Thursday, August 30, 2007

a few good words...

Back-to-school angst and stress is not just proprietary to students and their parents. Teachers face this state of affairs EVERY single year of their career. So we thought we would share a wonderful article on tips from a Master Teacher!

Tips for starting the school year right

Veteran teacher and author Coleen Fitzpatrick has advice for teachers and parents.
By Stacy Teicher Khadaroo | Staff Writer

August 30th, 2007 online edition of the Christian Science Monitor

Coleen Armstrong taught high school for 31 years. In 1999, she traded in her English teaching job for a freelance writing career. Her new book – "The Truth About Teaching: What I Wish the Veterans Had Told Me" – offers advice on classroom creativity, organization, and discipline and tips on how to navigate the politics of education. Here's some of what she had to say about the back-to-school season in a phone interview from her home in Cincinnati, Ohio.

What did back-to-school time feel like for you?

The three-month vacation is a myth. You're spending so much time preparing for the school year and taking additional classes to re-certify yourself; attending workshops; scouting around for fresh ideas; and just sitting, staring at the trees thinking, "What can I do differently this year?"

During the actual last few days that you are free to not get up at 5:30 in the morning, there's a sense of, "Can I really do this again?" And then [there's] that first teachers meeting, the day before the kids arrived, I was always just totally enveloped in this feeling of excitement and enthusiasm.

After a couple of days, [I felt] as though I had been hit with a hammer, because it suddenly hit me just how much work this really was. How I would forget that every summer is still a mystery to me.

How do veteran teachers keep it fresh year after year?

Everything I would learn, I would think, "Is there a way to use this in class?"

The secret to being creative in the classroom is the intertwining: You don't just teach "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne; you teach them about Puritan New England and the morals that were in place and how far we've come in the opposite direction. It's like the whole world is your lesson plan.

What's some advice you give to newer teachers about starting the school year off on a good note?

I had a master teacher once tell me that she'd start the year not with a list of rules, as so many teachers do, but she would just go in and start teaching her subject, which was math, and just assume that everyone would behave properly. And if somebody didn't, she'd take that one person aside. So I tried it. I started the first day getting really excited about what we were going to do that year. The third day I'd hand out a sheet of expectations. My [few] discipline problems just went away.

How can families help kids make the best transition back to school?

Sleep and breakfast. Get those kids to bed by 10 p.m. [during the first week] of the school year. That's going to make a huge impact.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

School Registration Information

Registration will be held at PS 161 for new students zoned for the school beginning on Tuesday, September 4th through September 21st. Parents and guardians you must remember the following information when coming to register:


Verifiable proof of your home address utility bill (gas, electric, or water), a deed to a house or a document from the City Housing Authority, or the Human Resources Administration. Other proofs of address include a medical or insurance card with home address or a statement that verifies your address from an employer, a social service agency, community-based organization or a religious institution. A telephone bill or driver’s license is not acceptable proof of address. A lease by itself is not acceptable. If a parent is subletting an apartment or home, or if more than one family shares a living space, you must present an affidavit from the leaseholder or homeowner and attach any of the above acceptable proofs of address.

Your child’s birth certificate or passport.

Your child’s immunization history.

Your child’s transcript or most recent report card(if applicable).

Your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) (if applicable).

For more information, please contact the school at 718.756.3100

Monday, August 27, 2007

It's the most wonderful time of the year!!!!!

Yes, it's back to school and I for one couldn't be happier. I love the kiddies, but .... Next Tuesday, September 4th, all NYC Public School students will return to school. For those of us at PS 161, this means uniforms and school supplies if you haven't already purchased your child's items. I am attaching an interesting and informative article about back-to-schools do's and don'ts.

10 Tips for Smart Back-to-School Shopping
The best strategy for back-to-school shopping? Get organized, stock up on the basics and look for sales and promotions. Here's how.

By Linda Strean, Managing Editor

Start your back-to-school shopping with a plan. Even if your child's school hasn't supplied you with a list of supplies, you can start with the basics and More on

Choosing Your Child's Back-to-School Clothes

Back-to-School Shopping With Your Tween or Teen

Back to School: Avoid Morning Meltdown

take advantage of back-to-school sales. Here's how:

Make a list and get your child involved. Use the recommended or required supplies from your child's school or teacher as a starting point. If you don't have a list yet, you can check with parents at your school who have older kids. They might have good advice about what teachers require in your child's grade.

Or check our list to get started. Sit down with your child and go over your list together. You'll be teaching her how to get organized, a skill that applies to more than buying school supplies.

Separate "wants" from "needs." Most school supplies don't go out of style, and your child will happily use the unsharpened pencils his older sister didn't use. But as any parent with last year's superhero notebook knows, beware the fashion trends in school supplies.

Rather than getting into an argument with your older child about whether a backpack with headphones is essential because "everybody is getting one," try setting a budget for all of the supplies. It will help your child set priorities, learn how to manage money and start saving his allowance for the items your budget won't allow.

