November 2010

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Resilience, Research, and Educational Reform

Sara Truebridge

Post submitted by guest blogger and education consultant Sara Truebridge, EdD. Contact Truebridge at resilienceST@gmail.com.

Resilience is one's ability to spring back from adversity. Those who engage in resilience research view the world and individuals through positive, protective, and preventive models as opposed to traditional problem-based, deficit, pathology models. The vast body of resilience research has provided the foundation for many popular movements, such as asset development, positive youth development, strengths-based practice, and positive psychology.

Resilience research in education focuses on healthy development and successful learning, especially with young people facing difficult life challenges in their homes, schools, and communities. Resilience research emerged over 40 years ago as researchers began asking the question, Why do some children who are threatened by exposure to high-risk environments successfully adapt while others do not? The study of resilience has expanded from an early focus on the individual to a broader, more inclusive focus that situates risk not in children, but rather in a variety of socio-economic systems, institutions, and harmful public and social policies.

Michael Rutter (1979), Bonnie Benard (2003), and other researchers as documented by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine (2004) have already shown that motivation, learning, and the achievement gap are just some areas of education where resilience research has vital implications for practice and policy. Their data indicate that when classroom environments and schools consistently foster caring relationships, maintain high expectations for all students, and provide meaningful opportunities for students to participate and contribute, students from these nurturing environments are more successful in school.

One of the reoccurring messages in resilience research posits the relationship that beliefs have with resilience: resilience begins with what one believes. Educators who possess an understanding of resilience and the belief that student resilience is a process that can be tapped within each student can create educational environments that make a positive contribution to increasing student success. Researchers including Frank Pajares (1992) support the importance of studying beliefs in the context of education because beliefs influence the behaviors of education practitioners, which in turn influence the behaviors and success of their students. Thus, affecting educators' belief systems about student resilience through well designed and supported education preservice or professional development programs are two concrete ways to transfer resilience research into education practice that would promote positive school experiences and education success for all.

Resilience research supports the argument that discussions about education reform and transformation cannot be limited to discussions about best practices as reflected in curriculum and programs. Such best practices are only as good as the practitioners who are able to implement them with their pedagogical best practices, thus creating educational climates conducive to student learning. As Joan Walsh (1997) states, "When there's improvement, it usually isn't that the services per se were different, it's about a change in the person who delivered the service, and the way they delivered it."

If education reform is truly to be grounded in sound research, it is rather interesting to see so many reforms that focus only on band-aid solutions that research has shown can actually be counterproductive to improving education outcomes. Some of these solutions when implemented—including ones that involve extending the school day, increasing homework, purchasing new curriculums and programs, implementing more standardized testing, or creating competitions for resources—prove to be short-sighted. These solutions often sacrifice quality for quantity.

Research consistently finds that education practitioners do not necessarily need to be inundated with new curriculums and programs, and students do not necessarily need more homework and longer school days. Education and resilience researchers consistently find that education practitioners need to be supported if any increase in teaching and learning is to occur and be sustained. One vital, valuable, and cost-effective way to support educators is to provide them with an understanding of the concept of resilience and support them in developing, nurturing, and sustaining practices that allow them to transfer resilience research into their classrooms and schools.

Resilience research in education specifically recognizes three protective factors that, when present in an educational environment, mitigate risk and enhance positive educational climates that promote student engagement, motivation, and self-efficacy, which in turn increase student success. These three protective factors are: (1) fostering caring relationships, (2) conveying high expectations, and (3) promoting opportunities for meaningful participation. So what do these three protective factors look like in a classroom or school?

Strategies that promote caring relationships are as simple to implement as being aware of making personal contact with students every day—something as basic as a "hello" or a smile. Another classroom strategy that promotes caring relationships is getting to know individual students' interests outside of school. Strategies teachers embrace that foster high expectations include encouraging students to develop a "stay with it" attitude and perspective when confronting challenges. Another strategy that conveys high expectations is helping students reframe language from a negative to a positive—instead of a student hearing that he is hyperactive, that particular student could be hearing that he is energetic; instead of being labeled as being argumentative, that student could begin to identify herself as having conviction, etc. Strategies that encourage meaningful participation and contribution include giving students more voice and choice in classroom and school issues. Another strategy that fosters meaningful participation and contribution for students is when classrooms and schools engage in peer-helping, cross-age helping, and cooperative learning.

