First Person

This week's healthy schools highlights

Chefs cook up ideas for healthy school lunches

Check out this PBS report on what the nation’s school chefs are doing to improve the health of oft-criticized school lunch. And find more resources about healthy school lunch.

Obesity rates rise 90 percent in 17 states since 1995

Obesity rates climbed at least 90 percent in 17 states from 1995 to last year, gains that have a direct bearing on U.S. health spending, according to a report. Read more in Bloomberg.

Two boys and two girls walking to school with backpacksWho’s walking to school – and who’s not?

Children living in urban areas and from lower-income families are more likely to walk or ride a bicycle to school, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics on Monday.  Those activities have proven health benefits. Read more about the research on this CNN blog. And read more about biking and walking to school from EdNews Parent.

EatWell@School fundraiser announced

For people interested in healthy schools and those who like planning ahead: Consider joining LiveWell Colorado at its annual fundraising luncheon and
 celebrate the culmination of its 2011 EatWell@School initiative, a
 10-week after school healthy cooking competition for high school
 students in Denver Public Schools. The winning meal will be served at
 the luncheon. The event will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8, at the 
Sheraton Denver Downtown
. To purchase corporate tables, tickets or to receive information on 
sponsorship opportunities, please contact Becky Grupe at 720-353-4120 Ext. 209 or beckygrupe@livewellcolorado.org.

Colorado Proud School Meal Day webinar scheduled

Do you want to participate in this year’s Colorado Proud School Meal Day, Sept. 14, but need more information? Participate in this webinar from 11 a.m. to noon Monday, Aug. 1, to learn about the benefits of locally sourced food, how to find producers, how to promote the event, and much more. The one-hour webinar will include speakers from the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Colorado Farm to School, LiveWell Colorado, and local school food service directors who will share their experiences and provide tips for making it a fun and successful day. Register online at https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/474333266.

Recording available on state’s new PE requirements

LiveWell Colorado recently hosted a webinar focused on implementation of Colorado HB 11-1069, the “Physical Activity Expectations in Schools” legislation. To view a recording of the webinar, which discusses physical activity requirements in Colorado Schools, please click here.

Chic Penne pasta dish with pasta, chicken and broccoliGreeley school takes second in healthy recipe competition

Congratulations to Greeley’s Winograd K-8 school for bringing home an award from the national Recipes for Healthy Kids competition, which is co-sponsored by Let’s Move! and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Winograd K-8 team’s healthy and delicious “Chic’ Penne” recipe was awarded second place in the competition’s grains category. Check out the winning recipe. Read more about the competition.

Where does Colorado’s school food come from?

LiveWell Colorado has published An Overview of School Food Procurement in Colorado. This web-based report contains information about the current state of school food operations in Colorado – including school meal participation rates, who pays for what, the role of various Colorado agencies, sources and distributors of school food, and the role of the commodities program. Read the report.

Jamie OliverIn Britain, Jamie Oliver health crusade leads to fewer pupils eating school meals

Jamie Oliver’s campaign against the Turkey  Twizzler has cost the taxpayer £500million and resulted in fewer pupils eating school lunches, it emerged yesterday. More than half of primary pupils and around two-thirds of secondary school youngsters are still rejecting the TV chef’s healthier menus. Read more about what’s happening with school lunches across the pond, as they say, in the Daily Mail. Read a recent Q&A with Oliver.

TV affects a child’s sleep patterns

Young children who have a television in their bedrooms watch it more on average and are more likely to have trouble sleeping than those who don’t, a new study found.

Researchers from the Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington looked at sleep patterns and TV usage reported by parents for 612 children ages 3 to 5. Read more in the Boston Globe.

Colorado Springs District 11 gets a garden growing

From the superintendent: School District 11, Galileo School of Math and Science, and Pikes Peak Urban Gardens (PPUG) have entered into a partnership to create an urban garden on the old Galileo tennis courts. The original Galileo grant stated that a greenhouse was to be part of the school and required creating partnerships with the community. The partnership between D11, Galileo, and PPUG will accomplish these goals. A 42′ diameter geodesic dome greenhouse will be built on the old tennis courts; this project will be completed by July of this year. The greenhouse will be 13′ high and will contain a water reservoir in the center; the water reservoir is to capture and store heat, and there will eventually be an aquaponics set-up in this reservoir. The greenhouse will be used to grow produce year round. The area outside of the greenhouse will be a sensory garden and a permaculture garden.

