The Importance of Making Time for a Family Dinner

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No matter what kind of family you have, it’s important to make time for family dinners. Whether that means inviting a neighbor, grandparents, or it’s just a single parent and their child or children, it’s important for a family to find time to sit down during the day and share a meal. There have been studies that show family dinners can often lead to stronger familial relationships, higher confidence for children, and better performance in school. There are many reasons why a family should find time to have dinner together, no matter what their family looks like. Here are just a few of the reasons a family dinner is so important.

Makes families closer

One of the most important reasons families should find time to eat dinner together is how it can bring them closer. Families who take the time to sit down together and talk about their days learn more about one another and can relate to each other better. These benefits are even more apparent when multiple generations eat together; having family meals that include grandparents lead to great memories being shared and created that family members will always treasure. Too often, an entire day goes by without family members relaying what they did that day to each other.

Helps kids in school

Sitting down together at dinner gives parents and children the chance to discuss school. If a child is struggling in a certain subject or in school in general, a family dinner provides the opportunity for them to open up to their parent or for the parent to learn about what’s happening at school. It can help kids academically and behaviorally, but it can also help if the student is being bullied or has some other issue. Parents have the opportunity to talk to students about important issues and make sure they’re succeeding in whatever they’re doing.

Leads to healthier families

While meals on the go are much more convenient for busy families, taking the time to cook a fresh meal together and slowly enjoy dinner leads to healthier families. Eating food quickly often leads to overeating and buying pre-made food can be incredibly unhealthy. Family dinners give children a chance to learn about healthy eating choices while spending quality time with their family.

Generates more responsibility

When children know that their parents will ask them how they’re doing in school, at their job, or on some other responsibility, it often motivates them to work harder and do well. Family dinners are often a time for children of all ages to learn responsibilities in the home, whether it’s setting the table, helping to cook the meal, or washing dishes afterwards. Assigning a specific dinnertime chore teaches children responsibility and also lets them do their part in preparing the family dinner. Older children can even cook the meal themselves and learn valuable life skills.

Reduces stress in families

Finally, regular family dinners helps to reduce stress in families. When children and other family members have someone to talk to each day, they have a chance to discuss any problems they may be facing or concerns they have. It’s also a great time to take a break from technology and just relax, enjoying food and time with family.

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5 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day with Your Students

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It seems like everyday, more and more environmental issues face us. As an educator, it’s important to encourage your students to be thoughtful global citizens and be mindful of their individual impact on the environment. This year, celebrate Earth Day with your students in ways that are educational and interest them. Here are some ways you can help your students focus on the environment for Earth Day.

Watch a documentary

Depending what class you teach, you can find time to watch a documentary about a pressing environmental event for Earth Day. Find a few to choose from and then let your students vote on what they’d like to watch. There are plenty of masterfully done nature documentaries, whether about pressing environmental issues, events that have occurred, or just general informational nature documentaries. Kids love nature documentaries, especially when they’re engaging, like Planet Earth.

Volunteer

If you can find a way for your students to volunteer with a local organization that focuses on the environment, take advantage of this opportunity. Picking up trash, collecting recyclables, or planting trees is a great idea and doesn’t take much time or effort. See what’s happening in your local area and then check if it’s possible for your students to volunteer or participate in a planned event. You can even organize your own volunteer opportunity on school grounds.

Discuss current science news

There are always environmental events and issues occurring, so take the time to help your students learn about these. Provide them with outlets and resources online where they can read about something happening. You can even assign a specific project for Earth Day that allows them to choose an environmental issue that interests them and then give a short lesson to the rest of the class on the topic.

Talk about individual impact

For many students, they likely haven’t considered the impact their individual actions have on the world around them. Talk to students about the importance of recycling and properly disposing of trash. Teach them small ways they can improve the environment, such as volunteering with an organization, caring for wildlife or plants, or limiting the waste they produce. You can show them the importance of turning off lights when leaving a room, walking or biking instead of driving a car, or using less water. Most students would love to know more about ways they can make the world a better place.

Go outside

Finally, an incredibly simple way for you to help your students to celebrate Earth Day is simply taking them outside. Head to a local park or go on a short walk and just appreciate nature. Earth Day is the perfect time to develop a new appreciation for the world around you and reflect on the beauty of nature.

