Superintendent’s Monthly Message
Teaching Generation Z
Every generation comes with a unique set of opportunities for our teachers in the classroom. Generation Z (Gen Z) students are no exception. Gen Z students, approximately 65 million strong, were born between 1995 and 2012. In order to effectively teach our Gen Z students, it is important to have a deep understanding of what is important to them, how they learn, and what influences them.
According to Hanover Research, creativity is important to 80% of Gen Z and they describe themselves as “empowered, connected, empathetic self-starters.” Eighty-nine percent feel optimistic about their financial future and 60% want to change the world for the better.
Gen Z students prefer individualistic learning and a model-to-application approach. They are frugal, realistic, and career-driven. Gen Z are very comfortable communicating via images and tend to be more focused on the now. They are attracted to accelerated programs, flexible start dates, and pre-assessments that allow them to move more quickly and efficiently to and through college. Though they are very skilled in digital technology, they may still need to be trained on how to use devices and apps for academic purposes. Gen Z appreciate teachers who are able to strike a balance between being personable and fun while not trying too hard. They are looking for practical outcomes and learn well through success stories. They are not time-wasters and appreciate getting to the point sooner.
Gen Z students were raised by parents who taught them to work and think strategically and make trade-offs. They were shaped by news of school shootings and domestic terrorism. Influenced by growing up during the Great Recession, they are relatively conservative when it comes to their finances, thus, expect to get more for their money. They prefer high speed delivery and opt for utility and quality over brand. Gen Z are much more critical of the tone and quality of marketing and have developed a filtering mechanism to manage the overwhelming amount of information readily available to them.
Gen Z students are quick to let folks know what works for them and what does not. For a classroom teacher, this should be looked at as a gift. They are not pushovers and future employers will see this in their interviews.
Every generation comes their own set of unique characteristics. Gen Z will undoubtedly keep everyone they interact with on their toes. Knowing how they think and what is important to them will certainly pave the way for their successful and productive journey.
We Proudly Take All the Blueberries!
Have you ever read the Blueberry Story by Jamie Vollmer? Back in 1988, Mr. Vollmer was the manager of a manufacturing firm called The Great Midwestern Ice Cream Company. This company had become quite famous for having the best ice cream in America, especially their blueberry ice cream! Due to his successful management style, Mr. Vollmer was asked to sit in on many roundtable discussions that were formed to make recommendations for improving Iowa schools. Over time, he had participated in dozens of roundtables, spoke on TV, radio, and wrote several Opt-Ed pieces all about the business gospel of school reform. He received standing ovations at every stop, yet he did not manage to make or inspire a single improvement in Iowa’s schools…yet he still continued on his journey of this business model for school reform.
Mr. Vollmer visited hundreds of schools, stood on hundreds of stages, and talked to tens of thousands of teachers, administrators, board members, support staff, foundation members, business and community members, and parent groups. It was not until a snowy day on January 1991, that he finally understood that something was not working like he felt it should.
It happened at the last high school where he would give his business approach to reforming schools. His first sentence was, “This is a talk about change.” He went on to talk about why his ice cream company was so successful and that if the schools could only learn from them, they would see success in their students. He ended with a statement of not being in business if he ran his company like we ran our schools. You could hear a pin drop. Now time for the Q & A.
A high school English teacher stood up to address Mr. Vollmer with questions. She asked him questions about his company and how they surely used Grade A ingredients to get the very best flavor.
Mr. Vollmer nodded emphatically. “At the Great Midwestern Ice Cream Company, our specifications to our suppliers is triple A.”
She asked what their policy was when blueberries arrived at their receiving dock that did not match their triple A standards.
He smugly said, “We send them back!” Again…the pin drop.
Then the high school English teacher stood tall and said, “That’s right! You send them back. We can never send back the blueberries suppliers send us. We take them big, small, rich, poor, hungry, abused, confident, curious, homeless, frightened, rude, creative, violent, and brilliant. We take them of every race, religion, and ethnic background. We take them with head lice, ADHD, and advanced asthma. We take them with juvenile rheumatoid, English as a second language, and who knows how much lead in their veins. We take them all, Mr. Vollmer! Every one! And why it’s not a business. It’s a school!”