It is unfortunate that, all too often, education policies and reforms are adopted without sound research and adequate attention paid to the voices in the trenches—our teachers and students. The potent and profound words of Haim Ginott (1972) clearly articulate what many education practitioners already know and what many students agree to be true:

I've come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It's my personal approach that creates the climate. It's my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child's life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or de-humanized.

We are in the midst of an education crisis in the United States. In addressing this crisis, we need to question some of the current policies and practices that have been adopted in the name of education reform. We can start by questioning whether education reform focusing solely on spending more money to alter services, programs, and curriculum may be misdirected.

When we use the semantics and refer to making changes in education as "education reform," we often are compelled to look at the parts of education that are believed to be in need of improvement. Perhaps it is time that we reframe the needs in education by altering semantics and saying that the education system is in need of "transformation." With this perspective, teachers, administrators, policymakers, parents, and students may more readily embrace a theory of change in education, where the change agent resides not with the programs incorporated in the system, but rather within the individuals creating and implementing the system.

Resilience research supports that all children have the capacity for resilience. Individuals with an interest in increasing the education success of all students can benefit by developing a deeper understanding of student resilience and an enhanced awareness regarding the role that one's beliefs have in shaping such a concept. As Patrice De La Ossa (2005) says, "Although schools can make structural changes, until schools address underlying beliefs and perceptions, the educational system is failing our youth and society." Providing education practitioners with opportunities to reflect on their beliefs, especially how they pertain to student resilience, is a positive first step in the goal of improving student success for all.

REFERENCES

Benard, B. (2003). Turnaround teachers and schools. In B. Williams (Ed.), Closing the achievement gap (2nd ed.) (pp. 115–137). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

De La Ossa, P. (2005). "Hear my voice:" Alternative high school students' perceptions and implications for school change. American Secondary Education, 34, 24–39.

Ginott, H. G. (1972). Teacher and child. New York: MacMillan.

National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine (with Committee on Increasing High School Students' Engagement and Motivation to Learn & Board on Children, Youth, and Families Division of Behavioral a Social Sciences and Education). (2004). Engaging schools: Fostering high school students' motivation to learn. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

Pajares, F. (1992). Teachers' beliefs and educational research: Cleaning up a messy construct. Review of Educational Research, 62, 307–332.

Rutter, M. (1979). Protective factors in children's responses to stress and disadvantaged. In M. W. Kent & J. E. Rolf (Eds.), Primary prevention of psychopathology: Social competence in children (pp. 49–74). Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Walsh, J. (1997). The eye of the storm: Ten years on the front lines of new futures—an interview with Otis Johnson and Don Crary. Baltimore, MD: Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Healthy School Communities

Health and Learning News and Updates

News

Giving Thanks for Teachers Who Help Hungry Students: Educator Susan Graham describes a lesson in which students share Thanksgiving meal traditions, from turkey and mashed potatoes to pumpkin pie and even pizza. But recent data show that close to a quarter of U.S. schoolchildren regularly struggle with hunger, and Graham gives thanks to teachers who often use their own money to help them get through the school day. Read more.

Read more »

Sean Slade

Positive Youth Development?

Many people get overwhelmed by what may seem to be new terminology or new approaches—however, more often than not, these phrases explain what people have done or known for quite a while. Take "positive youth development"—not a new term, but one that I'm sure still gets presented every now and then to glazing-over eyes.

What does "positive youth development" mean? Basically, it's actively helping and supporting kids as they mature and grow—not just academically (cognitively), but socially, emotionally, mentally, and physically. It's being proactive in setting up some supports and structures that we know kids need as they progress through childhood and adolescence.

Sound difficult? It shouldn't, because it's what teachers and educators have been doing to varying degrees for decades, and at its foundation is the development of safe, caring environments where kids feel supported, cared about, and heard.