How to Actually Get People Engaged in Town Hall Meetings

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Any community experiences the problem that lack of engagement causes. It’s vital that community members are engaged in the decisions and activities of a community because it directly affects them. Those in charge of making decisions for a community and running town hall meetings often run into the issue of residents not showing up to meetings, but then being incredibly unhappy with new changes, even though civic leaders gave them ample opportunities to provide feedback during public meetings. So, how are community leaders to fix this lack of engagement? Here are some tangible suggestions for encouraging community members to actually get involved in town hall meetings and provide their feedback.

Plan the event well

A big issue with many town hall meetings is that they aren’t well-planned. Instead of throwing together a few talking points knowing few people will attend, make the effort and plan a quality meeting. Create slides or a presentation you can use, even if there’s a dozen people in attendance. Practice your talking points and anticipate any questions that may arise. Also consider offering refreshments at the event; more people will come if they know there’s food.

Encourage communication

Community members often criticize community leaders for not adequately communicating with them. Provide people with various opportunities to talk to leaders, whether it’s through specific public hours at the office, online resources, or an open floor at the town hall meeting. Make sure community members know they’re encouraged to offer their opinions and be open to feedback, even if it’s harsh or negative.

Publicize the event

One of the reasons more people do not attend town hall meetings is simply because they do not realize they’re happening. Make the effort to actually publicize the event; post on the neighborhood website, share on the community Facebook page, and post flyers around town. You can even send a flyer to each home in the mail. Making the meeting as public as possible encourages more people to attend.

Offer participation opportunities

Far too few people are afraid to take leadership roles in their communities; this attitude needs to change. Highlight ways community members can help out. Offer volunteer opportunities or ask for help on certain projects. Make it clear you want community members to participate in decisions and discusses. Even encourage more people to run for public office, especially if they want to see change in the community.

Send out other forms of feedback

It’s vitally important to remember that there are lots of community members who simply cannot make the town hall meeting. Maybe they’re confined to their homes because of a medical issue or lack transportation to the meeting. Some people may work various shifts that make it impossible for them to attend a single meeting. Others may have too many responsibilities in the evening to take time to attend meetings. Make sure you provide surveys, in the mail or online, that allow all community members to offer feedback.

4 Tips for Strengthening Relationships Between School Employees

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There are plenty of articles on the web about how to strengthen teacher/student relationships. The relationship between a teacher and student is inherently vital to education; being a good educator means your students trust you and you can all work together well to learn. However, it’s also important to cultivate strong relationships between school employees, whether teachers, administration, or other professionals. Teaching is often a solitary job, especially during the day as teachers work with their individual classes and maybe have time to bond with the other professionals over lunch. We should make it a priority to begin cultivating relationships between school employees, as well as those with the students.

Provide networking opportunities

Many professionals regularly attend networking opportunities and are encouraged to by their employers. For teachers, there are not nearly as many chances to network with coworkers or even meet new people in the community. It’s time for schools to provide their own networking opportunities and also provide employees the resources to seek out networking events in the local community. Send emails and post information about upcoming networking events and consider planning an event in the evening for teachers to attend in order to get to know one another batter. For newer teachers, this opportunity can be especially helpful, since it’s likely they do not know anyone working at their new school.

Encourage professional development

Much like networking, general professional development is a good way for school officials to strengthen their connections. Encourage employees to attend classes together and host your own professional development opportunities during inservice days. Getting educators to work together and with people they may not have normally collaborated with is a great opportunity.

Create a relaxing space

Many schools fail to create a welcoming space for educators to go during their planning period or for lunch. A lot of school officials eat lunch in their classrooms or offices or in a drab break room. Make the effort to revitalize your teacher’s lounge and make it a place any school employee feels comfortable relaxing in. Create a true space for employees to take breaks and connect with one another. Decorate it in a pleasing manner, make sure appliances are up-to-date and working, and consider setting out snacks. Get comfortable furniture and make it a space where people feel encouraged to talk to each other.

Consider co-teaching

A few places have already implemented this technique and it seems to work well. This strategy can be used amongst any school officials, not just teachers. A principal or guidance counselor could visit a specific classroom and talk to students about what they specifically do at the school and encourage the students to talk to them. This method helps students get to know others who work at the school and also helps school employees to connect with each other. Co-teaching allows collaboration between teaching and also better manage the classroom.

