The 2020 Great Kindness Challenge is here!

The Great Kindness Challenge 2020
Monday through Friday, January 27-31

The Horace Mitchell Primary School has participated in the Great Kindness Challenge every year since 2012. We welcome you to join us! We have all kinds of fun things planned for this week.

"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

Mission: Our goal is to help create a more positive, unified and respectful school environment.  At the heart of The Great Kindness Challenge is the simple belief that kindness is strength. As an action is repeated, a habit is formed. With the Great Kindness Challenge checklist in hand, students have the opportunity to repeat kind act after kind act. As kindness becomes a habit, peace becomes possible. 

Currently 14,741,733 students in over 27,010 schools will join together to show the world that KINDNESS MATTERS!! How amazing is that?!?!” from The Great Kindness Challenge website. You can learn more about the Family Edition of the Great Kindness Challenge here.

GoZen - The Anger Transformation Summit - free on January 29 for 24 hours

Don't miss this FREE event: The Anger Transformation Summit, free January 29th, 2020 for 24 hours. Grab a seat!
Has anger ever reared its ugly head in your home? Maybe you have a child or teen that struggles with anger? Maybe it's (gasp) you! That's okay because anger is a natural human emotion, and we are going to teach you how to transform it into a positive catalyst for change.
The Top 6 Reasons to Attend the Free Event on anger:
#6 Six of the world's foremost emotional intelligence experts teach us tried and true techniques to transform anger.
#5. It's a mini-summit with six speakers, so you won't be overwhelmed!
#4. You will learn techniques for both yourself and your kids.
#3. Even if nothing else has transformed your anger, you will take away from this event a golden nugget to implement immediately!
#2. Your experience with anger will be normalized and met with non-judgmental compassion. We are in this together!
#1. We are not just going to talk, the experts will SHOW you how to transform anger as they coach us through realistic angry breakdowns. This is the only summit that you will find that uses scenario-based learning!

Free training - Youth Mental Health First Aid - Friday, February 7 in York

To register:  REGISTER HERE

For more information about Youth Mental Health First Aid, contact Libby Wright at NAMI Maine at
or 207-622-5767 x2320

Talking Race and Kids - Free webinar and discussion course offered by KAFA and Kittery Adult Ed

Kittery Advocates for All (KAFA) and Kittery Adult Ed are offering a free workshop series. Please consider registering! Kittery Adult Ed and KAFA course - Embrace Race webinar and discussion

Talking Race & Kids

with Kittery Advocates For All
Are you a parent, caregiver, or educator wanting to help children understand and think critically about race and equity? Kittery Advocates for All (KAFA) invites you to join us for recorded episodes of the "Talking Race & Kids" webinar series where experts tackle difficult topics such as how kids learn about race, and effectively discussing racism with children. Episodes are about one hour long, followed by group discussion. Learn more at
Tuesday, March 3, April 7 & May 5, 6-8-p.m.
Course Fee: Free, pre-registration is required

  • Mar 3 - May 5th2020
    Tue for 3 weeks from 6:00 - 8:00 pm

How to Help Someone Who is Having a Panic Attack

Many have asked us for suggestions on how to help a child through a panic attack. There are some terrific resources out there to help you. In this blog post, I'd like to share several resources: 1) the story of Ella who was featured in The Daily podcast this fall; 2) A How-to guide from Mental Health First Aid; 3) A nice visual for remembering grounding techniques and 4) additional resources summarized on our external resources page.

NYTiimes - The Daily podcast- A Special Episode for Kids: The Fear Facer  Nine-year-old Ella was terrified of tornadoes and getting sick. So she did something that was even scarier than her fears: confront them. Guests: Ella Maners and her mother, Katie Maners, and Julia Longoria, a producer for “The Daily.” 

Below is some helpful information from the organization Mental Health First Aid.  

New York Times - The Daily - A Special Episode for Kids: The Fear Facer

We are also including some excellent information from Mental Health First Aid

Six million American adults have panic disorder, meaning they experience repeated episodes of intense fear called panic attacks.
  • Even people without panic disorder can have panic attacks. Overall, more than one in five people experience a panic attack in their lifetimes.
Do you know what to do if you see someone experiencing one?
If not, don’t worry. This guide will explain how to help someone who is having a panic attack so you’ll feel prepared if you ever encounter a person who needs help.

How to Tell if It’s a Panic Attack

Before you can help a person who is having a panic attack, you need to know if it’s because of fear or anxiety they’re experiencing or if there’s a physical explanation.
Here are 10 symptoms of panic attacks to look for:
Signs of a Panic Attack
IMPORTANT NOTE: Do these symptoms look familiar? They’re also signs of cardiac distress. It’s difficult to know if a person is experiencing a panic attack or a heart attack.
The best thing to do is ask if the person has had a panic attack before. If they haven’t and they don’t think they’re having one now, call 9-1-1 and follow physical first aid protocol. If the person loses consciousness, call an ambulance, check for breathing and pulse and apply physical first aid principles. You can also check for a medical alert bracelet or necklace for more information.