Mr. Vollmer’s world changed that very afternoon. This high school teacher challenged his simplistic, business arguments armed with nothing more than the knowledge born of her daily experience. And it is a daily experience worth doing.
We will proudly continue to give everything we’ve got to give every blueberry the chance to live a Grade A life!
Teaching Resilience to Our Students – Part 1
The world our students are growing up in offers many opportunities for celebrations, growth, and stress. As educators, it is no longer enough to only teach the three R’s: Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. We need to add one more R: Resilience.
re·sil·ience – /rəˈzilyəns/ – noun – the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness
Karen Young, in her article, “Building Resilience in Children: 20 Practical, Powerful Strategies,” states, “During times of stress or adversity, the body goes through a number of changes designed to make us faster, stronger, more alert, more capable versions of ourselves. Our heart rate increases, blood pressure goes up, and adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormone) surge through the body. In the short-term, this is brilliant, but the changes were only ever mean to be for the short-term.”
We often see different responses to stress and adversity by our students, as well as different ways of recovering from stressful times. We observe different ways of showing when the demands they are facing outweigh their capacity to cope. Students might become emotional, defiant, or withdrawn. Even the strongest of students will have days when it becomes too much. A little bit of stress is beneficial and helps to develop skills needed to flourish. It is when this stress starts to affect daily quality of life that we need to step in and help where we can. We need to add that fourth R, Resilience, to give them every opportunity to succeed. Here are five of the ways to purposefully strengthen resiliency in our students:
- Resilience needs relationships – Students need the reliable presence of at least one supportive relationship, whether it is another student, adult in school, or family member.
- Frequent exposure to people who care about them – when someone feels genuinely cared about, it can lead to higher positive emotions, a sense of control and predictability, improved self-esteem, motivation, and optimism
- Let them know that it’s okay to ask for help – Children often have the idea that being brave means dealing with things by themselves. Courage is knowing when to ask for help.
- Encourage regular mindfulness. Mindfulness creates structural and functional changes in the brain that support a healthy response to stress. It strengthens the ability to quickly become calm. Many resources are available at no cost online that teach mindfulness.
- Build their executive functioning – Strengthening their executive functioning will help them manage their own behavior and feelings, and increase their capacity to develop coping strategies. Some powerful ways to build their executive functioning are:
- establishing routines
- modelling healthy social behavior
- creating and maintaining supportive reliable relationships
- board games (good for impulse control, planning, working memory, and mental flexibility)
- providing opportunities to make their own decisions
- giving them opportunities to think and act independently (disagreeing with you and telling you why you’re wrong, has a plus side – their executive functioning is flourishing!)
- games that involve memory (e.g. the shopping game – ‘I went shopping and I bought a banana’; the next person says, ‘I went shopping and I bought a banana and a magazine’; next person … ‘I went shopping and I bought a banana, a magazine, and AAA batteries, etc.’)
There are things in our lives of which we have no control but building and strengthening resilience will provide our students with the tools to manage challenges and difficult times today and into their future. One more R: Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Resilience!
Summer Activities and Adventures
The days are finally getting warmer and thoughts are turning to summer plans. Our minds and
calendars fill with possibilities for these sunny days. If you are looking for some fun things to
do with your children or for your children, we have collected a wide variety of trainings, shows,
athletic activities, and educational experiences to choose from. Have a wonderful, safe summer!
Aloha Tennis Camps are coming all the way from Hawaii to Mattawan this Summer:
July 30th – Aug 2nd and Aug 6th – 9th.
Introduce your child to the fun and exciting lifelong sport of tennis! Aloha Tennis Camps
are Hawaiian-themed tennis camps for students between the ages of 7-17. ATC offers elite tennis instruction
designed around beginner and intermediate skill levels. Students receive fact-based, statistically proven, and
biomechanical tennis instruction. Register today and reserve your spot! Limited space available.
Visit: alohatenniscamps.com to register, contact, or get more information.
MATTAWAN SUMMER TENNIS:
Registration is now open for the Mattawan summer tennis program!! Open to all ages, including
Featuring the famous alumnus Coach Matt Boven, this program is the most affordable program, and
the most fun. Very flexible schedule. Sign up for any weeks that fit your summer schedule!! Please
feel free to share with any friends/family.
