Fun for the Whole Family! At a Healthy Hydration Event

SPOTLIGHT: Dufief Elementary PTSA (North Potomac, Md.)

This blog post is part of a series authored by local PTA leaders who received a Healthy Hydration Grant, sponsored by Nestlé Waters North America. They share practical advice and lessons learned from planning and hosting their events.

Incorporating a Healthy Hydration Event into our PTA calendar was so easy! We hosted a Bike Rodeo and simply added the Healthy Hydration Stations at our event. Our school is in the middle of a very suburban walkable and bikeable neighborhood.

Although there are many students who ride their bikes casually, we wanted to provide a forum to spread safety tips about biking safely on neighborhood streets including how to be seen and following the rules of the road when biking on the street. We partnered with Montgomery County Safe Routes to School, who provided several loaner bikes and helmets for the event so the students without their own bikes and helmets could still attend, participate and enjoy the event.

To market our event to both students and parents we used our PTA newsletters, made announcements at our PTA meetings, posted on our website and to our PTA Facebook page. To reach students outside of our PTA members, we made morning announcements at the school and sent home backpack fliers.

We set up our welcome table, along with the Healthy Hydration Sugary Beverage Station, outside the entrances to our all-purpose room and gymnasium. We were a little nervous about attendance since the Rodeo took place during a short week before the Thanksgiving holiday. However, we had so many parents and students show up, that we had to extend the event to the blacktop outside the school, in addition to using the school gymnasium! Next time, we’d love to plan this event at a time of year when we could utilize outdoor space.

Our principal, Mr. Gregg Baron, was incredibly supportive. In addition to including the event in the school morning announcements and his weekly newsletter, he also attended the event, put on a helmet, and jumped on a bike, leading some of the students in the activities. His engagement and enthusiasm were infectious. He really made both students and parents feel welcome and excited to be at the event.

We would definitely consider having a Healthy Hydration event as part of our Back-to-School picnic, spring outdoor Dragon Fest, or other large activities in the future. We had a lot of positive feedback about the fruit-infused water from both parents and students. They were surprised that the only thing added to the water was fruit! In addition to the stations, we plan to incorporate and serve water at all our upcoming events in a more intentional way including our Math Night, Talent Show evening and family Game Night.

We had many parents and students express surprise at how much sugar was in common beverages. Adults were extremely enthusiastic about the fruit-infused water, and several took the recipes home with them. The hands-down favorite was the Lemon/Lime water.

Here are our top recommendations when hosting your Healthy Hydration event, from one PTA leader to another!

  1. Make sure that you leave ample time and space in your event for students and parents to visit the Hydration Station.
  2. Make sure to encourage parents to try the fruit-infused waters as well. We found parents were often the most interested in trying the different types of waters initially, which led to more children wanting to try the recipes.
  3. Consider encouraging parents and students to bring water bottles to the event to fill up on any leftover flavored water after the event!
  4. Think carefully about how to manage sign-ins, photo releases and follow-up surveys. We found it challenging to manage this aspect when so many attendees were eager to participate in activities right away.

Take Action:


Authored by Jamie Pflasterer from Dufief Elementary PTSA in North Potomac, Md.

Disclosure: Nestlé Waters North America is a Proud National Sponsor of National PTA and a Founding Sponsor of National PTA’s Healthy Lifestyles Initiative. The local PTA spotlighted in this blog was a winner of a 20192020 Healthy Hydration Grant, sponsored by Nestlé Waters North America. The author was not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are their own.

 

Arts Enhancement Grant Awards Local PTAs

National PTA’s Mary Lou Anderson Reflections Arts Enhancement Grant awards two local PTAs $1,000 in matching funds for student-centered programs that increase access to high quality arts learning experiences and new pathways for students to participate in National PTA’s Reflections program

Last year, through the Mary Lou Anderson Reflections Arts Enhancement Grant application, PTAs shared their plans to deliver high-quality arts education activities in the literary, media, visual and/or performing arts.

We were so excited to select Anderson Mill Elementary PTA in Texas and Reese Road Elementary School PTA in Georgia to receive the award in 2019, and we were even more impressed with the fantastic work the two PTAs did with the grant funding. Check out their stories below!

Reese Road PTA – Columbus, Ga.

In November, Reese Road PTA hosted a Fine Arts Extravaganza, a free event for their whole community. The event was supported visiting artists, high school volunteers and employees from the local library and museum.

It was an incredible success, with over 300 people in attendance! Families were able to explore the arts together throughout the school, with an exhibit displaying student artwork in the gym and a snack station in the school café. At the many stations hosted throughout the evening, attendees were able to make buttons, necklaces, keychains, origami and illuminated sculptures. Attendees were able to work with their families at the stations to experiment with new creative processes and mediums.

Katrina Long, Reese Road Principal said, “All of the smiles made me happy! The students, teachers, parents and grandparents were so excited to play with the different media and see all of the beautiful artwork that the students worked so hard to create!

The event also highlighted STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) programming in the Reese Road’s curriculum. Event participants were able to get hands-on understanding of how students apply art and creativity to their learning process. This gave parents and guardians insight into their student’s school, alongside the students, while also emphasizing the importance of arts in education.

Reese Road PTA leaders also made sure to encourage student participation in the Look Within Reflections program and hope to see some of their submissions win on the state and national level. As a Title I school with a diverse school population, many of whom receive free and reduced lunches, Reese Road Elementary School PTA was able to use the Mary Lou Anderson Arts Enhancement Grant to truly bring the arts into education.

