The purpose of PBIS at West is to provide a positive and safe learning environment that prepares each and every student to thrive in middle school and beyond.
We ask our students to be BOLD (Build community, Own your learning, Lead positively, and Develop balance) and we are committed to working with them to understand the meaning of each of these values.
Our Student Services Office is invested in all four values, but we would like to offer additional information to parents and students regarding Developing Balance. If you have additional questions about how to help your children achieve balance in their lives, please contact our School Social Workers or School Counselors:
In an effort to continue to encourage developing balance for our West students, a Dove Real Beauty Sketch was shared with students on the news show that explores the gap between how others perceive us and how we perceive ourselves. Portraits were created by forensic artist Gil Zamora based upon a woman's own description of herself and the other based on stranger's observations.
In his book Brainstorm (2013), Dr. Daniel J. Siegel outlines seven activities which are scientifically proven to keep our bodies healthy, our minds strong, and our brains continuing to grow throughout our lives. He has placed these activities on “The Healthy Mind Platter”. We will be incorporating the Healthy Mind Platter into our teaching throughout the 2018-2019 school year.
Adolescents are notorious for not getting enough sleep. The average amount of sleep that adolescents get is between 7 and 7 ¼ hours. However, they need between 9 and 9 ½ hours (studies show that most adolescents need exactly 9 ¼ hours of sleep). They do not get enough sleep for a number of reasons including social and school obligations. Homework, sports, after-school activities (often occurring during the evening), and socializing lead to late bedtimes.
As a result, most adolescents are very sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation will impact many aspects of your adolescent’s functioning:
- Mood. Sleep deprivation may cause your son/daughter to be moody, irritable, and cranky. In addition, he/she may have a difficult time regulating mood, perhaps getting frustrated or upset more easily.
- Cognitive ability. Inadequate sleep can result in problems with attention, memory, decision making, reaction time, and creativity--all of which are important in school.
- Academic performance. Studies show that adolescents who get less sleep are more apt to get poor grades in school, fall asleep in school, and have school tardiness/absences.
How to help your adolescent get enough sleep
- Set your adolescent’s bedtime and help them maintain a regular sleep schedule. Your son/daughter should go to bed and wake up at about the same time each day. Although your children are entering a period of life where they are striving for autonomy, studies suggest that adolescents do better in terms of mood and fatigue level when parents set the bedtime.
- Avoid oversleeping on weekends. Although catching up on some sleep on the weekends can be helpful, sleeping in until noon on Sunday may make it hard for your child to get back on a school schedule that night.
- Turn off televisions, computers, and other screens. Television viewing, computer-game playing, internet use, and other stimulating activities at bedtime will cause problems falling asleep. Your brain will still think it’s time to work and will delay releasing melatonin (hormone which helps you sleep). Studies recommend turning off screens a minimum of 60 minutes before bedtime and keeping them out of bedrooms.
- Avoid caffeine.
- Contact your pediatrician. Speak to your adolescent’s physician if he/she has difficulties falling asleep, snores, or seems excessively sleepy during the day.
Adapted from Nationwide Children’s Hospitals – Mindell JA & Owens JA (2003). A Clinical Guide to Pediatric Sleep: Diagnosis and Management of Sleep Problems. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Moving your body does more than just help you lose or maintain weight. Physical activity impacts parts of the brain that are responsible for emotional regulation and cognitive functioning. Aerobic exercise, in particular, has been shown to strengthen regions of your brain that are responsible for very important functions such as: communication, emotional balance, insight, empathy, and intuition. Exercise also improves mood and sleep, helps you feel more energetic and reduces stress and anxiety.
A lot of adolescents may think that exercise means playing sports, so if they are not very good at sports, they might not be motivated to try any kind of hobby that gets them active. But exercise is simply about moving their body, meaning things like walking, throwing a Frisbee, or vacuuming their room all count. It doesn't have to involve competition.
