Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Books to Help Your Students Cope with Tragedy

School Library Journal has a list of good books to share with children to help 
them make sense of their often wonderful, but in this case, sometimes challenging and sad world. 

Why Did It Happen? Books to Help Kids Cope with Tragedy

From the School Library Journal.
Parents and teachers will be combing home and library bookshelves over the next few weeks and months for stories to comfort their children and students. While there are no books that specifically address the events that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, there are titles that will ease young fears and offer kids hope. Below you’ll find some recommendations from School Library Journal’s Book Review staff. We welcome your suggestions; please feel free to add them to our comments section.
WhyDiditHappen 162x170 Why Did It Happen? Books to Help Kids Cope with TragedyCohn, Janice. Why Did It Happen? Helping Children Cope in a Violent World. illus. by Gail Owens. Morrow. 1994.
K-Gr 3-Daniel’s friend owns the neighborhood grocery store. When Mr. James is injured during a robbery at his store, the six-year-old child must deal with fear and anger. Helped by his parents, teacher, classmates, and Mr. James himself, Daniel learns how to cope with his feelings. An introduction aimed at parents explains how they can help their children understand the existence of violence and develop compassion and empathy in spite of it. Cohn presents the issue in a sensitive and generally nonthreatening way. The actual assault is never shown and the injury is not serious; just enough is described to initiate discussion. The full-color pastel illustrations provide a comforting view of Daniel and Mr. James’s story, as well as of the multicultural community. Given the presence of violence in almost every community, the topic will, unfortunately, be familiar to most readers. An excellent book for both school librarians and parents to share with their young children.-Mary Rinato Berman, New York Public Library
bad stuff1 170x170 Why Did It Happen? Books to Help Kids Cope with TragedyGellman, Nathan & Thomas Hartman. Bad Stuff in the News: A Guide to Handling the Headlines. North-South/SeaStar. 2002.
Gr 6-10–In the introduction, Rabbi Gellman and Monsignor Hartman explain that their intention is to help readers avoid becoming either overly frightened by or desensitized to the ongoing flood of bad news on television and in the newspapers. In each chapter, they elucidate ways to understand why these things happen as well as ways to fix them, if not now, then as readers grow up. Chapters cover terrorism; school violence; natural disasters; physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; hatred and racism; “bad sportsmanship”; serious illness; and more. The discussions offer definitions and examples, followed by sections called “Stuff to Understand,” about the forces and factors that precipitate such events, and “Stuff You Can Fix,” practical suggestions for coping with disaster or contributing to solutions. The authors emphasize, however, that many problems are for adults to handle. They remind readers that there is oftentimes room for negotiation and mutual understanding between children and parents, and that some things, like clothes, are about taste, which is different from good and bad. They close with the gentle reminder that the world is not yet perfect, but that that is OK. The book is illustrated with collages of headlines. It would be useful in a number of classrooms, including social studies, civics, and journalism, and for initiating discussions on the realities of the destruction of the World Trade Center.–Sylvia V. Meisner, Greensboro Montessori School, NC
OnThatDay Why Did It Happen? Books to Help Kids Cope with TragedyPatel, Andrea. On That Day: A Book of Hope for Children. illus. by author. Tricycle. 2002.
PreS-Gr 2–How does one address the attacks of September 11, 2001, in a picture book for young children? Patel’s efforts to make her own peace with the subject have resulted in a book that does so quite effectively. Her tissue-paper collages depict, at first, a world that is “very big, and really round, and pretty peaceful.” The white expansive backgrounds allow viewers to focus completely on the images and message. The author goes on to explain that “sometimes bad things happen because people act in mean ways and hurt each other on purpose.” (Even preschoolers know this to be true.) The accompanying scene is simply a collage outline of America. Patel then offers a variety of ways that children, or anyone, could help the world: sharing, playing and laughing, taking care of the Earth, and being kind. Concluding pages point to the strength of the goodness that exists; listeners are reminded that they are part of that. Short sentences build into longer, cumulative lines; this repetition plugs into a familiar, oral tradition, while providing reinforcement for the ideas. Both this textual pattern and the circular, connected lines of the art break at the delivery of the terrible news. They resume, subtly, in the denouement. This book will be welcomed by those who want to mark the anniversary of the tragedy with children; it is worth noting that it would also be useful to open a dialogue in the context of any violent act.–Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
good byes 170x170 Why Did It Happen? Books to Help Kids Cope with TragedyRotner, Shelley & Sheila Kelly. Good-Byes. photos. by Shelley Rotner. Millbrook. 2002.
PreS- Gr 1-As readers come to learn there are all kinds of good-byes and at times they can be difficult. Accompanying this simple text are clear color photographs depicting children saying farewell to a host of familiar people from a parent at the start of a school day to the local grocery store owner when as they leave a shop. The author touches on the good-byes of a child who has two homes, between friends when families move, and when a loved one has died and the feelings these events evoke. The author states: “The hardest good-bye is a good-bye that’s forever…” Every page includes a large photograph, except this last one. The book ends on a lighter note with the line: “…but most good-byes are ‘Good-bye for now!’” A superb choice for introducing this subject with young children.-Meghan R. Malone, East Milton Public Library District, MA
terrible thing 170x170 Why Did It Happen? Books to Help Kids Cope with TragedyThe following titles were not reviewed in School Library Journal, but are recommended for libraries:
Holmes. Margaret M. A Terrible Thing Happened. Magination Pr. 2000.

