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Talking about Race with Young Children

March 16, 2019

We’ve had several Community Conversations related to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in Saline.  One topic that has come up by both parents and staff is the issue of talking about race with each other – especially our children/students.  Speaking with community member Channon Washington, she noted, “Families of color have to talk about race at early ages – often and always. It is a misnomer and does a disservice to White students if parents do not engage their young children in these conversations early.”

Recently, National Public Radio shared information on talking to young children about race. The story noted that even babies notice differences like skin color, eye shape, and hair texture.  Some of the ideas about how to handle conversations about race, racism, diversity, and inclusion, even with very young children are listed below:

A few things to remember:

  • Be proactive, helping them build a positive awareness of diversity.
  • Don’t shush or shut them down if they mention race.
  • Don’t wait for kids to bring it up.
  • When a child experiences prejudice, grown-ups need to both address the feelings directly and fight the prejudices.
  • You don’t have to avoid topics like slavery or the Holocaust.  Instead, give the facts and focus on resistance and allies.

Some additional Resources:

  • Babies begin to notice race at six months old – in fact according to this pair of studies by Professor Kang Lee at the University of Toronto, they actually show signs of racial bias by this age.
  • One in 10 children is multiracial – according to Pew Research Center.  This includes children with parents of two different races, plus those with at least one multiracial parent.

Community Conversations – January 24th & 29th

January 22, 2019
Community Conversation

Earlier this year I hosted two “Community Conversation” meetings to discuss issues of diversity in our community. They were well attended and we had some honest conversations about the challenges we face. I would like to host two more to continue the conversation. As always, other issues are open for discussion as well.

There are a lot of issues we can discuss – district growth, school calendar, social & emotional health, and many more… You bring the topics.  With that said, I would like talk about the issue of diversity, equity & inclusion as it relates to our community and Saline Area Schools.  What role do we play as a school district?  What role should we play?

The dates are Thursday, January 24th from 10:00am- 11:15am at Brewed Awakenings and Tuesday, January 29th from 6:30pm-7:45pm at Liberty School Board Room. Please stop by, say hello and bring any thoughts about the district you feel I should know.

If you can’t make it, feel free to use “Let’s Talk” and let me know your thoughts.

Thank you,
Scot Graden

Houghton School to Cypress Ridge

December 18, 2018

Last week I was reflecting on the decision we made to close and later demolish Houghton Elementary School.  This led to the sale and residential development that is now Cypress Ridge. Closing and demolishing a building can be a hard issue for a school district to manage.  They are often full of nostalgia and hold fond memories.  However, that sentimental longing for the past can hold us back from moving forward for the benefit of future generations.  I am thankful we moved forward as a community – we are benefiting from that decision today.

 

Digital Parenting

December 16, 2018

Tech.LiteracyEarlier this week, I had the opportunity to host a community conversation. The topic of that conversation was the use of social media by our students. In many ways, the exchange was a broader conversation about the impact of technology on instruction, classroom management, social interactions, and families.  This community discussion included parents with both younger students as well as high school students. We developed a list of “do and do not” for social media use. It’s a good starting point for discussions in the classroom and at home. The one unifying theme amongst all participants is that the use of social media is evolving at a fast pace. It is challenging to keep pace with the many facets of social media – at school and at home.

There are no easy answers, and no “one size fits all” solution.  We discussed some general guidelines for parents, and some general talking points to help parents navigate the world of parenting in this digital age.  We know that technology can be very, very addictive for young people (adults too!). While we do not know or understand the science on how technology use impacts developing minds, we do know that there are social and physical implications.  Extensive, unrestricted use of technology can cause depression, loneliness, and other health/safety problems. The first landmark study on the effect of screen time on developing brains was released earlier this year. The results are staggering.

The group did agree that one of the critical aspects of steering young people toward the healthy use of technology is to stay engaged, aware, and involved. It’s important to set expectations and to establish clear guidelines for technology use and screen time that are consistent with the non-digital world (IRL for the students reading this). If you wouldn’t allow your child to bully someone in person, then it seems disingenuous to permit that behavior online. Teaching and modeling how to be kind in an online environment is an essential part of that understanding.

Parenting can be challenging. Young people with access to the digital world further complicate parenting decisions.  Setting clear parameters for what is permitted online will help alleviate some of those challenges. Restricting access to personal devices at times is a good thing. Children and teens need structure and limits to develop and grow into responsible citizens. Modeling the expected, appropriate behavior is essential, too. Family meals where no technology is permitted is a good beginning. Just as adults show children how to develop a healthy lifestyle with eating, exercise, and sleep, it is equally as important to model healthy behavior with the use of personal electronic devices.

