Nurturing, healing, love - Kindness Can be Taught

I encourage you to listen to this compelling podcast. This is the work we're doing at Mitchell School but we need the help of the entire community. Also check out the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement 

Most kids value success and achievement more than caring for others, according to Harvard's Making Caring Common project. Who is to blame? We are. We talk to Scarlett Lewis of the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement; Jennifer Kotler Clarke, vice president of content research and evaluation at Sesame Workshop; and Thomas Lickona, author of How To Raise Kind Kids, for some ideas on how to do better, and why.
Here's what to remember:

  • Children are born to be kind — but also unkind.
  • Kindness requires courage.
  • To build kindness, practice mindfulness.
  • Teach real apologies, and frame forgiveness as a gift you give yourself.
  • Practice gratitude to "raise the capital" of everyday kindness.
  • Kindness is a habit; rituals, chores and service can all help.


Families First Calendar - May and June

Families First offers free parenting classes and parent groups (with free child care!), as well as programs for parents and children together.

Below is their calendar for May and June.

To learn more and register for programs, go to their Family Center website at

Kindergarten Readiness

The new Stanford study found improved self-regulation in children who
 delayed kindergarten by a year. (Photo credit: Christopher Futcher/iStock)

Kindergarten Readiness

It has been a pleasure to meet our incoming Kindergarten students and their families during our multiple Kindergarten registrations. Kindergarten students enrolling for the 2019-20 school year must turn 5 years of age on or before October 15, 2019.  Chronological age doesn't always align with social/emotional age and school readiness. Many parents of children on the younger side have wondered whether their child is ready for Kindergarten. There are numerous articles and research studies and the consensus is that it is not an easy answer and that each child and family's situation is unique.

Please know that it is our school district’s firm belief that it is our job to meet the child’s need, not the child’s job to meet ours!

Harvard Health - Sending Your Child to Kindergarten

Stanford Graduate School of Education: Study finds improved self-regulation in kindergartners who wait a year to enroll

Experts Weigh In: "Should I Delay Kindergarten for My Child With Attention Issues?"

Academic redshirting - UPENN and Philadelphia Inquirer

One parent's perspective - Why I Hate Kindergarten Redshirting - Parents Magazine

What Is Executive Function? And How Does It Relate to Child Development?

This infographic from The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University helps explain the work that we're all doing to help students strengthen their executive functioning skills.  Keep reading below the infographic to learn more about popular misconceptions.

As essential as they are, we aren’t born with the skills that enable us to control impulses, make plans, and stay focused. We are born with the potential to develop these capacities—or not—depending on our experiences during infancy, throughout childhood, and into adolescence. Our genes provide the blueprint, but the early environments in which children live leave a lasting signature on those genes.
This signature influences how or whether that genetic potential is expressed in the brain circuits that underlie the executive function capacities children will rely on throughout their lives. These skills develop through practice and are strengthened by the experiences through which they are applied and honed. Providing the support that children need to build these skills at home, in child care and preschool programs, and in other settings they experience regularly is one of society’s most important responsibilities.
Being able to focus, hold, and work with information in mind, filter distractions, and switch gears is like having an air traffic control system at a busy airport to manage the arrivals and departures of dozens of planes on multiple runways. In the brain, this air traffic control mechanism is called executive function.

More Information on Executive Function

Guide: A Guide to Executive Function
Learn more about the basics of building executive function skills, and learn strategies that can help build them.
Working Paper 11: Building the Brain’s “Air Traffic Control” System: How Early Experiences Shape the Development of Executive Function
This in-depth working paper explains executive function works, and gives recommendations for ways that caregivers and policymakers can effectively respond to the science.
This refers to a group of skills that helps us to focus on multiple streams of information at the same time, monitor errors, make decisions in light of available information, revise plans as necessary, and resist the urge to let frustration lead to hasty actions. Acquiring the early building blocks of these skills is one of the most important and challenging tasks of the early childhood years, and the opportunity to build further on these rudimentary capacities is critical to healthy development through middle childhood and adolescence. Just as we rely on our well-developed personal “air traffic control system” to make it through our complex days without stumbling, young children depend on their emerging executive function skills to help them as they learn to read and write, remember the steps in performing an arithmetic problem, take part in class discussions or group projects, and enter into and sustain play with other children. The increasingly competent executive functioning of childhood and adolescence enable children to plan and act in a way that makes them good students, classroom citizens, and friends.
Children who do not have opportunities to use and strengthen these skills, and, therefore, fail to become proficient—or children who lack the capacity for proficiency because of disabilities or, for that matter, adults who lose it due to brain injury or old age—have a very hard time managing the routine tasks of daily life. Studying, sustaining friendships, holding down a job, or managing a crisis pose even bigger challenges.