Lafayette Elementary students Lining up to plant school garden.The remainder of the tennis courts will be raised beds for vegetable production. In the center of the raised beds there will be a gathering area for school classes, community meetings and classes (gardening classes and nutrition classes are a couple of examples), and other outside events.

Small areas inside the greenhouse and in the raised beds will be set aside for students to conduct plant/soil based research for classes and for science fairs. The garden itself will be a space in which all teachers can teach and all students can learn; it is not set aside just for science. There will be a compost pile to the west of the greenhouse to make soil for the raised beds. All other growing space will be for production. The District Food & Nutrition Services department will buy all of the produce grown in the garden to use in our school cafeterias. This project is designed to create revenue so that a part-time master gardener can oversee the growing spaces.

One of the typical downfalls of school-based gardens is that the primary growing season is when everyone is gone. With a part-time master gardener watching the project year round, we will be able to keep the garden in production even when people are off for the summer. The produce grown over the summer could be used to feed some of our students who rely on school lunch for a consistent meal.

This project is poised to be a national model for growing healthy food and getting it into the hands of kids; very few school districts are attempting this type of “in-house” system. Read more about school gardens.

Schools penalized for food service problems result in fine

Problems in recording which students were eligible for free meals resulted in Trinidad School District #1 being penalized by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE). At last Tuesday’s meeting, the school board agreed to return $214,000 to CDE.

The district’s food service was subject to a review and audit by the state last year which revealed extensive problems in the way eligibility for free meals was being recorded. Read more in the Trinidad Times.

Parents’ military deployment may harm kids’ mental health

TUESDAY, July 5 (HealthDay News) – Children with a parent on long-term military deployment in Iraq or Afghanistan are at increased risk for mental health problems, new research suggests. Read more in US News. Read an expert’s advice to deployed parents or their spouses.

Program keeps kids from going hungry

A turkey sandwich, an apple and a cookie.

This is the type of lunch many people take for granted, but for children who take part in Colorado`s Summer Food Service Program, this lunch is a blessing. Read more in the Broomfield Enterprise.

Late talkers do fine as they grow up: study

(Reuters Health) – In good news to parents of late talkers, an Australian study shows a slow start on language is unlikely to have lingering effects on kids’ mental health. Read more at Reuters.

USDA announces improvements in school wellness

The USDA has announced improvements included in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 that will enhance local wellness policies in schools in order to promote healthier lifestyles for children. Local wellness policies are an important tool for parents, local educational agencies and school districts to promote student wellness, prevent and reduce childhood obesity, and provide assurance that school meal nutrition guidelines meet the minimum federal school meal standards. Schools participating in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program were required to have local wellness policies in place beginning in the 2006-2007 School Year. Read more from the USDA.

First Person

If teachers aren’t equipped to help trauma victims, students suffer. Learn from my story.

PHOTO: Anthony Lanzilote

It took one of my kindergarten students, Andrew, to help me figure out how to handle my toughest teaching challenge.

My classroom wall was full of pictures that Andrew had drawn for me. He often greeted me at the door with a smile. But Andrew would also scream, act out, and even hurt himself in my class.

For quite some time, I thought that if I could find a different way to ask him to get back on task, maybe he would not become so aggressive, not bang his head on the floor. But regardless of how tactfully I approached keeping him engaged or redirected his behavior, Andrew would implode. And with little to no support, I quickly grew weary and helpless.

Eventually, I did learn how to help students like Andrew. I also eventually realized that when you teach students who have been impacted by trauma, you have to balance ownership and the reality that you cannot solve every problem. But the trial and error that it took to reach that point as a teacher was exhausting.

I hope we, as a profession, can do better for new Memphis teachers. In the meantime, maybe you can learn from my story.

I grew up in a trauma-filled household, where I learned to mask my hurt and behave like a “good girl” to not bring attention to myself. It wasn’t until a high school teacher noticed how hard I flinched at being touched and privately expressed concerns that I got help. After extensive investigations and professional support, I was on the road to recovery.

When I became a teacher myself, and met Andrew and many students like him, I began to see myself within these children. But that didn’t mean I knew how to reach them or best help them learn. All I knew to do when a child was misbehaving was to separate them from the rest of the classroom. I didn’t have the training to see past a student’s bad behavior and help them cope with their feelings.

