Harmony News - Weekly Update

October 18, 2020

Principal News

Parents - This week's newsletter is designed to help with questions you have been asking about various topics in this DL environment. Our staff shares information on various topics including Schoology, Phoenix (ParentVUE), How to Get Support, Balancing Student Workload, Mental Health, Student Work Station Set Ups, and more. Although these tips make this a L O N G newsletter, we hope it gives you information you need to help your children.

Good luck and stay safe. Eric Stewart (eric.stewart@lcps.org)

Technology (Explained)

One of our parents observed that parents might be confused navigating our virtual environment. There are videos as well as documents for parents to use.

Parent Support: https://blogs.lcps.org/schoology/support/

Student Support: https://sites.google.com/lcps.org/iftstudenttoolkit/home

Balancing Student Workload

Below are four tips that will help students achieve a healthy balance for their daily workloads:

1) Make a schedule and stick to it. Having a schedule helps alleviate the stress of planning what to do next. It keeps you focused and allows your mind to quickly start working on the next task at hand without having to wonder what comes next. Creating a schedule will help you be more productive during the day and maximize your time for each task.

2) Prioritize your work. When you are building your schedule it’s a good idea to set aside some time to look at what tasks must be done and to prioritize which are most important or which will take you the longest. It’s a good idea to not save the most difficult task of the day for late in the afternoon after you’ve already worked all day. Tailor your priority list, and schedule, to your strengths and make your day as effective as possible.

3) Ask for help. If you are struggling with a task don’t be afraid to reach out to a teacher and ask for help. You may struggle with something for a lot longer than you might have had to if you’d asked for clarification or assistance. Your teachers are here to help, and they are happy to do so!

4) Take time to relax. It’s very important to work hard but it is equally important to take time to relax and unwind. You must be intentional about this. Think of a favorite hobby or past time and include time for that in your schedule. Get outside, go for a walk, read a book, or listen to your favorite music. It doesn’t really matter what your hobby is, just take some time to get away from your screen and relax.

Monitoring Student Mental Health

Since schools have gone to distance learning, many of our children are needing additional strategies to maintain their mental health. Obviously, much of this is due to their spending more time alone and away from their peers, friends, and teachers. This means more time away from the activities they love like sports, music, clubs, and any other extracurriculars that they participate in.

The staff at Harmony has been doing the best that we can monitoring each of your children's mental health including things that they say during class, things that they write in their assignments, and any other noticeable interactions that they have with us. At home, you can also help monitor for signs that your child’s mental health needs to be addressed. Some initial signs are loss of appetite and loss of interest in their favorite activities.

How to help? Normalize their feelings (anxious, depressed, grief and loss, etc.) without trying to discourage their emotions. Talk to your children and have an open and honest conversation about any lingering feelings stemming from distance learning, isolation, and uncertainty. Young people desire routine and predictability, so when possible try and keep them to a daily regimen of both responsibilities and "fun.”

Part of that fun should include being outside as it has been found to be an important part of children’s’ development. There are numerous benefits for children being outside including: positive social and emotional development, improved sensory skills, increased attention span, increased happiness, increased physical fitness as well as many more.

If you are seeing a change in your child’s mental health, please reach out to Harmony’s mental health team. We are here to help and can perform mental health check-ins and use other counseling resources. We also have a virtual calm down room that can be used by both students and parents alike to calm anxiety and boost mood (and can be found at https://www.lcps.org/Page/234514).

Student Independence

Student Independence

Middle school is a curious time when kids think they are ready to be adults, but we know they really still need a lot of support. At times they want to do it all on their own. At other times, they clearly beg for help. Here are a few tips for promoting the perfect balance of autonomy and support to foster positive growth in our children.

Help them set goals. Talk with your child about goals that are attainable and worthy. Include a discussion of what the steps to attaining the desired goal might look like. The process of goal setting is just as important as the outcome in many ways, so be sure to reflect along the way. For example, during the goal setting, have your child reflect on why they want to achieve the goal, what it will mean for them(changes, benefits, time and effort required), and what steps they will need to take that are different from their current behavior. Afterwards, discuss how they felt about the work they put in, what they wish they could have done differently, and if they can identify the benefits of their hard work.

