Wednesday, June 13, 2018

 

Earlier this month, New Vistas School celebrated the commencement of all of our students and the graduation of our senior, Faith.  That happy, and somewhat bittersweet, day gave us the occasion to reflect on what it means to have “FAITH”.

To have faith means to have friends and family.  During her years at NVS, Faith has been a friend to everyone.  She’s always quick with a smile, an encouraging word, or a helping hand.  Faith became the school’s unofficial, and on occasion, official, ambassador, greeting visitors, representing NVS at various events, and welcoming new students.  To have a friend like Faith is to have a true friend indeed.  In addition to friends, “F” also means family.  Faith has been so fortunate to have the love and support of her family, including her school family, to help guide her through her school career.  To have faith is to know that not only do you have family here on earth looking out for you, but family in spirit to watch over you. 

            To have Faith means to have attitude.  In the case of our Faith, it is usually a positive attitude.  Faith always showed up at school each day with positive attitude and managed to find a silver lining in just about every situation.  Many times, in talking with Faith about something negative, Faith would begin her response with “At least it didn’t…”.She can always see the good in people and events.   Occasionally, that attitude would manifest as stubbornness.  To have Faith means when you believe in something, you stick to it. As we say at NVS, persist and prevail!

            To have Faith means to be an individual.  Faith has always been her own person and puts her unique touch on everything around her. Her style of dress, her fun Halloween costumes, and her choice of songs for Can-Do Night, all have always reflected Faith’s individuality, as has her dry sense of humor, her approach to tackling challenges, and her ability to work out issues and obstacles to a positive outcome.

            To have Faith means to think about time.  Faith has spent a great deal of time at NVS.  In that time, she has grown from a 12-year old girl into a very confident 18 year old young woman.  Faith has used her time at NVS to progress in academics and in how to contribute to her community, by assisting in the elementary classroom, participating in our annual service project, and generally helping out around the school. 

            Finally, to have Faith means to have heart, happiness, and hugs.  As stated previously, Faith just about always has a smile and a happy, positive demeanor.  And she always has a hug or two for her school mates and teachers.  Faith has a heart for caring for and helping others, again, as evidenced by her ever-ready willingness to assist those around her.

            So, what does it mean to have FAITH?  Our Faith has taught us that it means: to recognize the importance of family and friends, to have a positive attitude, to be an individual, to appreciate and take advantage of the time we’ve been given, to have a heart, happiness, and to share hugs.  To borrow a line from “Romeo and Juliet”, Faith’s favorite Shakespeare play, “What’s in a name”?.  In her case Faith, everything she (and we) needs.

 

 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

 

      π!

March 14 = 3/14 = 3.14 = Pi Day!

New Vistas proudly recognizes and celebrates the 30th anniversary of Pi Day today!

Across the country today, students of math, teachers, and mathematicians will be celebrating Pi with contests: competitions to recite the most digits of Pi, pie eating contests, listing known equations including Pi, and more!

Why is Pi so fascinating to mathematicians?  Pi is an integral part of our universe in that π represents an irrational number in which the digits never end, and yet there is never a pattern!  Pi appears as though it is random and without sequence going on with infinity…  However, in the words of Steven Strogatz, professor of mathematics at Cornell, “The digits of Pi can’t possibly be random, because they embody the order inherent in a perfect circle. This tension between order and randomness is one of the most tantalizing aspects of pi!”  Dr. Strogatz references the evolution of algorithms formulated by mathematicians in regards to nature have a tendency to require Pi as part of the equation: such as in the cycle of nature, rotation of planets, solar systems, and galaxies. He also posits relationships to repeat patterns such as rhythms and cyclical heart beats! This further indicates that Pi is mathematical component of everything around us and essential to past and future engineering.  Dr. Stogatz goes on to say, “Whenever we think about rhythms—processes that repeat periodically, with a fixed tempo, like a pulsing heart or a planet orbiting the sun—we inevitably encounter pi.”

What is Pi ( π )?  Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference (the distance around the circle, represented by the letter C) to its diameter (the distance across the circle at its widest point, represented by the letter d). That ratio, which is about 3.14, also appears in the formula for the area inside the circle, A = πr2, where π is the Greek letter “pi” and r is the circle’s radius (the distance from center to rim). With modern computers, Pi has been calculated to over one trillion digits beyond the decimal.

