Establishing a foundation is the beginning of what we do in building a relationship. As educators, we take dedicated steps to ensure families have all the information they need at the beginning of the year to support their child/children. Open houses are held where families can come to “meet the teacher,” as well as the rest of our staff. A plan is presented on how communication will happen between school and home. This beginning is essential for a positive relationship to continue.

The start of the school year is full of many activities and connections. All of these shared beginnings will fade away if we do not work to continue to nurture and strengthen relationships. Sustaining relationships over time requires and thrives with frequent communications and connections. Sending newsletters, having updated websites, and adding social platforms and other sources of media communications are great, but those personal ones matter the most.

Building Relationships

How many channels do you have on your television? Do you watch all of them? Do we need all of these choices? Can you remember a time when the selections on the television were only four or five? You had to be home at a particular time to catch your show because you could not record it and watch it later. My grandson knows how to pause the TV so he can go to the restroom or get a snack. Then he will come back and resume the program. He will skip through the commercials. He just turned five years old. Television has changed over the years, and so have many other things in our lives. Is it all good?

Can you recall the names of the television shows you watched as you grew up? The tv shows changed over time, and what was considered inappropriate during one time period slowly made its way to approval.

I know I have written before about the area where I live has several famous people who grew up here. One of those is Dick VanDyke. Although I was not alive during The Dick VanDyke Show, which aired in 1961 and concluded in 1966, I enjoyed the show's re-runs.

I remember the married couple sleeping in separate beds; Rob and his wife Laura. Laura wore dresses, but she did have capri pants on at least one time, which caused a little stir. The show captured what was approved by society, but did not get into to many political issues.

Also, the 1960s-era TV series The Andy Griffin Show appeared to provide a look at a single father raising a little boy with the help of Aunt Bea. Many lessons of core values seemed to present themselves in the episodes, and a lot of parenting skills, ideas, and sometimes mistakes. I love to watch the re-runs of this show. It captures to me the peacefulness of a small town and the love for all. There are many more shows to pull from the past to look at and discover how these influenced others during this time frame. There is one episode of The Andy Griffin Show I would like to share. I often speak about bringing value to the lives of others, and this is a message I want to share in case you have not had the opportunity to see it.

As an educator, parents have trusted me with their children. I have never looked at my work as a task to be completed but as a purpose to achieve. As a mother and grandmother, I understand the purpose of instilling into the lives of my children all they need to continue to add value to life for themselves and others. Each year brings more challenges, but these are just opportunities to dig deeper into the heart and soul of our love for our corner of the world.

As Andy describes his purpose in parenting, I hope we can all hear the message he is providing and the message I have been giving. Education is not something we do to children; we do it with them. “You can’t let a young’un decide for himself. He’ll grab at the first flashy thing with shiny ribbons on it. Then, when he finds out there’s a hook in it, it’s too late. Wrong ideas come packaged with so much glitter that it’s hard to convince them that other things might be better in the long run.”

The importance of the home, school, and community in modeling the behaviors we want to see, the character we need, and the how of collaboration in working to make everyone feel good and safe is the best way to begin to turn things around.

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6). This is a guide and not a promise. We are all called to make our own decisions in life. In my Two-Rule philosophy I talk about choices. The choice is always up to us to make. It is when we choose, we accept the consequences which follow.

Adults are not immune to “flashy things,” as I know many who have taken a different path and many who have worked to try to get them back on the right path. This work is not easy and is exhausting at times. There are many ways to influence others today. Can you think of all of the ways others can affect you without you realizing it?

As an educator, I worked most of my career in middle school. I often told students to avoid falling into group think and following what others are doing. Be a leader. Think for yourself. It is easy to be in a group and find yourself nodding your head in agreement with others.

Everyone in education knows Harry and Rosemary Wong. Their famous book, The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher, is one of the books every practicing teacher has read or heard about in coursework. They believe the classroom's number one problem comes from procedures and routines.

