US History and the Civil War – By Joe Webster

parker-academy-us-historyIn US History, the class has been learning about slavery and the Civil War. With a class size of four, the students have a lot of opportunity to ask questions and share their ideas.

We started with reading aloud portions of “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave” in an effort to get them used to using a “ primary source” This helps them to get an eyewitness view of the cruelties and spirit crushing impact of slavery.

We followed this with lessons on the various compromises of the antebellum period in which Congress tried unsuccessfully to balance the interests of “Free Soil” states with slaveholding states. The class engaged in a notetaking and discussion exercise with excerpts from Ken Burns’ “The Civil War” documentary.

The unit ended with a reading of journal entries by John Wilkes Booth and others about the Lincoln assassination.

The unit was a great chance to see what the students knew about the Civil War and to add to their knowledge base. It helped students to develop an understanding of the issues Americans were struggling with at that time.

When Perfectionism Takes Control – From the February Newsletter

parker-academy-perfectionism-teensThe teacher reads a story to the class and then directs the students to select a character from the story and write a description of that character. The students get busy with the project and one by one, hand in the finished work. However, some students may struggle with an assignment. What was enjoyable for the other students is a daunting task for this student because perfectionism has caused him or her to be overly self-critical.

To the outside world, perfectionists seem like super achievers, but inwardly they may be struggling to meet unusually high standards they set for themselves.

Perfectionism itself is not a bad trait, but carried to extremes, it can become destructive. Never quite satisfied with their accomplishments, they may be experiencing low self-esteem and anxiety. Perfectionists are often overly critical of themselves and others.

What can you do if you think your child may be plagued by excessive perfectionism? Avoid being critical; attempt to bolster his or her self-esteem by explaining that imperfection is acceptable. It’s okay to be average or work to the best of one’s abilities. Give praise for completed tasks. For the perfectionist, just being able to finish something is an accomplishment.

You may want to let your child’s teacher know about this trait. Educators have experience dealing with different personality types, and they should be able to work with your child.

Emotional Regulation at Parker Academy

parker-academy-emotional-regulation-chartAt Parker Academy, we help students learn how to regulate their behaviors. We utilize an “Emotional Regulation” chart to help students identify their emotional level and help them to develop strategies to manage their emotions. The lessons and learning activities that we use are designed to help students recognize when they are in the different zones as well as how to use strategies to change the zone they are in.

In addition to addressing self-regulation, students gain an increased awareness of emotional terms, develop skills in reading other people’s facial expressions, and gain a better perspective about how others see and react to their behavior. Students gain better insight into events that may trigger their behavior, and develop calming, alerting, and problem solving strategies.

Parents can help the efforts of the school and the student. Your child’s advisor can provide you with a copy of the “Emotional Regulation” chart or you can use the one that has been attached.
Parents can help by using language similar to what is used at the school and talk about the concepts of the emotional regulation zones as they apply to you in a variety of environments.

You can comment aloud so that your child understands that everyone experiences the different zones and use strategies to control (or regulate) ourselves.

For example, “This is really frustrating me and making me go into the Yellow Zone.”

“I need to use a tool to calm down.” “I will take some deep breaths and practice mindfulness.” Help your child gain awareness of his or her emotional regulation zones and feelings by pointing out your own.

Parents can talk about what zone is “expected” in the situation or how a zone may have been “unexpected.” They can share with the student how his or her behavior is affecting the zone you are in and how you feel. Parents can help the student become comfortable using language to communicate his or her feelings and needs, encouraging the student to share his or her zone with you.

Ask the student if s/he wants reminders to use these tools and how you should present these reminders. Ask the student to frequently share his or her Zones Folder with you and talk about what he or she has learned.

Make sure you frequently reinforce the student for being in the expected zone rather than only pointing out when his or her zone is unexpected. It is important to note that everyone experiences all of the zones. All of the zones are expected at one time or another. The Zones of Regulation are intended to be neutral and not communicate judgment.

With your support at home, your child can benefit from learning how to identify their regulation level and then develop strategies to manage their behavior.