Research has consistently shown that adult caregivers such as teachers and educators—or, in fact, anyone who interacts with kids in the school-community setting—are key to developing positive youth and safe, protective environments (Benard, 1991, 2004; Goldstein & Brooks, 2005; Eccles & Gootman, 2002; Masten & Coatsworth,1998; Werner & Smith, 1982, 1992, 2001, 2005).

Last year, Bonnie Benard and I wrote a chapter in the first Handbook of Positive Psychology in Schools to highlight how kids themselves knew that an adult cared about them and wanted them to succeed. The chapter summarized a decade's worth of sessions that Bonnie and colleague Carol Burgoa had held with students across California, asking a simple question: How do you know if someone cares about you?

The results remind us that it's not difficult and it should not be overlooked. So what did the kids say? Here is a synthesis of their comments from more than a dozen sessions across California over a decade.

Getting to know me:

When I'm bothered, they help me by listening and encouraging me ... they talk to me as a person and friend—not just as a student.

They take the time and ask me, "How was your weekend?"

They greet us and ask, "How are you doing?"

They take time to say hello.

They listen when I'm talking and give eye contact.

They get to know our stories.

Essentially, students highlighted simple acts as ways they knew their teachers cared. They identified actions that take place in many classrooms across the nation every day—actions that should take place in every classroom every day. These include acting friendly, smiling, saying hello (especially outside of class), taking an interest in the student, and noticing when the student is troubled.

When asked what adults can do more of for them, the answers were remarkably similar and succinct:

We need understanding.

We need adults to "be there" for us—you're our second parents.

Be there for us and believe in us so we can count on you.

I need an adult to believe in me.

Positive youth development is not difficult; it is often done, but all too frequently ignored as nothing special or consequential. However, both education researchers and students themselves remind us that people matter and relationships matter.

"At a time when the traditional structures of caring have deteriorated, schools must become places where teachers and students live together, talk with each other, take delight in each other's company."

—Nel Noddings, 1988

"School is a community; it's not a building but about people."

—Anonymous student, 2004

Healthy School Communities

Health and Learning News and Updates

News

Should Canadian schools continue to label students as gifted? Some parents and educators are concerned about the commonly overlooked downsides that come along with the "gifted" label, and some are questioning whether the designation should be applied at all. Many schools in Canada and elsewhere have increased their focus on student-centered education, which aims to capitalize on the students' needs. Many schools also have fewer available resources for separate gifted-education programs. Read more.

New Report Confirms Recession Will Have Lasting Impact on Children's Health: Whole Child Partner America's Promise Alliance's policy affiliate, First Focus, released a new report that underscored the lasting impact of even temporary spells of poverty on children's long-term health. The Effect of the Recession on Child Well-Being, authored by researchers from PolicyLab at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and commissioned by First Focus, examines four areas—health, food security, housing stability, and maltreatment—and reviews the relationship of each to the well-being of children during recessions both past and present.

Report on Kids' Health Shows Mixed Results: National Children's Hospital and its partners have published a report based on reviewed data from 10 indicators for pediatric health in the Columbus, Ohio, community. The good news is that more children appear to have access to health care and early births are decreasing, while the bad news is that obesity in some populations has not decreased and teen suicide and asthma have increased. Read more about the report.

Resources

About KidsHealth: Browse this database to find hundreds of articles on a variety of child health topics in the AboutKidsHealth Health A–Z Library. Articles include topics such as common health problems, first aid, safety, nutrition, child care, behavior school, and relationships.

Tips for Launching SEL After School: This article on the Edutopia website provides practical advice for planning and fundraising to launch your own after-school social and emotional learning (SEL) program. Whole Child Partners the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) and Educators for Social Responsibility (ESR) are referenced as good resources for getting your program started.

Take Action

Peaceful Pathways: Reducing Exposure to Violence: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is partnering with local grant makers to offer grants for community-based projects to improve the health and health care for vulnerable populations and to reduce violence in traditionally underserved communities.