Correcting Popular Misconceptions of Science

The fact that young children have a difficult time with self-control, planning, ignoring distractions, and adjusting to new demands is hardly news to the adults who care for them. It is not widely recognized, however, that these capacities do not automatically develop with maturity over time. Furthermore, it is even less well known that the developing brain circuitry related to these kinds of skills follows an extended timetable that begins in early childhood and continues past adolescence and that it provides the common foundation on which early learning and social skills are built. Based on this new understanding, the following common misconceptions about the development of executive function skills can be laid to rest.
  • Contrary to popular belief, learning to control impulses, pay attention, and retain information actively in one’s memory does not happen automatically as children mature, and young children who have problems with these skills will not necessarily outgrow them.
    The evidence is clear that, by 12 months of age, a child’s experiences are helping to lay the foundation for the ongoing development of executive function skills. These early abilities to focus attention, control impulses, and hold information “on-line” in working memory appear to be easily disrupted by highly adverse early experiences or biological disruptions. Evidence also shows that early interventions aimed at improving these capacities before a child enters school can have beneficial impacts across a broad array of important outcomes.
  • Contrary to popular belief, young children who do not stay on task, lose control of their emotions, or are easily distracted are not “bad kids” who are being intentionally uncooperative and belligerent.
    Young children with compromised or delayed executive function skills can display very challenging behaviors for which they are often blamed. In most circumstances, however, it is the protracted development of the prefrontal cortex that is to “blame.” Efforts to help affected children develop better executive function skills and adjustments of the demands placed upon them to avoid overtaxing their capabilities are much more helpful than punishment for difficult behavior. Particularly when adverse experiences or environments elicit a toxic stress response, it can be very difficult for even the most competent children to enlist whatever executive function skills they have. In these circumstances, the provision of a safe and predictable environment offers the sense of security needed for successful behavior change to occur.
  • Contrary to the theory that guides some early education programs that focus solely on teaching letters and numbers, explicit efforts to foster executive functioning have positive influences on instilling early literacy and numeracy skills.
    Early evidence from randomized trials of interventions designed to foster the cluster of executive function skills (working memory, attention, inhibitory control, etc.) indicates benefits in early literacy and math skills compared with children who experience “regular” classroom activities. Indeed, there is also evidence that emerging executive function skills contribute to early reading and math achievement during the pre-kindergarten years and into kindergarten. This is not surprising insofar as the acquisition of traditional academic skills depends on a child’s capacity to follow and remember classroom rules, control emotions, focus attention, sit still, and learn on demand through listening and watching. Neuroscientists are also beginning to relate specific aspects of executive functioning, notably attentional skills, to specific steps involved in learning to read and to work with numbers. It is important to emphasize that this research is in its infancy, and much remains to be learned. Not only do we need to understand the effectiveness factors that account for the emerging impacts on school readiness from interventions designed to focus on executive function skills, but we also need to examine whether effective early education programs that focus directly on social, numeracy, and language skills also have positive impacts on executive functioning. Thus, the highly interrelated nature of these capacities makes it difficult to label any single intervention as focused explicitly (or not) on the critical domains of executive functioning.

Your Child's Brain on Videogames

Many children share with us how much they love playing video games. And we have heard that it is particularly challenging for some families to find that sweet spot of moderation.

The following video from The Wall Street Journal explains why.

More resources:

Purple Up! Day and The Month of the Military Child

Wednesday, April 10, 2019
Purple Up! for military kids in Kittery, Maine
“Purple Up! for military kids” is a day to wear purple to show support and thank military children for their strength and sacrifices. Wearing purple is a visible way to show support and thank military youth for their strength and sacrifices. Purple indicates that all branches of the military are supported; Air Force blue, Army green, Navy blue, Marine red, and Coast Guard blue all thought to combine together as a single color, purple.
April is designated as the Month of the Military Child, underscoring the important role military children play in the armed forces community. Sponsored by the Department of Defense Military Community and Family Policy, the Month of the Military Child is a time to applaud military families and their children for the daily sacrifices they make and the challenges they overcome.
The Month of the Military Child is part of the legacy left by former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. He established the Defense Department commemoration in 1986.

Parenting to prevent and heal Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

ACEs can be prevented. To learn more about preventing ACEs and building resilience in our own community, you can learn more.  If you have any questions, we would be happy to talk with you about it at any time.