How to Help Someone Who Is Having a Panic Attack

If you suspect someone is having a panic attack, Mental Health First Aid teaches you to follow the ALGEE action steps:
  1. ASSESS for risk of harm: Ask them if it’s happened before and if they think they’re having one now. If it’s something they’re familiar with and they suspect it is, ask them if they’d like help. If they do, introduce yourself (if it’s a stranger).
  2. LISTEN non-judgmentally: Ask directly what they think might help (for example, moving away from a crowded area or sitting down). Don’t assume you know what’s best for them.
  3. GIVE reassurance and information: Remain calm and reassure the person that they’re most likely experiencing a panic attack and that it’s not dangerous. Explain that while what they’re feeling is frightening, the symptoms will pass. As you talk, use short sentences and speak in a clear, firm manner. Be patient and stay with them throughout the attack.
IMPORTANT NOTE: You might have seen on TV that people having panic attacks should breathe into a paper bag. This is no longer considered a best practice because the person ends up breathing in carbon dioxide, which could cause them to pass out. If someone is breathing rapidly, don’t call attention to their breathing. Simply stay calm and model a steadier breathing rate.
  1. ENCOURAGE appropriate professional help: When the panic attack is over, provide the person information related to panic attacks if they don’t know about them or don’t know where to acquire relevant resources. If they seem concerned, explain that there are effective treatments for panic attacks and that there’s help available to them.
Here are some useful resources you can share:
  1. ENCOURAGE self-help and other support strategies: Encourage the person to tap into other support sources, like family, friends or any communities they’re part of. Support groups of people who also experience panic attacks could be useful, as well.
To learn more strategies for supporting people, take Mental Health First Aid. The course will teach you how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental health or substance use issues. Become part of a movement to change the culture around mental health.
And don’t forget: After you’ve helped someone, remember to practice self-care. It’s not easy to help a person experiencing a mental health issue, so it’s important to take time for yourself.
Finally, be proud! Even if you’ve just read this article, you’re one step closer to helping someone in their time of need.

From the Harvard Graduate School of Education's Making Caring Common Project - 7 Tips for Raising Caring Kids

This is a helpful handout to post on your refrigerator. We can all work together to nurture our children's innate empathy, caring and compassion. 7 Tips for Raising Caring Kids

Angela Duckworth on Desirable Difficulty

I'm sharing Angela Duckworth's blog entry from Character Lab with Mitchell School parents. Children have a difficult time understanding that learning often requires some struggle. We do our best learning when we're starting to feel uncomfortable!
Desirable Difficulty
When my daughter Amanda was young and still taking piano lessons, I’d half-listen from the second floor while she practiced down below.

Typically, she’d get pretty good at the opening measures of a new piece. But eventually she’d get to a part she didn’t know as well. At that point, music became noise.

Involuntarily, as Amanda clawed her way through the rough bits, I winced and cringed. And I bet she did, too, particularly because trying things we can’t yet do is especially effortful.

Very soon, there would be a pause. And then Amanda would begin again at the beginning—where she felt comfortable, where it was easy, where the touch of her fingers generated music instead of noise.

If I noticed that Amanda spent too much time repeating the fluid measures and not enough on what was obviously difficult for her, I’d come downstairs and, as gently as I could, prompt her to get back to the hard stuff.

Why do kids need grownups who love them to encourage them through what cognitive scientists call “desirable difficulty”?

A new study shows that students often misinterpret the feeling of “This is hard!” to mean “I must not be learning much!” However, the truth is that more effortful strategies, like quizzing yourself rather than just rereading notes, produce greater long-term learning gains. Difficulty is desirable...but it’s not always desired.

Don’t assume that kids avoid effort because they’re lazy. Instead, they may be misreading the sensation of effort as a signal that they’re failing to make progress.

Do teach the young people in your life that learning often requires struggle. Share stories of times you, too, felt confused and frustrated, and how persisting through difficulty helped you improve more than sticking to what you already knew. And, when their practice sounds and looks truly awful, tell them that the sound of struggle is music to your ears.

With grit and gratitude,

Last weekThe Soul of Empathy
Next week: A Lesson in Active Learning
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Grit predicts accomplishing challenging goals of personal significance. Created by Angela Duckworth, our Grit Playbook outlines the importance of this character strength and how to cultivate it in ourselves and in others. 
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Challenge Success - Raising Well-Balanced Kids

Challenge Success an initiative from the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University has become a trusted voice of reason for parents and educators. I encourage you to explore their website.

