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Posted by on in What If?

I continue to be, at once, intensely interested and wholly distressed by the manifestation of early childhood stress, anxiety, and trauma. The signs and symptoms surround the caregivers in child care programs, but can either be misinterpreted, misunderstood, or ignored.

I recently spoke at a national conference to a packed room of Head Start teachers, who do their best, on a daily basis, to provide the best care for the children in their programs. And yet, they are baffled at times by children’s unexplained and unprovoked behaviors and responses. We talked about triggers- a catch word now- meaning something that sets off a memory or flashback that may be imperceptible or innocuous to other people.

I noticed in the conference program, quite a few speakers who would talk about “trauma informed care.” I told my group they should probably attend at least one of these sessions, because it was such an important topic. But, I also told them that the topic of our discussion was actually a precursor… a prequel, if you will, to those sessions. If we are to be successful in providing TIC, we first need to identify, define, understand, and validate the trauma.

And, this is not easy, by any means. The ways young children present symptoms of these issues can easily be set aside as transient behaviors, or missed entirely. One of the most interesting aspects of children’s stress and distress is how it surfaces and becomes apparent.

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Posted by on in General

Hopefully touching your hearts on Teacher Appreciation Week 2019! 

Just a lot of teaching stuff! I give up. SOS. Worst organizer, ever, and I'm moving again. Oh boy.

Dearie me, I am a late bloomer as usual. I said feh until now about the crazy deal about organizing and tidying up. Morgan told me about Marie Kondo. She and her mama have been watching "YouTube" videos and all of a sudden, Barbie Town is shut down, stuffies and bags of baby toys donated to preschool, that sort of thing. But when Rebecca told me Morgan was organizing her drawers and folding everything, I really was pretty darn impressed. 

I kept hearing snippets about it, but I was too busy hunting through stacks of teaching stuff in several remaining closets. Long gone are class sets of jump ropes, xylophones etc. Remaining? Favorite children's classics, reading manipulatives, treasure box junk, art materials, you know what I mean.

Added to that, teaching antiques besides me, including bells, slates, ink wells, readers and a couple things I never saw before or since, like a first Big Book. Standing manipulative chalk board, and my McGuffey's, dreamy.

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Posted by on in School Culture

Kids will not work for you unless they trust you.  If they trust you, they will enjoy being in your presence.  The longer they are in your presence, the easier it will be to form lasting, productive relationships.  And the more genuine relationships you have in your school, the more positive your school climate will be.

Building relationships with your students takes time.  The process takes a lot of conscious effort.  It involves a million little conversations and compliments and moments of caring and concern and celebration.  It includes laughter and sometimes disappointment and a few tears as well.  

I spend my entire day talking to kids – in the classroom, in the hallway, on the way to and from specials and lunch and recess and assemblies, in the cafeteria, and at the front of the school as they are leaving for home.  I believe that all of those mini-conversations make a difference in making kids feel as though they are noticed, as though they are appreciated, as though they are loved.

This morning, as I took a short break from testing, I headed to the office for the restroom and then to check my mail.  I heard my name called and turned around to see Ivan leaving his testing situation in the library.  

“Mr. Ramsey!” the boy called.  “Where are you going?”

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

Recently, the Center for Disease Control released a report stating there was a 300% spike in individuals getting infected with measles. You can read the full report at https://www.cdc.gov/measles/cases-outbreaks.html . As a parent and as a former Superintendent of Schools, I find this incredibly disturbing. It is my opinion that this 300% spike could have been 100% avoided.

As a Superintendent of Schools, I enforced the New Jersey law of “no shots, no school”. There was one significant exemption to the law; you can write a letter to the district stating you decline to have your child vaccinated (for any disease) for religious reasons. It has been my experience that a majority of the letters submitted were because parents could not afford the shots or did not have the time to get the student vaccinated. In both cases, we attempted to accommodate the issue. We distributed a myriad of information on where and when you can get free vaccinations in town or in the county. We arranged free vaccinations through the county health department. We even brought in our district physician (every NJ district has one) to the school to administer shots to students and staff. We would try to provide any reasonable means to ensure that students attending school in the district could have access to vaccinations. Yet, there were still parents who declined.

Being a parent, I fully understood the right to the parent’s primary objective in advocating for your child. Should religion truly be at the forefront of your concerns, I would never hold that against you. Yet upon speaking to scads of religious leaders, I have not come across any religious leader or representative who said getting a vaccination would be interfering with their faith.

Before parents would turn in the letter, I would remind them of the one caveat of submitting such; as the Superintendent of Schools, I am allowed to prohibit your child from attending school, at any time, for any amount of time should there be an illness “floating around the school” or an outbreak of anything. You read that right; if there is a cold that’s being passed around, I can keep your child at home for as long as I see fit. The reason for such is simple in that your child is much more likely to not only become ill but can experience more complications from the illness. I recall one instance in which I kept a student out for 3 weeks because half of the class had a virus. After the third week, the parent had their child vaccinated with no objections. We also had policies in place where if a parent was not vaccinated, they would not be permitted to volunteer in any school activity where there is interaction with others.

In sum, based on the aforementioned report and seeing first hand what can happen to your children if you don’t vaccinate, it is paramount that you have your child (and yourself) vaccinated. These are not random shots or an experiment; this is clinical medicine that has proven results that keep your child safe. This is a work of science, not a work of science fiction. Your child being unvaccinated puts your child and all those who interact with them at risk. As the Chief Education Officer for all those who attend and work in the district, it is my chief responsibility to keep all safe. No learning can or will take place if the basics (i.e. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) can’t be fulfilled. Enough of the fake news and superstition; it’s time to participate in our society in a safe manner for all so we can continue to grow, learn and move onward.

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Posted by on in Education Policy

Why are so many special education kids being suspended?

And what can we do about it? 

Writing for you on this drizzly day here in Eugene. It's been such a busy time for me, probably you, too. But here and there things have managed to creep in, catch my eyes and tell me I need to reflect and write. A couple weeks ago I started to write about special education kiddos and the high number of suspensions. 

As I am definitely ADD, ADHD and highly distractible, instead I read an article in US magazine about the college admission mom cheaters and ended up reading more stuff about the scandal and writing my last blog about that. 

However, I have been haunted by recent personal events and national news items urging me to write to you today.  

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