Anderson Mill Elementary PTA – Austin, Texas

In order to thoroughly incorporate arts education into their school, Anderson Mill Elementary PTA chose to host several events and activities throughout the school year. Melissa George, Anderson Mill Elementary PTA President explained, “Our activities and events are spread throughout the entire school year in order to cover all of the art categories celebrated in the Reflections program. For many, seeing or hearing the word ‘art’ usually brings to mind the visual arts—people forget that there is so much more, and it has been exciting to have this opportunity to help expand awareness and knowledge in these areas.”

Using the Mary Lou Anderson Arts Enhancement Grant as support, the Anderson Mill Elementary PTA partnered with school personnel to develop art education programming that would bring the school’s diverse community together, while exposing students and community members to the arts. Thus far, Anderson Mill PTA has hosted three events that incorporated arts education into the programming—the Multicultural Celebration, the Fall Family Art Night, and the Fall Carnival.

Leadership pointed to the Multicultural Celebration as their most successful event yet. At the celebration, students were exposed to the unique cultures in their community and were able to explore the many artistic sides of those cultures. Families were asked to share cultural dances and artwork from home to display and educate the community. The celebration event also had cultural arts stations that allowed students to make their own take-away artwork. Stations included henna art, Chinese calligraphy, papel picado, Dias de los Muertos masks and more. The event was so well-attended that the PTA plans to host a similar event in the spring.

Anderson Mill PTA believes their work to implement the Mary Lou Anderson Arts Enhancement Grant has boosted awareness of the PTA and helped strengthen relationships with diverse communities. With a high percentage of low-income families and English language learners, their work made families more aware of the PTA and the services they provide to their community. Through their hard work and the Mary Lou Anderson Arts Enhancement Grant, Anderson Mill PTA was able to bring families and students together in a unique and impactful way.

Congratulations, once again, to Reese Road PTA and Anderson Mill Elementary PTA! You can learn more about the Mary Lou Anderson Reflections Arts Enhancement Grant at PTA.org/ArtsEd.

 

National PTA Celebrates the Heroes Around Us All

National PTA’s Reflections program has helped students explore their own thoughts, feelings and ideas, develop artistic literacy, increase confidence and find a love for learning that will help them become more successful in school and in life. Each year, over 300,000 students participate in Reflections in response to the annual theme.

On Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education hosted the National PTA Reflections Student Arts Showcase & Exhibit Opening, honoring the over 200 national winners from the 2018-2019 program year.

During the hour-long program, the 2018-2019 theme, Heroes Around Me, was reflected through performances and features in all of our categories: Photography, Visual Arts, Literature, Music Composition, and Film Production. Heroes to these students included parents, siblings, public workers, farmers, teachers, troops and even animals!

Our first featured artist was Beckett Bayan. Beckett composed a piece of music for the violin called “When Blue Butterflies Take Flight Again,” which is about endangered butterflies in his hometown in California. Beckett’s mom says that Beckett composed his first piece of music in the first grade for a Reflections project, and he hasn’t stopped writing music since!

Next we heard from Benjamin Breaux, the featured artist for the Special Artist division. Ben is a non-speaking autistic and uses a letterboard to communicate. Ben wrote a poem inspired by his mom, who he says, “supports others in so very many ways and always makes those she is supporting feel like heroes themselves.” Ben’s message was moving and we’re so grateful that he shared his powerful words.

The featured film producer was Sarah McFeely, whose film is entitled “Part of Something Bigger.” Sarah’s grandmother worked for NASA! She helped to secure funding for the Manned Space Flight mission – truly part of something bigger. Sarah says, “Having the opportunity to submit to competitions like PTA Reflections also encourages me to continue my artwork and find creative outlets throughout the year.” Thank you, Sarah!

Aditi Gokhale, featured literature winner, then shared her poem “The Unseen Heroes.” Her poem is about honeybees and relates the hardworking bees to the unnoticed heroes in our midst! Firefighters, police officers, teachers, inventors and parents are all heroes to Aditi, and she says their work often goes unnoticed. Aditi asks us to appreciate those hard workers and to acknowledge that there is a hero in all of us. Thank you, Aditi, for your empowering message.

Riley Zwiselsberger’s photograph of four firefighters shows us that heroes have fun, too! He says “I realized the day I took this photo that they are also heroes because they love to teach and help people, too. They spent so much time with us and made me laugh, too!”

The featured dance choreography piece was presented by Grace Youn. Grace was inspired by her aunt to create this dance. Her aunt is a veterinarian who also rescues animals. Grace’s dance was a beautiful tribute to those who dedicate their lives to helping animals!

Cleopha Costa presented her winning visual art piece called “There is Always Someone Who Needs You!” She created her painting using acrylic paint, pen, pencil, and watercolor. The painting depicts someone stopping to assist a man experiencing homelessness. Cleopha reminds us that “it is essential to offer a helping hand and pick up someone when they break down. You never know how much of a hero you mean to them.”

After hearing from our featured artists and special guests, it was time to officially open the exhibit with a ribbon-cutting! The print and digital exhibit will be on display at the U.S. Department of Education, by appointment only, through February 2020. Its next destination will be Louisville, Ky. for the 2020 National PTA Convention & Expo.

 


Written by Hope Cagle, Arts in Education Fellow, National PTA Reflections Program.