A note from the teacher: You'll be doing your child's teacher a favor if you stick to supplies without gimmicks. Pencil sharpeners that light up are distractions in class, says Jane Ann Robertson, Arizona's 2004 Teacher of the Year and a GreatSchools consultant. "Keep supplies to the necessary and useful versus fancy and fun."
Take inventory. Sort through last year's supplies to see what is left over or can be reused. (Having trouble finding last year's stuff? Resolve to set up a place to keep your school supplies together this year.)

Start early so you can look for bargains throughout the summer. The best bargains are often available at back-to-school sales. Keeping your supply list in your car or purse, or on your PDA will help you shop for supplies as you do your other errands.

Buy basics in bulk. You know you'll need paper, pencils, glue sticks and notebooks. Dollar stores, warehouse stores and even eBay are sources for buying these and other basics in bulk. You and a group of other parents might be able to negotiate a group discount from an office supply store.

Then set up a supply shelf or storage container in your home that you can use all year long. You'll be able to avoid late-night shopping trips to buy notebook paper when you run out. And you'll know where to find unused notebooks and pencils when it comes time to shop for back-to-school supplies next year.

If you set up this storage area near the place your child will do homework, you'll be modeling good organizational skills and he'll have what he needs nearby.

Nikki Salvatico, Pennsylvania's 2005 Teacher of the Year and a GreatSchools consultant, advises parents to send to school only what is needed. If you buy 4 dozen pencils, send in 3 at a time. This will help your child manage her supplies and help the teacher who has scant storage space in the classroom.

The Absolute Best Things to Give Your Child
Your grandparents might have brought an apple to the teacher on the first day of school. Jane Ann Robertson, Arizona's 2004 Teacher of the Year, has an alternative, more timely suggestion:

"If you really want to make a good impression on the first day of school, add a packet of stickers or a ream of colored copy paper for your child's new teacher."

Nikki Salvatico, Pennsylvania's 2005 Teacher of the Year, adds that the key to helping your child succeed is not something you can buy at your local office supplies store. It's time — time spent reading stories, rhymes, poems and plays with your children. And it's being a role model for the behavior you want to see in your child.

"Many parents stop reading to their child once their child begins to read," she said. "Children learn through modeling and reading fluency must be modeled. A child must hear the reader's voice in order to understand fluency. Reading should sound like speaking.

"Parents spending time with their children — modeling reading, writing daily — is priceless. When children see a parent reading the newspaper, a magazine, a good book or writing a letter, a paper, a report for work, they then can connect why they are learning the things they are in school," she said.

Get your kids into the recycling habit. Now that environmentally friendly living is a hot topic, it's easier than it used to be to convince trend-savvy kids that reusing an item is cooler than buying a new one. Help them add pizzazz to last year's plain notebook with stickers or photos. Set up a scrap paper bin so that paper with writing on just one side can be reused. Check out garage sales, which can be a source of good-quality used items.

Watch for promotions. Some discount office supply stores offer free shipping on online orders. Local health departments in some areas offer free basic school supplies to parents who bring their children in for immunizations. Hang on to flyers and ads that advertise supplies at a particular price. If the store where you're shopping charges more, ask the sales clerks to match its competitor. Some stores that don't offer price matching will still do it.

Figure out when quality counts. Leaky pens will cost you more in ruined clothes than some more expensive varieties. In the event that a strap or zipper breaks, a backpack with a warranty might be a good investment, even if it costs more.

"When buying crayons, colored pencils, markers and water color paints, I would definitely stick to a name brand," says Robertson. "Name brands seem to last longer."

Not every costly item will last as long as you'd like. Take calculators, for example. Math teachers advise that you not purchase one with more functions than your child will use so that she learns and uses those functions. But as she advances in math, your middle school or high school student will likely need to replace her scientific calculator with a graphing one, and these are costly.

Some schools have graphing calculators that students can check out, like library books. And some parent organizations raise funds to help defray the cost of calculators for needy students. Check with your parent group to find out more about similar programs at your school.

Help your school while you shop. If your school participates in a program like eScrip and Schoolpop, you can shop for supplies from a participating merchant who gives a percentage to your school.

Plan now for next year. Some schools send a back-to-school list home with kids on the last day of school so that parents can shop for the best bargains. If your school doesn't do this, get together with other parents or your parent organization and talk to administrators about how you can help your school put together a list earlier next year.

At some schools, parent organizations negotiate with a supplier and buy supplies for the whole school at a discount. They often add a small extra charge that goes to support the parent group.

Susan Furr, a parent at the University Laboratory School in Baton Rouge, Lousiana, says her school parent group has purchased supplies this way for a number of years and virtually all of the families participate.

Here's how it works: The teachers deliver their lists to the school office, which delivers it to the parent group. The group negotiates a price for each grade with the vendor and adds $5, which goes back to the parent organization. The supplies are delivered directly to individual teachers, so there's no shopping hassle for parents.

"People are always saying, 'Don't you need help?' "I feel guilty. It's really easy," notes Furr.

Article from
June 2007

Monday, August 06, 2007

Attack of the whiny children!

"All my friends have cell phones", "all my friends are getting ipods" - does this sound familiar! Do you ever feel that children nowadays have so much, yet appreciate so little. The following article by Jean Chatzky was in today's NY Daily News - it's very enlightening on how to deal with the "canyougetmethis" (I'll give you a hint - it starts with the letter n and ends with o.)