Center on the Developing Child Harvard University - ACEs and Toxic Stress

ACEs too High

NPR: Take the ACE quiz and learn what it does and doesn't mean

Childhood anxiety

Helping children manage childhood anxiety requires a team approach from all of us including parents and teachers. 


New way to combat childhood anxiety: treat the parents

An anxious child staring into the distance.

Yale researchers have developed an innovative way to address an epidemic of anxiety disorders afflicting the nation’s children: treat the parents.
A new program developed at Yale that counsels parents is as effective in treating common anxiety disorders as cognitive behavioral therapy for the child, according to a randomized trial of the two therapies published in the Journal of the American Academy of Childhood and Adolescent Psychiatry.
One in three children will experience clinically a significant anxiety disorder before adulthood. Unless treated, many will become anxious adults.
There are currently two evidence-based treatments for anxiety — medication and cognitive behavioral therapy,” said Eli Lebowitz, associate director of the Anxiety and Mood Disorders Program at the Yale Child Study Center and lead author of the study. “Yet only half the children respond to these therapies, so there is a great need for alternate treatments.” The new program called SPACE developed at Yale helps parents handle issues arising from living with an anxious child.
Parents of anxious children almost always try to accommodate their child, Lebowitz said. For instance, if the child suffers from social anxiety, no friends are invited to the house; in the case of separation anxiety, parents sleep with the child or never leave the home. Parents constantly reassure a child with generalized anxiety. While the responses of parents are natural, studies have shown they also leave children suffering from debilitating anxiety into adulthood, Lebowitz said.
Researchers randomly assigned 124 children ages 7 to 14 with diagnosed anxiety disorders to either receive cognitive behavioral therapy or their parents were enrolled in 12 weekly counseling sessions to help them better cope with the anxious child. For instance, a parent assigned to SPACE gradually reduced the dozens of text messages a day they sent their child to two or three. Parents who repeatedly kept their child out of school because of anxiety-related stomach aches learned to say, “I know you are feeling upset right now, but I know you will be okay” and sent their child to school.
Both approaches were equally efficacious in reducing anxiety symptoms in children and stress levels of parents, researchers found. “Accommodating’’ behavior by parents was substantially reduced among those who received SPACE counseling.
Lebowitz said he hopes to train therapists to offer the program now that its efficacy has been established. But what parents shouldn’t do is ignore the problem, he cautions.
Severe anxiety is a serious condition which damages children, disrupts family life, and in some cases leads to suicide,” he said.
Wendy K. Silverman, the Alfred A. Messer Professor in the Child Study Center and professor of Psychology, is senior author of the study.
The research was primarily funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

Related article: Philly News Inquirer

Reducing the stigma of mental health

On Monday evening, former Chief Justice of the NH Supreme Court, John Broderick, spoke at the Star Theater at the Kittery Community Center. On Tuesday he addressed the students and staff of Traip Academy. His message was powerful and necessary.

Please take a moment to learn more about the REACT Awareness Campaign and how you can recognize the 5 signs of mental illness.

If you didn't have a chance to come to hear him speak, you can watch one of his presentations that is available on YouTube.

R.E.A.C.T. Awareness Campaign

R.E.A.C.T. Take care of yourself. Take care of others. It matters.
Dartmouth-Hitchcock's R.E.A.C.T. Mental Health Awareness Campaign provides students throughout New Hampshire and Vermont with tips to deal with signs of emotional suffering and resources for support and help.
The R.E.A.C.T campaign was developed to provide clear next steps to take when someone sees some, or all, of the five signs of emotional suffering in another person. R.E.A.C.T supplements the Five Signs campaign developed by Barbara Van Dahlen of Change Direction. The idea for the 5 Signs was modeled on the theory that, like knowing the 5 Signs of a heart attack or stroke, we should all know the 5 Signs of emotional distress; and when we see those signs we should take action.
Led by Senior Director of Public Affairs John Broderick, formerly the Chief Justice of the NH Supreme Court, and in collaboration with the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, the New Hampshire Department of Education, the Vermont Agency of Education and other agencies and civic leaders across both states, Broderick has been reaching out to high school students, educators, parents and professionals to change the conversation on mental health and to help reduce stigma.
Broderick believes that students "have the ability to change the culture and the way mental health is viewed." He wants to spread this message to as many students, educators, parents and professionals as he can.
Watch this video from one of Broderick's talks to students at Mascoma Valley Regional High school in Canaan, NH.
If you are interested in learning more about R.E.A.C.T. or to schedule a presentation at your school, please contact: Karen Borgstrom at

Social-Emotional Learning: What is SEL and Why It Matters

One of the two commitments in our district is Commitment A: Promoting a safe, healthful, and respectful school culture, free of bias and harassment. To that end, we actively teach social and emotional skills to our students through our Responsive Classroom model and also through Second Step targeted lessons taught each week by school counselors in the classroom.

