Roundup VII

If you have ever looked at a teen and said to yourself: “What was he thinking?” – you should read both the Wall Street Journal article  titled, “What’s Wrong With the Teenage Mind?” and the book “Get Out Of My Life, But First Can You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall?” by Anthony Wolf, PhD. The WSJ article was written by Berkeley psychology professor Alison Gopnik and she explains how children today reach puberty earlier and adulthood later. And the book will make every parent feel better about the times their teen children are withdrawn or argumentative.

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Why are our boys not entering and completing college in the same numbers our girls are? It is projected that by 2020, men will represent only 41.1 percent of college enrollees (National Center for Education Statistics). According to the U.S. Dept. of Education, females comprised 56 percent of college applicants to four-year colleges and males 44 percent, for fall 2010 admission.

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Although there is a great deal of talk about our children needing to be global citizens, foreign language offerings are relatively slim in the United States, compared with other countries. Budget cuts and the demands of No Child Left Behind have made language education an easy target. The number of schools offering foreign-language instruction is lower every year and today, only 25 percent of all public elementary schools offer foreign-language instruction and 58 percent of all middle schools, according to a study by the research organization Westat.  At the high school level, 91 percent of all high schools offer foreign languages, but only 46 percent of students actually take them.

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Looking for good books to engage your teen in reading? The Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults was recently awarded to “Where Things Come Back,” by John Corey Whaley.  Honorable mention went to:  “Why We Broke Up,” by Daniel Handler, “The Returning,” by Christine Hinwood and “Jasper Jones,” by Craig Silvey.

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What a lovely website: www.thanksforteaching.us is a place where people share stories about the teachers who changed their lives. I’d be shocked if you can read five stories without getting teary-eyed.

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I love scholarships that are open to kids of all ages, not just seniors. Here are a few … Kohl’s stores are honoring more than 2,200 youth, ages six to 18, who have made a positive impact on their communities through volunteerism, with more than $420,000 in scholarships and prizes; top winners receive $10,000 each. Nominations are accepted at www.kohlskids.comuntil March 15, and nominators must be 21-plus. Two-thousand students will win a $50 Kohl’s gift card, and more than 200 will win $1,000 toward post-secondary education. Ten national winners will get $10,000 in scholarships (and $1,000 for their favorite charity).

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Best Buy is awarding $1.2 million in scholarships to students in grades nine to 12 to recognize and reward extraordinary contributions both inside and outside the classroom. Applicants must have a GPA of 2.5; be involved in community volunteer service or work experience; and be planning to go to a college, university or vocational-technical school following graduation. Up to 1,200 scholarships of $1,000 each will be granted. The deadline is Feb. 15 .www.bestbuy.scholarshipamerica.org/register.php

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A new Harvard University study examined the connection between childhood experiences and adults who demonstrate leadership qualities, starting with children as young as 2. It looked at intelligence, drive, social skills and personality and found that behaviors such as embracing novel experiences are most important. Children who engage in new experiences “tend to become more extroverted, socially engaging and become everyday leaders,” said the Harvard researchers. And, good news for those of us whose children sometimes drive us nuts, they found that the most demanding children are the most likely to be leaders as adults. Encouraging children who show an interest in something was a key area where parental influence was important, as was fostering determination to take on a challenge and pursue it to mastery or success. The data also found that motivation trumps intelligence when it comes to leadership. What can schools do? The study suggests that students should be given access to real-world experiences, the chance to try and fail and try again and the chance for students to discover their passions.

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Teachers should consider applying for one of 400 classroom supply grants of $250 given by the organization “Kids Bowl Free.” The organization works with teachers, school administrators and bowling centers to help provide a safe, fun activity for kids on summer break.  K-8 certified teachers in public, private, charter or parochial schools may apply. Visit www.bowlingtoteachers.com to complete the short application. One-hundred grants a month will be awarded from now through May 2012.