To learn more about all things Pi, take a look at  http://www.piday.org/ 

https://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/pi-day-why-pi-matters

Reference: Steven Strogatz, New Yorker Magazine 3/2015

 

 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

 

 

Safe Space

 

Just a few weeks ago, the “unthinkable” happened, again.  Another school shooting, more lives lost, more calls for action.  We shake our heads, wring our hands, and wonder why. And we wonder will it happen again? When will it happen again?  Where will it happen again? And what, if anything, can we do?  We would like to think that we are immune. That certainly a tragedy like that couldn’t possibly happen in our community, in our school.  The unfortunate reality, however, is that, while maybe not probable, it is sadly possible.

 

So, what do we do to make our school the safe space for learning that it should be?  At NVS, we take several measures to ensure the safety of our school community. First, all exterior doors remained locked during the day.  School faculty and staff only are responsible for unlocking the doors to allow access to both the main building and the SLAB (science lab).  Interior and exterior cameras provide visuals of all activity occurring in both buildings and the parking lot. Additionally, faculty and staff alike are equipped with two-way radios and cellphones for immediate communication.  All faculty and staff have reviewed the school’s crisis management plan both individually and as a group and have a copy of the plan in their offices and classrooms.   A copy of the school’s plan is also on file with the Lynchburg Police Department. Evacuation and lockdown drills are regularly practiced.  NVS maintains a collegial relationship with the both the LPD and the Lynchburg Fire Department and works regularly with both agencies to assess and ensure the school’s safety. 

 

Even more importantly, because NVS is such a small, closely-knit community, faculty and staff have formed close relationships with each other and the students.  Faculty and staff know each student by name and are quick to notice if a student is having an “off” day or if there are changes in behavior or affect and to relay that information to parents/guardians, as well as to any counselors/therapists/medical personnel with whom a student may be working.  Students are encouraged to be supportive of one another by going to a faculty or staff member when they have concerns regarding their friends and schoolmates.  Because students have access to all faculty and staff, if they, themselves, are struggling, they know that there are any number of adults to whom they can go to for assistance. Our unofficial school slogan is “Team work makes the dream work.”  In these tumultuous times, team work keeps the dream from becoming a nightmare.

 

 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

 

Have you ever heard of the book “The Fred Factor” by Mark Sanborn? It’s about a mailman who believed in taking the “ordinary and making it into something extraordinary”. He takes great pride in making the people on his route feel special by knowing their names and by doing random acts of kindness.  He believes in making a difference and the power of creating positive connections.

At New Vistas, that’s what we believe. We believe in making a difference in our students’ learning, as well as in their emotional and social well-beings because they all unique in various ways. Creating positive relationships with our students is crucial to their learning. We want our students to come to school with a smile, and leave with one, too, while empowering them at the same time!  Personally, my goal for all of my students is to become life-long learners, and to realize they have the power to become successful leaders in whatever they choose to do. I often say to my middle schoolers, “Be a Fred”. What I really am saying is for them to start making a difference, and remember that whatever they are doing, to do it the best that they know how.

Together, let’s make a difference!

                                                                                                          Ms. Kohuth

                                                                                                                   Language Arts Instructor

                                                                                                        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

 

 

 

Happy New Year!

 

The holidays have ended and the winter break is finished, even though winter itself has only really just begun.  Students and faculty have returned to school and have settled in for the second semester.  While it is only the middle of the school year, the start of a new semester and a new calendar year offers a chance for new beginnings for everyone.

 

For students, it is a chance to reassess the personal goals they set for themselves at the beginning of the year to see how they are progressing and to readjust and/or recommit to achieving those goals.  It is also a time for students to renew their relationships with both peers and their teachers to set a positive tone for the new semester.  The beginning of the new semester also provides students with the opportunity to more fully apply the strategies and knowledge they learned in the first semester to the new content and tasks they will encounter as their classes resume.  At home, students, with the help of parents, can set up a new routine for homework and study and evaluate how they manage their out-of-school time to balance their school responsibilities, their family/home responsibilities, and their hobbies and personal interests.  If their first semester went well, then they can continue to build on their strong start; if it did not, now is an ideal opportunity to make changes to finish the school year strong.

 

For teachers, it is also a chance to reassess professional goals to determine if their plans and methods are assisting each of their students in reaching their potential.  It is also provides an opportunity for teachers to assess their own personal and professional strengths and challenges are in order to build on those strengths and explore professional development options to build more confidence and competence in their craft.  Like the students, the beginning of a new semester offers a chance for faculty to renew their professional connections with their colleagues through collaborative and supportive activities.  The second semester also gives teachers the opportunity to assess how they manage their time both in and out of the classroom to maintain balance in both their personal and professional lives.