How to Talk to Your Students About National Tragedies

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Recently, it seems as though we’ve had our fair share of national tragedies. Whether it’s an intense hurricane or a horrible shooting, it’s impossible for your students to not be aware of what’s happening in the world around them. Some students are even very directly affected by these tragedies. It would be difficult to avoid mentioning these tragedies at all in the classroom and it’s important that students understand how to talk about these serious topics. Ignoring national tragedies doesn’t make them go away and can often lead to students repressing their thoughts and feelings. While it is an incredibly sensitive topic, here are some tips for educators when speaking to their students about national tragedies.

Acknowledge the event

Sometimes, students won’t know how to bring up a national event. In your role as an educator, it’s appropriate for you to acknowledge the event and see if students want to continue the discussion. If your students are very young or seem reluctant to talk about what happened, continue on with your lesson and consider approaching it at another time. However, many times students bring up the tragedy themselves, so be ready to discuss.

Gauge their thoughts

Before beginning the discussion, see how your students are feeling and what they’re thinking. You might feel a very different way from them and they could be concerned about something you haven’t even considered. Ask how they feel and what they’re concerned about and then let them talk so you have an idea of where they’re coming from.

Avoid personal politics

While it’s okay to share a general idea of your feelings, avoid getting too personal about your views on the tragedy or any extreme emotional reactions. Your students will have a variety of thoughts and feelings, so use this time to let them talk about how they feel and what their opinions are. Aggressively discussing your opinions could discourage students from speaking and it’s important to focus on them during this time.

Encourage communication

During and after the conversation, encourage your students to share their thoughts and concerns. Let them ask questions and offer opinions and talk to one another. Then, let them know you’re there for them to speak with if they continue to feel concerned. Refer them to the school psychologist if you think it’s appropriate and would help them sort through their feelings.

Reinforce safety precautions

No matter what the tragedy was, reinforce the safety precautions in school for a similar situation. Make sure your students know what to do if there’s a school lockdown, where to go during a weather emergency, or who to contact if one of them experiences a medical emergency. Knowing what to do can make them feel safer and more comfortable. Reassure them that they are safe and measures are being taken to keep it that way. It may also be appropriate to discuss what to do outside of school if an emergency would occur.

Keep your routine

After you’ve talked to your students about the national tragedy, attempt to stick to your normal routine as much as possible. Familiar tasks and routines are important for healing from the tragedy and can make moving forward easier. Also make sure you’re taking care of yourself. While your focus is your students as an educator, it’s important to get the help you need in order to sort through your thoughts and emotions.

6 Tips for Preparing Your Home for Winter Weather in Texas

When many people think of Texas, they do not think of a place that has to worry about winter weather. However, this perception is not at all correct, particularly for Northern Texas. There are plenty of issues that can arise during the winter months, especially if winter storms occur. Snow is certainly a threat, as well as freezing temperatures or inordinate amounts of rain that lead to flooding. If you’re moving to Northern Texas or are wondering how you can better protect your home, here are some tips for getting your house ready to weather the trying winter months here in Texas.

Check out your furnace system

Before the winter months begin, take time to examine your furnace system. Most people do not regularly check their furnace and assume it’ll continue optimally running for a long time. The last scenario you want is your furnace to suddenly stop working in the winter as the temperatures rapidly drop. Make sure your furnace is clean and that all connections are secure. You might have to replace certain parts, but if you maintain regular upkeep on your furnace, you’ll avoid greater costs in the future.

Clean your gutters

This step might not be intuitive, especially right before winter, but if you live in areas of Texas that get significant rainfall or even snow, it’s vitally important. Whether it’s just rain or melting snow, there’s going to be a lot of water around your home. Make sure you give it the easiest possible route off of your home and into the ground.

Make sure everything’s insulated

startingly majority of homes in the United States are not properly insulated, so make sure yours is. In most cases, you can easily add more insulation on top of whatever you have, you just need to buy the materials and secure it in the proper areas. Once you’re done, you’ll likely see a significant decrease in your energy costs as well. During cold months, you’ll save money, be more comfortable, and avoid overexerting your heating system.

Fix any leaks

You might have a minor leak and figure it can wait a few months to get fixed, but leaks should be taken care of as soon as possible. Whether you’re just patching the leak or fixing entire sections of your roof, take care of it before heavy winter storms. What might seem like a small leak could turn into a huge problem as snow, ice, and rain put weight on your roof and occur in large amounts.

Stock up on supplies

Once rough weather occurs, there’s a high likelihood that you may be stuck in your home, possibly without electricity. Make sure you have enough food, water, and light sources to last a few days. Also, if you have pets, stock up on food for them as well. Investing in a generator is also a good idea and so is keeping extra gas on hand for your vehicles or the generator.