Up to eight matching grants of between $50,000 and $200,000 each will be awarded. Organizations must be nominated by a diversity-focused funder that is principally concerned with the community to be served. Projects should be planned and led by members of the specific racial, gender, tribal, or other disadvantaged community to be served, and projects must be culturally appropriate. The grantee is expected to work with the nominating funder and/or additional grantmakers (who need not be diversity-focused funders). Funding partners may include independent and private foundations, family and community foundations, and corporate and other philanthropies. Matching funds must represent new funding specifically designated to support the proposed project. Up to 25 percent of the match for Peaceful Pathways may consist of in-kind services. Deadline: Rolling.

Healthy School Communities is a worldwide ASCD effort to promote the integration of health and learning and the benefits of school-community collaboration. It is part of a large, multiyear plan to shift public dialogue about education from a narrow, curriculum-centric and accountability system focus to a whole child approach that encompasses all factors required for successful student outcomes. Visit the Healthy School Communities group on ASCD EDge and share everything from ideas and solutions to common concerns.

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Helping ESL Students Achieve Success in Language and Life

Sally Behrenwald

Post submitted by Sally Behrenwald, who has taught English as a second/foreign language to students ranging from 2 years old through adulthood. From 2005 to 2007, she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer, teaching in a public school in eastern Ukraine. Currently, she is an intern at the Ohio Program of Intensive English at Ohio University.

"The homework wasn't late—I was late. The homework was done two days ago."

"My friends do not understand. They are jealous that I am here, but I wish I was back with them."

"You mean if I use someone else's ideas but put them in my own words, I must use a citation?"

"I want to meet American students, but I don't know what to say."

"Thank you for talking to me. When I talk to my academic advisor, I think he does not want to listen to me except about classes. I think you are more my advisor than he is."

As a university English as a second language (ESL) instructor, these are the type of conversations I have every week—students trying to figure out college life, perplexed by new cultural norms, and rejoicing in small victories. They have come from all over—a majority are Chinese, but I've had students from South Korea, Taiwan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and the United Arab Emirates in my classes over the last two years. Many of them are what are referred to as "provisionally admitted students": Once they finish their English classes, they'll start working on their bachelor degrees, and it's difficult for them to see my class as anything but an unnecessary evil between them and academic classes, whether or not they have the skills needed to succeed there. I teach them those skills, but more than that, my job goes beyond teaching grammar and vocabulary to teaching my students what it means to be a successful student at an American university.

Like American college students, my students are confronted with what, for some of them, is their first taste of freedom. They stay up too late partying or playing video games (and I'll never forget the student who flunked my class due to spending all his free time, including when he should have been in my class, playing an MMORPG). They form romantic relationships, both with students from their culture and with American students. They get sick. They get homesick. They hate the cafeteria food and dream of the day they can move off campus. They get a car and then have to figure out a) where to park it legally, b) how to avoid getting speeding tickets, and c) how not to freak out their teacher when they confess to driving in front of an oncoming train (I only wish I was making this part up!). They do their homework, but sometimes they don't. They take their exams and hope for the best.

But there are many successes, both in and out of the classroom. Lengthy conversations with American students where neither party runs out of things to say. That placement test score that jumps you up a level to full-time academic. Hosting dinners or performances to educate others about your culture. A shy girl giving a five-minute speech to her classmates. Friendships between students from different countries who find themselves in the same class.

In my career, these successes are what keep me going when I don't think I can stand to look at another run-on sentence. This fall, "Steve," one of my ESL students—one who struggled with writing and grammar—applied to be a cafeteria supervisor. He had me look at his resume and help him think of possible answers to interview questions. The day of the interview, he showed up to class in a suit and tie. "You know, Steve, even if you don't get the job, I'm proud of you," I said, trying to soften the possible blow.

"I think I'm going to get the job," he told me.

And he got it.

Do you know any international college students? Were you one yourself? How does the influx of international students change academic classroom dynamics once the students get out of ESL classes? What are some suggestions for helping them integrate into the university culture?

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Historical Perspectives on What Is "Developmentally Appropriate"

Thomas Armstrong

Post submitted by Thomas Armstrong, PhD, ASCD author and learning and human development expert. Connect with Armstrong on his blog and follow him on Twitter.

