Tag Archives: education

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 I’m going to be totally honest, I firmly believe more is needed.

But if I 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?”

Substitute Teacher Workshops…

Here’s a reminder that I’ll be teaching the Substitute Teacher Workshop Tuesday, September 12 at PVAEC. And yes, there’s still some space left! By the way, if you saw the program listed in the PVAEC Catalog, the start time is incorrect; we actually start at 9: a.m. For additional information or to register, contact PVAEC at 564-6525 or visit the PVAEC website. I’ll also be teaching an evening version with MSAD 53 Adult Education at Warsaw Elementary School in Pittsfield starting on Tuesday, September 26. Contact them at 487-5145 or visit the MSAD 53 Adult Ed Website for more information or to register.

We’ll address some questions like “To go or not to go…” Believe it or not, managing bathroom breaks can be a challenge for subs!

Substitute Teacher Workshops, Fall 2017

This fun program is designed to prepare people interested in serving as a substitute teacher or ed tech.  There will be plenty of “hands on learning” that will include important classroom management techniques and teaching strategies. We’ll also cover some legal aspects and help you develop your own “sub pack” of resources and an action plan that will get you started on the right foot! If you’ve been subbing, this is a great opportunity for a “refresher” and some new ideas. Attendees will earn a certificate recognized by many local districts. One student comments, “…very engaging with a lot of real life scenarios. I came away with new information even after subbing for a year.” The program is taught by Walter Boomsma, an experienced substitute teacher and adult educator.


September 12, 2017, Tuesday–Substitute Teacher Workshop at PHEC, Dover Foxcroft. 9 AM — 4  PM, Course Sponsor is PVAEC.


RSU 19 Adult Ed is offering an evening program with the option of including the Suicide Prevention course required of all public school employees by LD 609.

September 26, 2017, Tuesday–Substitute Teacher Workshop I at Warsaw Elementary School, Pittsfield. 6 PM — 9 PM (must attend two nights), Course Sponsor is MSAD 53.

September 28, 2017, Thursday–Substitute Teacher Workshop II at Warsaw Elementary School, Pittsfield. 6 PM — 9 PM (must attend two nights), Course Sponsor is MSAD 53.

October 3, 2017, Tuesday–Substitute Teacher Workshop III (Suicide Awareness) at Warsaw Elementary School, Pittsfield. Course Sponsor is MSAD 53.

Course Providers

 

Unintended Consequences -- -- the good, the bad, the ugly:

A recent post on Facebook told the story of a teacher shopping for school supplies. She was approached by several parents shopping together (who had their school-aged children with them) and subsequently forced to listen to them complain about how much they were spending on back-to-school supplies and how teachers must think parents are made out of money. Apparently, they didn’t notice that the teacher was spending even more money than they. Her cart was full of things she needed and supplies to help out the students she knew would not have what was necessary.

It was an interesting story, certainly. The teacher handled a potentially ugly situation gracefully and sympathetically. I admired that but felt a real kinship with her when she described what she really wanted to say those parents.

Adults often “thing” children. We forget they are there and, more importantly, forget they are watching, listening and learning.  It’s a mistake that’s easy to make. Even teachers must guard against it. We see them as “kids” or “students” and lose sight of the fact they are small people with big brains that are like sponges.

Not only did those parents not notice the teacher’s cart was full, they forgot there were little people watching, listening, and learning.

So the teacher wanted to remind those parents there were little people there and what they were hearing was, “School is not important enough to spend money on, teachers are not to be trusted, they have bad judgment, and learning does not require investment.”

In fairness to those parents, they (hopefully!) didn’t want their children to hear that. We sometimes call this “unintended consequences.”

I watched a child tugging on her mother’s hand as they walked down the street, almost yelling, “Mom! Mom!” Mom was totally focused on her cell phone screen and it appeared not even acknowledging the child. I don’t know what was so important on the phone. I don’t know why the child needed her mother. But I’m fairly sure I know the message the child was getting. I also know that a few simple words and eye contact with the child could have conveyed a very different message.

When it’s back to school shopping time–or school budget time–I believe all adults have a responsibility to “watch our words.” We may be frustrated at the expense while we’re shopping and angered with increasing budgets and taxes but because we’re adults we should be able to express our frustrations and anger in an appropriate manner.

Let’s not teach our kids to disrespect schools and teachers. Let’s be careful we do not devalue learning and education–even unintentionally.

Education is expensive. But it’s also important. Let’s teach our children both of those truths and model good problem-solving skills.

Sometimes unintended consequences can be good. Another time in a store, I heard a young child ask what might have been a fairly simple question–I honestly don’t remember it exactly, but it was relative to why something was where it was.  The parent stopped and looked at it with the child then said, “That’s interesting. Why do you think it’s there?” I didn’t need to eavesdrop on the entire conversation to know that child was learning he and his thinking is important. I also hope to have that child in a classroom I’m teaching some day.

Thinking is not only allowed, it’s needed. Not just in classrooms, but in life.