How Many Good Deeds Are on Your List For the Year?

vr experience It is always pleasantly surprising to hear about someone who has gone out of their way to do a good deed for someone else. It reaffirms our belief that people do still care enough to do good deeds for others.

The world is not going to “Hell in a hand basket”!

Showing empathy and helping other people is basic human nature. Doing good feels wonderful for the person doing it, as well as the person[s] on the receiving end, and even the smallest gesture can show a person that they are appreciated and valued.

International Good Deeds Day,  this year is on April 2, 2017, and celebrated in countries all around the world. If you also want to do good on all other days of the year,  you can come up with plenty of simple, yet effective ideas on how to be a positive change and part of the solution in others’ lives. Plan to do something good at least once a week.

A GOOD DEED A WEEK:

1. Pay it forward by paying for the coffee, the food, or the bus fare for the person behind you in line.

2. Introduce two people you think would make great friends to each other.

3. Offer to help a friend move/unpack.

4. Donate some warm clothes to a homeless shelter.

5. Offer to do the shopping for a friend or neighbor who is sick or has reduced mobility.

6. Tell someone you believe in them before an important test or job interview.

7. Help out a stressed parent by offering to babysit.

8. Surprise your partner by doing a household chore they usually do that you know they don’t like doing.

9. Tell a friend whom you know has been trying to lose weight that they look great.

10. Did you see a well-behaved child in public? Tell their parents what a nice child they have. (Bonus points if the child can hear you, as this will motivate them to keep being good).

11. Make a conscious effort to work on a flaw you know has been bothering your significant other.

12. Leave a glowing recommendation with the manager after receiving good service at a restaurant.

13. Send an actual thank you note after receiving a gift from someone.

14. Be appreciative of traveling parents and tell them you understand their struggle.

15. Hold the elevator door for someone who didn’t quite make it in time.

16. Talk to HR about donating your vacation or sick days to someone at work who is struggling with illness.

17. Really try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and be empathic instead of getting annoyed.

18. Fill up the gas tank and/or wash the car for your partner and leave a nice note for them to find in the morning before work.

19. Stop at a kids’ lemonade stand and get a glass of lemonade.

20. Be patient when someone is taking too long in front of you.

21. Go through your things and donate anything you haven’t used or worn in the last year.

22. Compliment a coworker on a job well done in front of others. (Compliments hold more weight when they’re done publicly).

23. Help someone patiently when they ask for your advice.

24. Let someone else have their way without putting up a fight about it.

25. Share your meal with someone who doesn’t have anything to eat.

26. Know someone who is looking for a job? Keep your eyes and ears open and let them know when you hear about an opening.

27. Create a happy book by gathering all your good memories with a friend and gift it to them on their birthday.

28. Introduce yourself to your neighbors.

29. Pack extra snacks and offer them to your co-workers or friends.

30. Give a random compliment to your partner, especially if you haven’t done so in a while.

31. If you have a special skill (photography, cooking, website programming, etc….) donate a bit of your time at a community center or even just a friend who has expressed an interest in what you do.

32. Stand up for someone who’s being treated unfairly or bullied in front of your eyes.

33. Instead of complaining about something that’s really not a big deal, just let it go.

34. Bake a cake for someone’s birthday.

35. Help someone whose car has broken down (Help change the tire, offer a ride, or help call AAA).

36. Offer to cover a co-worker’s shift if you know they have somewhere important to be.

37. Know someone who just had a baby or other major life event? Organize a meal, offer to clean up their house or do a load of laundry for them.

38. Attend your friend’s child’s dance recital – they’ll appreciate you showing interest in their family life.

39. Give up your seat on the bus, light-rail or subway.

40. Be encouraging to someone learning a new skill.

41. Listen to a friend in need of an ear or be their sounding board.

42. Send a care package to a deployed soldier or to their family at home.

43. Give your old boxes to someone who is moving or use them to donate your old stuff to a Goodwill or Salvation Army outlet.