No: A great lesson for kids
Jean Chatzky
Monday, August 6th 2007, 4:00 AM

Are we raising a generation of spoiled children? As a mother, it's a question I ask myself often and a topic I've debated more than a few times with friends.I've seen teenagers with cell phones so high tech I can't begin to understand them, and cars twice as nice as mine. The new iPhone has become the ultimate status symbol for not just the 20-something crowd, but for tweens and teens as well.

"Parenting has become a competitive sport," said Dr. Gail Saltz, a Manhattan psychiatrist and best-selling author who's one of those friends with whom I've had those debates. "Parents are traveling over each other in an attempt to do what they think is better parenting, but in some instances, it's backfiring," Saltz said.

If your children have everything handed to them at an early age, they may struggle to care for themselves one day. And they won't know the satisfaction of owning something they worked hard to get.

I know we don't set out to spoil our kids. Many of us simply want to give them the things we didn't have growing up, and that's understandable. But problems arise when we take it to the next level. I'm all for kids having cell phones in case of an emergency. I'm against an automatic upgrade every time a new model hits the shelves. Children need to know that their belongings are valuable, not disposable.

Here are some tips for teaching kids these important lessons:

Walk the walk
If you don't have control of your money, you're well on your way to a child who behaves exactly the same way. Children pick up on our bad habits, whether that means too many shopping sprees or a bounced check here and there. "Children look to you, because you're the model, and they'll emulate you, whether that's good or bad. If you're always struggling for the next big thing and outliving your means, they're not going to buy it when you try to teach them to do otherwise," Saltz said.

Making choices
One of the most important lessons when it comes to managing your money is that you can't have everything you want. Stop bailing them out. If they blow their weekly allowance immediately, keep your wallet closed. If you automatically hand over more money, the only thing you'll teach them is to turn to you every time they're short on cash.

Disappoint them
Sounds harsh, I know. But no matter how hard you work to shelter your kids, eventually they're going to hit a bump or two. Teach them at an early age how to cope with a small disappointment here and there, and they'll have an easier time when the bumps turn into hills and mountains later in life. Saying no once in a while might help him out when a job interview doesn't go well, or she doesn't get accepted to the right school. "If [their] life is just on a big puffy cloud, they'll never build that skill, and will really struggle as adults," Saltz said.

As far as conversation topics go, money is right up there with sex. It can be taboo, and a lot of families just don't talk about it. But if your child wants something you aren't ready to pay for, it's fine to say that. Then express your concerns - it costs too much, or you've decided that spending on something else will bring more value to the family. You don't have to burden them with your financial problems to make the point.

Stress family values
You might tell your daughter she can't have the new outfit she wants, but you're happy to pay the same amount for music lessons each month, or tutoring. Understandably, this can seem contradictory to a kid, so use it as a lesson in what's important in your house. Sit them down and explain why you spend money on some things and not others.

Whether the topic is education, clothes, sports or toys, explaining your family's values will help children understand your spending habits and your values. It can also help bail you out when the next-door neighbor gets the newest video game and your child doesn't.

With Arielle McGowen

Friday, August 03, 2007

So much to do so little time!

End of summer blues getting you down? There is a lot to do in New York City, especially in Brooklyn we don't know where to begin. Here is a list of the best of the best:

At the Brooklyn Museum's Target First Saturdays, thousands of visitors enjoy free programs of art and entertainment each month from 5–11 p.m. All evening long, the Museum Café serves a wide selection of sandwiches, salads, and beverages, and a cash bar offers wine and beer. Parking is a flat rate of $4 starting at 5 p.m. All other Saturdays, the Museum closes at 6 p.m.

August 4, 2007
Schedule of FREE Programs
3:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m. Performance Public Plaza, Outside Museum The West Indian–American Day Carnival Association kicks things off with steel pan music, stilt walkers, Carnival costumes, and more.

6:00 p.m. Performance Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium, 3rd Floor Charles Moore Dance Theatre presents traditional Caribbean dance. Free tickets are available at the Visitor Center at 5 p.m.

6:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m. Hands-On Art Education Division, 1st Floor Decorate your own fabric inspired by the Museum's African galleries. Free timed tickets are available at the Visitor Center at 5:30 p.m.

6:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m. Performance Steinberg Family Sculpture Garden, 1st Floor Listen to the pulsating roots reggae beats of Brooklyn-based reggae band Reggaelution.

Celebrate Brooklyn presents Kassav' / Bonga this Saturday, August 4, 7:30pm at the Prospect Park Bandshell. This 'WaMu Concert Series' is featuring "the Paris-based French Antillian founding fathers of zouk—a driving mix of Caribbean rhythms, Franco-pop, and American funk—storm into Brooklyn en masse, blowing horns, banging drums, and whipping the crowd into a frenzied, hip-shaking mob with music that "sounds like the makings of a glorious carnival." (NY Times) Brooklynite Gaston Jean-Baptiste, aka BONGA, is a master traditional Haitian drummer and a high priest of voodoo."
This concert is free.

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