Avoid driving during rough weather

If the weather is particularly bad and there’s significant amounts of snow or extensive flooding, just stay off the roads. Even if you’re confident in your driving abilities, you cannot be sure that the other people on the road are safe drivers. Be smart and wait out the rough weather indoors, which shouldn’t be a problem if you stocked up on supplies.

5 Ways Students Can Participate in Activism in High School

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No matter what school district you work in, there are going to be students who care about issues affecting the world. Student activism is becoming increasingly common, particularly on college campuses, but it’s also popular at the high school level. If you have students who are passionate about specific causes, support their interest and help them become more active in working to better these causes. Whether they’re passionate about the environment, civil rights, animal welfare, helping children, or something else, provide them with the knowledge and tools they need to make a difference.

Educate yourself & others

The first step high school students can take to becoming more involved in their chosen type of activism is by educating themselves and others. If they truly want to make a difference, taking the time to be informed on issues and understand the context is important. Read up on recent news and related websites or blogs in order to learn everything possible. Then, share this newfound knowledge with others through conversations or posts on social media. They could even start a blog and talk about the issues they care about.

Find local organizations

If you live in or near a city, there are bound to be many organizations focusing on a variety of issues. Most organizations allow teenagers to help out if they’re under 18, as long as they have parental permission. Teach your students about these resources and let them know that their time and help is valuable.

Start a fundraiser

If your students cannot give significant time to an organization or cause, starting a fundraiser at school and in the local community could be a good solution. Whether it’s a drive for needed items or just for funds, whatever is raised can then be sent to the organization or cause the students support.

Create a school club

If there isn’t currently an organization at your school that focuses on the student’s chosen issue, they can certainly start one. It’s common for specific causes to be represented at schools and then regular fundraisers and events are organized. For most districts, creating a club is fairly straightforward and encouraged by schools. It’s a fantastic way for your student to become more of an activist and raise awareness of an important issue.

Connect with people

A final step students can take to become a young activist is connecting with other people. Whether in the community, at school, or across the country, there are other people who share the student’s interest in a particular issue. Students can also attend events, such as larger fundraisers, protests, marches, or lectures on the issue. As they begin talking with others and forging new connections, writing a petition or contacting those holding public office is also a great option.

How to Avoid Getting the Flu

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No one enjoys suffering from flu symptoms. An achy body, chills, fever, and a lack of energy can take a serious toll, and there’s no cure for it. The flu is dangerous, and it requires time and rest to overcome these symptoms. Unfortunately, the flu can sometimes be fatal. Even if it isn’t life-threatening for you specifically, you could spend a week or more out of work or school, which no one wants to have to deal with. The best way to deal with the flu is to prevent getting it in the first place, which is why you should practice the following tips to avoid the flu.

Schedule a flu vaccine

There’s a long-standing rumor that getting the flu shot makes people sick, but this is nothing more than a simple misconception. The flu shot doesn’t cause sickness; the reaction you may experience immediately following a flu shot is simply your body’s natural response to something foreign entering the body. This vaccine helps prime the body to fight flu germs prior to the germs attacking the immune system. It significantly decreases a person’s chance of falling victim to actual flu germs.

Make hand-washing a habit

Anytime someone touches a doorknob, a railing, a bathroom faucet, a countertop in public, or anything anywhere, the germs from that surface are transferred onto the hands of the person doing the touching. Those germs are then spread to anything that person touches, and they can easily make their way into a person’s mouth, nose, or throat with a single touch. It’s why hand-washing should become an important habit. Personal hygiene should be particularly important during a strong flu season.

Improve the immune system

People with a compromised immune system are far more likely to catch germs because their immune system is unable to appropriately fight germs. However, that’s also a problem for people who consider themselves healthy. People who don’t exercise, eat well, manage their stress, or even sleep enough are more likely to be diagnosed with the flu.

The best way to avoid the flu is to make the immune system as strong as possible, and this is done by helping the body stay strong. Exercise and healthy food help the body stay strong, and sleeping well allows the body to rest and grow stronger. You need to take care of yourself as much as possible in order to keep your immune system strong against the flu.