If you would like to learn more about social-emotional learning, check out this short video from Committee for Children, the creators of Second Step. 

Statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics -- "Where We Stand: Spanking"

Link to the American Academy of Pediatrics page -

Where We Stand: Spanking

boy dad talk
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends healthy forms of discipline, such as positive reinforcement of appropriate behaviors, limit setting, redirecting, and setting future expectations. The AAP recommends that parents do not use spanking, hitting, slapping, threatening, insulting, humiliating, or shaming.

Here's Why:

  • Corporal punishment of children younger than 18 months of age increases the likelihood of physical injury.
  • Repeated use of corporal punishment may lead to aggressive behavior and altercations between parent and child and may negatively affect the parent-child relationship.
  • Corporal punishment is associated with increased aggression in preschool and school-aged children.
  • Experiencing corporal punishment makes it more, not less, likely that children will be defiant and aggressive in the future.
  • Corporal punishment is associated with an increased risk of mental health disorders and cognition problems.
  • The risk of harsh punishment is increased when the family is experiencing stressors, such as family economic challenges, mental health problems, intimate partner violence, or substance abuse.
  • Spanking alone is associated with adverse outcomes, and these outcomes are similar to those in children who experience physical abuse.

Additional Information:

Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2018)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Personal Body Safety

The educators from SARSSM visited each of our classrooms recently to teach lessons on personal body safety. Please take a moment to review the read the information that was sent home and review those safety rules with your child. Having an open dialogue with your child is one of the greatest protective factors you can offer. In addition to the resources below, please refer to the Sexual Abuse Prevention Resources that can be found on the External Resources page of the Mitchell School Counseling Blog  (scroll down to that section)  It will walk you right through having the talk that every parent and caregiver needs to have.

Val and Ruth in a Kindergarten class with puppet friends JoJo and Hopper

With puppet friends Max and Ollie (grades 1-3)

Calming down big feelings

We teach the children that when they're having big feelings they need to pay attention to the sensations in their own bodies, put their hands on their bellies and signal to themselves to stop, name the feeling that they're experiencing, and then choose one of many strategies to calm down. Belly breathing and counting are a good place to start. Check out more research about why naming the feeling is such a helpful strategy.  NPR - Got Anger? Try Naming It To Tame It

Here are some fun videos to help you help your child.

Sesame Street - Count, Breathe, Relax

Explain that Cookie Monster is having a hard time with big feelings, so he’s learning “Birthday Breathing.” Together, watch the video all the way through. Show it again and have kids practice along with you and Cookie Monster (it helps to rehearse a strategy before you actually need it!):

  • Hold up one hand—it’s a birthday cake with five candles!
  • Pretend to blow out one of the candles: take a deep breath in and then blow out, curling the finger down as you finish exhaling.
  • Repeat with the other four fingers until you have a fist. Notice how you feel now. Repeat if needed.

The Great Kindness Challenge 2019

Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the 
second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.

Henry James

The Mitchell School is participating in The Great Kindness Challenge again this year.  It is one school week (January 28-Feb 1) devoted to performing as many acts of kindness as possible. Developing the habit of kindness has the power to increase tolerance, unity and respect for all.  This is the sixth year that our school has proudly participated in this proactive, positive, nation-wide bully prevention program.

You will see one of the checklists below in your child's red folder on Monday, January 28th.  We have many fun activities planned for the week.  Keep scrolling; links to videos, songs, a booklist, and more information about The Great Kindness Challenge are shared below. Thank you for supporting this initiative in our community. 

We welcome any and all participation from parents, caregivers, and community members.

                    (YouTube videos -- be ready to close out of the advertising pop-ups)
Kind-Hearted Hand - The Great Kindness Challenge Theme Song  
Kindness Matters! Easy Ways YOU Can Make Your School a Kinder Place!  

Kind-hearted Hand song WITH lyrics 
Advertisement from an insurance agency in Thailand --  Thai Good Stories by Linaloved 

Children's Books

Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch - Eileen Spinelli
John’s Whistle  - Lili Ferreiros and Sonja Wimmer
The Lion and the Mouse - Bernadette Watts
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters - John Steptoe
Because Amelia Smiled - David Ezra Stein
Each Kindness - Jacqueline Woodson
The Invisible Boy - Trudy Ludwig
The Kindness Quilt - Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
Have You Filled a Bucket Today - Carol McCLoud
The Giving Tree - Shel Silverstein
The Golden Rule  - Ilene Cooper