Star of the Month: Joan Sanders

Joan Sanders (left) pictured with First Lady Michelle Obama.

Joan Sanders (left) pictured with First Lady Michelle Obama.

We are excited to announce Joan Sanders as our April Star of the Month!  A California native, Joan is the Principal at Carnelian Elementary School in Alta Loma, California.  With over 15 years of experience as a principal at four different schools, she has proven her commitment to each and every student she’s worked with.  Before her career as an educator and administrator, Sanders devoted herself to her own education.  She is a graduate of Azusa Pacific University and the University of Redlands, and has completed several years of post-graduate training.  Her faith in students inspired her to pursue a career as a principal.  “I believe it is important to make a positive difference in thelives of others. As a teacher, I enjoyed working with my class, but I recognized that schools need leaders who passionately believe all students can be successful,” she said. Sanders loves the interactions she has with her students, and the relationships that are built as a result.  In fact, she makes it a point to meet individually with all of her students for a “Principal Chat” to build on those relationships and hopefully plant some inspiration in each student.  “Making a positive difference in the lives of students can be very rewarding. Serving as an educator is a tough job, but well worththe sacrifice,” said Sanders. We salute Joan for her continued dedication to her students and for always living by her motto:  “When you believe in yourselves and others, anything is possible!”

Out in the Cold: Homelessness & Academic Performance

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Photo courtesy of  Lexie Flickinger

Written by Courtney Battle

As the Fall season gets underway, days get cooler and our clothes get warmer.  We look forward to football and Thanksgiving, but we often forget about those who are less fortunate than us, and have no homes or families to go to during these times.  Homelessness itself is a very serious issue, but can be especially difficult for children.

According to this report, 1,258,182 homeless students were enrolled in American public schools during the 2012-13 school year.  Wrap your head around that number:  1,258,182.  Now imagine what that experience is like- you and your family having no place to live, and yet still getting up every morning to go to school.  Most of us probably could never imagine this life, but unfortunately this is a reality for more than a few kids.

On top of the larger issue of homelessness, one of its side effects are poor performance in school.  The stress alone of being homeless can have several detrimental effects on how a child does in school.  Homeless students are prone to learning disabilities, emotional-behavioral disorders, anxiety, and depression.  Make no mistake, children that live in happy, healthy homes can struggle with these issues as well, but are much less likely to.  A comfortable place to do your homework that has heating and cooling, food in the fridge, and shower to bathe in are all basic amenities that many students probably take for granted, but others would give anything for.

So what is being done to address this problem?  Children’s advocacy group First Focus and several other organizations are pushing their support for the Homeless Children and Youth Act, which would broaden the current definition of homelessness to include children who are temporarily staying in hotels, motels, or with others.  81 percent of homeless children do not fall under the current definition, therefore leaving them ineligible for certain services.

Across the country, Americans are taking notice well.  These Ohio students spent a night outside with few personal items to feel what homelessness is actually like, and raise awareness.  In San Francisco, the nonprofit Hamilton Family Center has a goal of raising $6 million over three years to add to city funding.  In addition, the organization plans to meet with schools with the highest homeless student populations to hopefully reach families before or right after they become homeless.

Community ONE believes that all children should have the right to excel.  It is our goal to expose students to people who have overcome various challenges, and still ended up with successful careers and lives, no matter where they came from or where they lived.

Random Acts of Kindness

In the end, only kindness matters

Photo courtesy of SweetOnVeg.com

Written by Courtney Battle

Bullying.  It’s an issue that you have probably heard more about than you ever thought you might in the past few years.  Divorce. It can take its toll on anyone, but especially more on children that are involved.  Body Image.  Young girls are struggling with it more and more as images they see of how they ‘should’ look are plastered all over pop culture, television, and movies.  Abuse.  Outside of the classroom, and behind closed doors, it happens way more than we talk about. What do all of these issues have in common?  Students are bringing them to school every single day, carrying them on their backs, and in many cases, probably having no one to talk to.  But what if they did? What if someone showed them that they cared?