 

New beginnings, new starts, new opportunities—2018 really is a happy new year!

 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

 

 

The holidays are rapidly approaching.  To-do lists and wish lists seem to get longer and longer as the days get shorter and shorter. On many of both those lists are the getting and receiving of the latest new devices.  For adults and children alike, visions of a new smartphone, tablet, laptop, gaming device and/or video games are dancing in their heads.  While these wonders of technology do make wonderful gifts and have many positive applications, particularly when giving these gifts to children and teenagers, there are some considerations to keep in mind.

 

First, technology has a serious impact on young people.  They spend around six and a half hours a day looking at screens.  Much of this screen time appeals to their young brains because of the constant novelty scrolling through pages and sites provides.  This pleasure-seeking behavior causes the brain to produce dopamine, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter.   While adults also engage in these types of behaviors in order to gain the same response, our more developed brains have a greater ability to limit our use of these devices.  Younger brains have yet to develop this self-control, which is so essential to success in school and in life. As adults, we must help our children and teenagers learn to practice self-control by limiting how much screen time they have as well as teaching the responsible use of their devices.

 

As of 2015, almost 70% of beginning high school students had a smartphone.  While these phones can often be used for classroom purposes, when not in use for a specific academic purpose, they can still be a distraction, not only to their owners, but to those around them.  Phones and other devices become a different type of distraction than just daydreaming or doodling in the margins. While these “low-tech” types of distractions may, in some cases, allow a student the ability to tune out other distractions and focus, the use of devices as a distraction, become the focus.  Contrary to popular belief, the brain cannot multitask.  Instead, the brain shifts from task to task, much like an oscillating fan, and is not able to fully focus on any one task.

 

The constant exposure to the novel stimuli these devices provide can cause the young brain to tire and experience decreased performance from overstimulation.  Girls, in particular, face increased pressure from social media’s frequent over-emphasis on looks. This constant body consciousness can negatively affect cognitive ability, often permanently.  Additionally, for boys and girls, too much screen time can interfere with sleep patterns and can cause test performance to suffer. Besides negative impacts on academic performance, too much time spent with devices limits children’s ability to build friendships. 

 

In order to combat the negative effects of these many devices, parents can take these several steps.  As with other areas in their lives, children respond to clear, consistent, and specific boundaries.  Talk with your child on what are the acceptable uses and times for their devices.  Develop rules for use with them, so that expectations are clear and make sense to your child.  Teach your children appropriate digital citizenship by modeling in your use of your own devices what that looks like. Create opportunities for both you and your child to disconnect from your devices and screens and connect with each other.  Put those opportunities into a contract that both you and your child must honor.

 

So, this holiday season, take time to focus less on screen time, and more on “face time.”

 

 

Monday, October 2, 2017

 

Dyslexia Awareness Month

Nancy K. Harrison

October is Dyslexia Awareness month. For many years the word “dyslexia” was not broadly used in education. Thankfully, because of the diligence of parents and policy makers in Virginia and across the nation, the term “dyslexia” is recently being used in schools more openly.

“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede the growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.” (Definition adopted by the Board of Directors of the International Dyslexia Association, 2002)

At New Vistas School we address the needs of students with dyslexia by providing for them a multi-sensory approach to instruction. Trained in the Orton-Gillingham approach to education, our teachers strive to implement the use of hands-on activities, and varied instructional practices. When students are able to work with the material using a variety of modalities, they are rewiring the brain to function more efficiently.

Typically, a student with dyslexia can learn the same amount of information a traditional learner can master, he just may take a little longer to do so. Sometimes a student with dyslexia may process auditorally or visually more slowly than his peers, while being capable of learning the same material. Dr. Sally Shaywitz, a leading authority on the subject of dyslexia, describes it as, “An island of weakness in a sea of strength.”

Some helpful websites on dyslexia are: www.dyslexiaida.org, www.brightsolutions.us, and www.dyslexia.yale.edu.

 

Monday, September 11, 2017

“Focusing is about saying no.”—Steve Jobs

 

As a new school year now underway, it is important to take a few moments to acknowledge the power of saying no and the effect it has on helping both children and adults to focus.  All too often, we find ourselves in the position of saying “yes” to more people, activities, and objects  than we neither want nor need.  When we continually say yes, we give ourselves more distractions that prevent us from putting our focus on those people, activities, and objects that truly need our attention.  In doing so, we increase our stress and decrease our productivity.