44. Help a tourist find their way around your city.

45. Offer the handyman working in your apartment building a glass of water or a sandwich.

46. Reach out to someone who has had an impact on your life and let them know what they’ve done.

47. Place a few quarters in someone’s parking meter that’s about to run out.

48. Hold the door open for a stranger.

49. Collect old children’s winter coats from colleagues at work and donate them to a neighborhood charity.

50. Call that friend you’ve wanted to hang out with for months but never quite found the time.

51. Offer a ride to someone you know doesn’t have a car.

52. Donate blood and sign yourself up as an organ donor.

When you do your good deed, let me know what you did for someone, and how you felt afterwards!

How to Practice Culturally-Responsive Family Engagement

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As our schools become increasingly more diverse, both linguistically and culturally, effectively engaging all families becomes an ever-growing challenge.  Effective family engagement is an ongoing, comprehensive, purposeful, and relentless process designed to ensure parents’ connection to the school’s culture, purpose, and organization. Yet meaningful parental involvement has traditionally eluded schools. It is typically limited to parent-teacher conferences, and even then, teachers decry parents’ inconsistent attendance or continued absence. Even in those schools where parental involvement is considered strong, only some parents are involved, or they are invited to the school by the teachers or administrators. Dedicated parental involvement exists only when there is a system in place to include all parents in the life and development of the school.

School norms and structures have historically been, and continue to be, most responsive to parents who are middle-class, able-bodied, American born, and standard-English-speaking individuals. Although these norms seem firmly entrenched in most schools, there is an urgent need for schools to include more diverse populations as the nation’s demographics continue to change. We must explore culturally biased beliefs many educators frequently have toward their students and their students’ families. In exploring these beliefs and assumptions, teachers, administrators, parents, prospective teachers, and teacher educators will develop an understanding of what culturally responsive parental involvement truly is.

 The term parent is problematic and can be restrictive. However, we should use the term inclusively to indicate any adult person who has responsibility for the care and welfare of a child within a family unit. Parents might include grandmothers, older siblings, same-sex couples, or other responsible adults. I encourage parental involvement that is active, consistent, and inclusive, and label this kind of involvement culturally responsive because it acknowledges that families have varied backgrounds, beliefs, and values. In this light, culturally responsive parent engagement practitioners recognize that definitions of family are evolving and complex and that ALL parents want and need to be involved in their children’s schools.

To be culturally responsive means to openly learn from and respectfully share with people from your and other cultures.  To become culturally responsive takes time and practice, along with a commitment to engage in self-reflection. This practice allows for the challenge and expansion of one’s own perceptions.  A great starting point for this practice is to recognize that you, too, were born, raised, and surrounded by culture, which had a profound impact on how you were educated and how your family participated in your education.

We all have deeply ingrained beliefs and biases which exist within blind spots that emerge without our conscious awareness. For example, if there is a parent-teacher conference at school and many of your parents of color don’t show, do you shrug your shoulders and assume their lack of concern? If the parent is white, higher income, do we assume their absence is cause for worry or concern?

Another example: If a parent of color comes to school and heatedly begins to question your methodology, do we consider that parent pushy, yet if a middle-class white parent does the same thing, is it viewed as advocacy, in defense of their child? Targeted universalism, a term that describes measuring everyone by the same yardstick. For example, when testing students, with different ‘realities’, are we setting them up to fail, because of a ‘normalized’ standard generic target tool? People need not be deemed deficient  when they may start from a different place. We cannot measure all from same point of reference. Hence, differentiated instruction in the classroom.

Lastly, think about how we are welcoming parents at school. Just as do children, parents will respond more favorably with mirrors and windows. Mirrors are the representations of every group reflected throughout the setting. People need to see themselves everywhere, not one designated space. People also need windows, to appreciate and understand others who are different from themselves, also. So, what does culturally responsive parent involvement look like? Here are three practices to consider:

1. Build Relationships and Be Present

All successful family engagement programs are built on solid relationships.  The process of building relationships can be challenging, especially if families and school personnel have dissimilar cultural and linguistic backgrounds.  A great way to start is with a conversation – be sure to always keep the child’s learning in the spotlight when asking questions, listening, and sharing.  These conversations can happen at school or in the community.  By going into and being present in students’ communities, teachers and school administration have an opportunity to not only build relationships, but also to establish mutual understanding and respect.  Ideas: Enjoy neighborhood walks and porch visits (a less intrusive form of a home visit).  Attend street fairs and other local events in your families’ neighborhoods. 

