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Start with Hello

October 19, 2018
By Mrs. Nikki Curliss

“Start with Hello” is a program designed by members of the Sandy Hook Promise organization. The purpose of the program is to teach children how to reach out and find a way to connect with those who might not feel included. For more information, visit the website:

For two years, St. Mary Magdalene has registered with the Start with Hello program and has brought the week of discussions and activities to our school. Last spring and this fall, our students participated in lessons to identify what it feels like to “walk in someone else's shoes” who might not feel included and to then be the helper friend to reach out and connect with that person.

One basic way to help someone feel included is to talk with them. The students were actively involved with icebreakers throughout the week as a way to get to know others. Students learned more about each other and found out things they had in common. One of the days, the students were put in groups to sit with at lunch and used the icebreakers as a way to start conversations with other classmates. As difficult as it was for some to get out of their comfort zone and find things to talk about, the teachers could see how beneficial and necessary it was for them to have to find ways to reach out to everyone.

The students finished the week with compliment cards to each other and reflection questions on what it feels like to be lonely and how we can be a helper friend. The overall impression was positive. The students enjoyed getting to know each other and sharing a part of themselves while making new friends. The message of connecting and reaching out to others will go on as the teachers continue to introduce icebreakers and encouraging students to get to know others throughout the year.

Nikki Curliss, Guidance Counselor, has been at StMM for 6 years. She enjoys spending time helping students one-on-one and with whole classroom lessons. 

How to Stay Organized

September 05, 2018
By Mrs. Nikki Curliss

Organize School and Activity Schedules

Summer is oftentimes full of spur of the moment activities. Back to school planning allows you to get back into a routine. Either buy a calendar or make one with your kids.

Involve the family when you write down activities on the calendar. Have everyone write in their activities — piano lessons, sports practice and games, and social events. This is a great way to talk about responsibility, organization, and time management.

Have a weekly meeting to discuss the week ahead. Each day talk about the routine for that day; picking up from school, activities for the evening, dinner plans, etc.

Organize Your School Supplies

Being organized makes everything else easier. It helps you get to schoolwork faster without wasting time looking for stuff.

Recommend your children keep assignments and class information organized by subject. Set up a system at home with binders, notebooks, or folders. If your child is stuffing loose papers in their bag or grabbing different notebooks for the same class, it's time to stop and reorganize!

Regularly clean out and organize the locker. Decide where to keep returned assignments and things you want to hold on to. Offload things you no longer need to carry around.

Organize Your Space

Help your child establish a good workspace — someplace quiet enough to focus. It's best to work at a desk or table. Have a place set aside for homework. That way, when the child sits down,  they are there to work and can help focus more quickly.

Organize Your Time

Use a planner to keep track of your schoolwork:

Write down all assignments and when they're due.

Break big projects into parts. Note the dates when each part needs to be completed. Mark in the planner when to work on each part.

Mark the dates for tests, then make a note of when to study for them. Don't leave things until the last minute — you'll only end up working twice as hard to do half as well.

Enter other activities on your calendar — such as team practices, drama rehearsals, plans with friends, etc. Use the planner to schedule what time to do schoolwork on days you have other activities.

Nikki Curliss, Guidance Counselor, has been at StMM for 6 years. She enjoys spending time helping students one-on-one and with whole classroom lessons. 

Social Emotional Learning

March 06, 2018
By Mrs. Nikki Curliss

According to research published in Psychology Today, children who exhibit social-emotional skills at a young age are more likely to be successful in their 20s.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning identify “social and emotional” learning (SEL) as the process by which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions; to set and achieve positive goals; to feel and show empathy for others; to establish and maintain positive relationships; and to make responsible decisions”.

Managing SEL is a lifelong endeavor. Learning to manage emotions, developing a positive self-esteem, and being flexible are examples of SEL.

Children first learn how to manage their SEL at home. Just like course subjects in school, students can be taught social-emotional skills. Children need time to practice controlling themselves and regulating their behaviors. Students take cues about SEL from their parents and other adults they trust.  

Here are five strategies for promoting social-emotional learning in children:

  1. Be a good emotional role model. How do you handle stress? How do you handle problems? Are you a problem-solver and do you try to find ways to cope with your emotions?
  2. Be an “emotion coach.” It’s normal to display our feelings and show emotions. If a child is angry, help him/her voice their feelings instead of displaying anger, especially with physical results such as hitting. One way to voice feelings is with an “I statement”. “I feel ______, when you ______”.
  3. Read books with social-emotional plots. We can learn so much from books! Find books that deal with children and their emotions - being a friend, behaving at school, taking turns, being kind, being hurt by others’ words, etc. Read the stories together and talk with your child about the different emotions. What would he/she do if the student was the character in the book?
  4. Give choices. Instead of parents just solving the problem and telling a child what to do, give them options that you would deem appropriate. Helping a child by allowing him/her room to negotiate is a good life skill.
  5. Use positive discipline strategies. Do you have certain rules at home that your child follows? What happens when they don’t follow the rules? Giving children rules and guidelines is helpful. At school, students follow classroom rules and there are consequences when they go against those rules. At home, give consequences and incentives. When is the last time you told your child they did a good job getting to school on time?

Resources: Collaborative for Academic, Social, Emotional Learning

Nikki Curliss, Guidance Counselor, has been at StMM for 6 years. She enjoys spending time helping students one-on-one and with whole classroom lessons. 

Learning how to Handle Conflicts

February 07, 2018
By Mrs. Nikki Curliss

“He took my pencil.”

“She cut in line.”

“He won’t let me play soccer at recess.”

These are typical conflicts that arise. Conflicts are a part of life, but conflict management is a life skill for students to learn how to handle problems first before involving adults.

Recently, I have spent time with our students teaching some basic conflict management techniques. Here is a list of items to help your students manage situations at school and at home.  

1- First you need to cool off and think clearly. You might be upset and you might need to walk away and calm down before you get more upset.

2- Speak directly to the person. If you have a conflict you want to address it with the person so that it can be cleared up. You do not want to go tell others as a way of spreading gossip.

3-Speak assertively. You can speak directly to that person and still get your point across in a assertive way instead of an aggressive way.

4-Listen to what the other person has to say. Be willing to listen to the other person. It’s normal for us to care about our own hurt needs, but by listening you can understand why the other person behaved in this way.

5-Have options. You cannot control what others say or do, but you can control your own actions and words. Here are some options when you have a problem or conflict with another person; come up with a compromise, talk out the problem, share and take turns, walk away, tell them to stop, find another group of friends to be with.

Conflicts are a part of life, but conflict management techniques can lesson the negative effects. By practicing these techniques at home and at school, students can be better equipped to manage conflicts first before involving others and before they go from small to big problems.

Nikki Curliss, Guidance Counselor, has been at StMM for 6 years. She enjoys spending time helping students one-on-one and with whole classroom lessons. 

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