 

Many times, we feel pressured to say yes because we are concerned we may hurt someone’s feelings by saying no.  In order to spare others, we take on more than we can.  This situation is especially difficult for children.  They want to be a good friend and worry that if they say no, they will lose a potential friend.  As adults, we must help our children learn and understand that to be their best selves, they must protect themselves.  Part of this protection is being able to advocate for themselves by saying no.  No to constant messaging and/or texting, no to multiple playdates, no to hours and hours of gaming.  By helping our children say no to too many outside activities, we help them say yes to more with family, more time for sleep, more time outside, and more time to focus on schoolwork, which in turn, will free up time for those fun things.

 

We, as parents and guardians, have the opportunity to model saying no for our children.  We can say no to overscheduling our children with one activity after another. We can say no to misuse of technology (including cellphones) by limiting that activity and teaching appropriate use. We can say no to our own misuse of technology by not constantly checking our phones while we are spending time with our children.  By saying to no to those things, we let our children know we are saying yes to them by focusing on the moment.

 

 

 

 

Monday, June 12, 2017

 

 

Change is all around us.  We see it in nature. We see it in science and technology.  We see it in our children, parents, and friends.  We see it everywhere and in everything.  We know all people and things experience some type of change at some point.  Yet, as much we as we know this, we often fail to see changes in ourselves and/or we struggle with those changes we see happening all around us.  Why is change, while so common, often the root of so much denial and fear?

 

As humans, we like routine and predictability.  We feel comfortable with familiar patterns and sameness.  Even though our brains respond to novelty and new experiences, our emotions cling to dependability and reliability.

We stay the same to avoid the discomfort and pain of change.  Sometimes, however, change just cannot be avoided.  Additionally, sometimes the pain of change is less than the pain of staying the same. 

 

If we as individuals want to grow and develop, we must be willing to accept that that growth and development is only going to happen through embracing new opportunities and facing new challenges.  In other words, making some changes.  Some of those changes can be as small as drinking an additional glass of water every day.  Other changes may involve greater effort, such as taking a new job or moving to another city or state.  Maybe it's change in relationship that needs to happen.  Regardless of what type of change we need to make, in order to move forward in life, we must be open to the situations that will allow us to do so.

 

As we move into a new season of the school year, summer break, we have an opportunity to look back at the changes we have through during the recently completed school year, and we look ahead to the changes we can make prior to the beginning of the coming school year.  We applaud our children and students for persevering through their learning challenges and moving on to their next grade level.  We celebrate our graduates, Bradley, Brittany, and Dominique, as they leave us to pursue their postsecondary goals-a very great change.  We send well wishes to our faculty and staff members who are making professional and personal changes beyond NVS. 

 

So, while change is sometimes uncomfortable and scary, it is also exciting, and a given in our lives.  During these warm summer days, let's reflect on how to make change a positive force in our lives.

 

 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

 

 

“Are you a need-knower?”

“Are you a need-knower?” That is the question I asked the students at the career day gatherings at New Vistas School last Friday. The theme of the day was “A Balanced Life,” and the invited speakers shared with the students how their lives were balanced between work, family, community and life interests. I approached the topic with an initial question: “Did you ever swim in a current?” The students shared their varied experiences, and we all agreed that one can never swim against a current or he will eventually drown. But understanding the dynamics of the current, one can use the current to his advantage and not only save himself but also have fun in the process. Then we talked about the imaginary balls that I juggled which represented facets of the students’ lives and those of their parents. We realized that we all have to juggle different balls and we better be balanced if we want to keep them in the air. All this discussion led to an understanding: You better be a “need-knower” if you are to succeed and make it.

       I was taken aback by how honestly and how penetrating the students were in their understanding of the necessity to be a “need-knower.” Only the individual can really know his own needs, and with the help of teachers who respond to those needs, real growth can take place. One student confidently told the group that he loved to play video games because he was ADD. He said that his “current” was taking him in a certain direction, but as his own best need-knower, someday, he was going to create games for kids who could not focus easily. We all supported his dream because we thought it would come true.

       I left NVS with a new sense of the mission of the school and a better sense of the students and teachers who live and learn there. Our job as a board is to support the efforts to help the students become their best “need-knowers.” –Bob Gillette, NVS Board of Directors