It is a solid foundation for building an organized classroom where students know expectations, understand what is happening, and complete everything the same way each day.

Classrooms have changed. However, the need for this solid approach to procedures and routines is still the best approach to a solid foundation for an organized classroom focused on teaching and learning.

The changes we see in our classrooms are always a reflection of our society. Looking through history, we will see the influences from society in our schools. What are the discipline issues educators would say they face? I want to ask all of them to please share their number one discipline problem. Will you make a comment on the discipline issue which is the number one problem you face?

There are many ways to support our educational system—Locally, get involved actively. Many times schools will ask for engagement. “Please join us with a Family engagement night of reading.” “Please join us at Family Math night.” These are amazing and fun to be part of with your children, but being involved as a volunteer, member of a committee, holding an educational position like a school board member, or being involved with programs at the school has a more significant impact on the overall educational system. Schools, homes, and communities must collaborate with a focus on education and children. How can all of these resources work together to do what is best for the whole child? Many will provide their solutions, but it is up to the local community, parents, and school district to take a stand on what is best for the children involved with their system.

Lack of respect for authority, improving the social-emotional needs of students, understanding the purpose of education, and providing support to individual students are what I would like to provide solutions for home, school, and community. My Two-Rule philosophy helps to give a foundation to build what is needed to succeed not only in school but in life.

The foundation of the philosophy is about choices. Students learn about the importance of helping themselves and others to feel good and safe where they are. When you understand the thinking process in this way, solutions are seen first, and problems begin to shrink. It is in asking the right questions, providing the answer, and learning responsibility for our choices.

As an educator for the past two decades, boys have been in academic crisis. “Nearly twice as many boys as girls have trouble reading, are diagnosed with language disabilities, and are referred to special education classes. 41% of children in the United States are not reading at a basic level by third grade, and a majority of them are boys.”

In the article America’s Boy Crisis, Crichton writes about America experiencing 26 mass shootings in the last 10 years. These shootings were committed by deeply troubled youth, aged 12 to 25 years old. All were male, and more than half were white.

In his research he discovered, all gave warning signs that were ignored by authority figures. I will state that they were not noticed by many people involved in their lives. Mental Health issues overlooked and not provided to our youth for many years.

Six of these shooters, based on information available, lived in fatherless homes.

Critchlow refers to this as a lost generation—Generation Z, those born between the years of 1997-2012. He describes this generation as semi-illiterate, addicted to social media, and secular.

African American and Hispanic youth have seen reports of academic risks at high rates, also tied in many cases with fatherless homes and other barriers over the past decades. White males experienced similar barriers, challenges, and academic shortcomings. It is not a race issue, but a gender issue. All of our boys are at risk, with some facing a higher level of challenges and barriers, but all at risk.

I know from my involvement in education and trainings, sociologists and experts have talked for decades about social consequences of fatherless households. Now I know single moms can do an excellent job in raising children, but mentioned in the article is evidence in research where the one’s who could not have issues.

“Less time is spent by youth today than a decade ago on socializing, attending parties, sporting, or entertainment events. Drugs, legal, and illegal, are destroying young men. In 2021 alone, 107,000 opioid deaths have occurred. Most of these deaths (69%) occurred among males.”

“Farrell and Gray identify four crises that boys now face: a crisis of education, a crisis of physical health, a crisis of economic health, and a crisis of mental health. All these lead to a void of purpose in many young men’s lives, and a consequent struggle to achieve a sense of self-worth.” -Bob Funk. Warren Farrell and John Gary are the authors of the book The Boy Crisis.

In conclusion, I would like to make a few points to ponder about the young boys in our lives. Since I entered the world of education way back in the late 80’s, boys have been in crisis. I do believe if we would look at the data they were in crisis before I began. All of our boys are in crisis. I will also say our children boys and girls are in crisis. My focus for this blog is on the boys.