Exercise also boosts brain power. Studies show that adolescents who do aerobic exercise — like walking and swimming — have bigger brains, especially one part, the basal ganglia, which helps them pay attention — even in classes they may find boring! One school found that 30 minutes of walking on a treadmill improved students' problem-solving skills by 10%.
Hey, students: here are a few simple steps you can take to start building your brain power through fitness:
Start With a Small Goal
So you can't run a mile right now? No big deal. You don't even have to make running your goal. Start exercise slowly. If you can walk for 10 minutes, begin by going for a 10-minute walk every day. If you can walk longer than that, do it. Be truthful with yourself about what you can do. A short-term goal that's easy to measure will keep you motivated to do it. With each success, you'll build your confidence, too.
Pick a time and stick with it. A regular time set aside for exercise will make you more likely to follow through on your plan. And you don't have to worry about when you'll fit it in. When you make it a habit, you can start to see and feel the benefits – even if you don't love it every single day. It can go from being something you dread to something you look forward to doing.
Try Studying While You Move
Try some active-learning tricks on your own at home. Jump rope as you repeat vocabulary definitions – the rhythm and movement can help you remember them later. Or toss a ball with a friend as you study for an exam – with each toss, ask a question that's likely to be on the test.
Stick With It
Once you've started working out, the next step for success is to believe that you can get better. It might seem like the first few minutes of exercise are the hardest – they are! But you'll hit a "stride," – a place where you're feeling good and moving more easily. You'll probably discover that, as you start moving, you'll want to move more. To keep it up, make it a goal to add just a few more minutes of exercise each week. That way you'll be sure to make it past the beginning – when it's tough – and find your stride. Aim to be active for at least 1 hour a day.
And don't forget: to boost your brain power to its max, get 9-10 hours of sleep a night, and start your day with a healthy breakfast.
Adapted from Rock, D., Siegel, D. J., Poelmans, S. A. Y., & Payne, J. (2012). The healthy mind platter. Neuroleadership Journal, 4, 1-23. Raissa Miller, Ph.D., LPC
- Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills, Heidi Godman, April 9, 2014
- How Exercise Boosts Your Brain
When we closely focus on tasks, deeper connections are made in the brain.
Focus is a key element in getting your adolescent to complete chores, homework, studying and other important tasks. A number of distractions are faced, both at home and school -- everything from friends calling, to favorite TV shows or video games, to that cute classmate sitting two desks ahead in Math class. Helping your student get organized and block out those distractions keeps her/him on track so the focus can move to priorities. You can offer support and suggestions, but ultimately he/she needs to learn to focus for him/herself.
- Encourage your child to eat a balanced diet and go to bed at a regular time each night. A healthy diet keeps adolescents satisfied and full of energy so they can focus better. A full night of sleep, assists with focus during the day.
- Hold an organizational session together to get the home and school life in order. With a way to keep essentials organized, he/she will be better able to focus on specific tasks instead of wasting time searching for the tools he/she needs. Set up organizational tools in his/her room, such as a bulletin board and file drawers. Teach him/her how to use a planner so homework assignments, tests, meetings, practices and activities can be tracked.
- Create a distraction-free zone in the home where your child can complete tasks that need concentration, such as homework. Keep the computer, TV and similar distracting devices in another area so he/she's not tempted to turn them on while working.
- Teach your child to write daily to-do lists so he/she can prioritize time. He/she can see exactly what needs to be done and where he/she needs to focus time. Help him/her use the daily schedule and planner as a guide for writing the to-do list.
- Talk about focus and the need to stick with a task until it is complete. Remind him/her if he/she sits down to do the work, there will be more time later for activities of his/her choosing. Teach your child to push distracting thoughts out of the mind by reminding them what he/she's supposed to be doing.
- Model effective study and organizational habits. Adolescents place great importance on what they see adults do, not just what grown-ups say. With that in mind, practice what you preach. Participate in the family quiet time. Offer to help your child study for a test or check math problems. If your help isn't needed, read a book or organize your mail during the study period. This lets your child know that adults need time to focus, too.
