WHITERIVER — A group of early childhood professionals were recently honored at a First Things First (FTF) White Mountain Apache Tribe Regional Council meeting for their academic accomplishments.
Mindy Burnette, Laurel Clarkson, Pam Duryea, Nina Edison and Wylene Perry all received First Things First college scholarships to help fund their professional development. The FTF White Mountain Apache Regional Council supports professional development opportunities for early childhood educators, including college scholarships.
“The professional development provided in the college classes has helped these teachers elevate their teaching,” said FTF White Mountain Apache Tribe Regional Director Feather Sprengeler. “It has helped improve their knowledge of the development and learning of children birth to age 5, which will have positive effects on our young children.”
SHOW LOW — A small but attentive crowd of about 50 parents and a few kids attended Parent Night on Tuesday, July 30 in the Show Low School District Auditorium. Dr. Michele Borba, an internationally recognized educator and author of “Unselfie” published in January 2019, spoke to the audience about the philosophy of empathy that has been gaining traction with parents and educators.
“We hope you will become more informed, more empowered and you will leave here seeing through a different lens,” said SLUSD Superintendent Shad Housley when he introduced Dr. Borba. “It’s important to us as a school district and a community that we provide as many tools and information as possible to help us become successful together.”
Housley also explained that he was first introduced to the book and to Dr. Borba’s philosophy during the state school district meeting. “Why empathetic kids succeed in our all-about-me world” is not only part of the book title but a simple way to explain Dr. Borba’s ideas. Simply put, a lack of empathy in children is dangerous. It “hurts kids’ academic performance and leads to bullying behaviors,” says Borba. “And once children grow up, a lack of empathy hampers their ability to collaborate, innovated, and problem-solve...”
Ultimately, what parents want for their children, suggested Borba, is to become healthier, happier and more emotionally balanced so they can navigate the world on their own.
“There are practical, proven and very simple things that you can do at home to make a difference in your child’s life,” Borba assured the audience. “One of the best ways to start is through emotional literacy. This means that we talk with our kids about emotions, naturally. For example, kids’ SAT scores are off the charts but they don’t know how to get along with each other. Helping them understand how to handle their own feelings will help them become strong, confident and able to handle the real world,” explains Borba.
Struggling to deal with frustration, disappointment and communicating with others is an important part of emotional literacy Borba promotes. “Once they can do it for themselves, they can do it for others.”
“We want to get our kids from ‘ME’ to ‘WE’,” adds Borba.
Borba shared data about the dangers of screen-time in children and young adults that compound the inability to get along with other. “The average kids in the US is ‘plugged-in’ for 7.5 hours per day,” stated Borba.
“If they are ‘plugged-in’ for that long, we have to ask ourselves, what are they unplugged from?” she asked. “Is it us, their parents? Their teachers? Friends?”
Her suggestion, set what she calls “un-plugged sacred times” in the family so that everyone, not just the kids, have to put down the smart phones, I-pads, laptops, ear buds, headphones, video games, etc.
This is an opportunity that parents can create to help their kids develop social skills.
“The less time they spend looking down [at devices], the more time they will spend looking up – at us, at each other,” promised Borba.
Developing a moral code
“Kids act how they see themselves to be,” says Borba. “As parents, we want to be modeling the behaviors and habits that we want them to have.”
That same idea can be translated to the school district because it’s like an extended family. Kids will stand up for what their parents stand up for. And, by the same token, kids will stand up for what their teachers, coaches and counselors stand up for, she explained.
Developing and demonstrating our own moral code as parents, helps our children build their own character.
This brings the discussion back to empathy which is not “being soft,” said Borba. “It’s about teaching our children ‘How would you feel if that happened to you?’ and then asking ‘What does that person need in order to feel better?’”
Learning how to calm down is what Borba calls “self regulation.”
Taking one slow, deep breath (inhaling) and then slowing exhaling two breaths is a technique that Navy Seals use, said Borba. It’s simple to teach at any age and can help kids recognize the moment that their stress level goes up.
Overall, there are nine steps that Borba details — emotional literacy, developing a moral code, self regulation are examples that will help kids develop empathy and compassion.
Feel free to reach out to your school’s principal or to the District Office at 928-537-6000 if you have questions or concerns about Dr. Borba’s presentation. Or, visit the website at https://www.showlow.education/.