Are there specific things you are doing to support the boys in your school? Do you have ideas to share? Boys learn differently than girls. It is important for all of us to remember, one glove does not fit all.

I will have more to share about supporting boys in education. The most important things we need to remember are:


Additional resources for this topic would be Michael Gurian who has written 24 books in the field of education, parenting, and psychology of boys and girls. Christina Hoff Sommers’ book The War Against Boys, How Misguided Policies Are Harming Our Young Men or Michael Thompson’s work in this field. In addition, I discovered an article written by Donald T. Critchlow discussing how mass shootings spotlight a lost generation of white youths mentioned in the blog.

Tom Mortenson, Pell Institute

Michael Thompson, Ph.D. and Teresa H. Barker, It’s a Boy, p.201.

Michael Gurian with Kathy Stevens, Boys & Girls Learn Differently, p.36.

Michael Thompson, Ph.D. and Teresa H. Barker, It’s a Boy, p.211.

Ibid, p.189.

Michael Gurian with Kathy Stevens, Boys & Girls Learn Differently, p.122.

Michael Thompson, Ph.D. and Teresa H. Barker, It’s a Boy, p.186.

Michael Gurian with Kathy Stevens, Boys & Girls Learn Differently, p.307.

Ibid, p.35.

Michael Gurian and Kathy Stevens, The Minds of Boys, p.255.

Michael Gurian with Kathy Stevens, Boys & Girls Learn Differently, p.308.

Michael Gurian and Kathy Stevens, The Minds of Boys, p.22.

Donald T. Critchlow, Katzin Family Foundation professor at Arizona State University, is the author of Revolutionary Minds: Five Monsters Who Turned Liberation Into Tyranny

Warm up, get those happy thoughts going, and fuel up! This is the time of year I love hot chocolate! Don’t forget the marshmallows! Blessings to a great week! Today I get to start teaching again! So excited for the day to start!

My blog post on October 27, 2022, began with students saying. Embedded within the post was an article with data collected from middle and high school students. The data in the paper presented the biggest barriers to student learning, according to a new report released by YouthTruth, a nonprofit that surveys K-12 students and families for school districts.

Anxiety, depression, and stress were indicated, along with students identifying they did not have enough support at school by finding enough adult support. School counselors, Social Workers, School Psychologists, and other Mental Health providers are in need, but there is a shortage. There are not enough qualified individuals to fill positions, nor do schools have the available funding to support all of the additional needs.

Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 24th, 2022, had an active shooter. A teen and an adult were killed in the shooting. With the fast-acting security team at the school, all doors being locked, following the safety drill protocols for active shooters, and the fast response of the police department, the shooter was taken down within minutes of the 911 call. All of this saved lives.

While investigating why this school is a target for violence and why the shooter with no background in violence would commit such an act, mental health is brought up. In every case of active shooters, mental health is brought up as an indication of triggers for these incidents. However, the first thing politicians, media, and others do is focus on the weapons used in the horrific violence.

I intend to bring a spotlight on targeting the core of the issue long before (years), before the few days before they have a breakdown and decide to do such an awful thing to the lives of innocent individuals. Those few minutes in the lives of all who survived will be with them for a lifetime. To all of the families who lost loved ones, the scars of the day are so deep. All of these add additional needs for mental health support for the trauma experienced from extreme events, which mental health may have been able to prevent.

I say…

In July of 2022, I wrote another blog post about safety and feeling good. These are the foundation of my Two Rule Philosophy for school. In having a Two Rule school, the purpose is to meet the needs we all value; Safety and Feeling Good. If you look at all of the rules you currently have, the basic foundation of each one is grounded in one or both of those simple Two Rules. However, they are not simple at all once we dig deeper into how we apply, model, explain, support, and teach all that goes along with them.