For more information on the Reflections program, please visit PTA.org/Reflections.

 

 

 

 

 

Back the Future: a New Dedication to a Continued Mission

The PTA mission statement: It’s all about the kids, right? Well yes, and so much more.

The PTA mission is to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children.

Now, if you’re not heavily involved in our association, this might not be the first thing you think of when someone mentions PTA. People sometimes praise us for the fundraising that we do for schools, but you’ll notice that our mission doesn’t say anything about fundraising. Of course we do raise funds, but we should spend those funds in ways that support our mission.

So what exactly does the PTA mission statement mean? Let’s break it down.

The beginning of the mission statement is essentially our vision statement: Every child’s potential is a reality. That’s our goal. That’s our purpose.

The remainder of the mission statement is how we achieve our vision. It has the action words of PTA: Engage. Empower. Advocate.

Let’s talk briefly about some of the key words and phrases in our mission statement.

Every Child Our mission statement begins and ends with the kids. This concept bookends our mission statement, and it is part of the tagline on the PTA logo (“Every Child. One Voice.”). When you first joined PTA, it was probably because you wanted to support your child and your school, and you might not have realized you were also joining your state PTA and National PTA and therefore supporting the millions of children across our nation. In PTA, every kid is one of ours, regardless of ethnicity, gender, language and culture, socioeconomic status, and so forth. So when PTA has advocated, throughout its history, for child labor laws, hot and healthy lunch programs, currently for school safety, and any other issue, it is for the benefit of every child. And when local PTAs provide programming, it should benefit every child at the school.

Family Engagement Our carnivals and dances and other events encourage family and community togetherness, and that is certainly important. But when it comes to family engagement, National PTA is challenging us to think even bigger and to truly focus on student success. National PTA now has a Center for Family Engagement to create truly transformative family engagement by using approaches that are inclusive, individualized, integrated and impactful. PTAs can help transform the relationships between families, schools, and community leaders in ways that make a difference for students. So think big!

Empower Our mission asks us to empower others so we can stand arm-in-arm to help children. We empower other PTA leaders through training and leadership development. We empower families by communicating about issues that affect kids and by suggesting ways to help. We empower our communities by forging partnerships to make our schools stronger. Through our combined efforts and voices, we make an impact on behalf of kids.

Community Here in Texas, our PTAs like to spell the word like this: CommYOUnity. YOU are an important part of your CommYOUnity. But YOU can’t do it alone. We become a powerful force when we work together in unity to achieve our mission. Think beyond the walls of your school, and welcome civic and business leaders, community volunteers, and others who support our mission into your PTA community. Strong schools and strong communities go hand-in-hand.

Advocacy This is such an important part of PTA, and it’s why you see us pushing membership. A robust membership gives us a strong voice as we advocate for issues that are important to make every child’s potential a reality.

When it comes to advocacy, understand that we advocate for or against issues, not candidates. We do not endorse any candidate, for any office, or any political party. We do encourage voting in an informed way.

The tagline in our logo is “Every Child. One Voice.” … and advocacy is the One Voice.

The PTA mission statement is so important because this is what guides us. Our mission should drive any significant PTA decision. Always come back to the mission. We need strong leaders in all PTA positions, and whatever your leadership role, you can help steer your PTA in the right direction by making sure your board’s priorities align with the PTA mission. When your PTA’s leaders understand the PTA mission, and they follow your bylaws and standing rules, and they are trained in the best practices of their roles, your PTA is on the path to success.


Julie Kluthe is communications chair for Flower Mound (Texas) High School PTSA and a member of the Texas PTA Leadership Committee. She has been a leader on the Lewisville ISD Council of PTAs where she created and led the Rising Stars Academy, a program to identify and develop PTA leadership in the Lewisville Independent School District.

PTA Leader Helps School Step Outside Comfort Zone and Into Progress

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting Daphne Callender, Fitness Instructor by day and PTA champion of Springfield Estates Elementary School (SEES) PTA in Springfield, VA, and her extraordinary school community in celebration of their 2019-2021 National PTA School of Excellence designation. The warm celebration with parents, staff and administrators included a delicious dinner, a decorated cake and the unveiling of their School of Excellence banner. As one of 19 PTAs in Virginia to earn the School of Excellence designation this year, Springfield Estates Elementary PTA had a great deal to be proud of. Through their year-long School of Excellence program, SEES PTA chose to focus on the inclusion and access to their ethnically, racially and socio-economically diverse community. As both a Title 1 neighborhood school and Advanced Academic Placement Center that pulls from eight different elementary schools, SEES PTA felt it was imperative to bring all members together to build community and celebrate their rich diversity.

Through their School of Excellence plan, SEES PTA took deliberative steps to make certain that all parents knew that they were invited to attend and participate in all PTA events, translating invitations into their five major languages: Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Urdu, and Arabic.  These invitations were personally distributed to all cars in the Kiss-N-Ride line and sent home in students’ folders. They also asked their Spanish-speaking parent liaison and English as a Second Language teachers to encourage and welcome parent participation at all PTA events. The PTA hosted an international food potluck dinner where families shared dishes from their culture and, to further welcome families with differing socio-economic statuses, they secured scholarships and gift certificates with one of their after-school STEM programs. It is clear that Springfield Estates Elementary celebrates their diverse and culturally rich environment and fervently believes it enhances the educational experience of their students and their families alike. Here is what Daphne shared about her work in the School of Excellence program:

“The National PTA School of Excellence Award program enabled our PTA committee to recognize that although we had a strong PTA, there was room for more family engagement and to make sure that feeling of welcome extended to each and every family at our school. Upon receiving the first email, I gave it a little bit of thought but didn’t know if I wanted to add something else to my already full schedule.  When I received the email that it was the absolute last day to sign up, I decided to go for it.  I then created a team of people who could help me implement and execute a plan for more family engagement. I would highly recommend the National PTA School of Excellence program to other schools because it helps to provide a goal to work towards.  I believe it easy to get stuck in doing what’s always been done. The program gave our PTA a focus and we worked on it together as a team.”

