December 13, 2010

posted Dec 9, 2010, 1:17 PM by Katherine Stahl   [ updated Dec 9, 2010, 2:25 PM by PFC Webmaster ]

Hello Walnut Acres Parents,


You all work very hard to teach your students to be good citizens who know how to get along in the world, make a difference, and be happy. The modeling, discipline, and communication required for this learning is an awesome and vital task of parenting. I want to focus my newsletter this month on the way that we, as a school community, try to support your efforts to give your children the lifeskills they need now and in the future.

In Johnny Can’t Tell Right from Wrong, William Kirkpatrick wrote that, “There are traits of character children ought to know, that they learn these by example, and that once they know them they need to practice them until they become second nature.” Through our Character Counts program, part of the Walnut Acres curriculum since 2000, we have a structure for that learning. We hope that the modeling, conversations, and activities of Character Counts will guide children in making decisions that help them resolve conflict without violence and empower them to become positive and productive citizens. (The collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, global citizenship, and communication skills that are core to the 21st Century Learning discussed in the last newsletter, require our children to be empowered with strong lifeskills.)

 Our 6 Pillars of Character are the backbone of our effort. We focus on the character traits of respect, responsibility, caring, fairness, citizenship, trustworthiness, and diversity celebration and their related lifeskills. Of course, we know that the modeling that we do as a staff is a cornerstone of lifeskill learning. We are well aware of R.W. Emerson’s sage comment, “What we do speaks so loudly that they may not hear what we say.” So we do our best to practice the lifeskills every day.

We enhance that effort with class discussions. It is a treat for me to try to support this effort in some small way with students in the lunchroom each day. Our Speech and Language therapist, Ann Meuel, also supports lifeskill learning when she visits every classroom at the beginning of the school year and provides a mini-lesson(s) for students on communication and problem-solving strategies.

We have also enriched our curriculum with the monthly Sing-Outs on the last Friday of the month. During November and December, for example, we have focused on the lifeskill of caring. On 12/17 at 8:00 a.m. we will come together as a student community and sing about caring. Parents are welcome to join us. If you do, think about checking out our song lyrics, so you can sing with us. We will also highlight recent organized acts of community caring, including our PFC toy & clothing drive, our Scout baby supplies collection, and our Student Council canned food collection from 12/13-12/17! (Please note the collection is happening all this week.) It is our hope that students will feel empowered by the good work of caring that they have accomplished.

The discipline portion of our character program includes the “Go Green” management system implemented in classrooms with a variety of modifications to support class needs. It also includes our “3 Be” focus. To support the 3 Bes there is a poster in each room which reminds students to:

Be Respectful

Be Responsible

Be Safe

Students who model the lifeskills in outstanding ways earn a bee token that is placed on our “Bee Celebrated” board in our courtyard. At the end of each month I remove the tokens and return them to each child so that I can learn from them how they earned their token and give them a congratulatory handshake. (Do I have a great job, or what?) 

          Our reinvigorated School Climate Committee has been working hard to implement small and large modifications to our procedures that support our positive student climate and enhance our lifeskill teaching. At the beginning of this school year they wrote a grant that would augment our lifeskill efforts and that grant was recently approved. We are hiring a very part-time counselor, Alma Spring, to provide playground skill support twice a week during lunch and lunch recess. The goal of this program is to provide extra guidance and coaching to children who could use support during non-structured times. The services will not be appropriate for students who need intensive counseling. Just as our Learning Center offers a place for any child to finish an assignment or get 1:1 time to practice a skill, our playroom (the old computer lab that opens to the playground) will be a place to get extra guidance to make good choices on the playground and build solid friendship skills. Our experienced counselor will be taking small groups of children during ‘lunch bunch’ time. Parents provide prior permission for her to work with their students.

          I would be remiss if I did not mention the dedication of our PEP (Parent Educator Program) parents who are trained providers of a 6-week social skill development program offered to 2nd 3rd, and 4th graders. Their efforts are a wonderful complement to our lifeskill program, just as I hope that our school community efforts to educate the whole child support your parenting work. May we continue to work in tandem to guide and enrich the spirits, minds and hearts of our uniquely beautiful children!

          As we prepare for a school break during this lovely holiday season in which we all focus a little more than usual on the lifeskill of caring, I want to take a moment to tell you that I honor the care you give to your parenting work. I see your efforts in the commitment you give to our school, in the comments, positive and negative, that you share with me, and in the smiles of your children. I wish you and your families a joyous vacation! Let’s all remember during this time of caring that, “Our children need our presence more than they need our presents.”


Happy holidays and memorable family time to you all!



Colleen Dowd

Walnut Acres Principal