We will continue to see violence, anger, and issues with our youth and young adults until we address the issues at the core of the problem. Mental Health is a significant need. It is my professional opinion implementation of Two Rules in all schools will begin to develop the habits, skills, and knowledge needed to form a solid foundation for success not only in academics but in their life journey. In addition, we are advocating for funding to increase mental health support. We need to help more individuals who want to go into the mental health and education.

My final thought to share is this, as my editor is currently working on finalizing my book with me, it was important to me to have the book contain pages leaders can take to implement so it will have those. In addition, a collaboration of teams is significant for me as well, so this is included. When I say teams, I want to clarify what this means. Education is not something we do to children; it is something we do with children. Children, families, schools, and the community are part of the teams. Children will lead the conferences about what they are learning, what strengths they have, what they need help with, and how they would like us to all support them. Communication openly together. Nothing changes until we change our approaches together in partnerships. It really does take a village!

Less than half of middle and high school students say they have an adult at their school they can talk to when they feel upset. Students are facing depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues that are holding them back. However, it is not having that needed support like counselors, school social workers, and psychologists who they can speak to at the time they are experiencing their issues that is adding to their problems.

While talking with other Principal Coaches and Mentors, one mentioned how much the jobs of educators seem to be switching to look more like counseling and mental health supporters. Sometimes the principals help staff to find ways to release anxiety.

Finding ways to help students engage in learning and feel a sense of belonging is a big task, not just for a single classroom teacher to do with their students. A school is a community. Presenters often talk about climate and culture, but they speak about bringing staff to the table to discuss how to improve. Many times they also include how to get families more involved or engaged. How about also pulling up some seats for students?

Bringing students to the table to discuss climate and culture is a great way to engage students. In Two Rule Philosophy, the critical element in building a foundation where everyone feels good and safe, students, staff, families, and the community is involved in helping to develop a sense of belonging. Communities can work to bring in organizations to provide those extra resources students seek to support their needs. Working together, we can give so much to enrich our environment.

Please share with us any ideas you have or what you are doing. Thank you for being part of the solution daily.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.

Matthew 5:14

One of my rules is about feeling safe. As a child, I was terrified of the dark. When the lights went out, I could not see, and what I could not see scared me. How I did not know in reality, even when the light is on, there are things we cannot see we should be terrified of.

We’ll leave the light on for you. Is it an excellent marketing hit for what hotel chain? It is the best phrase and the spokesman Tom Bodett has the perfect tone of voice to capture the emotion the advertisers want.

At this moment, there seems to be a spotlight being used to flash from this political talking point to the next. Some politicians change their points of view based on polling numbers and then personal attacks on each other. I know I have watched these things happen before in my decades of life, but today they seem to be a little more dangerous.

My heart broke as we flipped on the TV going through stations, and saw a report of several people killed. The shooter had been killed in the process, he was 15 years old. Then another story I read about police officers responding to an emergency call of domestic violence which could have been just a way to get them to come so they could be attacked. Why so much anger?

Another spotlight is shining brightly on education. It should be! I am a retired educator and I have always wanted more attention on education, someone to look at the equity of the funding for education and to look at how we support education overall.

Starting my career as a Teaching Assistant and ending as the Director of Educational Support Programs, I have been blessed to see through the lenses of many. I have been in rural schools, urban schools, high-poverty schools, and diverse schools, and I have worked with gifted students and special needs students. However, the spotlight is shining with a twist on education.

What is happening in education, to education, and with education?

Parents should be involved! Students should be concerned! The community should be involved! “Education is something we do with children, not to them.” My Two Rule philosophy includes partnerships of home-school-community. The center of the philosophy is the child. Children are developing and growing on a life-long journey. Our responsibility is to provide a strong foundation of skills to help them reach the highest possible levels and to provide a pathway to success.

Now that the light is on education, it is time to show what you need, what you are doing, and how you will build partnerships to achieve for the students you serve. Step into the light and make your voice heard to push back on the positives you are doing. It is time to let your light shine bright! Please let me know if I can help you. Education for all children is essential to all of us.