Thirty-five years ago, when I was at the beginning of my teaching career, Piaget was all the rage. We read his books and puzzled over how observation of children interacting with real-life situations could enable us to understand the development of their minds. We also were able to catch the tail end of interest in the work of Freud and saw how children's early struggles with issues like autonomy, jealousy, and initiative could affect their ability to emotionally manage the ups and downs of life later on in development.

These days, it seems that Piaget and Freud are hardly ever mentioned, let alone read, in education discourse. Instead, the buzzwords of the day are accountability, standards, data, and academic achievement. If we're interested in the child's development at all, it's usually to help us understand how to get the child to achieve academically. This explains why we are now expecting children to master academic material at younger and younger ages.

Again, back in my early days of teaching, early childhood education was seen primarily in terms of play experiences that children created out of their own imagination. Today we have preK–16 programs that attempt to foist the atmosphere of later academic learning on children as young as 3 or 4. And the sad thing is that the child development experts of our day are busy researching a child's ability to master academic learning in the early years, rather than questioning whether or not this is such a good thing in the first place.

Twenty years ago, I wrote a column on learning for Parenting Magazine, and when I did the research for an article on computers in education, it was difficult to find anyone in the field who would come out and say that children below the age of 4 should have access to computers. Now, if I suggest that children under 4 not be exposed to computers, I'm considered out of touch with the times. Thirty years ago, the National Association for the Education of Young Children wrote a position paper which stated that young children should not be subjected to standardized tests. Today, they have abandoned this position and talk instead about the different sorts of tests that young children appear now to need.

Is there anyone with a historical sensibility who can see how vastly we've shifted over two or three decades in our understanding of what children need? I believe we need to keep a historical perspective in order to see more clearly how the concept of "developmentally appropriate" has been perverted into a mandate to teach things that were clearly developmentally inappropriate 30 years ago. And those of us with the experience to see the broad view of education over 30 or 40 years ought to raise our voices and let it be known that what is going on with young children and academic learning is not OK and can only serve to harm their deeper sensibilities and interfere with their full development as whole human beings.

Watch Thomas Armstrong's archived webinar from last week where he explores multiple intelligences theory and the eight intelligences and explores the importance of utilizing the theory to reach a diverse group of learners.

Klea Scharberg

Broadening Understanding of Others and Ourselves

This week, November 15–19, is International Education Week (IEW). Begun in 2000 and sponsored by the U.S. Departments of State and Education, IEW is an opportunity for exchange students worldwide to share their cultures with their host communities and highlight the benefits of international educational exchange programs, including

International Education Week 2010

  • Promoting mutual understanding;
  • Bringing people of different nations together to share ideas and compare values;
  • Increasing awareness and adoption of alternative, multifaceted approaches to learning;
  • Nurturing leadership skills that prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century, such as foreign language acquisition and problem-solving skills;
  • Increasing self-development and awareness leading to enhanced self-confidence and self-esteem; and
  • Preparing citizens to live, work, and compete in the global economy.

The worldwide celebration of IEW offers a unique opportunity to reach out to people in every nation, to develop a broader understanding of world cultures and languages, and to reiterate the conviction that enduring friendships and partnerships created through international education and exchange are important for a secure future for all countries. You can make a difference by sharing with others your culture—your history, government, language, food, holidays, school system, and traditions.

According to the Institute of International Education's 2010 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, more than 260,000 U.S. students studied abroad in 2008–09 and nearly 691,000 international students enrolled in a U.S. higher education institution in 2009–10. These numbers do not include the thousands of students who participate in high school-level exchange programs. Spotlight international education in your classroom, college or university, and community with these suggested activities and resources.

"[Study abroad] will advance your education. It will expand your sense of possibilities and it will make you more competitive for the jobs of the future. But more importantly it will also show you just how much we all have in common—no matter where we live in the world."

—U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama

In my junior year of high school, I participated in a yearlong exchange program. I left my home in Detroit, Michigan, and lived with a family in Fürth, a city near Nuremberg, Germany. I had a year of language classes and curiosity before I departed and language fluency and a changed worldview when I returned. I attended Hardenberg Gymnasium, a school that provides college preparatory secondary education.