LAWSON ARENA & WEST HILLS:
Flyer for West Hills
COED YOUTH BASKETBALL CAMP:
LES/MS BOYS BASKETBALL CAMP:
BALL RUNNING TEAM:
EARLY COLLEGE CAMP (KVCC):
Middle School Grades
Registration started Feb. 15
Only 2 camps left with availability
Hands on Summer Camp
KALAMAZOO NATURE CENTER SUMMER CAMP:
BINDER PARK ZOO:
BOWL FOR FREE:
Registered kids bowl free twice a day
To register, go to https://www.kidsbowlfree.com/, search and pick your location,
complete registration form, receive email coupons.
In our area:
– Continental Lanes
– Eastland Bowl
– Rainbow Lanes
– Airway Fun Center
PRETTY LAKE CAMPS:
KALAMAZOO SUMMER CAMP GUIDE
The Great Benefit of Making Mistakes
One of my earliest memories after making a mistake is my mom reciting that famous age appropriate quote, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” If I had a nickel for every time I heard that…and then later said it myself, I might just own a vacation spot on an island somewhere. Since then, I have made many mistakes. As a result, I have learned a lot! I continue to learn daily by allowing myself to take each mistake and learn something from it.
Swami Sivananda says, “This world is your best teacher. There is a lesson in everything. There is a lesson in each experience. Learn it and become wise. Every failure is a stepping stone to success. Every difficulty or disappointment is a trial of your faith. Every unpleasant incident or temptation is a test of your inner strength. Therefore nil desperandum. March forward hero!”
As an educator, one of the most important lessons we can teach our students is the value of making mistakes. We need to encourage students to grab on to those mistakes and use them as stepping stones to new learning and new experiences. This can be a challenge for our young learners as perfection and getting that “A” provide measurable evidence of growth and intelligence. Can failure or mistakes lead to intelligence and eventual success? They often have a negative connotation and negative experiences; however, only if we allow this mindset to occur. True failure comes when we walk away from those mistakes without a second thought, a second question, or a lack of curiosity as to why we failed or were mistaken. Steve Harvey, the television personality, has had his share of failures in his lifetime. He has learned from each failure. In 2004, Harvey stated, “Failure is a great teacher, and I think when you make mistakes and you recover from them and you treat them as valuable learning experiences, then you’ve got something to share.”
Making mistakes is a valuable part of any learning experience. We cannot learn without them. We must treat mistakes as opportunities to look deeper, maybe through a different lens. This is when the learning becomes lasting and rich. The best response to “I made a mistake” is “So. Now what? What is your next step?” Getting back up and moving forward takes strength, thought, and even courage. Strength, thought, and courage leads to more strength, thought, and courage. These are valuable tools to use the next time and the next, eventually bringing the success which was the initial goal.
“Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism.” ~David M. Burns
Get back up, dust off the pieces and parts that went into making the mistake, make a plan, and move forward. Then you will recognize and appreciate the great benefit of making mistakes. This is when the true learning begins.
Let it be Kindness
Our world is full of variety. It is full of colors, shapes, tastes, sounds, and smells. We have our country music fans, rap fans, oldies but goodies fans. We have those who cheered on the Patriots and those who were diehard Eagles’ fans. We have those who love to sing and others who warn friends and families before they belt out a tune. We have our cat people and our dog people. We have those who love science fiction and those who love fantasy and history. We have our athletes and those who would prefer to spend their time on the stage. We have students who come from large families, others from small, and yet others from a mixed family who come together as one. Our crayon box from our early years of learning did not include just one color. And with it, man, did we draw and explore and appreciate what those colors could create!
Here at Mattawan, some may say we do not have a diverse student body or teaching staff when it comes to the color of our skin. We may not have a diverse population, but we need to celebrate we do have…every single day. We cannot tolerate racism. We cannot stand behind bullying, whether it’s face-to-face or behind a screen. We are so blessed with a multitude of personalities, strengths and weaknesses, talents, and dreams. We need to recognize and celebrate even the smallest of acts and gifts. What would our schools be like without color, without different interests and career goals, without the unique characteristics that make up the people we learn with, perform with, or compete with on the field? Helen Keller once said, “The highest result of education is tolerance.” We have so much to learn, so much to teach. We can all do our part to teach tolerance and value difference when so many come together creating one voice.