 2. Recognize, Honor, and Promote Existing Knowledge

All families have knowledge, and many are willing to share that knowledge.  First by recognizing that knowledge (i.e., coming to understand what families know), then by honoring it (i.e., inviting families to share with the class/school), and finally by promoting it (i.e., engaging students, other families, and additional school personnel), family engagement programs send a clear message to all families: they matter and they are a vital component to their child’s education.  Ideas: Invite linguistically diverse families to teach or share their primary language.  Have culturally diverse families assist you when purchasing books for the school, or decorating the school building, or sharing student work in the classroom or halls.

 3. Identify and Use What Works For Your Families

When working with diverse families, the “one-size-fits-all” approach does not work.  Not being present for school-based family events doesn’t mean that a child’s family isn’t engaged in student learning.  For some families, attending school events is a cultural mismatch, which is to say that the school’s culture and a family’s culture don’t align.  Instead of fighting against cultural mismatches, why not seek to reimagine what family engagement looks like?  The better a school knows its families and their cultural beliefs around education, the easier it will be to engage those families in nontraditional, yet culturally responsive ways.  Idea: Partner with families to co-plan a school-based family event or a home-based family activity.

Vow to utilize the culturally responsive family engagement approach that involves practices that respect and acknowledge the cultural uniqueness, life experiences, and viewpoints of classroom families and draw on those experiences to enrich and energize the classroom curriculum and teaching activities, leading to respectful partnerships with students’ families and academic achievement for all. Remember that teaching is the most powerful profession of them all! Use your powers for good!

Here’s How to “Go Home” to Families

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I get it! Educators, teachers in particular, are hesitant, reluctant even, to conduct home visits to families of students. Though grounded in fear, and the uncertainty of change, it will be considered a necessary component of teaching. Learning is not confined to a building dedicated to educate children. Learning occurs in all environments-anytime, anywhere. As we move towards a multi-generational approach to teaching and learning, parent partnerships are recognized as critical , and educators must develop a mindset conducive to engaging in alliances with families and adult caregivers to maximize student achievement in school.

Home visits are not novel approaches to school teachers at all. There was a time when teachers were invested and involved in the communities and with the lives of students and their families. There was no mandate; it was voluntary and indicative of a teacher’s sincere interest in the ‘whole child’. As I like to put it, ‘going home’ was an avenue into personalizing learning and demonstrated authentic caring.

When we say that we care about every learner, yet we are clueless about their lives outside of school, is that true? When we hear students say,” You know nothing about me, my life or my family.”, or when students disengage because the material presented to them is irrelevant, it should touch a nerve. In an attempt to establish and sustain meaningful relationships with students’ families, tremendous insights are possible. When we enter ‘their world’-the ‘real’ world-home, we can identify strengths and address needs and concerns. It is the knowledge and insights obtained in their environment that will inform instruction in the classroom environment. But, how do we get there?

We must know that there are effective ways to engage families in their comfort zones. Despite any initial discomfort, with the right approach, families will do their very best to make you, too, feel ‘at home’ and will welcome your sincerity. The first thing that must precede visits is a positive mindset, and cultural proficiency for appropriate responsiveness. Having some  cultural knowledge about the families ill be visiting is vital.

Home visits can offer such things as:

  • information about the actual physical space in the home
  • family size -siblings, ages, sleeping arrangements-this knowledge will inform you as to where the quiet places are for studying and homework, etc
  • student responsibilities at home, such as caring for younger siblings, morning routines, meal time rituals, retrieving siblings to/from school bus,
  • Helping to identify norms established in the home that may  transfer into the classroom and could be perceived as maladaptive behaviors and impact a student’s ability to adapt and exercise self-discipline. You’ll gain insight to discern which behaviors and responses constitute automaticities.
  • opportunities to suggest doable environmental changes, no unreasonable, but respectful and mindful of parameters of autonomy and within the realm of possibility. Small tweaks that enhance a parent’s ability to support the learning process. For example, there may be no designated space to study or do homework assignments, which may help explain incomplete work. You may suggest that a kitchen table can be allotted for school work during a set time slot. If tardiness is a concern, you may suggest that an alarm clock, if present in the home, be placed in the same room as the student to ensure on-time arrival.

