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Positivity Project

March 11, 2020
By Nikki Curliss

Gratitude. Kindness. Forgiveness. Love. Bravery. Leadership. These are all important topics to teach our students. This year, St. Mary Magdalene has incorporated discussing these and other character traits into our daily schedule. StMM has joined the #otherpeoplematter movement! 

The #otherpeoplematter movement is what drives the curriculum of the Positivity Project. Through research on Positive Psychology, the Positivity Project (P2) organization has created lessons on character traits for teachers to use daily. P2 is created to “equip Pre-K-12 schools with the resources, training, and strategy to teach positive psychology’s 24 character strengths and empower their students to build positive relationships” .

Research provided on the website:, states that younger generations are lonelier than older generations. Younger people do not feel like they have close relationships with caring people as compared to older people. P2 is trying to make a difference and show students the importance of caring for others. The P2 movement reinforces behaviors that other people do matter and we need to find ways to connect and care about each other. As a parent, you can continue the conversation at home. Here is a parent letter from P2 with more information and the character traits and language the students are learning:

The Positivity Project started a few years ago and already is in over 500 schools. On Wednesday, March 11, it was featured on the TV show, The View. 

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

December 20, 2019
By Mrs. Nikki Curliss

The most wonderful time of the year can also turn into the most stressful time of the year. Do you thrive at this time of year, or just survive? This December Counselor Corner article is meant to help, and might just make your list of a few of my favorite things.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article Erica Komisar, a therapist, points out that higher rates of depression and anxiety among children are due to a declining interest in religion. According to a Gallup poll, the U.S. has seen a “20% decrease in attendance at formal religious services in the past 20 years.”

Having a strong family belief in God, and having hope for the future, can be what a child needs to get through stressful days. No matter how hard school, friends, work and family can be, finding things to be grateful for can help everyone cope with life's difficulties.

Church communities reinforce kindness, empathy, forgiveness, and gratitude. In addition, church services create a calm, peaceful place for people to think and pray. Being in a quiet space can be your peace on earth.  In this season, attending Advent services, Christmas Mass, Church Choir events, and participating in Angel tree giving, are all ways to help you “get in the spirit” of the season. We are fortunate to be part of a church community with Mass offered daily, and at multiple times on the weekend.

While attending Mass out of town a few weeks ago, a priest said in his homily that going to church was feeding the soul and he made a striking analogy: we don’t feed our bellies by watching the Food Network. We need to take it all in by attending and participating in religious services regularly.

In addition to feeding your soul, there are other ways to help us feel less stressed during the Advent and Christmas seasons. 

A recent article in the New York Times compiled several recommendations for ways to take care of yourself and enjoy this wonderful time of the year. They included these tips:

Mental Health: Say no to perfection but yes to happiness. Ask: what will make you and your family genuinely happy? Do you enjoy family game night or family movie night? Put down the phone and connect face to face with your loved ones. 

Family Harmony: Plan ahead of time before attending family gatherings. What topics should you avoid? How long are you staying? What time will we eat and what other activities will take place? Help your family by sticking to routines even if you are traveling. 

Physical Health: Eat well and move well. Plan to balance the protein and the sweets. Create islands on your plate, not continents! Enjoy the many dishes, but balance them out by staying active. Create a new tradition of a family walk after dinner. Walking and looking at holiday lights can be a fun family tradition. This is also a great time to talk with each other and connect out in the cold. 

During this time of year, my wish is that you find time to take care of yourself and your family. Merry Christmas!

Start With Hello 2019

October 22, 2019
By Mrs. Nikki Curliss

During October, the Saint Mary Magdalene Catholic School students have been learning about how to be an includer among their peers and reach out and make connections with others. It’s as simple as saying, Hello! This is the third year the students have had fun learning about the program, “Start with Hello”. The purpose of the program is to teach children how to reach out and find a way to connect with those who might feel lonely or not included. For more information, visit the website:

The students talk about how it feels to be left out and how to show empathy through an activity of “walking in someone else's shoes”. We can all help include others in our lunch conversation or recess play time. The students drew cartoons about ways to help others. They shared with their classmates how to show empathy and reach out and help someone.  Empathy is an important character trait for our students to relate to others, treat people with kindness, and reduce bullying.  Harvard Graduate School of Education have come up with 5 Tips for parents to teach empathy.  By modeling empathy for others, caring for others, and helping your community are all ways of showing empathy.

For some students, making small talk or approaching others in a group can be difficult. So for part of the time we had fun with icebreakers.  A few 8th graders came into the younger grades and demonstrated how to actively engage in a conversation. They demonstrated good eye contact, asking questions and follow-up questions, and connecting to another person. The students discovered others favorite foods, holidays and which superhero you would like to be. The students had to walk around the room greeting others by name and talking to many different students. The students discovered new and interesting facts about each other and enjoyed the opportunity to get to know their classmates. 

Nikki Curliss, Guidance Counselor, has been at StMM for 8 years. She enjoys spending time helping students one-on-one and with whole classroom lessons.

New School Year

August 27, 2019
By Mrs. Nikki Curliss

And, just like that we are back in school. Some families are rejoicing at the routine of the school year calendar and to others this time of year is stressful. I’m thankful that last week was a short week to give us time to adjust to the new routine. 

Routines are helpful in creating structure. Students are used to a daily schedule and routine, so please try to set one up at home. This starts with preparing the night before. Students can have snacks, water and book bags ready to go. Clothes can be hung up or laid out in their room. Do you have after school activities to prepare for? Talk with your child about the next day to make sure everyone understands who and when they will be picked up. 

In addition, add these 9 minutes to your routine. The first 3 minutes of the day when they wake up, 3 minutes after school or when you see them after work, and the 3 minutes right before bedtime. Think of this time as a calm part of the day. Use this time to connect with your child and give them your love and attention. The school day is filled with rules and remembering where to be. These 9 minutes can be exactly what your child needs to prepare for and unwind from the busy day. To read more about the importance of the 9 minutes, please read:

Edtopia has created a list of questions to help parents with conversations with your children. Here are some questions to ask your child instead of  “how was school today?” and hearing the usual “fine” response. Another conversation starter is to ask your child to rank the day on a scale of 1-10 and then find out why your child gave it that number. Not every day will be a ten, but you will pick up on the things that matter to your child. Only pick one or two questions and change up the questions each day. It can be easy to get distracted while driving, so make sure to ask at a time when you can fully focus on their answers. 

  1. Tell me about a moment today when you felt excited about what you were learning.
  2. Tell me about a moment in class when you felt confused.
  3. Think about what you learned and did in school today. What’s something you’d like to know more about? 
  4. Were there any moments today when you felt proud of yourself?
  5. Tell me about a conversation you had with a classmate or friend that you enjoyed.
  6. What was challenging about your day?
  7. What do you appreciate about your day?
  8. What did you learn about yourself today? 
  9. Is there anything that you’d like to talk about that I might be able to help you figure out?
  10. Is there anything you’re worried about?
  11. What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
  12. Is there a question you wish I’d ask you about your day?

Nikki Curliss, Guidance Counselor, has been at StMM for 8 years. She enjoys spending time helping students one-on-one and with whole classroom lessons.

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