Congratulations SEES PTA and thank you for being a leader in building family-school partnerships!


Amy Weinberg, Manager Programs & Partnerships at National PTA.

Visit PTA.org/Excellence to learn more about the School of Excellence program and how your PTA can earn the designation.

4 Key Facts on Meningococcal Disease that Parents Should Know During the Back-to-School Season

It’s the beginning of the school year and while students are settling into the classroom, many parents are working to keep their children on top of everything they need to be successful. With so much to do, it’s no wonder it can be overwhelming. Whether it’s high school or college, parents are trying to help get their teen prepared by purchasing pens and notebooks, bookbags and accessories, and even SAT guides and index cards. And, while those things are important, parents may not be aware two particularly crucial items for their school year—two separate vaccines to help protect adolescents and teens against meningococcal disease.

Teens and adolescents are one of the more at-risk populations given their phase of life. Because they can carry these bacteria in the back of the throat, innocent and typical behavior for teens such as sharing a drink or meal, or even a kiss with their significant other, could lead to the transmission of bacteria that cause this uncommon but serious disease.3 Below are key facts to help keep your teen healthy as you navigate the school year:

  • Meningococcal disease is an uncommon, but serious disease that can attack without warning.4,5 Meningococcal disease can lead to meningitis (inflammation of the protective membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord) and serious blood infections.5
  • It’s important for parents of adolescents and teens to be aware that there are two separate vaccines to help protect against different groups of meningococcal disease: one vaccine that helps protect against groups A, C, W and Y and a separate vaccine that helps protect against group B. These two vaccines are needed to help protect against the most common groups of meningococcal disease.8
  • Meningococcal group B (MenB) is an uncommon disease that accounted for nearly 69% of all U.S. meningococcal cases in 16- to 23-year-old adolescents and young adults in 2017.10 MenB can lead to death within 24 hours11,12 and in survivors may result in life-altering, significant long-term disabilities.8,11
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adolescents receive their first dose of a MenACWY vaccine between ages 11 and 12 and a booster dose at age 16.12 The CDC also recommends that parents and their teens talk to their doctor or pharmacist about receiving a MenB vaccination series starting at age 16.10

If you’re a parent and have questions about how to help protect your adolescent or teen against meningococcal disease, including MenB, the first and best step you can take is to talk to your child’s health care provider. To learn more, please visit www.MeetMeningitis.com. This is sponsored in partnership with Pfizer.


 

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meningococcal disease. Enhanced meningococcal disease surveillance report. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/downloads/NCIRD-EMS-Report-2017.pdf. Accessed June 2019.

[2] Tully J, Viner RM, Coen FG, et al. Risk and protective factors for meningococcal disease in adolescents: matched cohort study. BMJ. 2006;232(7539):445-450.

[3] Poland GA. Prevention of meningococcal disease: current use of polysaccharide and conjugate vaccines. Clin Infect Dis. 2010;50:S45-S53.

[4] Serogroup B Meningococcal (MenB) VIS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Website. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/mening-serogroup.html. Updated August 9, 2016. Accessed June 2019.

[5] Soeters H, McNamara L, Blain A, et al. University-Based Outbreaks of Meningococcal Disease Caused by Serogroup B, United States, 2013–2018. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/25/3/18-1574_article. Accessed June 2019.

[6] Walker, TY, et al. (2019). National, Regional, State, and Selected Local Area Vaccination Coverage Among Adolescents Aged 13–17 Years — United States, 2018. Accessed at https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/68/wr/pdfs/mm6833a2-H.pdf. MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 68(33): 718-723.

[7] Enhanced meningococcal disease surveillance report, 2017. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/downloads/NCIRD-EMS-Report-2017.pdf. Accessed June 2019.

[8] Meningococcal Vaccines for Preteens, Teens. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/features/meningococcal/. Accessed June 2019.

[9] Thompson MJ, Ninis N, Perera R, et al. Clinical recognition of meningococcal disease in children and adolescents. Lancet. 2006;367(9508):397-403.

[10] Borg J, Christie D, Coen PG, Pooy R, Viner RM. Outcomes of meningococcal disease in adolescence: prospective, matched-cohort study. Pediatrics. 2009;123:e502-e509.

[11] Sabatini C, Bosis S, Semino M, Senatore L, Principi N, Esposito S. Clinical presentation of meningococcal disease in childhood. J Prev Med Hyg. 2012;53:116-119.

[12] Recommended Child and Adolescent Immunization Schedule for ages 18 years or younger. US Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/downloads/child/0-18yrs-child-combined-schedule.pdf. Accessed June 2019.