It took a while to learn not to internalize Andrew’s attacks, even when they became physical. No matter what Andrew did, each day we started over. Each day was a new opportunity to do something better, learn from a mistake, or work on developing a stronger bond.

I learned to never discipline when I am upset and found success charting “trigger behaviors,” using them to anticipate outbursts and cut down on negative behaviors.

Over time, I learned that almost all students are more receptive when they feel they have a real relationship with the teacher. Still, each case must be treated differently. One student may benefit from gentle reminders, private conversations, or “social stories” that underscore the moral of a situation. Another student may respond to firm consequences, consistent routines, or reflection journals.

Still other students sit in our classrooms each and every day and are overlooked due to their mild-mannered demeanor or their “cooperativeness.” My childhood experiences made me aware of how students mask trauma in ways very unlike Andrew. They also made me realize how imperative it is for teachers to know that overachieving students can need just as much help as a child that physically acts out.

I keep a watchful eye on students that are chronically fatigued or overly sensitive to noise or touch, jumping for minor reasons. I encourage teachers to pay close attention to students that have intense hygiene issues, as their incontinence could be acting as a defense mechanism, and I never ignore a child who is chronically withdrawn from their peers or acting out of character.

All of this took time in the classroom and effort processing my own experiences as a student with trauma. However, many teachers in Memphis aren’t coming from a similar background and haven’t been trained to see past a student’s disruptive behavior.

It’s time to change the way we support teachers and give educators intense trauma training. Often, compassionate teachers want to help students but don’t know how. Good training would help educators develop the skills they need to reach students and to take care of themselves, since working with students that have been impacted by trauma can be incredibly taxing.

Trial and error aren’t enough: If teachers are not equipped to help trauma victims, the quality of students’ education will suffer.

Candace Hines teaches kindergarten for the Achievement School District, and previously taught kindergarten for six years with Shelby County Schools. She also is an EdReports content reviewer and a coach and facilitator for Teach Plus Memphis. Hines serves as a fellow for Collaborative for Student Success and a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow.

First Person

As historians and New York City educators, here’s what we hope teachers hear in the city’s new anti-bias training

PHOTO: Christina Veiga

New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and Mayor Bill de Blasio just committed $23 million over the next four years to support anti-bias education for the city’s teachers. After a year in which a white teacher stepped on a student during a lesson on slavery and white parents used blackface images in their PTA publicity, it’s a necessary first step.

But what exactly will the $23 million pay for? The devil is in the details.

As current and former New York City teachers, and as historians and educators working in the city today, we call for the education department to base its anti-bias program in an understanding of the history of racism in the nation and in this city. We also hope that the program recognizes and builds upon the work of the city’s anti-racist teachers.

Chancellor Carranza has promised that the program will emphasize training on “implicit bias” and “culturally responsive pedagogy.” These are valuable, but insufficient. Workshops on implicit bias may help educators evaluate and change split-second, yet consequential, decisions they make every day. They may help teachers interrogate, for example, what decisions lead to disproportionately high rates of suspension for black children as early as pre-K, or lower rates of referrals to gifted programs for black students by white teachers.

But U.S. racism is not only split-second and individual. It is centuries deep, collective, and institutional. Done poorly, implicit bias training might shift disproportionate blame for unequal educational resources and outcomes onto the shoulders of classroom teachers.

Anti-bias education should lead teachers not only to address racism as an individual matter, but to perceive and struggle against its institutional and structural forms. Structural racism shapes the lives of students, families, and communities, and the classrooms in which teachers work: whether teachers find sufficient resources in their classrooms, how segregated their schools are, how often their students are stopped by police, and how much wealth the families they serve hold. Without attending to the history that has created these inequities, anti-bias education might continue the long American tradition of pretending that racism rooted in capitalism and institutional power can be solved by adjusting individual attitudes and behaviors.

We have experienced teacher professional development that takes this approach. Before moving to New York, Adam taught in Portland, Oregon and participated in several anti-bias trainings that presented racism as a problem to be solved through individual reflection and behaviors within the classroom. While many anti-racist teachers initially approached these meetings excited to discuss the larger forces that shape teaching students of color in the whitest city in America, they grew increasingly frustrated as they were encouraged to focus only on “what they could control.”

