March 2016 newsletter

Dear Pleasant Valley School Community, 

March Madness is here!

Basketball fans like me love the month of March! The term March Madness was used to describe the excitement surrounding the Illinois state high school basketball tournaments, and first appeared in print almost sixty years ago. It was coined by Henry V. Porter, who started his career as a teacher and coach at Athens High School in Central Illinois in 1924. The term also describes Pleasant Valley during the month of March as we work hard to help students reach high levels of learning.

Progress reports were posted via Skyward on March 11th and the staff will continue to collaborate around the learning of each and every student. All of this leads up to Spring Break and, hopefully, some great weather. Great weather means planning trips, weekend get-a-ways or long vacations. How far can you drive on an empty tank? Not very far. If your tank is full, you can drive for a long, long time. When you are out of gas, however, let’s hope the AAA card is in your back pocket! As a mother, and a principal, I have learned the principle of “Filling the Emotional Tank.” Imagine that each individual has an “Emotional Tank” which is similar to the gas tank in a car. If the tank is empty, one won’t get far. If the tank is full, an individual can go the distance. This is an important principle to recognize when you’re teaching or parenting. On the physical level, if a child hasn’t had enough sleep or eaten healthily throughout the day, they won’t perform at their best. On an emotional level, if a child has lost a pet, forgotten their homework, been sick, has no positive adult connection, or is being disciplined for something, their tank isn’t full, and is often a challenge for them to feel motivated or positive during those moments. It’s crucial to notice when “Emotional Tanks” are low. Kids will tend to be pessimistic, sad, and give up more easily. On the other hand, when children’s tanks are full, they tend to be optimistic, deal better with adversity, and are more able to hear what you have to say and do what you ask without assistance. There are several key tools to remember when filling emotional tanks. Praise that is truthful and specific is essential. Simply stating “that was a good job” isn’t specific enough for a child, and in some instances can be perceived as insincere feedback. “Thank you for being so kind to your classmate when you helped him pick up his papers” or “I noticed that you made use of the clarifying reading strategy while reading that paragraph” is much more specific and digestible for a child than simply “Good job.” Research shows the characteristic of grit is a key to success in life. Grit is having passion and perseverance over a long period of time. We want our students to develop this important characteristic as it leads to developing a growth mindset, a belief that they can acquire any given ability provided they invest effort or study. “I am so proud of your effort and how you did not give up when things became difficult” is a great way to praise grit and make it a “Tank Filler.” Catch a child doing something right and acknowledging them for it is another way. Adults too often emphasize what’s not going well. We might criticize, correct, ignore, or make non-verbal gestures, such as a frown, and these behaviors drain tanks. Finally, if adults simply listen and use non-verbal cues, like nodding, clapping or smiling, children’s tanks will fill. Research from two different sources indicate that there is an ideal ratio of positive to negatives for filling anyone’s emotional tank. Whatever fills the tank is a plus, and whatever empties the tank is a negative. Research suggests that 5:1 is the ideal ratio of positive to negative comments in any relationship. Achieving a 5:1 ratio is not easy, especially since parents and teachers need to teach and correct kids if we want them to improve. This is not to say that feedback is not essential and that “sugar coating” or being direct is inappropriate. It does suggest, however, that adults be mindful of how they communicate feedback. Giving feedback is tricky business.

Here are some techniques:

 1. Avoid non-teachable moments- Identify the appropriate lesson at the appropriate time. For example, the ride home after a student has been rejected by a peer or has just received feedback on work that is disappointing, may not be the time to lecture on friendship or procrastination.

2. In Private – People can hear criticism in private better than in front of a crowd.

3. Ask Permission – By asking a child if he or she is open to a suggestion, it changes the dynamics and makes the criticism less of a minus. If the child says, “No”, honor that and come back to it later. It’s likely they’ll be curious not to wait.

4. If / Then statements- Sometimes it’s more palatable to receive feedback when it’s framed with an “If” and a “Then”: If you hold your pencil at an angle, then your cursive line will flow more easily, “as opposed to “Do it this way, or “You’re doing it wrong.”

 So, remember to stop and assess the “Tank Empty” gauge when teaching and parenting-it’s not only a way to give important feedback, but also a skill to strengthen relationships. Yes, it’s hard work to be diligent about “Tank Filling,” yet the effort pays true dividends for kids and their self-esteem as well as their willingness to go the distance with you or your task. Don’t all kids deserve this?



Tamarah Grigg 

Pleasant Valley Middle School 

14320 NE 50th Avenue
Vancouver, WA 98686

(360) 885-5500
(360) 885-5510

Student Hours

Office Hours
7:15am - 3:45pm

Staff Hours
7:45am - 3:15pm

Emergency Closure
(360) 885 - 5343

(360) 885-5343