Adam Sherman, a teacher at Spoto High School in Hillsborough County, Fla. inspired this post with his recent post on Education Week.  One day in class Sherman noticed that one of his students was looking kind of down, and not really engaged.  He wrote him a note reading, ‘Are you ok?’ and simply put it on his desk, so not to distract any of the other students or bring attention to his gesture.  The student returned the note with his response of ‘No,’ and Sherman reassured him that he understood and was available if the student needed someone to talk to, and that was that.  It turned out the student’s parents were going through a divorce, and he wasn’t receiving the attention he needed at home, but that simple post-it showed the student that Sherman cared- and sometimes, that’s all we really need, right?

If you fast-forward, Sherman spoke to his class and after some brainstorming they came up with an entire program entitled To Be Kind, which ‘seeks to prevent bullying rather than react to it.’  Through social media compliments, positive messages stuffed in lockers, and other gestures, they implemented a ‘culture of kindness,’ at their school and inspired others to do the same.  So now, we would like to take it a step further.

What if acts of kindness took off like the #ALSIceBucketChallenge?  What if people remembered to be kind as often as they check their cell phone in a day?  What about kindness as routine as your daily Starbucks fix? We are inspired by Sherman and his students, and encourage you to get out there and perform a random act of kindness for someone today.  Let us know how you’re spreading kindness around the world, too!  Take a picture, tag @communityoneinc on Twitter with the hashtag #RAK this week and remember, no matter how small you think it is, it could make a huge difference.

Community ONE knows the power that one person has to impact another, and we strive to do so in the programming and activities we provide to students.  We all can do our part in some way, so get in on it today!

Teachable Moments: Talking to Students about Current Events

https://www.flickr.com/photos/audiolucistore/7403731050/

Photo courtesy of www.audio-luci-store.it / Flickr CC

Written by Courtney Battle

Among all of the recent headlines in the news, one that may have caught your eye was a story reported by KMOX-TV, which explained that the Superintendent of Edwardsville, Illinois District Seven schools directed teachers to not to talk about, and to change the subject, if Michael Brown or the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri came up in classroom discussion.   The story has undoubtedly sparked quite a bit of interest in the media.  For example, Melissa Harris-Perry dedicated her ‘Open Letter’ segment of a recent show to Ed Hightower, the Superintendent, and Valerie Strauss covered the story in a post for the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog.  Twitter has even gotten in on the action with the hashtag, #fergusonsyllabus, created by Marcia Chatelain, Assistant Professor in the History department at Georgetown University.  There’s no doubt that the news of Michael Brown’s death and the subsequent events in Ferguson has sparked conversation in our country about race, community relationships with the police, and justice.  However, it also begs the larger question of ‘Do we talk to students about difficult current events, and if so, how?’

Depends on who you ask, apparently.  KMOX’s report reads “Hightower says normally there would be an open discussion of current events.”  The Superintendent goes on to say, “However, this situation in Ferguson-Florissant has become a situation whereby there are so many facts that are unknown.”  On the opposite side of the spectrum, teacher David B. Cohen writes in a post for the InterACT blog:

I think we have to be willing to toss out the lesson plan, or revise it. This must be done thoughtfully and advisedly, of course. A teacher needs to know the students, the community, and have the skills and sense to manage whatever is about to replace the regular lesson. But certainly, if we place the lesson plan ahead of significant moments in our communal life, we not only rob students of a chance to learn something more lasting and potentially important, but we also unwittingly reinforce the oft-heard but incorrect message that school is separate from “the real world.”

We definitely cannot ignore the events in Ferguson, or any other recent headlines for that matter, as they directly impact the “real world” that Cohen references.  We live, work, and play in this world, and after students leave school for the day, they’re going out into the same world.  That said, how can we address kids when things happen?  Why is it important for them to engage on current events?

Education World tells us that there are several benefits to incorporating news into curriculums.  Not only can students gain language, reading comprehension, and critical thinking skills, but they can also become informed citizens and open up a more adult-like dialogue with their parents.  

Mock trials and mapping developing news stories, are a couple of the activities that Thomas N. Turner, Professor of Education at the University of Tennessee, suggests in his 1995 article for The Social Studies, “Riding the Rapids of Current Events.”  For older students, having organized debates could also be an option.  Maybe a good place to start, as Harris-Perry suggests, is reading a book as a class or exploring how music and other forms of art are often modes of expression on politics and news.  Given, the approach has to be tailored to the specific students that you are teaching, but there are several ways to engage children on what’s happening in the world.  