Element of a Confident Parent – Looking for the Good

Originally posted on Confident Parents Confident Kids

Though the sunshine sparkles through the yellow leaves during these beautiful Fall days, there is less light in the morning and evening. And we’ve been doing this school thing for a few months now. We’ve poured it on and now we are slowing down a bit – tired. My husband and I noticed that some of the routines that used to run smoothly are in need of an update. In particular, we’ve noticed that our son leaves his dishes behind for someone else to take care of, whether it’s breakfast or dinner. He’s picked them up, cleaned them off and placed them in the dishwasher in the past. We know he can do it. But he’s forgetting regularly. And we began to remind him but realized we had down-shifted into nagging. When reminders happen day-after-day, then a parent knows that she’s entered the hamster wheel, a vicious cycle going nowhere. So the question becomes, “How does learning take place? How is change facilitated?”

We informally – Mom, Dad and E, our nine-year-old, sat around one night after dinner and brainstormed solutions. “The taking-in-of-the-dishes seems to be challenging. It’s hard to remember when you’ve got play you are eager to get to. What could help you remember?” I said and we started thinking off all kinds of ways to help him remember with E chiming in his ideas. “I could wear one of those rubber bracelets.” Or “I could not get dessert until my dishes are returned.” We talked about the possibilities of each and how they might work. And finally, he resolved that if we say simply “Dishes.” quietly when he’s asking to leave the table, that’s all the help he needs to remember. And it’s worked exceedingly well.

In addition, my husband and I resolved to be certain and notice when he did his routines without our reminders. So often, we play the “Gotcha!” game as parents. “You forgot this.” “You left that behind.” “You made a mess here.” And because we are so busy focused on the mistakes of life, we forget ourselves to point to the good even though we all tend to forget daily tasks. “Ooops, you are going to have to wear a day-old shirt because I forgot to get the laundry done last night.” is a common refrain of my own.

It doesn’t take long to recognize the good but it does take some presence of mind. We do have to pay attention to our kids not to catch them doing wrong but to catch them doing right. If kids are reinforced by recognizing their faults, they too will focus on their faults. And along with the fear of making mistakes (which often leads to more of the same), they will accumulate shame for their long list of missteps.

We can all use some reinforcing of the good. But as parents, we need help to remember. Habit changes can be tough for anyone. And looking for the good does not seem to come naturally to most of us problem-solvers who are ready to “fix” things. So how do we cultivate our own habit of looking for the good that our children do?

We need not shower them with praise. In fact, research shows that too much praise – or praise that is not specific – “Good job!” – or praise that is over-the-top, does not help reinforce positive behaviors. It doesn’t seem genuine and can actually de-motivate children.1 So in striving for authentic feedback that will provide a balanced view of children’s actions, here are some thoughts.

Step back and reflect.

Find a quiet moment to think about your feedback to family members. You might ask yourself the following questions. Consider these as they relate to each family member. Write your responses since the physical act of writing (by hand) will help solidify the thoughts in your brain. Conduct your own self-assessment so that you know how you can and want to improve.

  • What are typical daily comments I make in relation to _______________ (insert family members) behavior?
  • How many of those comments are about problems I see with others’ behaviors?
  • How many of those comments recognize positive contributions?
  • How frequently do I comment on that particular problem behavior? (twice a day, weekly?)
  • Does the behavior truly create a problem for the family? And if so, how can I facilitate a behavior change?

a.) Have I adequately modeled the behavior for my child so that I am certain he knows how to perform the task? Could he use a refresher in doing the task together with encouragement? Check out this article on interactive modeling for more.

b.) Or if he knows exactly how to do the task, can we hold a family meeting or talk just the two of us and brainstorm solutions on ways to solve the problem?

c. Can we create a plan for our newly revised routine? Formalize it by writing it down and posting it where your kids can see and be reminded by their plan they devised with you.

Set a goal.

Once you’ve identified not only what you don’t want to do but what habits you want to adopt, set a positive goal for yourself. What will you do to help yourself recognize the good?

Consider developmental milestones.

So often the behaviors that annoy us about children relate directly to the developmental milestones on which they are working. By the very nature of learning and achieving new levels of awareness and ability, they will be making mistakes. It’s a necessary part of how we all learn. So at this time when you are looking to make your own habit changes, read about your child’s age and stage and find out what they are working on. Then when they make mistakes, you’ll be able to recognize and connect it to their development. It will allow you greater empathy resulting in added patience and understanding. You’ll be ready to support their learning versus falling into the tendency to scold them for their mistakes. Check out the Parent Toolkit for development ages/stages. Download the free application that will send you updates on your specific child’s development.

Co-create a routine.

Since mornings were getting rough and I noticed the reminding was about to turn into a cycle of nagging, E and I worked on updating full-morning-routine-poster-2016his morning routine poster one day after school. We talked through specific times that were challenging to get through in the morning. “How are you going to remember to brush your teeth?” He enjoyed developing his routine poster. And yet again, it worked. Our mornings have gone smoothly ever since and I have been intentional about reinforcing his positive behaviors with comments like, “Woah, I didn’t say a word of a reminder this morning and we were out of the door on time. You completed all of your tasks and your backpack is ready.” Check out this video short on the morning routine if you need to revisit yours to help that time of day run smoothly.

Establish accountability.

How are you going to keep yourself accountable to the goal you’ve set? How are you going to remember to recognize positive behaviors? Sometimes, the most powerful accountability comes from those around us. So if you let family members know about the goal you are working toward, they can check in with you. Those small reminders can help support your habit change.

