Press Pause… a great idea and resource!

Here’s one of several great videos recently released…  and this link to a great website called “Press Pause.”  There are more short videos on the topics of dealing with anger and schedule overload.  These are created by “Half of Us.” I’m impressed with both of these sites and their content/approach–easy to navigate, bite-sized chunks of practical support and advice!

Look Out for Children!

DJMAX / Pixabay

The reactions to the recent tragedy in Las Vegas have certainly been varied. Thanks in a large part to the ongoing media coverage, it remains a focal point for many.  It, therefore, seems fitting to share several thoughts, including this paragraph from a recent J.E.D. Foundation blog post:

At a time like this, the simple things will help – don’t hold feelings in, talk to friends, family and loved ones. Turn off the TV,  computer, and phone. Get up and get out – tragedies can weigh so heavily on us that it makes it hard to move. Take a walk, go to the gym, run errands, spend time with friends, volunteer to help. And lastly, everyone should take care of themselves and those around them – physical health and emotional connectedness can go a long way toward making you feel like yourself again.

During last night’s Suicided Awareness and Prevention Workshop we discussed briefly the potential impact events like this have on children.  It is so important to remember they are watching and listening and may be much more aware of news and incidents than we might think at first. If it is difficult for an adult to process the “why” of an incident like this, consider how much more so it may be for young people. This is a time when we should look out for our children.

I published a post from Edutopia (an excellent resource for teachers and parents, by the way) on Mr. Boomsma’s Facebook Page. Entitled “Responding to Tragedy: Resources for Educators and Parents.” When time permits, I will be adding many of those resources to this website.

As a general guideline, I encourage adults to listen and watch for signs that a child is struggling to come to terms with the incident. It is not necessary to “force” a child a think or talk about it, but it is important to be willing to listen and answer questions. You don’t have to have all the answers. Provide reassurance and gently shift the focus to the positives. In children’s terms, “Let’s look for the helpers.”

That’s actually pretty good advice for all of us.

Welcome, New Subs!

ZIPNON / Pixabay

The recent Substitute Teacher Workshop sponsored by MSAD 53 in Pittsfield included a nice mix of people who are already subbing and some who will be subbing for the first time. One of my favorite comments on the evaluation was “The class taught that being a substitute was far more than a fill-in babysitter in a classroom.

Okay, so my ego also liked the comment, “Mr. Boomsma is an excellent teacher!

Folks who’ve participated in the workshop know that my bias is that we can worry less about classroom management if we keep a laser focus on teaching and learning. In an engaged and energetic classroom, there simply isn’t time for disruption.

It’s always exciting to welcome new substitutes to what can be an enjoyable and rewarding job. Remember, Mr. Boomsma’s “rule number two” is “we will enjoy learning!

For the benefit of all those who are embarking on substituting, I’ve recently created a one-page Getting Started (fingerprinting) guide. It will remain available on the Substitute Teacher Resources Page for future downloading.

 

Substitute Teachers and Fingerprinting

Robin Higgins / Pixabay

Bizzare! That’s one word used to describe a “rule change” made by the Department of Education that affects substitute teachers. I will attempt to sort this out for you.  You don’t have to understand the why, but you will need to understand the what and how.

When you first become a sub, fingerprinting is a requirement. The process is relatively uncomplicated. Information is typically available from the superintendant’s office of the district where you plan to work. You are fingerprinted and so state in an application to the DOE (Department of Education). The fingerprinting includes a background check. In short, you will ultimately be issued a “certificate” indicating you are “approved” to work with children in public schools. The certificate is good for five years.

You will not be reminded of the expiration date by the DOE. When the time comes, if you apply logic, you will likely attempt “renew” your approval, ideally before expiration. Well, under current rules you can’t.

I recently discovered that subs and mentors do not have that option… even though you’ve worked consistently during the past five years. (Other employees who have worked during those five years can simply renew.) You are going to have to start over.  In other words, the process is the same for first-time substitutes and those who have been fingerprinted in the past.

The”why” ultimately doesn’t matter, although we could probably have some fun speculating. You’ll need to make an appointment to be fingerprinted, complete and submit an application to the DOE, much the same as you did the first time!

As I often tell students, you don’t have to like it, but you do have to do it.

Maine Department of Education Approval Instructions

Maine Department of Education Application Form

Identogo Site to make an appointment to be fingerprinted

 

 

Focusing on Solutions

“Did you know that eating mashed potatoes causes Alzheimer’s?” During one of my annual checkups I told my doctor this–he looked at me in disbelief and asked why I thought that. I replied, “Well, everyone I know with Alzheimer’s has eaten mashed potatoes.”

He laughed and called me a statistical nihilist. I replied that I was merely trying to distinguish between “cause and correlation” since he had been citing some statistical risk factors I have. (This was, by the way, a very friendly conversation.)

With that background, I offer some statistics recently published by NAMI. With the notation that all statistics have limitations, I have confidence in their accuracy.


I do not “enjoy” publishing statistics like this and I confess I find myself sometimes wondering if their publication accomplishes the intent. If it’s not clear, the intent of this infographic is to encourage people to sign up for a Youth Mental First Aid Course.

I’ve taken it; it’s a good course and I highly recommend it. I truly believe, as the infographic suggests, it can help those who take it start a conversation that could save a life. Make no mistake, I’m not at all critical of the course or its intent. But if  I’m going to be totally honest, I firmly believe more is needed.

Without opening a debate about the causes of mental illness, what we are looking at here is identifying a high-risk population. The question that is not being asked is “Why?” and “Are there are actions we could be taking that will reduce that high-risk population?”

I’m a bit troubled by the medical community’s increasing reliance on statistics. The conversation I cited at the beginning took place in part because my doctor was assessing my risk factors for certain health issues. Because data is so readily available, it’s in danger of becoming the holy grail. What happened to science and simple logic?

But I digress, probably because I don’t fully understand our approach to suicide prevention. We are very focused on crisis intervention.  Again, that’s not a bad thing. But I see it as comparable to sending someone to the dentist when they have a toothache. Not a bad idea, certainly, but let’s not omit the importance of oral hygiene–aka brushing and flossing.

So why aren’t we teaching kids (and adults) how to “brush and floss” their minds? If we truly are committed to preventing suicide, can we back up and prevent the crisis?  In much the same way we can avoid trips to the dentist with good oral hygiene, we just might avoid some of those 5,240 attempts in grades 7 – 12 every year by teaching and encouraging good mental hygiene starting at a very early age.

I’ll repeat–crisis intervention is valid and important.  I’m simply using the occasion of “mental health month” to suggest we might be a bit more passionate, excited, and enthusiastic in some positive ways. If kids can learn how to take care of their teeth, they can learn how to take care of their minds.

Perhaps the bigger question is, “Can we teach them how?”

Walter Boomsma (“Mr. Boomsma”) writes on a wide array of topics including personal development, teaching and learning. Course information is also available here!