how to unpack quotes and present reasons for their claim. 

Debating & Disagreeing Respectfully (can someone PLEASE teach this to the adults)
The next step in this unit of study is a debate, in which students will practice the art of persuasion: backing up their statements with evidence while also applying what they’ve learned about disagreeing respectfully with one another.

Leveraging their Passion
All of this is a primer for the students to take a stance on a cause or issue they are personally passionate about. After the in-class chocolate milk debates, children will work to transfer the skills they have learned into their own writing project. They will develop and eventually publish their own Argument Essays, which they will share with an authentic audience of parents and peers at their next Publishing Celebration.

Third Grade Prepares for the Next Level
This is one of my favorite culminating units in Writer's Workshop. There is a lot of emphasis throughout 3rd grade on understanding and working with non-fiction texts and features (Table of Contents, Headings, Bold Words, Captions, Photographs, Graphs, Charts, Illustrations, Glossary, Index). It’s a sweet reward to see 4th/5th graders using all the information and skills they have gained in our program to go out and change the world.

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