Though many believe that we are only hard-wired for self-centeredness and the good must be socialized into us, in fact, research confirms that we are born with both the capacity for self-centeredness but also, altruism and empathy.2 Our very survival is based on our ability to connect with others. Studies with babies have shown that even those new to the world will try and assist others – babies or adults – who are suffering and need help.3

If we view ourselves as here to “fix” our kids, our kids will feel as if they need fixing. But if we view our kids as learners – as inherently ready to help and do good – they will help and do good. And if we are able to regularly find and shine a light on their strengths and the many ways they contribute to our family lives, they will grow with an identity that is strong and resilient.

I was recently reminded of contributions my son makes to our lives that I tend to take for granted. My Mom came to celebrate her birthday. And her grandson made her smile and laugh nearly the entire time she was visiting. As she hugged me goodbye, she expressed how much she appreciated her grandson making her laugh and how rare it was for her to experience laughter daily in her own quiet household of two adults. I had been consumed with the chaos and busyness of all of my responsibilities that day. What an important reminder it was for me and a helpful wake-up call to recognize the significant contribution of my child. When he’s grown and moved out, it’s the laughter I will recall not the dirty dishes.


About the Author: Jennifer Miller is the author of Confident Parents, Confident Kids and a recent guest on the National PTA podcast, Notes from the Backpack.

References

1. Kohn, A. (1993). Punished by rewards; The trouble with gold stars, incentive plans, A’s, praise and other bribes. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co.

2. Szalavitz, M. & Perry, B. (2010). Born for Love, Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered. NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

3. Keltner, D. (2009). Born to be Good, The Science of a Meaningful Life. NY: W.W. Norton and Company.

Excellence in Action: 2019’s Top 3 National PTA Schools of Excellence

Each year, the top three National PTA Schools of Excellence are selected to receive the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Awards for demonstrating outstanding success in engaging families in student success and school improvements. These awards are selected by a team of Past National PTA Presidents and are the highest honor National PTA offers for success in family engagement.

The 2019 National PTA Phoebe Apperson Hearst recipients are: Mark Twain Elementary PTA (California) who received the top Phoebe Apperson Hearst Outstanding Family-School Partnership Award, Norman Rockwell PTA (Washington) who received a Phoebe Apperson Hearst Family-School Partnership Award of Merit and Jane S. Roberts K8 Center PTSA (Florida) who also received a Phoebe Apperson Hearst Family-School Partnership Award of Merit.

In addition to national recognition, thanks to the generous support of the Hearst Foundation, the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Outstanding Family-School Partnership Awardee receives a $2,000 grant for their school and the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Family-School Partnership Merit Awardees each receive $500 grants for their schools.

We are so pleased to share with you just a snapshot of the fantastic work our 2019 National PTA Phoebe Apperson Hearst recipients put into building and growing family-school partnerships in their communities.

Mark Twain Elementary PTA, California

We were so impressed by the efforts of our 2019 Phoebe Apperson Hearst Outstanding Family-School Partnership Award winner. Mark Twain Elementary School PTA began their School of Excellence journey with a vision to become a stable organization that leads in engaging with and meeting the needs of all families. The PTA focused on several goals early in their planning process and used these goals to build an organized approach to family-school engagement.

  • Improve leadership and member training, planning and organization
  • Refresh traditional PTA programs and add new ideas
  • Expand funding sources and eliminate inefficient activities
  • Increase school and community engagement

With these in mind, the PTA created an Excellence Team including PTA members, the principal, student support services staff, district communications staff and bilingual speakers. With their team set, the Excellence Team planned to combine refreshed traditions and new activities to best serve their current families.

One example of this combination was Mark Twain Elementary School PTA’s re-themed tradition: JOG-A-THON 2019: Run Toward Your Future. Students wore college gear or a shirt expressing their desired career path. Students were invited to help create a muraled billboard with miniature squares depicting their future career plans.

Mark Twain Elementary School PTA also launched several new events and programs, including their first-ever PTA College and Career Readiness Month in March with a combined Read Across America/Career Day. During the latter, the PTA invited parents to both read books and speak about their careers. In the usually female-heavy volunteer base, four new dads showed up and declared they would return next year.

The survey results Mark Twain Elementary School PTA eventually collected reflect just how much work went into achieving excellence. 100% of the year-end survey questions reflected an increase in the ‘always’ rating and 95% of questions showed ‘always’ selected greater than 50% of the time. The PTA even saw an 11% increase in the number of surveys submitted at year-end!

Norman Rockwell PTA, Washington

Norman Rockwell PTA, one of our two 2019 Phoebe Apperson Hearst Family-School Partnership Award of Merit winners, highlighted communication as the key to their success in the School of Excellence program.

The PTA’s emphasis on communication provided a deeper understanding of school programs, educated parents on transitioning students between grade levels and created more consistent communication to reach families where they were.

After a positive response to new, multi-lingual ‘Welcome’ signs, the Norman Rockwell PTA knew they needed to capitalize on their momentum towards consistent communication. To do so, the PTA decided to foster their partnership with the principal’s ‘Coffee with Mr. Clark’, a monthly meeting for families to discuss important topics with the principal in an open, casual Q & A format.

The PTA found this format was especially useful as it made it easy for families to be heard, while also allowing parents and the principal to work towards a common understanding. Their work to foster this partnership paid off and ‘Coffee with Mr. Clark’ reached at least 50 parents. Norman Rockwell PTA hopes to double attendance next year.

