• Students and Technology

    Posted by Collette Taylor-Chovan on 1/25/2023

    One thing I would like to take the time in this post to discuss with you is our students' use of technology. As with any break, we know students spend a lot of time on their phones. This is typical behavior. With the abundance of time out of school (we noticed the same trend with distance learning/ COVID), students are drawn to the phone more so than usual. This isn't about parent shame, I'm guilty as a parent too. My kids had three weeks off too. Now, I love them, but that is a LOT of time to spend together. Especially when the weather isn't favorable and you cannot go outside. It is only natural that our kiddos use their phones for long hours of the day. 


    Now, where this becomes a concern, is the type of content they are exposing themselves to. Content that we, as parents, have not vetted and are not supervising. And, despite our parental controls and monitoring, they are exposing themselves to adult content. Already this week, we are seeing an increase in unfavorable behaviors involving technology and social media. Now, the hope is that as they immerse themselves back in school and reconnect with their friends in real time, this will diminish. But, it is important that we come together to be more vigilant about how much of the phone/social media students are consuming and what they are doing when on their phones.


    Now, I completely understand that we cannot be everywhere, all of the time. And, many of our students are making good choices with their time and online presence. But, even good kids will mess up. Even good kids could use a gentle reminder. I believe it is not an invasion of privacy to go through your kids' phones. You pay for them, you have every right to monitor their usage. Especially in the name of keeping them safe. Sometimes, loving our kids means that we have to protect them from themselves and the world they are not ready for.


    Now, this message isn't meant to be about preaching online safety and parenting. And, I'm sorry if it came across that way. I know junior high is a time when students try out new habits and behaviors. Which is why it is more important than ever that we come together to love and support them. All kids are going to make mistakes. This is a key part of growing up. I'm sure you did plenty and I know that I have. The goal is not to prevent kids from ever making mistakes. Those mistakes are necessary for growth. However, the world is very different than the one you and I grew up in. Our job, as parents and educators, is to prevent them from making mistakes they cannot come back from. And, often times, those mistakes happen through their phones and social media.


    The increase in negative behaviors involving the cellphone and social media since the pandemic is what inspired our phone free policy on campus. Our hope is that when they are in the building, engaging in deep learning, and connecting with peers, they are doing so free from their phones. Now, I know this isn't a perfect system, but my hope is that Magnolia is one place where students can feel seen and safe. 


    As always, thank you for your partnership and stay vigilant out there families.

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  • Understanding The Teenage Brain

    Posted by Collette Taylor-Chovan on 8/28/2022

    The Teenage Brain

    Intermediate school comes with a plethora of "firsts." For example, students experience their first seven-period day, with seven different teachers, dressing out in a locker room (Yikes! In front of others!), meeting new friends, and navigating new social interactions/conflicts...all while their hormones are creating havoc with their bodies.


    And not to mention, all that is happening with their brain!


    Here's a little brain science for those moments when you shake your head at behaviors that just don't make sense! (Trust me...how the teenage brain functions explain a lot!)

    Did you know that the human brain reaches adult size at about 11 years of age, but it has one of its most significant periods of change and development during adolescence and does not reach full 'maturity' until the mid-twenties?


    The teenage brain brings excellent opportunities as well as challenges. During puberty, the brain begins its second most considerable development period since infancy. The brain starts 'pruning' neurons – unused neurons wither, and those used are 'myelinated' (coated), allowing for more efficient information processing. These brain developments prepare us for the more complex problem-solving needed in adulthood.


    The brain's limbic system manages emotions and is one of the first to mature. The frontal lobes - necessary for 'executive thinking' are the last, resulting in the impulsive, pleasure-seeking, risk-taking nature we see.


    Due to the mismatch in brain growth, psychologist Laurence Steinberg suggested that a teenager's brain "has a well-developed accelerator but only a partly developed brake." Young people can make 'sensible,' thought-out decisions but are prone to acting on 'gut feeling' and making decisions 'in the moment".

    Big picture

    Peer approval is crucial to teens at a time when they struggle to interpret and understand social cues. 'Fight or flight" reactions are particularly extreme during this time – explaining the tendency for students to respond very strongly ("dramatically") to perceived criticism, stress, and relationship difficulties.