The flu is dangerous, and it can affect everyone in a household before even one person realizes it’s present. It can be incredibly harmful to very young children and the elderly. There’s no flu cure, which is why everyone should practice healthy habits, get a flu shot, and keep their bodies strong and able. A weak body is susceptible to illness not just limited to the flu, and no one likes being sick, especially when it’s preventable.

3 Ways to Prevent Bullying in Your Classroom

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Bullying can happen at any time and in any place. Because it is something that could escalate into a very unfavorable situation, it shouldn’t be written off as simply childhood teasing. As educators, we need to take bullying seriously and take measures to prevent it. Bullying could be detrimental to one’s emotional health, mental health, and physical health. It could even threaten a life.

While no one can be around every student at every moment of the day, there are a few key things that can be done to better ensure that bullying is minimized in the classroom. Controlling bullying is as simple as knowing what it is, how it looks, and where it happens.

Know what bullying actually is

Bullying shouldn’t be written off as teasing. While teasing is done merely to irritate or annoy another individual, bullying is much different. According to Sweeting and West, bullying happens when there is an imbalance of power.

Bullying can be excessive teasing, threats, or name calling. It could also be anything that makes an individual feel uncomfortable going where he needs or wants to go. Bullying can be verbal, nonverbal, or physical. If a students seems hurt or uncomfortable with something another student student did or said, ask them about it. If the student is seriously upset and you feel the need to intervene, do so. However, it may be better to first address the situation with the upset student.

Know the warning signs

Children who are being bullied often show signs. While no child exhibits the exact same signs as another, educating oneself in the signs of a person who is being bullied could prevent further bullying. It is also helpful to know the common signs of an actual bully. Knowing what to look out for could prevent a child from being bullied or from bullying others.

Children who are being bullied often have random bruises. They could also have low-self esteem, a decreased interest in school, or could be getting their personal belongings damaged. Children who bully others often get into a great deal of fights or have friends who are bullies. There are lots of other warning signs to watch out for, so educate yourself.

Know where bullying happens

Statistics show that most bullying happens in areas where adults aren’t usually present, such as on the playground, on the school bus, and in hallways. Bullying can also occur when kids are walking to and from school, in the cafeteria, and online.

Staff should do their best to monitor these locations. However, since it is impossible to keep an eye on all students at all times, it is critical that it is communicated to students the importance of reaching out to an adult when he or she is being bullied or suspects bullying. Remember to educate your kids on the seriousness of bullying and where they can go for help if they’re a victim of bullying or witness it happening.

5 Skills to Teach Your Students that They Won’t Learn in School

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Teaching in and off itself is a challenging profession. For some students, you’re the first adult that’s really cared about their life or been interested in their future plans. In the United States, education is required up to a certain age, so you’ll work with students from all walks of life. Some want to be in the classroom and others hate it. However, one day your students are going to face the world outside of school and be completely responsible for themselves (if they aren’t already). Having a well-rounded education is important and you need to focus on the subject you’re teaching them, but it’s also vital that students learn necessary life skills as early as possible. Here are some simple skills you can teach your students and incorporate into your classroom, no matter what subject you’re usually teaching.

Professionalism

This skill is one I’ve addressed previously, highlighting ways you can instill a sense of professionalism in your students. No matter where they go in their future careers, being able to carry themselves in a professional manner is invaluable. Teach your students to successfully interview for a job and they’ll already be ahead of many others.

Resume writing

While this topic is related to professionalism, it’s also worth mentioning on its own. Even in high school, many students are applying and working jobs in order to gain some income. If they apply for college or a job right out of high school, having a resume, or at least a record of jobs and volunteer work, is incredibly beneficial. Teach them how to format it correctly and what kind of language to use to create a solid resume.

Personal finance

This topic could be a class all on its own, but teaching students basic personal finance skills is important. Teach them about a credit card, how to open their own bank account, about interest and loans. Most students come out of high school with zero knowledge about personal finance, which can severely impact them as they move through life. Knowledge of how to manage personal finances helps students avoid making bad financial decisions and getting into overwhelming debt.

Self-care

Students are often stressed out and rarely know how to manage these emotions. Teach your students about self-care options, such as how to calm themselves down, who to talk to if they’re experiencing a crisis, and other useful resources. Letting them know about local clinics they can visit or methods to use during times of stress can help immensely.

Healthy lifestyle

For students, health concerns may not be common. However, it’s important for them to be mindful of their health as early as possible. Let them know the importance of getting enough rest, eating nutritious and balanced meals, and getting regular exercise. They’ll be grateful for this advice as they get older.