The school system and advanced coursework, especially in mathematics and sciences, were different than my American experience—I even received a B (or a 2, in the German grading system) in my English as a foreign language course! But what was similar was what happens when you put a lot of teenagers in a room together: We asked questions of each other. We learned about each other's values and cultures, homes and schools, hopes and fears. I'm still friends with many of them, though we're scattered around the world today.

Also important during my year of new experiences were the teachers at Hardenberg. It is tempting in these situations to observe, rather than actively participate, for fear of making a mistake. One teacher, Frau Scholz, understood that I would not be able to participate in our German classes at the same level as the German students. During a writing and comprehension exercise, the class read a book and wrote an essay for the exam. Frau Scholz knew that I would not be able to read the book in the same timeframe as the rest of the class, so she challenged me in another way. She asked me to write my essay exam on a recent class trip to Berlin—what I experienced and how it affected my understanding of German history. I remember receiving a good grade on my essay, but it was covered in the dreaded red ink of corrections.

I felt embarrassed when Frau Scholz asked me to read my essay aloud to the class, even though I knew that mastering German grammar took time. I showed my classmates the red-covered workbook and, like all supportive groups, my classmates held up their essay workbooks—with red corrections on every page. We were all learners and all had made mistakes. I ready my essay and felt proud of what I had done. I felt closer to and more engaged in my class. Sixteen years later, I don't remember everything I experienced during my exchange, but I remember Frau Scholz.

I went on to study abroad during college—one semester in Belgium and one semester in Russia—and my family hosted four exchange students—one from Sweden, one from Australia, one from Belgium, and one from Spain. Were you an exchange student or did your family host a student? Did you participate in a study abroad program? How did your experience shape your view of the world and education?

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

The Science of Learning

Let's say that you're a 5th grade teacher about to develop a lesson on gravity. Before you start planning, ask yourself: how will I know if each student has a correct and complete understanding of gravity, and what do I expect each student to achieve by the end of the lesson? To answer those questions, does it help to understand a little bit about how your students learn and their memories, attention, and reasoning? Will that knowledge help you create a more engaging and challenging lesson and support struggling students? Yes!

Believe it or not, many teachers leave educator preparation programs with little to no knowledge of how students learn and develop. Even those with some knowledge of child and adolescent development rarely learn how to translate this knowledge into practice. The good news is that research-based reform programs, school-based and after-school programs, professional development opportunities, and other great resources grounded in the principles of the developmental sciences can transform the way we educate the whole child.

Whether you have just begun to explore the science behind learning and development or are a seasoned expert at aligning classroom experiences with developmental concepts and coursework, we invite you to join us throughout November to learn more about and contribute to the conversation on the developmental sciences.

Start by downloading the November Whole Child Podcast to hear from three experts:

Be sure to visit WholeChildEducation.org throughout the month for more resources, advice from experts, and perspectives from the field.

Are you seeing the developmental sciences applied in your school?

Healthy School Communities

Health and Learning News and Updates

News

Student Wellness Council Promotes Healthier Choices for Teens: High school students at Lackawanna Trail High School have created their own Student Wellness Council to promote wellness and healthy eating in their school district. Read how students have included broadcasting health tips on a radio show and selling fruit smoothies during lunch at school in their activities.

Las Cruces Mayor Helps Kids Stay Healthy: Las Cruces, N.Mex., Mayor Ken Miyagishima is showing his support for the Healthy Kids Las Cruces program by encouraging the town's 3rd graders to develop healthy habits and live healthy lifestyles. Read more about the 5-2-1-0 Challenge and how the mayor is spreading the word about healthy eating and physical activity to the community.

Ending Childhood Hunger: Actor Jeff Bridges hopes to end childhood hunger in America by 2015. Read about his No Kid Hungry campaign to learn how you can take part in the movement.

ADHD Rates Rise Among Children, CDC Says: A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report indicates that about 9.5 percent of 73,000 parents surveyed in 2007–08 reported having a child diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, up from nearly 8 percent in 2003. The report, involving children ages 4 to 17, shows that about two-thirds of those with ADHD are receiving medication.