For more books and to read the comments to this article, go to:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Despite unthinkable tragedy, there is still so much good in our world.

In light of December 2012's horrific events, we could all use 
a dose of Mr. Rogers. 

Visit advice on how to talk to young kids about tragic events.  The following article comes from this site: 

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Fred Rogers talks about
Tragic Events in the News
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."

In times of community or world-wide crisis, it's easy to assume that young children don't know what's going on. But one thing's for sure -- children are very sensitive to how their parents feel. They're keenly aware of the expressions on their parents' faces and the tone of their voices. Children can sense when their parents are really worried, whether they're watching the news or talking about it with others. No matter what children know about a “crisis,” it’s especially scary for children to realize that their parents are scared.

Some Scary, Confusing Images
The way that news is presented on television can be quite confusing for a young child. The same video segment may be shown over and over again through the day, as if each showing was a different event. Someone who has died turns up alive and then dies again and again. Children often become very anxious since they don’t understand much about videotape replays, closeups, and camera angles.   Any televised danger seems close to home to them because the tragic scenes are taking place on the TV set in their own livingroom. Children can't tell the difference between what's close and what's far away, what's real and what's pretend, or what's new and what's re-run.
The younger the children are, the more likely they are to be interested in scenes of close-up faces, particularly if the people are expressing some strong feelings. When there's tragic news, the images on TV are most often much too graphic and disturbing for young children.

“Who will take care of me?”
In times of crisis, children want to know, "Who will take care of me?" They're dependent on adults for their survival and security.  They're naturally self-centered. They need to hear very clearly that their parents are doing all they can to take care of them and to keep them safe.  They also need to hear that people in the government and other grownups they don’t eveen know are working hard to keep them safe, too.

Helping Children Feel More Secure
Play is one of the important ways young children have of dealing with their concerns.  Of course, playing about violent news can be scary and sometimes unsafe, so adults need to be nearby to help redirect that kind of play into nurturing themes, such as a hospital for the wounded or a pretend meal for emergency workers.
When children are scared and anxious, they might become more dependent, clingy, and afraid to go to bed at night. Whining, aggressive behavior, or toilet "accidents" may be their way of asking for more comfort from the important adults in their lives. Little by little, as the adults around them become more confident, hopeful and secure, our children probably will, too.

Turn Off the TV
When there's something tragic in the news, many parents get concerned about what and how to tell their children. It's even harder than usual if we're struggling with our own powerful feelings about what has happened. Adults are sometimes surprised that their own reactions to a televised crisis are so strong, but great loss and devastation in the news often reawaken our own earlier losses and fears – even some we think we might have "forgotten"
It's easy to allow ourselves to get drawn into watching televised news of a crisis for hours and hours; however, exposing ourselves to so many tragedies can make us feel hopeless, insecure, and even depressed. We help our children and ourselves if we’re able to limit our own television viewing.  Our children need us to spend time with them – away from the frightening images on the screen.

Talking and Listening
Even if we wanted to, it would be impossible to give our children all the reasons for such things as war, terrorists, abuse, murders, major fires, hurricanes, and earthquakes. If they ask questions, our best answer may be to ask them, "What do you think happened?" If the answer is "I don't know," then the simplest reply might be something like, "I'm sad about the news, and I'm worried. But I love you, and I'm here to care for you."

