Fostering Self-Reliance During the First Weeks of School

Written by Seth Pozzi, Assistant Head of School on .

Wendy Mogel is one of my favorite authors, and I have had the great privilege of seeing her speak several times. She has worked with children and families all over Los Angeles, and she really "gets" modern parenting. She is the author of: The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and  The Blessing of a B Minus, both great books for any parent, grandparent or teacher!

It’s probably safe to assume you want your child to be self-reliant, resilient, and accountable and to have a spirit of adventure. In the first few weeks of school, our children have been setting goals and thinking about their hopes and dreams for the year. How can you, as a parent, support your child in building independence and self-efficacy?


 A 26-step program for good parents gone bad

I’ve written these steps to provide encouragement to well-intentioned, devoted, loving, intelligent parents who feel powerless to stop themselves from overindulging, overprotecting, and overscheduling their children. Parents who get jittery if their offspring aren’t performing at a high level in every area. And parents who have unwittingly allowed traits like self-reliance, resilience, accountability and a spirit of adventure to slip to the bottom of their parenting priority list.

1. Don’t confuse a snapshot taken today with the epic movie of your child’s life. Kids go through phases. Glorious ones and alarming ones. 

2. Don’t fret over or try to fix what’s not broken. Accept your child’s nature even if he’s shy, stubborn, moody, or not great at math.

3. Look at anything up close and you’ll see the flaws. Consider it perfectly normal if you like your child’s friends better than you like your child.

4. Work up the courage to say a simple “no.” Don’t try to reach consensus every time.

5.Encourage your child to play or spend time outside using all five senses in the three-dimensional world. How come only troubled rich kids get to go to the wilderness these days? Send your kids to camp for the longest stretch of time you can afford.  Enjoy nature together as a family.

6. Don’t mistake children’s wants with their needs. Don’t fall for a smooth talker’s line about the urgent need for a cell phone “in case of an emergency, Mom!” or a new car “because it’s so much safer than your old van.”  Privileges are not entitlements.

7. Remember that kids are hardy perennials, not hothouse flowers. Let them be cold, wet, or hungry for more than a second and they’ll appreciate the chance to be warm, dry, and fed.

8. Abstain from taking the role of Sherpa, butler, crabby concierge, secret police, short order cook, or lady’s maid. Your child is hard-wired for competence. Let them do things for themselves.

9. Before you nag, remind, criticize, advise, chime in, preach, or over-explain, say to yourself “W.A.I.T.” or “Why am I talking?” Listen four times more than you talk.

10. Remember that disappointments are necessary preparation for adult life. When your child doesn’t get invited to a friend’s birthday party, make the team, or get a big part in the play, stay calm. Without these experiences she’ll be ill-equipped for the real world.

11. Be alert but not automatically alarmed. Question yourself. Stop and reflect: Is this situation unsafe or just uncomfortable for my child? Is it an emergency or a new challenge?

12. Learn to love the words “trial” and “error.” Let your child make mistakes before going off to college. Grant freedom based on demonstrated responsibility and accountability, not what all the other kids are doing.

13. Don’t be surprised or discouraged when your big kid has a babyish tantrum or meltdown. Don’t confuse sophistication with maturity. Setbacks naturally set them back. They set us back too, but we can have a margarita.

14. Allow your child to do things that scare you. Don’t mistake vulnerability for fragility. If you want her to grow increasingly independent and self-confident, let her get her learner’s permit when she comes of age; don’t offer a nuanced critique of her best friend or crush.

15. Don’t take it personally if your teenager treats you like crap. Judge his character not on the consistency of in-house politeness, clarity of speech, or degree of eye contact but on what teachers say, whether he’s welcomed by his friends’ parents, and his manners towards his grandparents, the neighbors, salespeople, and servers in restaurants.

16. Don’t automatically allow your child to quit. When she lobbies passionately against continuing an activity or program that “isn’t how I thought it would be!” it’s tempting to exhaust yourself selling him on the benefits. Instead remind yourself that first impressions are not always enduring; that a commitment to a team or group is honorable; and that your investment (of time and/or money) is not to be taken for granted. But do take her reasoned preferences into account when making future plans.

17. Refrain from trying to be popular with your children just because your parents weren’t as attuned to your emotional needs as you might have wished. Watch out for the common parental pattern of nice, nice, nice…furious!

18. Avoid the humblebrag parent lest you begin to believe that your child is already losing the race. Remind yourself that kids’ grades, popularity, or varsity ranking are not a measure of your worth as a parent (nor theirs as people). Recognize that those other parents are lying.

19. Wait at least 24 hours before shooting off an indignant email to a teacher, coach, or the parent of a mean classmate. Don’t be a “drunk texter.”  Sleep on it.