If there is one thing, one trait, one characteristic that could create an atmosphere of safety and belonging, of well-being and peace, a world where all the colors in the crayon box got along, it would be kindness. Kindness just for the sake of being kind. Kindness brings tolerance. Kindness brings an open-mind. Kindness eliminates prejudice and judgment. There is no ranking or hate that comes as a result of kindness. There is a sign in my office that reads, “You will not regret being kind today.” I do not believe I have heard anyone feel bad about being kind. Our students, as well as our staff, come to us with many personal stories and experiences. We do not often know their unique day-to-day needs but we do know there is always a need for kindness.
With kindness in your hip pocket, tolerance of others will become a natural response. Tolerance means accepting and valuing the differences between people, appreciating that these differences enrich us. It recognizes that each of us has a limited perspective on the world and together, our tapestry of insights and virtues is greater than those of any one person, tribe, or culture alone. We are able to delight in the otherness of strangers and our intimate companions knowing that our own lives would be less rich if everyone were more like us.
“Tolerance is the mindful capacity to love, respect, accept the differences that make people unique. This tolerance exists so that all people can live in harmony without the exclusion of one over the other or the will of the few disaffecting the lives of the many.” ~Byron R. Pulsifer
Tolerance and kindness are free. To be tolerant and kind does not require training, and the impact remains long after the act. If a difference is to be made in how we treat each other, I believe it starts with tolerance and a random act of kindness. We owe it to each other and we certainly deserve it for ourselves.
Keeping Children Positive About School
It is hard to believe we are into the second semester of the 2018-2019 school year already! Our students have worked so hard these past five months that it can be easy to let their guard down and start to grow weary of the rigor and pace. There will be times your children come home frustrated with a certain teacher, course, or homework assignment.
Research about learning has revealed that stress and anxiety can have a negative impact on the brain’s growth. This lack of growth affects memory, engagement, and positive motivation. Each child’s stress level varies according to the type of support they receive from adults, as well as their environment.
According to an article “Academic Motivation: Strategies for Students” by Michael B. Brown, “letting your child know that you think school is important and providing recognition for their effort and successes can motivate learning.” Brown suggests that the following ideas can help you increase your child’s positive motivation to learn:
Encourage positive family relationships and responsibility
- Help your child become more independent and responsible. Assign chores and maintain high expectations for proper behavior.
- Do fun educational things with your child and the entire family.
- Praise your child for trying hard and for being successful. Everyone needs continuous encouragement.
- Celebrate often. It can be as small as extra one-on-one time with you to an extra 30 minutes of screen time on their favorite device.
Model the importance of learning
- Let your child know that school is important by making it your child’s highest priority
- Let your child see you read books, newspapers, and magazines. Set a common reading time for your family. Talk about what you have read.
- Talk to your child about school and do not accept “it was fine” as the only answer.
- Talk about career interests and research the education need to be successful
Teach habits that encourage learning
- Have a set routine for school work. Kids need structure.
- Set-up a “cool” learning environment in your home.
- Make sure your child finishes homework at home.
- Provide opportunities for success to encourage your child to try new things.
- If you are unable to help your child with his or her homework, you can help by showing that you are interested. Help with organization, provide the necessary tools, ask about daily assignments, have them try to teach you, praise their efforts, and communicate with your child’s teacher.
Work with your child’s teacher to enhance academic motivation
- Show your child that you respect his or her teacher.
- Talk regularly with the teacher so your child sees that you are communicating and that his or her learning is of utmost importance to you.
- Develop a system to give reinforcements at home.
- Encourage your child to read.
- Doing part or all of your child’s homework for him or her will not help in the long run.
Parents and family members are not alone in creating a positive learning environment for their child. Partnering with your child’s teacher and other school personnel is very important. Together, we can provide a wealth of academic support for your child to gain the tools needed in today’s complex, competitive world.