March 2013 Archives


The Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) is a group of non-profit local organizations that exists solely for the purpose of conducting conflict resolution workshops. The philosophy of AVP is based upon a belief in the inherent goodness in all people as well as the potential for positive change in our lives. All are welcome and participation is always voluntary.


After the Attica riots of 1971 a group of inmates at Green Haven Prison joined with a group of Quakers to develop AVP as a program that offers an experience of non-violence and redemption to those incarcerated. Since that time AVP has been used by many groups (including Friends Peace Teams) all around the world for both prison populations and local community development. For me it has been a life-changing experience.


I am trained as an AVP facilitator and recently helped to facilitate two AVP workshops in El Salvador. Upon my return I was able to schedule an AVP workshop at Friends Academy in early March, responding to a community concern that we better explore ways in which we can better live. Five FA community members joined five regional community members and three AVP facilitators for two intensive days of training, exploring in depth the ways in which "transforming power" (the key concept of AVP) can be used to solve conflicts without violence.


In the words of one FA participant:


"I did not know what to expect going into the AVP program.... "Violence" is often thought of as just punching or kicking, but there are so many different ways that people harm each other or themselves. I learned very deep and powerful things about myself and formed tight connections with people I've known for years as well as with people that I met this weekend. I left the experience with energy, optimism, inspiration, and an awareness of how much I can change the world."


I have already introduced some of the AVP philosophy and activities in a number of Upper School classes. There are plans for another Basic AVP workshop on Long Island in the near future, followed by opportunities for people to continue their training and become facilitators themselves. If you are interested please be in touch with me.


Gandhi said that we must "be the change we want to see in the world." Blessings to you and yours...


Teacher John

Taming the Homework Monster

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A hot topic in the education world right now is homework: Is it useful? How much is enough? Which types of assignments are best for lifelong learning skills? Since we know that mastery requires practice, we can understand why homework has been a part of the school experience since we were kids. Yet, in today's world of electronics, after-school activities, and two-income households, how does homework fit into the rhythm of the 21st century family?

While educators sort this out, what can we parents do when Johnny comes home after a long day at school and balks at those spelling word stories and math worksheets? Here are some hopefully helpful tips:

·        Have a consistent time and place for homework completion. Schools thrive on routine, and you can benefit from your child's comfort with a definite schedule. (This will mean, of course, that you will have to be organized too!) Make sure the television is off, there is good lighting and an uncluttered space, etc.  The timing of the homework is up to you and your child: some do better if they finish the work right after school and a quick snack, while others need 30 minutes of down time to regroup for the evening. Have a conversation with your child about the schedule, write a contract about the after school routine, and have both of you sign it before you post it in the homework area.

·        Use a timer to limit each "chunk" of the assignments to your child's individual capacity for productive work. If your child can do 15 minutes of productive work, set a timer for fifteen minutes, then have a two-minute "sensory break" (jumping jacks, breathing exercises, crunchy snack foods), then get back to work for another fifteen minutes.

·        Use the 10/15 minute rubric: Optimum total homework time should be 10-15 minutes per grade (no HW for Kindergarten, 10-15 minutes for first grade, 20-30 minutes for second grade, etc.). If you find that your child consistently has more homework than this rubric suggests, start to time their HW efforts, keep a log of the times for a week, and ask the teacher for a conference to discuss how to make the situation better. No one benefits from exhausted students (and parents) dragging themselves back to school after a long night of homework and tears.

·        Be available but let them do it themselves: Kids need supervision (do you think the teacher doesn't watch them while they are working in school?) and space. You probably already passed the grade your child is currently in, so how well you can do their homework doesn't help much. Seat them within your sight range and offer encouragement as needed.

·        Stay calm. Your stress won't help the situation.

·        Remember that learning is about process as well as product. The goal need not be a perfect paper - teachers always know when you have corrected your child's homework for them - but instead a true representation of what they can do on their own. We are building life-skills here, not just finishing a worksheet!   

OK now - let's give it a try, shall we?


About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from March 2013 listed from newest to oldest.

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