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Last weekend I traveled to Washington, D.C., and toured American University, Georgetown University and George Washington University. I was impressed by all three, but particularly by the gorgeous campuses of the first two, and by the fact that almost 90 percent of students at all three have at least one internship in D.C. before they graduate.

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I hope that all your local students wrote their own college application essays … I’ve just heard about a new software program called Turnitin that’s already being used by more than 100 colleges around the country to detect student plagiarism in the admissions process. Stanford and Penn State have gone on the record about using it and Penn State admissions reps said it has uncovered plagiarism rates of between 3 and 5 percent, an admissions officer told the Los Angeles Times.

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“The Super Bowl: XLVI Is Greek To Kids As Schools Stop Teaching Roman Numerals.” That recent Associate Press headline gave me pause. Those of us in our 40s or older probably can’t remember when we learned Roman numerals but there is no question that we know them. Students today aren’t learning them in most schools. Ask your kids at dinner tonight if they know what number “XXIV” is and let me know.

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The most comprehensive catalog I’ve ever come across for enrichment toys, games and supplies for grades preK-6 is available through Lakeshore Learning (www.lakeshorelearning.com). If you can’t find what you are looking for there, it doesn’t exist.

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I think the gaming web site, iCivics, founded by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, is just about the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. The site is free and its 16 educational video games provide the most comprehensive, standards-aligned civics curriculum for middle and high school students online. The curriculum includes lesson plans and games that are linked to subjects and skills that various states require students to master. O’Connor founded the nonprofit in an attempt to reverse the decline in civic education in America. For more information, go to icivics.com.

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The latest hot parenting book is called “Bringing Up Bebe” by Pamela Druckerman, an American living in Paris who is amazed and impressed by French parenting. She was inspired to write the book after years observing French children sitting calmly through endless meals, amusing themselves at playgrounds and on plane rides and displaying a distinct lack of tantrums. French parents do not live through their children or hinge their own identities on their offspring. A 2009 study by Princeton researchers comparing French and American parents found that American parents considered it more than twice as unpleasant to deal with their own children as French parents. You can draw your own conclusions, but it is certainly food for thought.

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Moody’s Mega Math Challenge is a free, Internet-based, applied math contest for high school juniors and seniors.Teams of three to five participants are asked to solve an open-ended, realistic problem focused on a real-world issue, using any free, publicly-available and inanimate sources of information, in 14 hours.

Scholarships totaling $115,000 are awarded to the top teams. Sign up by Feb. 24 at m3challenge.siam.org/participate/. The challenge weekend is March 3 and 4.

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USA Today recently reviewed five great new iPhone apps to help students keep track of homework.

1. iStudiez Pro – Price: $2.99. Allows students to organize schedules, prioritize homework, receive notifications before assignments are due and track their GPA.

2. myHomework – Price: free. This app allows students to prioritize homework assignments and track them on a user-friendly calendar, color-coded by category (papers, test, homework).

3. Evernote – Price: free ($5 a month for premium service). Students can also collaborate by sharing notes. Instead of a jumbled mess of notes, Evernote organizes notes via a clear notebook sorting system.

4. School & Stuff, Grades and Timetables  – Price: $2.99: Parents can enter info about each child’s classes, grades and extracurricular activities, creating a family directory. Teachers can input assignments and grades.

5. TeacherPal – Price: Free. TeacherPal enables educators to organize students by grades, by attendance and by assignments. The app also captures extra information, such as parents’ email addresses and phone numbers.

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I don’t know why I had never picked it up before, but I absolutely loved the book “The Element,” by Ken Robinson. In a nutshell, we all need to discover the thing we are both good at and passionate about. If we make that our career, we are destined for happiness and greatness. It sounds so simple, but it can be very hard for children to figure this out on their own. Perhaps our most important job as parents is to help our kids figure out when they are “in their element.”

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Do you know a teen interested in architecture? There is a great website discoverdesign.org/ where students can learn about architecture, share design ideas, get feedback from accomplished professionals and connect with other high school students learning about architecture.

 

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