Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Schools Team Up to Turn Off the TV

According to a recent Nielsen survey (November 2009), the average American kid ages 6-11 is spending more than 30 hours a week in front of the tube.

Younger kids spend even more time than that!

Parents watch what foods their kids eat. They monitor the toys they buy for their kids. They make sure their kids get a good night’s sleep. But do they supervise TV viewing with that same kind of care?


The American Academy of Pediatrics says that establishing healthy TV habits is one of the most important things a parent can do. As a principal, you can help parents do their job by raising awareness and providing them with helpful advice. In your next school-to-home newsletter, you might plan to share these tips from AAP for “Building a Balanced TV Diet.”

Watch what kids eat and watch what they watch.
How much your kids eat has a big impact on their health; so does how much TV they watch.
● Chart your family's current TV intake; list all TV shows watched in a week.
● Discuss how much time your family spends with TV, which programs are worthwhile, and which can be dropped in favor of other activities.
● Then limit your child's TV viewing to one to two hours of quality programming a day. Take advantage of high-quality programs offered on DVD or from other sources.

Know what's inside the box.
You carefully read the labels on the foods your children eat. Do the same with TV. Lots of sugary sweets are not good for kids. Neither are programs with violence, lewd language, and sexual overtones.
● Read the TV listings and reviews.
● Preview programs before your kids see them. Talk to teachers and pediatricians to learn what they recommend.
● Select TV programs that build interest in other activities, such as reading, hobbies, or the outdoors.

Add plenty of nutritious content.
Look for TV “main dishes” with educational content and positive characters and values.

Sit down with a good "TV meal" -- don't just snack away.
Don't let your children just “watch TV.” The next time your children ask, “Can I watch TV?” ask them what specific program they want to watch. Help your children get in the habit of watching one TV program, then turning the TV off and doing something else. Involve your children in setting TV rules.
● Don't let your children watch TV until after their homework or chores are done.
● Make that extra effort to watch some shows together. By watching together, you're telling your children you care. “Co-viewing” can lead to lasting educational benefits.
● Tape quality shows and view them at a later time.

Put down the clicker and get some family exercise.
TV should not replace active play. Your TV diet will be most successful when it includes lots of “family exercises,” such as family discussions and activities. TV programs should be springboards that spur curiosity, discussion, and learning.


Another thing you can do is to initiate a TV Turnoff Week in your school. TV Turnoff Week can help to raise awareness about TV viewing as it helps parents and kids take control of the electronic media in their lives instead of letting it control them. Or perhaps your school’s PTO leadership will see the value in this idea and spearhead a school-wide effort -- and maybe even a school-wide Game Night event -- during one of 2010's TV Turnoff Weeks, April 19-25 and September 19-25.

It's not too early to join thousands of other schools and community organizations that are organizing special events to get out this very important message. Start planning now with TV Turnoff’s Six Steps to a Great Turnoff.

Note: The "TV Turnoff Week" Web site is not very active these days. It will not be updated for the Turnoff Weeks in 2010. The links on the site for ordering an Organizer’s Kit are not working at this time. But don’t let that deter you. And be sure to check with the folks at your local Barnes&Noble store. Many stores are planning special events during this year's TV Turnoff Weeks.


The Elephant in the Living Room: Make Television Work for Your Kids
You might even use this book as a “parent book club” selection. Use this discussion guide to guide a group discussion.

The Smart Parent’s Guide to Kids’ TV
This book provides practical techniques and strategies to assist parents in dealing with television in the lives of their children. The book is out of print, but many new and used copies are available at the link above.

Monday, December 14, 2009

NBPTS To Certify Principals Too

Last week, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), the organization that sets and maintains the standards for teacher excellence, launched the National Board Certification for Educational Leaders (NBCEL), which includes the development of National Board Certification for Principals.

“Just like our board certification process for teachers, we are working to create a rigorous and meaningful process that identifies what principals should know and be able to do,” said Joseph A. Aguerrebere, NBPTS president and chief executive officer, during a webcast that introduced the new program on December 8. “Just like board certification -- which is a career stage that is well accepted in other professions like medicine or accounting or architecture -- educators, more particularly principals, will be able to reach for a higher bar, achieve it, and be recognized for it.”

Like the teacher certification process that has been in place for 20 years, the process for certifying principals will be comprehensive and rigorous, and it will involve principals in creating a portfolio of evidence that confirms achievement of the standards of leadership, Aguerrebere explained. He added that it will be real, authentic, and relevant to the job; it will be tightly linked to performance and results for students; and it will be the gold standard for the profession -- a professional growth experience second to none in the field.

“The National Board is moving rapidly from a model focusing on one teacher at a time to a new model that focuses on a school at a time,” said Robert Wise, chairman of NBPTS. “It’s an exciting new era where the National Board framework has the potential to drive school-wide and district-wide change.”

