Social-Emotional

TSS Celebrates Coming Out Day

November 9, 2022

The Sycamore School recently celebrated National Coming Out Day 2022 on Tuesday, October 11. This was kicked off by Dr. Rachel’s Journalism class, who decided they wanted to commemorate the 34th anniversary of this day. So, they collaborated with school counselor Mr. Tyler on ways the school could honor this milestone and the LGBTQIA+ community.  The Journalism class covered a bulletin board with resources for LGBTQIA+ students and created a banner with quotes from students about what National Coming Out Day means to them. Materials from GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network, were used to support the conversation. In our Morning Meeting on National Coming Out Day, students watched videos from the Human Rights Campaign that included stories of people from the LGBTQIA+ community and their coming out experiences. Students discussed the importance of these stories and ways we can make our community a safer place for all…

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The pandemic, school refusal, and mental health struggles

Communities in Crisis: The Pandemic, School Refusal, and Mental Health Struggles – What We’re Not Talking About

January 5, 2022

We are in a mental health crisis.  The pandemic is once again disrupting our daily lives, and we have a significant number of children, tweens, and teens who are not going to school. The isolation that COVID necessitated has caused a myriad of mental health issues. The “rates of depression and suicidal behaviors have increased dramatically during the past decade, and especially during the past two years” (Our National Mental Health Crisis – Psychology Today Dec. 14, 2021). Clinicians noticed a spike in anxiety before the pandemic; since then, it’s skyrocketed out of control. Some younger children have never gone to school and don’t know how to follow a routine. Others have significant social anxiety. We’re seeing a lot of regression in terms of skills that students had previously acquired. We’re also seeing an increase in eating disorders, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), depression, and generalized anxiety disorder. With these mental health…

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Summer Break Update at The Sycamore School - featured image

Summer Break Update

July 15, 2021

Summer: a time for barbecues, swimming pools, and some much-needed R&R. The weather outside may be slowing everyone down, but here at The Sycamore School (TSS), we’ve hit the ground running. The staff has been hard at work to get set up for the 2021-2022 school year, planning experiences and electives, re-organizing the school, and taking on those projects we didn’t have time for during the school year. Students can expect to see re-organized cabinets, spotless classrooms, and refreshed teachers come August.  Teachers have been working with their cohort partners and in content teams to create the trans-disciplinary curriculum that TSS is known for. Starting with the essential question and the final project, teachers reverse engineer an experience that’s designed to be as entertaining as it is instructive. We don’t want to spoil anything just yet, but this year’s showcases are looking to be a lively and entertaining return to…

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Tips to Avoid Summer Brain Drain

June 28, 2021

I recently was asked to give a talk for the FAA on School’s Out: Tips on How to Avoid Summer Brain Drain. Parents wanted to know how they should be engaging their students over the summer, especially in light of COVID and the hopeful relaxing of social guidelines. Parents often worry about regression and wonder if there are ways to prevent it. Many parents also have pragmatic concerns: I have to work full time over the summer, what are my kids supposed to do? Dr. David Myles, who is a pediatrician at Walter Reed and also spoke at the event, used a term I’d like to borrow. He explained that it’s best to view the summer as a bridge between the beginning and end of school.  First of all, as parents, please be kind to yourselves. This has been quite a year and we’ve all had to embrace flexibility, good…

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Summer Covid Guidelines

The New Normal

June 12, 2021

Are you excited about the prospect of a more relaxed and carefree summer? Or does the thought of parenting and navigating this new world fill you with anxiety? Maybe it’s my psychologist mind, but I think about, how comfortable are we with “getting back to normal” and what does that even look like?  Some of your children (and maybe you) are probably just itching to get outside, connect with friends, and get back to normal. Other children may be fearful and reticent to connect with peers, adults, and even relatives. Many of you are  probably somewhere in between – excited but also experiencing some reticence  and anxiety over this new world. We need to be mindful that going back to normal may feel and look different depending on the individual and that both parents and children may have strong (and differing) feelings about what that looks like.  Post-Covid Guidelines As…

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Remote Learning

Remote Learning Part II

December 15, 2020

Over the summer, we created a comprehensive COVID reopening plan which offered our students the choice of full time in-person or remote instruction. The vast majority of our students chose in-person and it has gone incredibly well. We certainly had our share of adjustments but overall the fall in-person instruction was quite successful. I think being able to offer in-person learning had significant positive effects on our students’ mental health. It also gave us an opportunity to onboard new students, establish rapport, and get our students comfortable with our routines and approach to learning.  Read more about our first week of in-person instruction on our blog “First Week of In-Person and Remote Learning.” An essential feature of our reopening plan was having a planned switch to remote learning from November 30th-January 18th. We anticipated that COVID rates would be high, it would be the height of flu season, and that…