What is wrong with your arm?

“I fell outside on my elbow and was sent to the nurse. She looked at it and got me ice. Told me to go to class, but it hurts really bad.”

Why didn’t someone tell me? I am right here! MaryAnn can I go ahead and leave, I am taking her to the doctor.

“Yes, go right ahead. Not a problem.”

I got my things together and told Sarah not to move her arm; we went straight to see Doc. I saw the nurse as I was walking out of my room, heading for my car.

“I gave her some ice; I am sure it will be fine.” the nurse says as we are walking down the hallway.

“What, I am right down the hallway, and you did not think to get me. We are going to see the doctor straight now. I do not think she is fine. I am furious with you right now. It is best not to have a conversation.”

We were pulling up to the doctor’s office in town where I used to work, and they took us right back. The doctor took one look and said she needed to go to Champaign. Do not let her eat. She may need surgery, but we will not know until they exray it. We will call ahead to let them know you are on your way.

It was not fractured to needing surgery but was very close. The doctor stated it was broken, and they would need to put her in a cast. It was close to needing surgery, but she was a lucky girl.

My daughter is now a special education teacher with three children of her own, 14, 7, and 4 years of age. At the time of her injury, she was in third grade, and I was teaching right down the hallway in a Title I Resource Room. No one had to go out of their way to find me. So the “fracture” of communication with parents has been in place for some time.

I did not let it go or get by without something being done about it, and I stood up for not just my child but all children. I continue to do so. Parents have the right to know, need the ability to ask questions, and approve of the things going on in the schools. It is a collaboration together. Children spend a great deal of time at school. Parents and families need to be able to trust, respect, and feel good about all of those in the care of their children. Open communications, collaboration, and listening help to get things moving in the right direction.

If family engagement and involvement are not a priority for you, please make it one. This is how things will begin to change and improvements made.

Teaching children about safety is so important. As a focus for all of us this year, we need to make safety in all areas a priority. Safety is not just a simple conversation but a continuation of many discussions. We can begin with a short checklist.

As we have experienced a global pandemic with shutdowns of our educational system and lockdowns with a push for safety against the threat of the Covid-19 outbreak, our children were pushed to an online learning format to receive educational instruction to meet academic needs.

Technology usage brought to light many needs and areas for improvement. When I was a young teacher, I can remember talking about technology safety. In today's world, there is so much more availability of technology, programs, and people utilizing the resources, which increases the need for safety. An excellent checklist has been created for you to utilize for video chats which became part of the educational day.

Safety Threats On-line

Children face safety issues when they are utilizing technology. Adults do as well! The problems facing children are those in which they need to be informed to watch out for and to look for the warnings. Understanding safety is a better approach than addressing the dangers.

Safety issues for children in grades 5th-12th are the areas we will focus on now. This seems to be the age group to address safety practices for technology usage. You see the majority of children in this age group with multiple devices (cell phones, iPads, laptops, Chrome books, and gaming devices). The more social-media platforms they are involved with, the more safety protocols are needed.

Three significant areas to address at this point for safety are Cyberbullying, Online predators, and Inappropriate content. I will follow-up with an additional post to provide more details into these areas.

Tips to Tighten Safety At Home

Technology tips for Families can be a piece of your newsletter home to families. It can also be a corner on the school website. Keeping things updated to keep families informed will help build safety. Providing a list is always a great resource, and adding professional advice aids families in making decisions.

One of the resources provides a downloadable handout for parents and a presentation prepared to provide to families as a family night. More resources to address ages 6-8 years old are provided at this site.

As more resources are found to provide additional information for safety in technology usage, I will share them. Safety is essential in all areas, at all levels, and for all ages. Providing information on ways to help with safety is always crucial. In addition, always share what you are doing for the safety each day of those you serve.

"I only have 2 rules!"
© 2024 Brenda Yoho
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