In a recent NBPTS survey, 83 percent of school leader respondents and 69 percent of district leader respondents expressed interest in National Board Certification for Principals, which is expected to become available in 2011. Both school- and district-level leaders were most interested in a certification that would better prepare principals to lead systemic instructional improvement.


National Board Certification for Educational Leaders Launch
View a December 8, 2009, webcast of the meeting at which NBPTS announced its principal certification program. (Running time: 1:30:00)

National Board Certification for Principals
Read the latest news about the program, or sign up for email updates about it.

National Board Cerification for Principals Brochure
This is the latest (12/4/2009) principal certification brochure. Certification will become available in 2011. (PDF format)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Teachers Got Talent!

So what hidden talents can be found among the teachers on your staff? Have you a teacher who can nail a back flip? A staff member who can do a spot-on Donald Duck or Barney the Dinosaur impression? A co-worker who can balance a stick on the end of his nose?

Why not videotape teachers performing their special talents and let students vote for the most impressive act? Post your teachers’ talent videos on SchoolTube and watch the excitement build as teachers vie to win the [Your School Name’s] Got Talent competition!

You might even turn your teacher talent show into a school fundraiser. Students could pay a dime per vote. For just a buck they could purchase ten tickets and stuff their favorite teacher’s ballot box. Or perhaps students will divide their votes among your school’s talented teachers by placing tickets in more than one box.

Isn’t it time to unearth your teachers’ secret talents and share them with the world? What a great, fun way to build a sense of school community!


Teachers’ Wacky Talents

Teachers’ “Thriller” Dance

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Blog Bits #2:
Welch's Garden Grants
Parent Engagement Toolkit
Math Fun for Students

My files are full of ideas to share, so from time to time I will clean out my files by sharing a few “bits” --- things of interest, things to think about, or things to share with your staff or students. Following is my second batch of blog bits of principal concern and interest.


Welch's® and Scholastic Parent & Child® Magazine have launched a unique Harvest Grants program to help 100 winning schools nationwide grow fruit and vegetable gardens. Thousands of school children nationwide will have the opportunity to participate in this unique, hands-on learning experience that can help bring to life subjects such as science, math, and even literacy.

Starting this month, K-8 teachers are invited to apply to win one of 100 Harvest Grants through the Scholastic Web site http://scholastic.com/harvest/. Entries will be judged by experts at the National Gardening Association, who will select two schools in every state to receive a Welch's Harvest Grant: Welch's will award 100 garden packages, together valued at $35,000, to the winning schools. Five schools will receive $1,000 packages; 25 schools will receive $500 packages; and 70 schools will receive $250 packages. Each package will be filled with a variety of tools, seeds, and educational materials that will help students connect with nature and better understand the origins of their food supply. Deadline for submission is February 6, 2010. For complete details and official rules go to http://scholastic.com/harvest/.


How many U.S. students drop out of school each year? Would you have guessed more than a million? Approximately 1.3 million students drop out each year. That’s more than 7,000 students each school day, or nearly one in three students. Nearly 50 percent of African American and Hispanic students do not complete high school on time.

In an effort to attack that national disgrace, America’s Promise Alliance has teamed with the Annie E. Casey Foundation to create a Parent Engagement Toolkit. The kit aims to engage parents and community leaders together to solve the dropout problem. The kit is based on three priorities that are critical to student success throughout a child’s academic. Those “3 A’s” are

Attendance Every Day -- ensure children go to school regularly;
Achievement Every Year - monitor and help children make satisfactory progress each year; and
Attainment Over Time - set high expectations for children and plan for attaining their long-term goals.

Those three priorities were identified because each one is critical to student success throughout a child’s academic career. Each one is heavily influenced by the actions and thinking of parents as well as educators, community-based providers and students themselves.

The kit provides parent and teacher surveys, a blueprint for involving parents in focus groups that identify barriers and challenges to student success, and more ideas for involving parents in the school improvement process.


If your school includes students in the upper elementary or middle school grades, provide them with the math problem below to solve. (Answers are shown in orange.) Do students notice the symmetry of the answers that result?

1 x 1 = 11
11 x 11 = 121
111 x 111 = 12321
1111 x 1111 = 1234321
11111 x 11111 = 123454321
111111 x 111111 = 12345654321
1111111 x 1111111 = 1234567654321
11111111 x 11111111 = 123456787654321
111111111 x 111111111 = 12345678987654321

Before presenting the problem, you might set a few ground rules:

Name please. Write your name at the top of your paper.

“Show me the work!” The detailed math must be shown for all steps of the problem.

Watch for the Prize Patrol. All correct answers will be entered into a contest. One winner’s paper will be drawn at random and the winner will be presented with a special prize. (If you have a deep prize drawer, you might even have multiple winners. How about a winner at each grade level?)

What a fun -- and educational -- way to keep kids engaged on a rainy indoor-recess day!