With a myriad of insights that can be gained with home visits, a teacher’s job can be made less difficult. An information- armed teacher is a more effective teacher. Familiarity with the community and its resources, allows you to provide referrals and linkages to provider agencies to families based on identified and stated needs.

  • Infant and child safety awareness
  • Advice and support concerning healthy lifestyle choices, including family and child nutrition
  • Household and time management
  • Student study tips
  • and so much more…

Here’s how you can go home, empower and build capacity in the best interest of families and their children and link your efforts to learning:

  1. Begin with a clear plan that will outline goals and objectives
  2. Determine which staff members will perform such outreach, how often, time of day, etc…
  3. Prepare your safety plan, i.e., will staff conduct home visits alone or who will accompany staff
  4. Determine accountability measures, if during school hours such as a prep period, you will need a sign-out sheet or a log detailing the 5 w’s of the visit
  5. Outline time expected to stay in each home and frequency of visits. i.e., 30 minutes 2x per month unless critical concerns need to be immediately addressed
  6. In your safety plan, how will you report any emergencies, and to whom-also what constitutes an emergency[needs to be defined]
  7. Determine how parents will be notified, visits scheduled, confirmed or will you surprise them? Careful, though. You may be surprised and unprepared for appropriate responses. Providing advanced notice to parents means that you decrease any wasted visiting  when paperwork, planning, and other duties could get done.
  8. Design a standard form for documenting visits- activities, like progress notes- outcomes and follow-up planning
  9. Be respectful, ask questions, provide positive feedback, build on strengths and address needs to link all to learning-if not the student, the parent
  10. Return to your work setting and take the insights and personalize learning for your students and maintain ongoing alliances with families.

In short, in order to engage in successful and mutually beneficial home visits, it begins with your mindset and your goals. Do your research, know your families, plan strategically, be flexible, and focus on strengths. Create your plan of action based on insights and collaboration with parents, and as often as possible. Home visits are a great way to begin to bridge those home-school divides and raise student achievement, and…build adult capacity. That includes educators, too.

Family Team Conferences: An Overview

 

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In most states, if your family is receiving any preventive services you will be invited to attend Family Team Conferences, and play an important role in any decision made about your family.

What is a Family Team Conference?

  • A family team conference is a meeting organized by your local Children and Family Services agency that brings together important people in a child’s family, such as relatives, doctors and close family friends, to discuss safety, placement stability, permanency and the overall well-being of a child.
  • It’s a time to make the best possible decisions with you and your family.
  • It’s a place to talk about achievements, concerns, and other important issues your family may have.

Who attends the Family Team Conference?

  • Family members:
    • Parents.
    • Children 10 years and older.
    • Other people you invite, such as a relative, church member, godparent, or friend.
  • Service providers:
    • The preventive agency case worker, case aide and/or supervisor.
    • Service providers who are already working with your family.
    • Other service providers not working with your family, but who may be able to help.
  • Community representatives, or parent advocates.
  • A Preventive Family Team Conference Specialist will attend some of the conferences to support the preventive agency and ensure services are meeting your family’s needs.

Why should I attend?

  • This conference is for and about you and your children.  You know your family best.
  • To express your ideas and feelings. Your voice is very important and you should be heard.
  • To make sure that services are meeting your needs and the needs of your family.

What happens at the Family Team Conference?

A trained Conference Facilitator guides the conference to explore the following:

  • The purpose and ground rules for the conference.
  • The goals to achieve from the conference.
  • Your family’s strengths, needs and concerns.
  • Group ideas on how to address concerns and develop a plan.
  • Agreement on who will do what and when it will be done.

What types of Preventive Family Team Conferences will I be expected to attend?

Planning Conference:

Planning conferences are held every six months to discuss your family’s progress and review your service plan.

Elevated Risk Conference:

If your case worker believes that your children are at risk or unsafe, at any time during your case; you and other providers who are involved with your family, will be invited to participate at a conference to prevent potential harm to your children”.

Other Conferences:

Your case planner may schedule a special conference if important changes have happened in your family, or when services are coming to an end.

What if I have questions?

  • Talk with your case planner about what you can expect and who you should invite.
  • Your case planner can also help you with services concerning your attendance at a conference such as transportation, child care, or interpretation services.