- Studying at the dining room table
It’s hard to focus when family members are constantly passing by or starting conversations. A dedicated study space minimizes disruptions. Pick a quiet room or corner and create a welcoming atmosphere with comfortable furnishings, good lighting, and a few plants.
- Tackling the easy subjects first
There’s no need to make hard subjects harder! Approach them with a fresh, energized mind and save the easy stuff for later. If math is your most difficult subject, work on that homework first before moving onto English or history.
- Studying for hours without a break
Instead of pounding out a three-hour study session, take a break every 30 minutes. You will work through the material faster and retain more of it long term. The breaks don’t have to be long. A few minutes of listening to music or stretching is all it takes to reenergize the brain.
Slouching is as bad for your brain as it is for your back. Remind your son/daughter to sit up and lean forward. Good posture triggers the mind to be more alert. Beware when your child’s bed is their study place!
- Not asking questions in class
Instead of glazing over during lectures, ask the teacher questions and participate in discussions. This helps you engage with the material on a deeper level. (Plus, you will score brownie points with the teacher!)
- Procrastinating until the last minute
Anxiety is the enemy of focus. Avoid feeling overwhelmed by planning study sessions in advance. For example, on Monday list all of your assignments for the week, and then decide when each one will be completed. Having a plan in place reduces procrastination.
“Time-in” is a scientifically proven way to create integration in your brain. One outcome of integration is the growth of cognitive control that ultimately decreases impulsivity. As a result, adolescents are afforded more and more space in the mind to pause and consider options of response other than the initial impulse. Another outcome of this integrative growth is seen in improved ability for adolescents to be able to rely on intuition and see the larger picture of a situation and therefore make wiser decisions.
So what is “time-in” specifically? Taking time-in means reflecting on your inner world. Paying attention to your sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts — often accomplished through breath awareness practice and meditation. Time-in is the time we can take — be it a minute a day, ten minutes a day, or throughout the day to intentionally focus our attention on the inner world of our mental, subjective experience.
Taking time-in on a regular basis is helpful because it exercises the circuits that integrate our brains. One way of taking time-in is to develop mindful awareness, ways of training the mind that help us develop the ability to be present with what is happening in the moment and to let go of judgments and focus instead on accepting life as it is rather than on how we expect it to be. The way we focus attention to train the mind in general is called “meditation”, and studies of mindfulness meditation show how it supports healthier functioning in the body, in the mind, and relationships.
Much of what happens in families and in schools, and even on the Internet with social media, pulls our focus of attention to the outer world. While there are a lot of great connections we can make through social media that enhance friendships and social connections in general, the danger is that we fail to pay attention to other aspects of our lives. Hours and days can go by without our taking time-in to just be with our inner life. For specific practice ideas, please refer to the first two resources listed in the references.
Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain by Daniel J. Siegel, MD
You may be relieved to know that we don't need to be focused all the time. In fact, giving yourself a break from doing what you do is the whole idea of these simple seven daily mind activities. Every day we can have some downtime to enable our minds to unwind and our brains to sort themselves out. Downtime is when we have no plans, nothing we are trying to accomplish, nothing that needs to be done. During this period, the brain seems to recharge the batteries, allowing the mind to intentionally be given a break.
Downtime is quite different from unintentional mind wandering. If the task at hand is to focus on something, like a conversation with someone or an assignment or talk at school, letting our minds wander off task without the choice to do that can be pretty disruptive to what we are trying to achieve. Some studies even suggest that it's not good for our health and happiness.
Instead, downtime means that we designate a time to just chill out, to have nothing on the calendar, to let our imaginations go wherever they will. Vacations are great time to just hang out, but on a daily basis, it is also good to set aside time to take a brain break, to relax and unwind. Give yourself permission to do this intentionally. That is the goal of downtime, when we intentionally have no set goal. It is really important, even in limited amounts, every day!
Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain by Daniel J. Siegel, MD
Numerous research studies reveal that the way we connect with others makes our lives more meaningful, healthy, wise and happy. This includes connecting with nature, too! When we are out in nature, we feel more grounded and our moods are more stable. So connecting time is when we connect to others people and the planet. On a simple level, connecting time means taking time to be with friends or family, hopefully face-to-face. The signals we get from others that are non-verbal, like eye contact and facial expressions, tone of voice, posture, gestures, timing and intensity of responses and touch are unavoidably missing in our digital means of communication. And the planet? How we take time to be in nature can shape our mood, help us focus attention, and give us a feeling of renewal and pleasure. Connecting with the planet can also mean doing more than simply being in nature, it can mean taking care of our environment. Picking up litter when we see it, recycling and being mindful about how we use energy are all important ways each of us can connect to the earth. Connecting time can help us feel the truth that we belong to a larger whole and we are not alone.
Peer relationships during adolescence As students enter adolescence, relationships with peers become very important. It may seem that relationships with friends are even more important than those with parents. During adolescence, it is developmental nature for young people to start the process of becoming more socially independent by beginning to build her own personal “family” of friends. Sometimes adjusting to this change can be difficult for parents. Thus those with an only child, for example, who have enjoyed the luxury of keeping the beloved child largely to themselves, may find it hard being pre-empted and having to share social importance with this growing community of peers. As adolescence begins, parents do indeed start “mattering less”, however, mattering less does not mean “loved less.” It only means that other social attachments are now given a higher priority.
Helping your child build friendship skills Adolescents might be focused on their friends, but they still need your help and support to build and maintain positive and supportive friendships. Good parent-child relationships tend to lead to positive relationships with peers. So being warm and supportive, staying connected and actively listening to your child can help with the development of friendship skills. You’ll also be better able to support your child if friendship problems come up. Being a good role-model is important too. Parents who spend time with their own friends are more likely to have children with lots of healthy friendships. It’s also important for your child to see you looking out for your friends, and showing that friendship is a two- way thing. Praising adolescents when you see them being fair, trusting and supportive of others encourages them to keep working on those positive social traits. Helping adolescents who find it hard to make friends
All children are different. Not all will be outgoing and socialize with a big group of friends. If your child is like this, but seems generally happy and content, there’s no need to do anything. But if your child has trouble making friends and is worried by that, there are a few things you can do together:
Think about your child’s interests and strengths. Based on this, you could look for new extracurricular activities for your child or encourage your child to join a club, sporting team or social group. Mixing with people who share similar interests is a great way to start friendships. If making friends at school seems to be the problem, a group or activity outside school can help your child build friendship skills and confidence.
Spend time with extended family and family friends. Plan a barbeque or outing where your child can spend time with people who already know him.
Help your child plan an activity with friends. This could be watching a movie at home, having a sleepover or inviting a friend over after school, or playing some sport at the local park.
Make sure your child feels comfortable inviting friends home, and give her plenty of space when she does.
Think about a part-time job or volunteer community activity. Working, particularly in a place with other young employees or volunteers, can give your child a chance to practice social skills as well as building job skills for the future.
Try to work out whether there are particular issues that are making it difficult for your child to make friends, such as lack of opportunity, lack of particular social skills or lack of confidence. Then think about ways you can work on these. You might want to ask for professional advice for complex issues.
Give your child lots of praise and encouragement to build self-esteem. Try not to pressure your child about friends or constantly discuss the situation.
Psychology Today, Parental Adjustment to the Adolescents "Family" of Friends, Carl E. Pickhardt, Ph.D.
Raising Children Network
Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, Daniel J. Siegel, MD
Imagine an interaction where there is no winner or loser, an interactive activity where there are no rigid rules, a time when laughing and creating and goofing around are accepted and people are engaged and silly and having a great time without judgment. That’s playtime!