Mission: Challenge Success partners with schools, families, and communities to embrace a broad definition of success and to implement research-based strategies that promote student well-being and engagement with learning.

Raising Well-Balanced Kids

These common-sense tips are based on children’s known developmental needs and recent research on child and adolescent well-being. Here’s what you can do immediately to support healthy development and prepare your child for real success.
  • Define success on your terms. 
    Take time to consider the qualities you hope your children have when they leave the nest. How you define success is analogous to your mission statement as a parent. Without considering this explicitly, many families unwittingly default to the prevailing, narrow notion of success. Resist parent peer pressure, be informed and trust your gut.
  • Maintain play time, down time, and family time. Avoid over-scheduling. 
    Young children need ample time for their most important job: unstructured play. Kids of all ages need restorative time to reflect and dream. And families need time together: at meals, on weekends, and during vacations to connect and form lasting bonds.
  • Love your children unconditionally. 
    The basis for healthy emotional development is a sense of being lovable. Make sure your children know that they are loved for who they are, not only for how well they perform. Value the uniqueness of each child.
  • Discipline and set limits. 
    There are two sides to parenting: warmth and discipline. Warmth is easier, but discipline is equally important. Children feel secure and cared for when their parents are willing to set limits. This is how children learn important skills like self-control and frustration tolerance. Don’t worry about your child’s temporary anger or indignation when you set limits. It will pass.
  • Allow kids space to develop on their own and make mistakes. 
    Kids today experience unprecedented levels of adult direction and intervention. Whenever possible, let kids play and work on their own. Encourage appropriate risk-taking and allow kids to make mistakes–and learn from them. Self-direction and risk-taking breed resilience, creative thinking, and long-term success.
  • Build responsibility at home and in the community. 
    Have children help in age-appropriate ways with chores around the house. This requires you to take time to show children how to do the chores and to allow tasks to get done differently (and sometimes not as well) as if you did them yourself. It also reminds children that they are a contributing, capable part of a family team, not an entitled member served by parents. As they get older, encourage children to be active participants in their community, and set an example by being involved yourself.
  • Unplug. 
    Set limits on the amount of time your children watch TV, play screen-based games, instant message, and use the computer recreationally. For young children, less than an hour or so per day is a good starting point. Older kids also need limits on their screen time and the content they watch. All screen time is not equal, and you need to be aware of what your child is watching and with whom they are communicating. Children need ample time to interact with real people, without technology, and to be in the natural world.
  • Ease performance pressure. 
    For many young people, the questions parents ask most often are: “How did you do on the test? Have you done your homework?” The subtle message to kids is that performance and results matter most. Instead, emphasize the importance of effort, hard work, resilience, and intellectual curiosity by asking open-ended, non-judgmental questions such as, “How did the day go?”
  • Debunk college myths. 
    Make sure your children understand that there are many different paths to success after high school. There are many, many excellent colleges, all with different attributes and personalities; none right for everyone. Help your child find the “right fit.” Some students may fare better attending a junior college or other post-secondary option (such as gap year, travel programs, or trade schools).

Welcome back! Getting ready for the 2019-2020 school year

The Mitchell Sandpipers

We would like to welcome back students and families to what will surely be an exciting year ahead. We'd also like to extend an extra warm welcome to our youngest new students and their families.

For the parents and caregivers for incoming Kindergarten students Helping Kindergartners succeed - things you can do is a packet that I put together that highlights some of the most effective ways you can help your student thrive in school.

FAQ's about Kindergarten is the handout that we distributed at the spring Kindergarten registration dates. Now would be a good time to review the information and gradually share relevant parts with your child. The more your child knows about what to expect coming into Kindergarten, the smoother the transition will be.

And for all of our Mitchell School parents and students, here is an article from The New York Times 6 Things Parents Should Know About Sending Kids Back to School.  And below you'll find an oldie-but-goodie collection of resources from Edutopia.  I encourage you to check out their Back to School Basics videos. They are quite good!

Lastly, I encourage you to take a moment to share the grade-specific welcome slideshow with your child. Recognizing faces and remembering staff members' names is one less variable that your child will have to negotiate on those first days back. The slideshows are located in the upper left corner of the Mitchell homepage under New Family Information.

Back-to-School Resources for Parents

Find resources to help children begin school with a positive mindset, support their transition into a new school year, and prepare them for fall learning.
Resources by Topic:

Back-to-School Advice and Checklists

Easing the Back-to-School Transition

Tech Tips for a New School Year

For more tips and guidance about managing media and technology use, check out these other posts from Edutopia:

Gearing Up for Fall Learning

For more parent strategies around homework, take a look at these other blog posts from Edutopia:

The Power of Parental Involvement