Reflections: Enjoy the Journey
Kathie Foster, Acting Superintendent
By now you and your children have begun to adjust to the back-to-school routine. For some families this may include school as well as a multitude of additional obligations and activities. School and piano lessons, school and soccer, school and gymnastics, school and babysitting, school and religious training, school and a part-time job, school and scouts just to name a few! We, like you, recognize the value of children participating in experiences that extend beyond the parameters of the school day. Extracurricular clubs, athletics and other experiences - both in and out of school - offer opportunities for students to expand their learning and strengthen life and leadership skills. Research indicates that those who actively participate in these types of experiences are more likely to have better grades as well as an increased sense of engagement, improved time management skills, higher confidence levels, and a heightened ability to connect with others.
Just as there are benefits to student involvement, it is also essential to acknowledge the importance of maintaining balance. The negative impact on students who are over-scheduled can be far reaching. They may be tired in school, show less interest in learning or have difficulty concentrating. Additionally, too many physical activities have the potential to result in sports-related injuries. Regardless of how a student’s routine may be structured, he or she needs time for relaxation and recovery.
Many years ago a campaign slogan was created to encourage a more diverse cohort of students to attend and graduate from college. The slogan read “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Recently I read an article that altered this original slogan in a way that most of us can relate to. It stated “A mind is a terrible thing to race.” How true this saying is in our 24/7 frantically-paced world! Although we know that many parts of our routine are non-negotiable, it is vitally important to pay attention to the ways in which we tend fill every second, often with mindless commotion and too little down time.
This year we are working to incorporate mindfulness strategies into the school day. As we strive to embrace and educate the whole child, we believe that this practice will serve to refuel young minds and build the stamina needed for academic success. It will create a school experience that is both healthy and fun. Recently a K-8 Wellness Team comprised of teachers, parents, and community members has been established. This new team is charged with finding ways to support and enhance the health and well‐being of students and families by improving the school environment. Ultimately, if we provide students with consistent and meaningful messages about the importance of maintaining balance and slowing down when needed, they will be happier, more relaxed and better prepared to learn.
Another of our high profile 2016-2017 district initiatives focuses on providing professional development to teachers so they can strengthen students’ executive functioning skills. Executive functioning skills, including impulse control, emotional control, flexible thinking, working memory, self-monitoring, planning and prioritizing, and organization, are essential in providing critical supports for lifelong learning and development. We believe that our students will reap many long-term benefits from this training.
On December 21st, as a way to honor the Winter Solstice, Dr. Mayer’s favorite day of the year, we plan to designate a homework-free family night. On this, the shortest day of the year we will ask that no teacher assign homework. This will enable our families to focus on time for fun and, more importantly, for each other. More information will be forthcoming.
In the midst of the non-stop busyness of our fast paced lives, I encourage you and your family to consider incorporating a practice of stillness within your daily routine. Unplugging helps us to develop patience, invites creativity and allows all of us to discover a vast reservoir of energy and potential. No need to race. Take your time. Enjoy the journey.