Recent research has shown that people of all ages benefit from unstructured play time as a respite from the grind of daily life. Play can relieve stress, boost creativity, improve brain function, and improve our relationships with other people by fostering trust with others.
There are three main characteristics that we tend to use when we talk about play: It’s voluntary in the sense that you’re not obligated to do it; it’s flexible and can be changed or manipulated; and it’s enjoyable and fun.
One of the most important gifts we can give our kids is time to play, both as a family and on their own. Finding time to play with kids can be a challenge if you are working, managing a household and meeting the many day-to-day challenges of getting things done. But play isn’t optional. It’s essential. Play as a family weaves the ties of love and connection that bind family members together.
- Play is needed for healthy brain development. 75 percent of the brain develops after a baby is born, in the years between birth and the early 20s. Childhood play stimulates the brain to make connections between nerve cells. This is what helps a child develop both gross motor skills (walking, running, jumping, coordination) and fine motor skills (writing, manipulating small tools, detailed hand work). Play during the teen years and into adulthood helps the brain develop even more connectivity, especially in the frontal lobe which is the center for planning and making good decisions.
- Pretend play stimulates youth imagination and creativity. Studies have shown that youth who are encouraged to use their imagination are more creative in their adult life. Although artistic expression certainly is important, creativity isn’t limited to the arts. Creativity also helps people find new and innovative ways to do things and to invent new products that make our lives more productive, easier, or more entertaining. It’s the ability to “make believe” that can take people’s minds to places where no one has gone before.
- Play develops the brain’s executive function. Executive function refers to the mental skills that allow us to manage time and attention, to plan and organize, to remember details, and to decide what is and isn’t appropriate to say and do in a given situation. It’s also what helps growing children learn to master their emotions and to use past experiences to understand what to do in the present. These are the skills that are central to self-control and self-discipline. Youth who have a well-developed executive function do well in school, get along well with others, and make good decisions. Make believe play gives the frontal lobe of the brain, the center of executive function, a workout.
- Play develops empathy. Empathy is the ability to walk in another’s shoes. Youth who play with others learn how others think and do. Engaging in play with others helps youth to understand peers’ thoughts and feelings. Well-developed empathy increases youth tolerance and compassion for other people and increases their ability to play and work well with others.
So what can parents do to ensure their children develop these important skills?
Encourage free play. Free play means both “unstructured” and “with no cost.” Both are essential for our growing kids. Yes, it’s important to provide kids with experiences that teach them new skills and how to work and play in a team. Whether a kid participates in soccer, the orchestra, a dance team or any other organized activity, he will learn how to cooperate with a group goal and will develop physically and mentally.
But it’s equally important not to get so caught up in providing so many structured activities that our children don’t have time to just hang out with peers and figure out for themselves what to do with their time. Those who are too involved in organized sports, classes and activities can end up not knowing how to entertain themselves. Those who are kept occupied every minute don’t have the time to flex their imagination muscles.
Play with your kids. Play helps connect family members. When everyone in the family is occupied with their own personal screen for entertainment, they don’t form the bonds with each other that come from enjoying time together. When everyone in the family spends some playtime laughing, giggling, and enjoying some spontaneous play, everyone feels good about themselves and everyone else. What is important is balance. If a child spends an hour on the computer or watching TV, equal time should be given to playing with peers or engaging in individual activities like reading or crafts.
Board games help older kids learn how to take turns, follow rules and be both polite winners and gracious losers. Time around the game board promotes conversation and cooperation — and maybe some friendly competition. Best of all, when families play together, they tend to be more supportive of each other and more interested in each other’s lives.
So shut down the screens for an hour or two after dinner a few times a week and find that Monopoly game or that deck of cards.
The Psychological Case for Adult Play Time by Jared Keller
Can We Play? by David Elkind
The Benefits of Play by Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.
Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, Daniel J. Siegel, MD