If we don't let children know it's okay to feel sad and scared, they may think something is wrong with them when they do feel that way. They certainly don't need to hear all the details of what's making us sad or scared, but if we can help them accept their own feelings as natural and normal, their feelings will be much more manageable for them.

Angry feelings are part of being human, especially when we feel powerless. One of the most important messages we can give our children is, "It's okay to be angry, but it's not okay to hurt ourselves or others."  Besides giving children the right to their anger, we can help them find constructive things to do with their feelings. This way, we'll be giving them useful tools that will serve them all their life, and help them to become the worlds' future peacemakers -- the world's future "helpers."

Helpful Hints

  • Do your best to keep the television off, or at least limit how much your child sees of any news event.
  • Try to keep yourself calm. Your presence can help your child feel more secure.
  • Give your child extra comfort and physical affection, like hugs or snuggling up together with a favorite book. Physical comfort goes a long way towards providing inner security. That closeness can nourish you, too.
  • Try to keep regular routines as normal as possible. Children and adults count on their familiar pattern of everyday life.
  • Plan something that you and your child enjoy doing together, like taking a walk, going on a picnic, having some quiet time, or doing something silly. It can help to know there are simple things in life that can help us feel better, in good times and in bad.

  • Even if children don't mention what they've seen or heard in the news, it can help to ask what they think has happened. If parents don't bring up the subject, children can be left with their misinterpretations. You may be really surprised at how much your child has heard from others.
  • Focus attention on the helpers, like the police, firemen, doctors, nurses, paramedics, and volunteers. It's reassuring to know there are many caring people who are doing all they can to help others in this world.
  • Let your child know if you're making a donation, going to a town meeting, writing a letter or e-mail of support, or taking some other action. It can help children to know that adults take many different active roles and that we don't give in to helplessness in times of worldwide crisis.
This article is excerpted from “The Mister Rogers Parenting Book” the last book Fred Rogers worked on before his death in 2003. In this book he wanted to support parents in their most important work of parenting and to help them better understand their young children. As he wrote in the introduction to the book:
“.. if we can bring our children understanding, comfort, and hopefulness when they need this kind of support, then they are more likely to grow into adults who can find these resources within themselves later on.”

Monday, December 17, 2012

Helping Children Cope with Tragic Loss

Helping Children Cope With Tragic Loss 

By Robert Evans, Ed.D

Dr. Evans is a psychologist and school consultant. He is the Director of the Human Relations Service in Wellesley, MA.  

This article was distributed to teachers in response to the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut.  We share it with you.  Our thoughts are with all of you as you start this next school week. 

Helping Children Cope with Tragic Loss
Robert Evans, Ed.D.

Tragic loss of any kind reverberates throughout a school and a community. Like everyone else, parents and teachers feel shock and disbelief, followed by immediate concern about those who have been hurt and killed—and then by concern about impact on their own children and students. All of us who are raising or working with children worry about helping them understand how such a thing could happen, especially when we ourselves cannot always make sense of it. We worry about saying too much or too little, about not having enough information, about saying the wrong thing. Though there is no perfect solution, there are five guidelines that can often make a positive difference in talking with children.
  1. It is helpful not to over-­‐assume what the tragedy means to children. They react differently depending on their age, their closeness to the situation, their own personalities, what they hear or are told, and their family’s pattern of communication. Some may be deeply moved, others less so. Some may have many questions, others fewer. Not all will be intensely affected. Showing little reaction does not automatically mean a student is hiding or denying his or her feelings.

  2. Young people are remarkably resilient. They may become upset, but given a chance to express what they feel, they usually resume their normal lives—and often do so more rapidly than we adults. Tragic deaths can actually hit adults harder than they do teenagers or young children. Most young people do not benefit from extensive, probing adult-­‐led questioning about their reactions. They do profit from simple, direct information and from adults being available to respond to their questions and to listen when they themselves want to talk. Very young children in particular are not helped by extensive discussion of events that may barely have registered on them.

  3. If you receive challenging questions from children it can be useful to understand these before answering them. Often a request for informationis spurred not only by curiosity, but by feeling. Usually, the child already has some idea about this. We may be more helpful if, rather than plunging into an immediate answer, we learn what motivates the question. This is particularly true if the question is a difficult one. Parents can say, “What made you think of that?” or “Can you tell me what you were thinking about?” Also, it can be good to ask, “What ideas do you have?” Once you know the meaning of the question, it is easier to answer effectively.