Finally, we are raising a generation of digital natives. For parents, this is unchartered territory. Talk with other parents. Read. Learn about the positive and negative impacts of screen time, social media, and personal technology. It’s a fascinating time in which to raise the next generation. Let’s be cautious and prudent in our efforts to guide these youth toward positive, healthy use of personal devices, the internet, and social media.

Community Conversation – December 12th

November 28, 2018

Community Conversation

One concern I hear a great deal about (and deal with as a parent) is the issue of social media use by our students.  This is a complex issue and one that is not likely going away soon.  In an effort to share some thoughts and ideas, as well as, gather feedback from the community – I will be hosting a “Community Conversation” meeting to discuss the issue.

There are several aspects to the issue we can discuss – Do’s & Don’ts for young students.  What role do we play as a school district?  What role should we play?

I will be hosting the conversation on Wednesday, December 12th from 9:30am- 11:00am at the Saline District Library, 555 N. Maple Rd. Please stop by, say hello and bring any thoughts about the district you feel I should know.

If you can’t make it, feel free to use “Let’s Talk” and let me know your thoughts.

Thank you,
Scot Graden

Community Conversation – November 12th

October 29, 2018

Community Conversation

On October 24th I hosted the first “Community Conversation” meeting of the year with a focus on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. It was well attended and we had an active discussion on the topic.  I also got feedback from community members that were unable to attend due to the daytime nature of the event and wanted to be a part of the discussion.

In an effort to continue this dialogue, I will be making time available on Monday, November 12th from 6:30pm- 8:00pm at Liberty School Board Room, 7265 N. Ann Arbor Road.

As with all “Community Conversation” meetings, there are a lot of issues we can discuss – district growth, school calendar, social & emotional health, and many more… You bring the topics.  With that said, I would like to again talk and explore the issue of diversity, equity & inclusion as it relates to our community and Saline Area Schools.  What role do we play as a school district?  What role should we play?

Please stop by, say hello and bring any thoughts about the district you feel I should know.

If you can’t make it, feel free to use “Let’s Talk” and let me know your thoughts.

Thank you,
Scot Graden

New Kitchen…. Same Taste?

October 28, 2018

IMG_4926One of the most significant shifts that Saline has made as a school district in recent years has been the commitment to changing the physical features and layout of the various learning spaces. To visit any of the school buildings over the last several years, one might notice that the vast majority of the classrooms and learning spaces do not resemble a traditional classroom from the 19th or 20th-century. Gone are the neat rows of desks with the teacher delivering all of the instruction. Saline’s educational leaders have researched, visited, and then adopted methods for creating a variety of flexible learning environments within the brick-and-mortar classroom spaces. In some cases, those learning spaces are outside of the school buildings in  Visitors will now see a variety of furnishings that include different seating, writing surfaces, and teacher workspaces in varying types, and styles of arrangements. In very few classes will one see student desks in rows facing in one direction.

Many of these adjustments have been based on sound instructional strategies that have roots in educational research. Also, many of these approaches have been based on student feedback. An essential part of the redesign included gathering student input. It has been a critical part of the process for the adults to actively listen to the students regarding how they learn. In Saline, we have the good fortune to have the Foundation for Saline Area Schools to assist by providing financial resources. The community support is also evident and appreciated. These resources have afforded us the opportunity to purchase furniture, infuse integrated technology, and use old-fashioned elbow grease for painting and redecorating the classrooms to make them warm, welcoming, and inclusive of all learners.

The concern that I once had was that we would end up in a scenario where we had a new kitchen, but we were serving the same food, and our meal tasted the same. The notion that by changing furniture alone one could improve learning outcomes was a concern. Ultimately, the Saline faculty would have to learn how to utilize the new environments to positively impact student achievement. Considering what strategies, methods of delivery, and student input would be most impactful for their students was of primary concern.

Throughout the first couple months of the school year,  I have been watching and asking questions to try and assess the extent to which we have legitimately changed practices and improved student outcomes by leveraging and re-inventing the learning spaces.  Understanding that moving the needle away from standardized assessments has not been the only goal with this transition, the state-mandated evaluations have been, traditionally, the only way to measure student achievement. Instead, we are focused on the whole child and increasing each student’s level of engagement in their own learning.   I am confident that we are making progress to live the vision of Student-Led… Future Focused.

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