Similarly, at his very first professional development meeting as a first-year teacher of sixth grade in Harlem, Brian remembers being told by his principal that neither the conditions of students’ home lives nor conditions of the school in which he worked were within teachers’ power to change, and were therefore off-limits for discussion. The only thing he could control, the principal said, was his attitude towards his students.

But his students were extremely eager to talk about those conditions. For example, the process of gentrification in Harlem emerged repeatedly in classroom conversations. Even if teachers can’t immediately stop a process like gentrification, surely it is essential for both teachers and their students to learn to think about conditions they see around them as products of history — and therefore as something that can change.

While conversations about individual attitudes and classroom practices are important, they are insufficient to tackle racism. Particularly in one of the most segregated school districts in America, taking a historical perspective matters.

How do public school teachers understand the growth of racial and financial inequality in New York City? Consciously or otherwise, do they lean on tired but still powerful ideas that poverty reflects a failure of individual will, or a cultural deficit? Encountering the history of state-sponsored racism and inequality makes those ideas untenable.

Every New York City teacher should understand what a redlining map is. These maps helped the federal government subsidize mid-twentieth century white suburbanization while barring African American families from the suburbs and the wealth they helped generate. These maps helped shape the city, the metropolitan region, and its schools – including the wealth or poverty of students that teachers see in their classrooms. This is but one example of how history can help educators ground their understanding of their schools and students in fact rather than (often racist) mythology.

And how well do New York City educators know and teach the histories of the communities they serve? Those histories are rich sources of narratives about how New Yorkers have imagined their freedom and struggled for it, often by advocating for education. Every New York City teacher should know that the largest protest of the Civil Rights Movement took place not in Washington D.C., not in the deep South, but right here. On February 3, 1964, nearly half a million students stayed out of school and marched through the city’s streets, demanding desegregation and fully funded public schools. Every New York City teacher should know about Evelina Antonetty, a Puerto Rico-born, East Harlem-raised advocate who organized her fellow Bronx parents to press for some of the city’s first attempts at bilingual education and just treatment for language minority students in school.

Even if they don’t teach history or social studies, educators can see in the 1964 boycott and in Antonetty’s story prompts to approach parents as allies, to see communities as funds of knowledge and energy to connect to and build from. The chancellor’s initiative can be an opportunity to help teachers uncover and reflect on these histories.

Ansley first taught at a small high school in central Harlem, in a building that earlier housed Junior High School 136. J.H.S. 136 was one of three Harlem schools where in 1958 black parents protested segregation and inequality by withdrawing their children from school – risking imprisonment for violating truancy laws. The protest helped build momentum for later educational activism – and demonstrated black Harlem mothers’ deep commitment to securing powerful education for their children.

Although she taught in the same school – perhaps even the same classroom – where boycotting students had studied, Ansley didn’t know about this history until a few years after she left the school. Since learning about it, she has often reflected on the missed opportunities. How could the story of this “Harlem Nine” boycott have helped her students learn about their community’s history and interrogate the inequalities that still shaped their school? What could this story of parent activism have meant for how Ansley thought about and worked with her students’ parents?

Today, teaching future teachers, Ansley strives to convey the value of local and community history in her classes. One new teacher, now working in the Bronx, commented that her own learning about local history “taught me that we should not only think of schools as places of learning. They also are important places of community.”

The history of racism and of freedom struggles needs to be part of any New York City students’ learning as well as that of their teachers. Some of the $23 million should support the work of local anti-racist educators, such as those who spearheaded the Black Lives Matter Week of Action last February, in developing materials that help teach about this history. These efforts align with the chancellor’s pledge for culturally responsive education. And they offer ways to recognize and build on the knowledge of New York City’s community organizations and anti-racist education networks.

Attitudes matter, and educators – like everyone – can learn from the psychology of bias and stereotype. But historical ignorance or misrepresentation has fed racism, and history can be a tool in its undoing.

That would be a good $23 million investment for New York and all of its children.

Ansley Erickson is an associate professor of history and education at Teachers College, Columbia University and a former New York City high school teacher.

Brian Jones is the associate director of education at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library and a former New York City elementary school teacher.

Adam Sanchez is a teacher at Harvest Collegiate High School in New York City and an organizer and curriculum writer with the Zinn Education Project.