    4. There may be questions we cannot answer, which can make us feel inadequate. But children and teenagers are typically more comforted by straight talk than by false assurances. Rather than to invent a response, it can be much more helpful to say, “I don’t know,” or, “I’ll try to find out.”

    5. Coping with a tragedy is not primarily a matter of technique and is not something best handled by a “strategy” that deviates sharply from a family’s or a school’s familiar patterns of communication. The routines of school, for example, are, all by themselves, a source of comforting continuity and assurance. Parents and teachers both will rarely go wrong by relying on what is most basic between them and children—caring and connection. At these times, even if everyone feels deeply upset, your presence—your simply being with them, their knowing that you are available—will be reassuring.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Why is your profession worthy of the utmost of respect? Good answers to questions and comments you're bound to hear sometime....

From the NEA comes this article---some good food for thought when gathered around your holiday tables this year:

Crazy Things People Say To Teachers -- And How To Respond


By Cindy Long. Adapted from content by We Are Teachers
Ah, the holidays. ’Tis the season to gather round the hearth, feast on turkey and pie, and enjoy the company and conversation of loved ones we see but a few times a year. And thank goodness for that! You love them dearly, but it's exhausting fielding all those annoying questions about the teaching profession from your well-meaning but clueless family.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of comebacks to crazy questions, so at this year’s holiday dinner (or any other time your professionalism is called into question: legislators, are you listening?) you can show the whole family why your profession is worthy of their highest respect.

Teachers are just glorified babysitters!

OK, you can pay me what you pay your babysitter. Ten dollars an hour for six hours (even though I actually work 9 or 10 hours a day) is $60 a day, times five days a week (even though I often work weekends) is $300, times 36 weeks a year (even though I’m taking classes and professional development year-round), is $10,800 – but that’s just for one student. Multiply that by 30 students and that’s $324,000. That’s a good start.

All your union cares about is bargaining for higher salaries and more benefits! What about the students?

Actually, when state laws allow us to, the National Education Association routinely bargains for student-friendly conditions like class size limits, staff training to improve student learning, collaborative time for sharing effective classroom techniques, school building health and safety, desperately needed classroom materials and equipment, and joint union-management problem-solving on ways to better teach students in low-performing schools. But shouldn’t we also have competitive salaries so we attract the best teachers? Don’t the students deserve that?

Teachers have tenure. You can't be fired no matter what kind of job you do.

Tenure does not mean a “job for life.” It means there needs to be a just cause to be fired and you have a right to a fair hearing to contest charges. Any tenured teacher can be fired for a legitimate reason, after school administrators prove their case. If I want to thrive in my profession, I need to do a good job.

Ooh! Must be nice to have summers off!

During my first weeks “off” I will be mapping out curriculum for the next year, cleaning and organizing my classroom, and catching up on professional reading and professional development coursework. So what do you say….want to trade places?

You’re way too educated to be teaching young kids. You should be doing something more challenging. Don’t you have an M.A.?

Teaching is a calling, not just a job. Compared to the challenges (and rewards) of the classroom, graduate school was a cakewalk.

It can’t be that hard to control a bunch of kids. Just have clear expectations.

Classroom management is really an art, and it’s not that simple. But if you think you have some special tricks, I’ll bring 30 kids over to your living room tomorrow morning to watch you work your magic.

If my current job doesn’t work out, I could just become a teacher!

If you have the desire and commitment to put 50-plus hours a week toward a large group of extremely diverse learners of varying abilities, please consider it. We always need more passionate teachers.

Is it true that the lunch ladies and custodians and bus drivers are members of NEA? What do they contribute to our kids’ education?

They’re called Education Support Professionals, and yes, they’re union members. They are on the frontlines of our schools every day – driving students to and from school safely, keeping our schools clean and environmentally sound, making sure our kids eat healthy meals, assisting students in the classrooms, and ensuring the front office runs smoothly. And they’re all essential to a well-rounded education for our kids.

You teach kindergarten? How nice to play with paint and glitter all day!

Sure, we finger paint in kindergarten. Not to mention learn the fundamentals of reading, math, and science that set the stage for the next twelve years of learning.

Why do teachers object to merit pay? You should be paid what you’re worth!

The trouble is defining the value of a good teacher by test scores. Unless, of course, you think your SAT score was the ultimate predictor of your worth?

Illustrations by Dave Clark.