Let them begin to communicate for themselves. Just like you used to order for your child in a restaurant, you taught them how to do it for themselves by modeling and supporting along the way. The same thing applies to communicating with other adults now. If your child needs extra help, has questions about an assignment, or wants to ask a question about their grades, make him/her responsible for contacting teachers. Don’t do it for them right away. Instead, help them write the email, modeling respectful communication, but teach them to start speaking up for themselves. Soon, with the skills for how to communicate effectively, they will develop confidence in how to speak up on their own and begin doing it without prompting.

Teach them to monitor their own grades.

If you see a grade in ParentVue that isn’t satisfactory, ask your child to log in and show you what assignments he/she might be missing. Help them reflect on what worked for one grade or how they can improve on another. They should be able to navigate on their own to show you their Schoology calendar, list of upcoming assignments, and also their grades in StudentVue.

Praise small steps in the right direction.

As we mentioned above, the process is many times just as important as the end results. Provide specific, positive feedback on your child’s behavior when you see a positive change. For example, “I am really proud of how you spoke up for yourself when you had that question,” or, “The respectful way you just spoke to me shows me that you are learning how to handle things on your own.” These small, specific praises are important for encouraging steps toward independence.

And this Resource site:

Our students have resources available to help them become more independent in managing their classes and chromebooks. One resource is the Middle School Student Toolkit. This website provides tutorials on frequently used tasks, troubleshooting tips, and resources on who to contact for help if they need it. Students can find this resource in LCPSGO and in the quick links on the Harmony website. MS Student Toolkit. Another resource for students to help them with managing their classes is the LCPS blog on Schoology. There is information there covering how to navigate Schoology to submitting assignments and learning to use the calendars to keep organized. This same site contains helpful support for parents as well. Schoology Help Documents

How Many of These Traits of their Work Station Does Your Child Have?

Traits of an Excellent Workstation:

  • Your workspace should be uncluttered and free from distractions.
  • Have good lighting either from a window or light fixture.
  • Consists of a chair that is not only comfortable to sit in but also provides back support.
  • Has supplies that may be needed for coursework. This may include a small white board and marker, paper, ruler, scissors, colored pencils, pencils and calculator.
  • Supplies have a “home” at your workstation. Possibly cups for materials or a hook to hang your headphones. Would be nice to have an outlet nearby for easy access to your charger.
  • Though many students use the calendar in Schoology to know when assignments are due, a handwritten calendar or schedule may be best for some students to help keep organized and manage time.
  • Includes a water bottle (and maybe even snacks!)

Adapted from “Creating a Student Workspace or Classroom in Your Home.”

Phoenix Tips for Parents

How do I enable grade notifications?

Email notifications of your child’s grading information can be enabled by clicking the My Account button. Notifications are sent once a week on a day you specify. You may also select that messages are sent only when grades are below a certain percentage.

  • Select the Grade Book checkbox.
  • Select the day of the week from the Send Messages Every dropdown menu.
  • Option: Select the Only Send Messages… checkbox and enter a threshold percentage value.
  • Click on the Update Account button.

What grades do I see in the Grade Book screen?

  • The grades displayed on the grade summary screen vary depending on grade level. You can choose a particular marking period to view by clicking on the marking period links above the Grade Book summary.
  • Schoology is also a good place to check student grades. Teachers are synching their Schoology platform with Phoenix on a weekly basis. At times this process is experiencing technical issues.

Can I access the ParentVUE portal on my mobile device?

The ParentVUE app provides access to much of the same content available in ParentVUE, with some exceptions. To view content not available in the ParentVUE app, use the browser on your mobile device and go to https://portal.lcps.org.

  • The ParentVUE app is available for both the iOS and Android platforms.
  • Requires wireless, 3G or LTE Internet connection.
  • The iOS app is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Requires iOS 9.0 or later.
  • The Android version requires Android 4.1 or later.
  • The ParentVUE mobile app uses the same user name and password as the web-based ParentVUE portal.
  • The URL for the ParentVUE app is https://portal.lcps.org.