4 Ways to Reverse the Impacts of Toxic Stress

parker-academy-relaxation-techniquesResearchers know that chronic neglect or abuse in the home can cause toxic stress. But there are also other more subtle causes of toxic stress like ongoing marital strife between parents, chronic maternal depression, and very toxic we now know, poverty. Some types of stress are tolerable, but other types are considered “toxic”.

To understand these two types of stress, tolerable and toxic, it’s helpful to begin with an explanation of the brain’s stress mechanism. For these purposes we can separate the brain into two major divisions. We are all familiar with the advanced thinking part of the brain – the cerebrum. When we conjure an image of the human brain, it is the cerebrum we picture.

But beneath that part of our brain is a more ‘body function’ oriented brain region that handles emotions, as well as basic body states like hunger and sleep. In that region there is the limbic system where emotions like fear, anger and joy are processed. Nearby is an area called the hypothalamus and a gland called the adrenal gland which work together to release hormones in response to emotions or other body states.

So what are the solutions to reducing stress for our children? Fortunately, they are more available than one might think.

1. Supportive role models and environments: Psychologists have found that access to at least one supportive adult in a child’s environment can markedly reduce the effects of toxic stress. That can be a coach, a relative, a religious figure or, in many cases, a teacher. In fact, if you talk to successful adults who had very difficult or stressful childhoods, or who overcame extreme poverty, they will often single out a teacher or two who served as role models, inspirations and supporters.

Not only can a supportive teacher provide a relief from toxic stress – the school itself can provide a safe haven as long as the child feels protected and respected. For that to occur, the student needs to be successful at learning, which is not easy for many students from unstable or low socioeconomic status environments because of the negative effects of stress on brain development. However, three available methodologies can help.

2. Adopt a growth mindset: We have learned that when students believe that intelligence is not fixed but rather ‘smarts’ can develop through the process of learning, called a “growth mindset”, achievement is significantly accelerated.

3. Relax: There is emerging evidence that brief periods of relaxation, meditation or yoga can relieve stress and have a positive effect on learning.

4. Build Cognitive and Literacy Skills: Finally, there are neuroscience-designed interventions that research indicates can specifically target and build those regions of the brain known to be important for learning, resulting in dramatic improvements in academic success. When students can achieve, school becomes a six-hour a day relief from a toxically stressful environment.

Bullying Affects Mental Health

parker academy consequences of bullyingPrior to the opening of school, the staff participated in a workshop on bullying. They were trained in what is and what isn’t bullying, and reviewed the signs that suggest bullying is taking place.

Although we haven’t seen much bullying here, we want to remain vigilant. We know that approximately 30% of students in

public schools, almost one-third of kids in grades six through 12, experience bullying. Bullying ranges from name-calling and teasing to threats, lies, pushing, and hitting.

We know that bullying can leave a lifelong legacy of depression, low self-esteem, and behavioral problems. We recommend the following:

Plan a response. Offer your child different approaches, such as ignoring the bully. Or try a response that may catch the bully off guard, such as, “Why would you say something like that to me?”

Report the bully. If your child pleads with you not to report bullying to the teacher, consider talking to the teacher anyway. Ask that your child not be identified and that the bully be better supervised.

If your child is doing the bullying, talk with him or her about how that makes other kids feel. Get your child involved in projects that require helping and cooperating with others.

(from our September 2017 newsletter)

A Unique New Addition To Parker Academy

parker academy reyParker Academy is happy to have a new student joining our school. Please see the story below:


A flood of support

11-year-old boy from Tortola to attend Parker Academy as family rebuilds after Hurricane Irma


Monitor staff

While it received little coverage in the American media, the British Virgin Islands, and in particular, Tortola, the region’s largest island, were one of the places hardest-hit by Hurricane Irma.

But at home in Amherst, Missy Gaffney worried desperately as one of the strongest Atlantic storms in recorded history barreled through the island. She was thinking about Sylvia Forbes, the friend she’d met at the Nanny Cay marina on Tortola when she was just 14 – more than 30 years ago – and Forbes’s daughter, Rochelle Lawrence, and 11-year-old grandson, Rey. . .

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