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Friday, October 26, 2012

Inspiration from Mrs. Rosenthal and My Students

  It's been a busy week.  Orange Grove principal Susan Rosenthal and I presented our joint report on the Middle School Strategic Plan on Tuesday at the governing board meeting.  I am so grateful that I am on the same team with such a supportive and talented colleague.  We are forging strong links between ECMS and OG.   We are alike but different as middle schools, having our own particular needs but yet wanting the same high quality education for students.  Here's a shout out to Mrs. Rosenthal . . . and to our sister school, Orange Grove Middle School.  We love OG!!

    Inspiration also came from 6th grader Aidan Danielski, who came looking for his ride after Science Olympiad practice today.  Aidan waited in my office just in time to join me for tea (at a little after 4)  "What's wrong?" asked Aidan.  "You just sighed. Why?"

   I stated that it was Friday and that I had a lot going on in the next few days.  "Just be in the present, Ms. Setliff." (Honestly, those were his exact words).   His kind notice of my sigh and his wise counsel have resonated with me all afternoon. The truth is that sometimes my best advice comes from students.  Aidan, thanks . . . you made my day today.  You said exactly what I needed to hear!

   It's time to post and go home for the evening.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Jake Little, Eagle Hero!

The first week of October, during her third period class, teacher of Spanish, Maria Pastorini, was in the middle of instruction when she found herself unable to breathe. ECMS student, Jake Little, saw that his teacher was choking. His Boy Scout training kicked into gear.   

Ms. Pastorini reports, "Jake jumped to my aid, like he had springs in his shoes!"  Jake performed the Heimlich maneuver several times until Ms. Pastorini began to breathe. Ms. Pastorini believes that it was her great fortune to have Jake in her class during this frightening episode. "This happened to me when Jake was present and because he is a Boy Scout, he has the training. Jake truly saved my life. I am grateful to him."

ECMS honored Jake at the Student of the Quarter assembly.  We are very proud of his heroism. Thankfully, Ms. Pastorini has made a full recovery.

NOTE:  The Heimlich maneuver is an emergency technique for preventing suffocation when a person's airway (windpipe) becomes blocked by a piece of food or other object. See the NIH website's info by clicking on this link: HEIMLICH MANEUVER

Monday, October 8, 2012

Fall Break and The Beatles

At the end of the week, we will pause to welcome the Fall.  I used to say that autumn was more of an abstract concept than a reality here in the Sonoran Desert. Seasons where I grew up involved leaves turning color and cider made from the apples growing in your back yard.  I remember wearing a down coat over my Halloween costume.  It was cold enough to need mittens and a hat!  That was then . . . 

Seasons, for me and many other educators, are as much about what is going on at school as they are about the weather.  While nature is magnificent, so is the pleasure of traveling the road of life with 600 middle school students.  We don't need to see leaves falling to tell us that change is around us.  This week marks the end of the quarter.  The year is 25% over.  Our students are turning into 6th, 7th and 8th graders.  It is an amazing metamorphosis.  

How do we capture these times?  Fall Break is the perfect invention.  We should have thought of it long ago.  It's a great time for parents and students to connect and reflect on the last two months.  Here are my humble suggestions on things to do to instill confidence and enjoy the company of your child during the break. I've based my "tips" on a playlist of Beatles songs to provide some mental Velcro (plus, The Beatles make everything better).  I've included links to YouTube, lest you might really want to listen to the FAB 4 during your down time.

So, here we go:

1.  "Twist and Shout"
Do a happy dance with your kids because they have a couple of days off!

2.  "Here Comes the Sun" 
It's Arizona!  Enjoy the outdoors together!

3.  "All My Loving"
It's what kids need most and parents are the best at showing kids how to love themselves.

4.  "We Can Work It Out"
Kids need to know that most everything can be worked out and that parents are here to help.

5.  "There's a Place"
Kids need parents even when they say they don't.  Friends come and go; parents are forever.

Have a beautiful break!
Mary Setliff

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


I have written recently to inform parents about substance abuse among teens. Research shows us that young people turn to alcohol or drugs due to a lack of ability to cope or to solve the complex problems that life brings along. Students have told me that it's sometimes a challenge to endure all of the changes they are undergoing in middle school. The question remains: how can we help our kids become more resilient? How can we become more resilient as adults so that we are up to the task of managing and monitoring the behavior of a middle school student?

I came across an article on building resilience. Harvard Business Review writer Jane McGonigal suffered a traumatic brain injury and became interested in the science of resilience. Her article explains 4 ways to become a more resourceful problem solver. These are simple suggestions that anyone can put into action.

Four Ways to be a more Resourceful Problem Solver:

1. PHYSICAL: get up from your computer and move around for a few moments every hour.

2. MENTAL: perform mildly challenging tasks like counting backwards from 100 by sevens.

3. EMOTIONAL: experience three positive emotions for each negative one each day.

4. SOCIAL: send a thank-you note or hold a handshake a little longer.

I shared these with my 90 year old mother, Caterina, aka Nonna Kiki, over the phone (she lives in Mesa). I asked her to think about these 4 areas. She says she has always done #1 and #4. #1, she believes has taken her into her 90th year. #4 is an automatic for her because she was born (in 1922) in an era where everyone wrote thank you notes and gave warm handshakes. She thinks #3 is very challenging because she has issues with chronic pain. For the next month, we are both going to work on #3 and talk about our progress.

Share these Four Ways with your student or with another member of your family. Choose one. Work on it together. Life's challenges are best when shared with people you love.

"Building Resilience by Wasting Time" by Jane McGonigal in Harvard Business Review, October 2012 (Vol. 90#10, p. 38).