Whatever the approach may be, what’s important is not pretending that something didn’t happen.  Kids know what’s going on, whether they hear a conversation their parents are having, flip past the news on tv, or if one of their classmates mention something he or she saw or heard.  In addition, there’s the internet!  Today’s children are all using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and countless other social media outlets that report and spark conversation on just about everything.  Acknowledging a difficult current event, and from there using it as a ‘teachable moment,’ will help students process what has happened, but in the end they’ll also be better for it.

Back to School and Back to Work: Community ONE is looking for volunteers and speakers!

Backpacks, school supplies, a new outfit for the first day- all things that remind us it’s about that time for students to go back to school.  Community ONE is ready to get back to work, too, and we need your help!  We are looking for both event volunteers and speakers (or Stars, as we refer to them) to help us with our upcoming speaker series.

Volunteering

If you have been looking for a way to give back to your community, but haven’t quite found the right fit yet, this could be the opportunity for you!  We work hard to expose children to career paths that they may have never considered or seen before at home.  At our events, our volunteers are a critical part of the fun and educational experience we aim to bring to the participants.  As a volunteer you would be responsible for helping to engage the children in discussion with the Star, assist with the overall flow of the program, and participate in the interactive activity.  If all of that isn’t enough to convince you, you get a pretty cool t-shirt too!  

Exhibit A:

A Community ONE Volunteer sports his t-shirt at an event.

A Community ONE Volunteer sports his t-shirt at an event.

Stars

If you would like to take it one step further and you think you have a pretty cool job, you may be our guy (or girl).  What we’re looking for in a speaker is someone that loves what they do, has a good story to tell about his or her journey to the position they have now (including challenges he or she may have faced), and can explain all of this in a kid-friendly manner.  In addition, we will work with you to develop an interactive activity that the students can participate in to get a hands-on sense of what a typical ‘day in the life’ of you might look like.

Do these sound like you?  Let us know if they do!  Send an email to info(at)communityone(dot)org with your name, contact information, and what you would be interested in doing.  We look forward to working with you!

Written by Courtney Battle

The STEM of our Problems: Pushing for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Education for Today’s Youth

Photo courtesy of Helix Magazine, Northwestern University

Photo courtesy of Helix Magazine, Northwestern University

STEM might be a term that may or may not have crossed your path recently- in the news, in everyday conversation, or in a Presidential speech that you caught the other day.  In fact, President Barack Obama has said, “… Leadership tomorrow depends on how we educate our students today—especially in science, technology, engineering and math.”  And that, my friends, is STEM- science, technology, engineering, and math.  I don’t think I’d be alone in saying these weren’t my favorite subjects in school, which is exactly why there are people, organizations, and initiatives making serious efforts to change that mindset for upcoming generations.  

In recent years, there has been a huge push for STEM education in schools.  Frances Eberle, Ph.D. of the International Society of Automation writes, “A successful STEM education provides students with science, math, and engineering/technology in sequences that build upon each other and can be used with real-world applications.”  According to the Department of Education’s website, “only 16 percent of American high school seniors are proficient in mathematics and interested in a STEM career.”  It goes on to say that the US is behind internationally, ranking 25th in mathematics and 17th in science.  The Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM) was formed for this very reason, and a key portion of its strategy is addressing groups that have “historically been underrepresented in STEM fields.”  President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget also has several areas that strive to improve STEM education for both students and teachers.

Female students are at the heart of those ‘underrepresented groups,’ and the national focus on STEM.  STEMconnector & My College Options tell us that “male students are over three times more likely to be interested in STEM majors and careers, compared to female students.”  In a 2010 report, the American Association of University Women found that “societal stereotypes can lower girls’ aspirations for science and engineering careers over time.”  In other words, if these subjects (and eventually careers) are not ‘cool,’ or considered acceptable for girls to take an interest in, then the cycle will continue.  

So the question is, what can we do about it?  We can make a change now by encouraging young people to not be ashamed or afraid of math and science, because those fields directly impact our everyday life and have brought us countless inventions and technology that we take for granted today.  There are tons of organizations who focus their time and energy on this effort- so don’t be afraid to get yourself and a student involved!  Community ONE supports the STEM initiative, and hopes to also play a role in encouraging students- boys and girls- to explore careers that are related to these vital subjects.  The sciences and technology are what keep our society evolving, after all.  It is our hope that through our programming we can inspire the next mathematician or marine biologist who makes a difference in how we live, work, and play.

Written by Courtney Battle