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Mindfulness

A Beginner’s Mind

October 27, 2020

At The Sycamore School, we regularly participate in professional development training. They cover a wide range of topics over the course of a year from familiarizing staff with our on-line platforms, authentic assessment, and executive functioning supports, to anti-bias training and social-emotional skill-building. Last week during our teacher workday, we had professional development training on Mindfulness, specifically Mindful Educators. This was the third workshop in a series facilitated by Erin Sonn, M.Ed, ERYT, YACEP, who is a yoga instructor and mindfulness coach. In this workshop, Erin introduced the idea of a beginner’s mind, a Zen Buddhism concept, which is similar to a growth mindset or having a blank slate –  opening up our mind and freeing it from past experiences and preconceptions. When applied to learning, it’s the idea of approaching learning with openness and curiosity. For example, sometimes we approach a subject with preconceptions that color our experience; for…

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In-Person Learning

First Week of In-Person and Remote Learning

September 4, 2020

Back to School 2020 has necessitated months of creativity and planning.  The hard work paid off when our in-person learners walked through the door Monday for their first day of school.  Simultaneously, our remote learners were logging on to start their first day. Each was exciting and eventful in their own unique way.  But we all started this school year together as a community. It was an exciting, busy and eventful week. We were reminded that while proper planning and preparation are important, maintaining a positive and open mind is equally important. We have put in the months of planning and now we need to execute our plans being mindful of the current environment. Flexibility is our mantra for the year.  Masks Not a big deal. Despite all the worry and anticipation around wearing masks, all the students wore their masks and didn’t complain. They seemed happy. Over the course…

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In-person Learning

Opening Day In-Person Countdown!

August 24, 2020

It’s one week before we open our doors (literally) for the new school year at The Sycamore School!  It’s been a wild ride since we had to switch to a virtual model this past spring and as we’ve been preparing to resume class in-person next week.  Every summer at this time, staff wish for an extra planning week to get just *one* more task done. Even though our core team works all summer preparing for the upcoming school year, it never feels as if we have enough time. There is always more we want to do to prepare for the upcoming school year.  This year is no different. While there are still those little items on our to-do list that we are scrambling to finish, the hard work is done.  We are ready.  There is always excitement in the air the last week before school starts. This year the excitement…

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students and teachers using remote learning at the Sycamore School

Remote Learning – Tips and Lessons Learned

May 1, 2020

Shifting to distance learning has been an adjustment for students, staff, and parents. At The Sycamore School, we offer individualized instruction, so our unique challenge was determining how to offer the same level of support remotely, recognizing that: Many of our parents work full time, so they have limited ability to monitor and check in on their students while they’re working from home.  Many of our students struggle with executive functioning skills, so we had to figure out how to get them into a routine that worked for them and their family;  Once it became apparent distance learning was not a short-term endeavor, we divided up our students between our staff. Each staff member was the point person for a small cohort of 10 students, checking in with them daily and helping them create and maintain a daily schedule. While this was a good starting point, it wasn’t always enough.…

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Virtual Schooling Resources: Movement and Mindfulness for Kids

March 17, 2020

Tips and Resources to Keep Kids and Families Active and Calm During the Coronavirus Outbreak (and always!) Are your kids going crazy in the house? At the Sycamore School, our physical education program is called Movement & Mindfulness. While families begin to adjust to virtual schooling, our school counselor and Director of Student Services, Yvette Mitchell, compiled the following list of ideas to help kids stay active and peaceful (we think this will work for the grown-ups, too!) MOVEMENT IDEAS Walking Basketball Jumping on a trampoline Gymnastics Baseball (with family) Yoga poses Tossing a ball Walking a dog Dancing (anywhere, anytime) Martial arts Soccer Jogging Stationary bicycle Hiking and/or nature walk Wii sports MEDITATION APPS Calm (meditation) Stop, Breathe, Think (meditation app) Insight Timer (meditation) TEEN WELLNESS WEBSITE  Change to Chill, Change to Chill is a free, award-winning, mental well-being resource offered by a subdivision of Allina Health. Our interactive…

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