Norman Rockwell PTA’s focus on communication did not stop with coffee, however. The PTA also worked to involve parents in planning for students transitioning between grade levels. Using National PTA’s Parent’s Guides to Student Success, the Beagle Bugle, Norman Rockwell PTA’s weekly newsletter, featured one grade level for two weeks and linked parents to an overview of key topics children learn in their English literacy and math classrooms. Each article presented activities for families to do at home to ensure students meet core expectations and support academic standards. The PTA went one step further and, before publishing the content, met with teacher groups to review the content and ensure their grade level met the outlined standards.

The concentrated effort Norman Rockwell PTA placed on communication did not go unnoticed in their state. Due to the PTAs efforts, the Washington PTA awarded Norman Rockwell PTA the Silver Award of Excellence for Outstanding Communication Strategy, an award that recognizes local PTAs for their use of multiple forms of communication.

Jane S. Roberts K8 Center PTSA, Florida

Our second 2019 Phoebe Apperson Hearst Family-School Partnership Award of Merit winner, Jane S. Roberts K8 Center PTSA in Florida, decided to focus on improving the education of their students by engaging more families during their School of Excellence program year. To accomplish this, Jane S. Roberts K8 Center PTSA hosted events and programs that helped families to get to know and relate with one another both in and out of school.

One successful program was Jane S. Roberts K8 Center PTSA involvement in the National PTA Reflections art program. The PTA had a total of 52 entries in visual arts and literature and have two became district level Reflections winners.

To further acknowledge the Reflections participants, Jane S. Roberts K8 Center PTSA hosted an awards ceremony and invited parents to attend and recognize their children, as well as other participants. Following the Reflections competition, Jane S. Roberts K8 Center PTSA hosted an art show for all second through fifth grade students. Parents were able to walk through a gallery filled with many colorful masterpieces and talk amongst each other.

Additionally, the PTA hosted a family night at the local ice arena for families to come together and socialize, as well as a family night with the Miami Heat basketball team, which included a performance by the Jane S. Roberts K8 Center band students before the game.

The impact of these events was reflected in end of the year survey results, which showed a 26% increase in responses relating to encouraging families to volunteer, showing respect to all families, listening to families concerns and establishing policies to recognize diversity.

Jane S. Roberts K8 Center PTSA also worked to strengthen their school’s presence in the community. The PTA reached out to a few organizations to begin building partnerships. At the first PTSA meeting, the PTA invited a financial planner to give a presentation to families in attendance. Additionally, in the school’s main office, the PTA put together a parent resource center that provided families with valuable information from various organizations in the community. In partnership with the Student Council, the school and PTA also gave back to the local community with a food and toy drive. The PTA’s work to improve community relations was show in end of the year survey data which reflected an average increase of 17% as it relates to community partnerships and resources.

By the end of the School of Excellence program, Jane S. Roberts K8 Center significantly improved their family-school partnerships, made their school community more welcoming and inclusive, increased participation in PTA events and fostered more productive conversations with families. The School of Excellence program allowed Jane S. Roberts K8 Center PTSA to remain aligned with the PTA’s mission to make every student’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering their families and the local community.

Congratulations once again to these amazing PTAs and to all of our 2019-2021 National PTA Schools of Excellence. The work that these PTAs accomplished shows just how much impact a dedicated PTA, school and community can have in just a year’s time.

Take the first step in becoming a nationally-recognized PTA School of Excellence by enrolling now through Oct. 1 at PTA.org/Excellence and visit PTA.org/Hearst for the full narratives our Phoebe Apperson Hearst Awardees.

Email Excellence@PTA.org with any questions.


Ellie Miller, Programs & Partnerships Specialist at National PTA.

Why Should You Listen to the New PTA Podcast?

From PTA flyers and permission slips to handwritten updates from your child’s teacher, every day your child comes home with notes in their backpack. How do you keep track of everything that’s going on? With limited time, it can be difficult to figure out where to invest your energy, when it comes to engaging your child’s school. That’s why we launched Notes from the Backpack: A PTA Podcast!

Each 30-minute episode offers frank advice and ideas from researchers, parents, educators and other experts. Guiding these conversations are our hosts, LaWanda Toney, Director of Communications, and Helen Westmoreland, Director of Family Engagement, who are both mothers navigating their own parenting journeys.

The podcast answers those questions you have always been wondering but weren’t sure who to ask, like:

What questions should you be asking to make the most of your child’s Parent-Teacher Conference? We turned to Luz Santana, Executive Director of the Right Questions Institute to provide her expert opinion.

What should school discipline look like at your child’s school and what does restorative justice even mean? Former Secretary of Education John King sheds light on why so many students get suspended and where we go from here.

Is it possible to avoid wanting to tear your hair out when trying to help your child complete their homework every night? Researcher Steve Sheldon offers evidence-based tips for making the most of homework time, without the stress.

How can you possibly help your child navigate the world of hormones, crushes and frenemies now that they’ve entered middle school? We chatted with school counselor Phyllis Fagell, who will provide concrete strategies for making the most of your child’s adolescent years.

Notes from the Backpack covers all of these topics and more, providing you with the practical information you need to make the most of your child’s school experience.

So how can you learn more about this new resource and start listening? Visit PTA.org/BackpackNotes for a full list of the episodes we have released so far, and more information about the podcast. You can also listen or download on all major podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Leave us a review to let us know how we’re doing!