Resources

Dribbling Drills from Whole Child Partner SPARK: This month we're featuring Dribbling Drills from the Basketball unit in the SPARK 3-6 PE Manual, which includes a free lesson plan, assessment tool, and instructional video.

Energy Balance 101: Energy Balance: 101 offers teachers, families, and communities resources, lesson plans, and tips to support healthy eating and physical activity for children.

Bully Free Canada: Canadians will recognize November 14–20, 2010, as National Bullying Awareness Week. BullyingAwarenessWeek.org offers resources for planning local bullying awareness campaigns. Example day plans are available for each day of the week.

Middle School, a Developmentally Critical Time for Health Education: The Michigan Departments of Education and Community Health developed a two-page fact sheet to help administrators, teachers, and parents speak about the importance of health education at the middle school level. The fact sheet discusses why the middle school is a developmentally critical time and includes risk-behavior data and other online resources. It also serves as a response to measures some districts are taking to cut or reduce middle school health education due to limited resources.

Take Action

Sixth Biennial Childhood Obesity Conference: The California Department of Public Health, California Department of Education, the University of California-Berkeley, Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health, The California Endowment, and Kaiser Permanente have joined together to host a conference on childhood obesity from June 28 through July 1, 2011, in San Diego, Calif. Leading experts in pediatric obesity will showcase the latest research, evidence-based best practices, and policy and environmental change strategies. Early discount registration ends January 1, 2011. Register and find out more.

Healthy Playground Makeover Sweepstakes: Enter the sweepstakes from Energy Balance:101 and get a chance to win the grand prize of $10,000 to redo a playground, $25,000 in merchandise from Sports Authority, and more. Five runner-up prizes are also available. Deadline to enter is December 1, 2010.

Are childhood hunger, ADHD, bullying, and safe places to play important issues in your school or community?

Healthy School Communities is a worldwide ASCD effort to promote the integration of health and learning and the benefits of school-community collaboration. It is part of a large, multiyear plan to shift public dialogue about education from a narrow, curriculum-centric and accountability system focus to a whole child approach that encompasses all factors required for successful student outcomes. Visit the Healthy School Communities group on ASCD EDge and share everything from ideas and solutions to common concerns.

Klea Scharberg

Knowing All Our Students

In this interview for the Responsive Classroom newsletter, Caltha Crowe, educator and author of Solving Thorny Behavior Problems, discusses the importance of forming strong relationships with students early in the year. When teachers understand the needs and concerns of their students, she says, they can help them to overcome the learning challenges they face.

"The sad fact is that some children, especially those with behavior challenges, go through year after year of school without a positive relationship with a teacher," says Crowe. "We need to find what's likeable in each student, especially the ones who may be hard to like immediately, because they're the ones who need a trusting relationship the most. I watch and listen to the child closely so I can see things from that child's point of view. Relationship-building can pay big dividends in the child's improved behavior and schoolwork."

Part of building a positive classroom environment requires observing how students interact with one another and helping them to feel as though they belong, Crowe explains. She offers exercises for assisting teachers in identifying shy or reticent students who need more help in interacting socially and explains that often students act out when they feel excluded.

"All humans have a basic need to belong. So I pay attention to students' skills in forming relationships, making a place for themselves in the group. The first day of school, my students do the Human Treasure Hunt, which has them mixing and mingling, looking for classmates that fit questions like 'Who likes pizza?' and 'Who has a pet?' I notice who approaches other children, and who hangs back. During my weekly recess duty, I pay attention to who plays with whom and who's usually alone. At dismissal times, I notice who goes home with whom," says Crowe. "I can then help the shy children and the excluded children become a part of the group. Misbehavior and lack of academic success often grow from an unmet need to belong."

Managing a class of 24 to 30 personalities requires educators to understand group dynamics; focus on individuals; execute sound judgment; and most of all, inspire, engage, and motivate students to learn. ASCD Express shares teachers' best practices for organizing physical space, letting go of control, promoting collaboration, and fostering a positive classroom culture.

What is your top classroom management tip?

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