    Also, a teen's brain is particularly vulnerable to substance misuse, risky behavior, or prolonged social meeting use. 'Thrill seeking' is a strong driver, and the dopamine hit available from substances, unsafe behavior, or instant gratification from social media all meet this need. However, the adverse effects of using substances or engaging in risky behavior are more significant in teens. For example, if a student is smoking/vaping during this changing brain period, more nicotine/vaping receptors will develop, making it harder to stop smoking (and developing addictions).


    The teenage brain does have its positives – the reward center in the brain is especially receptive at this time and is active when they learn a new task. This makes them more adaptive and efficient than adults. Their changing brain has the capacity to take on large amounts of information (and do well in school).


    Many parents have experienced that teen students are highly emotional beings -they feel passionately. They can use this positively to raise their concerns about the world and defend those around them.

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  • Monitoring Social Media for our Students

    Posted by Collette Taylor-Chovan on 8/28/2022

    Please take the time to watch the video with your student and review their social media footprint. Instagram is the current favorite social media app amongst students.

    School and cyber safety are a priority. If you or your students see something questionable on social media, report it to the administration as soon as possible. We ask parents to partner with us to protect our students from hate on social media.


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  • Intermediate School Survival Guide for Parents

    Posted by Collette Taylor-Chovan on 8/28/2022

    Intermediate school is full of new experiences ranging from seven different classes and teachers to new friends, opportunities, and challenges. This can be emotional and overwhelming for students and parents. There is a developmental shift that happens during these “tween” years that accounts for some of these challenges.

    Here are some suggestions to help with easing the transition:

    1. Prepare for changes in school routines and expectations.

    Now that your student has completed elementary school, a higher expectation of responsibility shifts to students in middle school to manage their schedules and schoolwork. Think of middle school as preparation for high school. Becoming more independent, learning time management, and balancing school, social life and extracurricular activities are all key lessons to be learned in middle school.

    Add to this, puberty, which brings hormonal changes that can intensify emotions and stress. It’s no wonder kids this age can seem moody!

    2. Make executive functioning skills a priority.

    “The Middle School Brain” is real. Maybe it’s because their brains are so busy producing and distributing hormones, but middle schoolers can be flakey. That’s all the more reason to stress executive functioning skills like organization, time-management, attention to detail, and self-control.


    Organization and time management do not come naturally for most of us. However, they’re necessary skills for success in middle school, high school, college, and career. Some kids may need more help learning how to navigate these new responsibilities.

    Here are two things you can do to help your middle schooler succeed:

    1. Be OK with your child’s mistakes. “Let your child manage their agenda and calendar,” says licensed therapist Jody Baumstein, LCSW. “It might be tempting to do it for them, but the only way they will learn is to try themself. It’s OK if they fail! Experiencing failure, and learning from it, is an important part of building resilience.”

    2. Help your child learn from their mistakes. Baumstein says, “Once failure occurs, have a sit-down and talk it through together: ‘What happened? What can we learn from this experience?’”

    Teaching kids this age to be responsible, take care of their things, and manage their own time and emotions won’t be easy. But the alternative is that they enter high school without the maturity they need to handle the freedoms kids that age often enjoy.

    3. Limit social media.

    I cannot stress this enough. The self-esteem of middle schoolers is fragile enough without constant reminders of how much happier, prettier, and more interesting everyone else seems to be. Comparison is the thief of joy, and social media is all about comparison.

    Social media is also a dangerous weapon in the hands of middle schoolers. This is an age when kids are trying to establish a social pecking order. Unfortunately, there’s no quicker way to take someone down a few pegs than to trash them on social media. At this age, even “good kids” can lack the empathy and maturity to realize how damaging a post can be.

    Add this to the fact that it is addictive and a tremendous time consumer, and it’s easy to see why middle schoolers are better off if they enter their teen years relatively free from the pitfalls of social media. If you do allow your child to have social media, limit the amount of time your student is allowed to spend on the internet and keep extremely close tabs on all accounts. Better yet, scroll social posts together. Engage in conversations about what others are posting.

    Most of all, as parents you can simply offer your students a safe place to land. Sometimes they just need space to clear their heads. They need you constantly reminding them they have value and that you love them despite the crazy.

    Middle school isn’t easy, but with a little planning, preparation, and partnership, we will help your students thrive throughout these important years.


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