We want you hear from you on social media! Engage with other parents in conversations around the topics we discuss on the podcast and share your own thoughts, advice and parenting anecdotes on social media using #BackpackNotes.

Step Up Your Family Engagement

Dance can be a powerful way to foster Social Emotional Learning (SEL), celebrate cultural diversity and promote parent involvement.

Many parents are reluctant to participate in school activities, possibly due to feeling intimidated by the school building or not feeling they have enough spare time to attend. But you’ll be hard-pressed to find a parent whose heart doesn’t melt the day their own child invites them to dance as their partner.

As a PTA leader, offering programs that promote community engagement through healthy, culturally-enriching events should be one of your primary goals. Though it’s often overlooked, dance has the power to engage students, parents/caregivers and school staff in an activity that creates joy and unity.

Beyond the obvious health and cultural benefits, research indicates a strong connection between dance and Social Emotional Learning (SEL). The most successful SEL programs use active forms of learning to teach students, and evidence suggests that dance out-paces other forms of physical activity AND other forms of arts learning when it comes to measurable SEL outcomes.

How Dance Connects to SEL

Schools across the country are prioritizing Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and looking for ways to embed SEL into all aspects of school culture and climate. Dance is a proven strategy for fostering positive outcomes in the three major dimensions of SEL.

  1. Intrapersonal SEL Skills: Self-Awareness and Self-Management are fundamentally rooted in the body, making dance an excellent tool for building such competencies as emotional awareness, accurate self-perception, and impulse control.
  2. Interpersonal SEL Skills: Many dance and movement activities promote teamwork and cooperation and provide rich opportunities for developing Relationship Skills and Social Awareness.
  3. Responsible Decision-Making: Dance and movement can also be a wonderful way for students work on problem-solving, develop the ability to evaluate and reflect, and consider their responsibility to help make the world a better place.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Considerations

When choosing resources to use for dance or movement-based activities, keep in mind that cultural dance, in particular, can be useful in fostering cross-cultural understanding and respect. By studying dance forms that originate in other parts of the world, students gain understanding of the history, identities and values of others.

Dance can also help students and their families overcome cultural and linguistic obstacles due to its focus on nonverbal communication. For English language learners in particular, dance provides the opportunity to express oneself through the body and is shown to bolster self-esteem.

Two Left Feet? No Problem!

In many schools, the greatest barrier to bringing in a dance program is a lack of comfort with dance on the part of the adults in charge. For most students, permission to move—and especially moving to music—offers considerable stress relief and an immediate boost to their sense of optimism and joy.

Using dance and movement activities to foster learning is not as hard as it sounds, and a number of resources exist to take the pressure off of teachers and program facilitators to lead the activities.

One such program, EduMotion: SEL Journeys, is a digital experience that allows groups of participants to explore the world while focusing on themes like diversity, empathy and kindness. Each journey starts with participants choosing a cultural destination and then following along to learn simple movements inspired by a dance from the selected culture. By the end of the journey, participants are engaged with one another in movement, playing the roles of “Joymaker” and “Peacemaker” as they dance together.

How Your PTA Can Integrate Cultural Dance

With the right approach, dance can contribute to a positive school culture through integration during the school day as well as during out-of-school time and family engagement events. Your PTA can be an ideal catalyst to introduce a dance program into your school that benefits the entire community.

During the School Day

Invite teachers to be part of the experience. Provide resources like EduMotion that enable them to explore, learn and/or create a dance with their students without placing pressure on them to teach dance steps. Classroom teachers can include this activity in morning meetings, during social studies or at another transition time. It can also be a great end-of-week reward (Friday dance party, anyone?). Physical education and music/art teachers are the most likely advocates for a community engagement-oriented dance program, so try reaching out to them first!

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS? Teachers who embrace this strategy will see a boost in student morale, improved peer relationships and better academic performance. Multiple studies prove that active students learn better, so the time teachers take to integrate dance into the weekly schedule is time well-invested.

SHARE THE EXPERIENCE…

  • Classroom Dance-Along: Teachers can invite parents or another classroom in for an interactive dance exchange.
  • Assembly program: Classrooms can practice and present different dances in an assembly program. Most parents won’t pass up an opportunity to see their child perform!

After-School & Family Engagement Events

Your PTA can host an after-school club or incorporate dance into an existing after-school program. Working with a community partner who specializes in dance is one common solution. Alternately, a program like EduMotion: SEL Journeys offers online content that a parent volunteer or OST program leader can facilitate easily—no dance experience required!

For special events, you can host a parent-child dance, or incorporate a dance activity station at an event such as a Multicultural/International Night, Health Fair, etc. Dance can even connect to STEMyou’re your next STEM + Families event, encourage students to think about coding as a series of dance steps they can put together to create different outcomes. With a little imagination, you can connect dance to all kinds of themed events you may host throughout the year!

Just like trying anything new at your school, the first few steps are often the hardest. While adding dance and movement to your programming may sound intimidating, the potential benefits are well worth it. Please reach out and connect if you’d like some moral support to make it happen in your school!


NATIONAL PTA EXCLUSIVE OFFER: EduMotion has a special offer available for PTA program leaders. Click to learn more!

Margot Toppen is an educator who works at the intersection of SEL, arts and physical education. In 2006, she developed Dancing with Class, a program delivered to hundreds of schools each year.