20. Consider the long-term consequences of finding work-arounds for the “no-candy-in-camp-care-packages” rule. If you demonstrate that rules are made to be broken and shortcuts can always be found, you have given your child license to plagiarize or cheat on tests.

21. Maintain perspective about school and college choices.  Parents caught up in the admissions arms race forget that the qualities of the student rather than the perceived status of the school are the best predictor of a good outcome.

22. Treat teachers like the experts and allies they are. Give your child the chance to learn respect. It’s as important a lesson as Algebra 2. Remember how life-changing a good relationship with a teacher can be.

23. Praise the process and not the product. Appreciating your child’s persistence and hard work reinforces the skills and habits that lead to success far more than applauding everyday achievements or grades.

24. If you want your child to be prepared to manage his future college workload and responsibilities, take care before you hire a tutor, a private coach, or college application consultant. There’s no room for all of them in a dorm room.

25. Rather than lurking, snooping, sniping or giving up, practice sensible stewardship of your child’s online activities. Evaluate her level of self-respect and good judgment in other areas.

26. Treat ordinary household chores and paid jobs as more important learning opportunities than jazzy extracurriculars. With real-world experience, your child will develop into an employable (and employed) adult. That said, accept that older children will get chores done on AST (Adolescent Standard Time).

Which of Mogel’s points really resonates with you? Feel free to post them in the comments on our Facebook Page. Consider choosing one of these ideas to focus on as the year begins. I am proud to work for a school where the teachers are constantly asking themselves (and one another) how we can best foster self-efficacy and self-confidence in our children!

My favorites are #1, #7, #14 and #21

-Seth Pozzi
Assistant Head of School





Retrieved from: http://www.wendymogel.com/articles/item/overparenting_anonymous at 11:32 a.m. on August 25, 2015..

What the Heck is NGSS?

Written by Seth Pozzi, Assistant Head of School on .

Want to learn a bit more about where we are going with science education? This (approx. 7 minute) video gives a great basic overview of the Next Generation Science Standards.

A note that it’s not a brand new video, and the standards are now widely available. But it is still a good overview.  


Armed with the most up-to-date research about science education, we are retooling our curriculum to emphasize the:

  • 8 Science & Engineering Practices
  • 7 Cross-Cutting Concepts (that bridge almost all scientific ideas) 
  • Scientific Disciplinary Core Ideas

 WHPS teachers - very excited to unpack the new NGSS - FOSS kits!

Today, we excitedly unpacked the brand-new, hot off the presses NGSS-aligned FOSS science program. The program was designed at The University of California Berkley, and it has been widely used for years. WHPS purchased the new NGSS program, which places greater emphasis on Engineering, Scientific Argumentation and the Cross-Cutting Principles.

You can read more about Cross-Cutting Concepts directly from the NGSS.

 We will be sharing more information about our school's journey into the NGSS. This includes the work we are doing in the WHPS Science & Nature Center and the roll-out of our 3D Printing & Engineering curriculum. 

We hope you will join us on this exciting journey!
Seth Pozzi

Top Ten Tips for Supporting Your Child

Written by Jacey Dexter on .

Welcome back to school! Here at Woodland Hills Private School, we strive to provide your child with the best education. Our staff is passionate and knowledgeable, plus our educational curriculum reflects current, research-based trends. However, these two critical pieces are not the only pieces in the education puzzle. There are countless other pieces that are necessary to complete a child’s education. One of the biggest pieces is the school-home connection. Now that we have all had a chance to settle in to our first week of school, I’d like to touch on a few things that will really help strengthen that school-home connection and help your child build a strong foundation for learning.

10. Talk to your child. Be present in the moment when they come home from school. Ask specific questions about how their day was. Some good questions from this week would be: How did you greet your friends in your morning meeting? What kind of brain breaks/energizers did you do in class? Did you read to your teachers this week? What classroom rules/agreements did you discuss with your teachers?

9. Encourage your child to embrace challenges and not be discouraged by mistakes and missteps. We want our students to have a Growth Mindset not a Fixed Mindset. For more information, please visit http://www.mindsetonline.com/.

8. Try not to solve your child's problems for them.  Rather, role play with them about how they will solve the problem on their own.

7. Check your child’s homework, but don’t do it for them!  Let them learn that responsibility. Please don’t turn your child’s homework in for them. If we want our children to be empowered, then we need to provide them opportunities to become empowered.

6. Check your child’s backpack for any flyers or notices that may have gone home. This is also a great way to see what they’ve been up to in class. Validating their hard work in the classroom by reviewing what they take home will go a long way.

5. Read your Weekly Newsletters from teachers. These are a great guide to asking your child questions and engaging them in conversations about their week.

4. Come to the PAWS meeting on Wednesday, August 26th. PAWS is our school parent association and is a great way to stay connected with the classrooms.

3. If you have a question or concern, ASK. Our doors are always open.

2. Please follow our Woodland Hills Private School Facebook page. We will be posting regularly.

1. COME TO BACK TO SCHOOL NIGHT- Tuesday, September 1st 

This year is off to a fantastic start! The classrooms are buzzing and there are smiles all around. We would love to keep this momentum going as the year progresses. If we all work together to support our children, their successes will become unstoppable.

WHPS Word Study Program - Based on Cutting-Edge Research

Written by Seth Pozzi, Assistant Head of School on .

Many schools teach spelling by giving students a list on Monday and a test on Friday with the bulk of students’ time spent memorizing in between. Many students find this type of spelling instruction boring. More importantly, research has shown that this is the least effective way to promote long term retention.

This year at WHPS, we are implementing an alternative to traditional spelling instruction called "Word Study," which is not based on the random memorization of words. Word Study is a cohesive approach that addresses word recognition, vocabulary, phonics and spelling together. In contrast to a traditional spelling program, Word Study provides opportunities to discover patterns, manipulate word concepts, and apply critical thinking skills.

One of the most important parts of Word Study is “sorting.”  Students will sort words or pictures or both into specific categories.  Word/picture sorting includes teacher led sorts as well as independent, partner and small group sorts.  Students will sort their word or picture cards and make discoveries and generalizations about the conventions of the English language. They will compare and contrast word features and discover similarities and differences within the categories.  This deep understanding of how letters and sounds work together in English helps students strengthen their ability to decode words (read) and encode (spell), with the ultimate goal of strengthening their reading accuracy and generating effective written communication.  While there is not a set list of words on which students will be tested each week, students will demonstrate their knowledge of each pattern through quizzes/checks and by examining their daily writing.  

During the first couple weeks of school, teachers are conducting assessments to determine each student’s individual Word Study level. Students will be grouped according to these levels and will begin the Word Study program soon. At Back to School Night, your child’s teacher will demonstrate how Word Study works and share information with you about homework routines and how you can support your child this year with Word Study.

We are thrilled to be able to provide this cutting-edge curriculum to our students, and we look forward to sharing more information with families at Back to School Night on September 1st.  

Watch WHPS students explain Word Study.

WHPS Responsive Classroom Program

Written by Seth Pozzi, Assistant Head of School on .

We would like you to know about an exciting enhancement to our program this year, the Responsive Classroom curriculum for social-emotional education and conflict resolution. Responsive Classroom provides a framework for teaching key social skills that children need to learn and practice in order to succeed socially and academically—cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self-control (CARES). While these values and skills have always been at the core of our program, the beauty of Responsive Classroom is that it enables the entire staff to provide a consistent school-wide approach in reinforcing these skills. These skills work in concert with the pillars of character, which already underpin our program.

Responsive Classroom is a social curriculum designed for schools like WHPS.  Many behavior “programs” are designed to help schools combat difficult behavior problems;  Responsive Classroom—on the other hand—was designed to help elevate behavior and learning to an even higher level in healthy schools where parents and teachers are committed to working together in modeling values and social skills.  Like other academic programs at WHPS, Responsive Classroom is based on many years of sound educational research into its efficacy. The program has proven to help children feel more positive about school, teachers and peers, have better social skills, and score higher in reading and math!

What does Responsive Classroom look like?  The components that you will see over the coming weeks and months are as follows:

  • Morning Meeting: A daily class routine that helps children transition from home to school, builds community, creates a positive climate for learning, and reinforces academic and social skills.  Morning Meeting will generally occur during the first 15-30 minutes of the school day.
  • Hopes & Dreams: Students and teachers begin the year by reflecting on their hopes and dreams for the year. These are discussed and displayed in the room and are used as the basis for creating classroom rules and guidelines to support everyone’s success. Parents will have an opportunity to share and post their hopes and dreams for their child at Back to School Night.
  • Democratically Student-Created Classroom Rules: During the first week of school, children in each class will construct rules for how they will treat: themselves, one-another, and the environment.
  • Interactive Modeling: A special protocol for proactively teaching and practicing routines and setting children up for a safe, supportive, successful school experience.
  • Logical Consequences: One way teachers will respond to misbehavior is by designing a consequence in collaboration with the child.  Consequences are not punitive in nature, but they are relevant, realistic and respectful.
  • Teacher Language: Stay tuned for LOTS more information about teacher language this year! This is our most powerful tool as teachers (and as parents). 

As part of our commitment to making Responsive Classroom a success in our community, the entire WHPS elementary staff will be engaged in ongoing professional development for the program.  Over the coming weeks and months, our faculty will continue to receive intensive training in Responsive Classroom, and we will share information with you about additional elements of the program as we begin using them.  There will also be a brief overview of the program and a chance to participate in a “Morning Meeting” at Back to School Night.  We believe you will find many elements of the program helpful at home as well, and we are looking forward to partnering with your family in raising a resilient child who CARES.    

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