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Be TeRRiFic: Responsible

two students work together on a painting project while sitting at a table

Children aren’t born with responsible habits. They learn them!

Children seem to crave responsibility. They like to be helpful and want to know that they are useful. Generally, the trick to raising responsible children is to give them responsibilities and hold them accountable for completing them.

Does your child have daily chores? Is it required that he/she pick up after playing?

Being dependable, honoring commitments, keeping promises, accepting our strengths and struggles, and accepting natural and logical consequences –these are the habits that make responsible children.

When we use our abilities to respond to the challenges in life, we take control with confidence. By telling our children to be the best version of themselves, we encourage response-ability. Providing opportunities that help children prove to themselves that they have the ability to respond to the challenges and opportunities that life avails can become a highlight of their day! 

Here are five tips from a mother of eight children:

  1. Model It: Do your best to be on time, clean up after yourself, do what you say, and say what you do.
  2. Assign It Gradually: Scaffold age-appropriate chores and activities within your family.
  3. Deal With It: Let them observe what happens if someone isn’t responsible. Strategically stop doing something that they expect you to do just so that they can experience how responsible adults usually are.
  4. Play the Scenario Game: Write 10-20 typical scenarios regarding opportunities to be responsible.
  5. No Bailouts: Let your child face the natural and logical consequences of irresponsible behavior.

Practice being RESPONSIBLE the AACA way:

  • Heart – Approach a friend who may be struggling.
  • Mind – Work hard to complete assignments with accuracy.
  • Body – Tidy the space you trace.
  • Soul – Think twice to speak nice.

Quotes

  • “If you mess up, ‘fess up.” – Author Unknown
  • “Never point a finger where you never lent a hand.” – Robert Brault
  • “Quit making excuses. Putting it off. Complaining about it. Dreaming about it. Whining about it. Crying about it. Believing you can’t. Worrying if you can. Waiting until you are older. Make a plan & just do it.” –Nike

Learning Links

 

Habit 6: Synergize

Three children in Almond Acres Charter Academy uniforms.

There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to our school logo. At first glance, one might easily notice the circle and our 4 colors.. But upon second glance, and with a little knowledge of our study of the Habits of Mind, one may also notice that our school logo also illustrates the habit of synergy. Each of the 4 colors in the logo represents a part of our unique selves: heart, mind, body, and soul. When all 4 parts are present and working together, a whole is created that is stronger and better than the individual parts. That’s synergy!

Almond Acres Charter Academy logo

Habit 6, synergize, is all about creative cooperation. Through the process of bringing a variety of ideas, solutions and components to the table, something larger than the sum of the individual parts can be created. Synergy celebrates teamwork, creativity, diversity and being open-minded to new ways of doing things because it’s about making something better than we could achieve individually. 

The work we do at Almond Acres Charter Academy to teach teamwork, cooperation and problem solving flows directly into the habit of synergy. From classroom discussions to big group projects, our learning is made richer because of the unique skills and talents each person brings. When we listen and share, we can gain new insights, look more deeply at issues and stretch our thinking. Our diversity strengthens our learning and creativity!

We also believe that synergy is about balancing the heart, mind, body and soul to become the best version of ourselves. This requires continual reflection and refining so that we remain in balance—it’s not easy! When each part is given its due time and energy, we can strengthen the whole and we flourish. On the flipside, if we neglect any one of these elements, life becomes more challenging and the disruption causes strife in the other three areas. That’s why synergizing is an important habit to cultivate. 

Almond Acres Charter Academy is greater than the sum of all of our parts (staff, students and families) because we value the unique talents and skills each person brings to our school. The unity of our community creates a school environment that cannot be replicated! Just like the many sounds of an orchestra blending together into a beautiful harmony, synergy creates something better than a singular instrument. How do you experience synergy in your day-to-day life? 

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Located in Paso Robles in a newly built, state-of-the-art facility, AACA is open to all students from all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids! 

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

This week at Almond Acres, we are studying Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then be Understood. Seeking to understand often requires the skill of listening. Whether as a student, an employee or in a relationship, the skill of listening is essential to learning and knowing a subject or a person deeply.

An Almond Acres Charter Academy student listens intently to another student at the same desk. She is making eye contact and has her body facing the speaker. There are 4 students in red uniform shirts sitting together at a table.

Habit 5 teaches us that good communication begins with empathetic listening. Empathic listening is listening with the sole intent to understand another person within his or her frame of reference. It requires both intent and skill. The key is to truly, honestly desire to understand the other person. We can probably all relate to not being listened to at some point in our lives. It feels terrible–this is the first step to empathy!

Our ego commonly gets in the way of being a good listener. Instead of listening, we make sure that people understand our own point of view first, or only listen autobiographically. When we listen autobiographically, we filter what others say through our own story, experiences, prejudices, biases, and values. We probe by asking questions from our own frame of reference or agenda. We evaluate by agreeing or disagreeing. We advise by giving counsel, advice, and solutions to problems. We interpret by trying to figure out or analyze the other person. In short, we are putting ourselves first.

The productive and positive influence is to truly understand another’s point of view first. This practice expresses respect, mutual understanding, empathy, and courage. Great relationships, whether at home, school, or work are built on mutual respect. Loving and respecting others is an act of good listening because we tend to find better solutions to challenges in life when we consider the ideas from both sides to create the best idea. 

When it comes to learning, listening is obviously a must! Students who practice good listening skills become great thinkers. They can’t understand academic skills if they are distracted and not following a lesson. Moreover, asking questions and getting clarification develops greater understanding and makes meaningful connections between subjects and skills.

We believe teaching listening skills is as essential as reading and writing skills. We use a simple 3-step framework to illuminate this practice for all of our K-8 students: 

  1. Practice empathetic listening by asking clarifying questions and not judging the situation as you first see it. Some examples include: 
  • Can you tell me what happened?
  • How do you feel about _____?
  • What do you think led to this situation?
  • You sound really _______. 
  • What do you think is the next right thing to do?
  1. When emotions are high, stand your peaceful ground and don’t jump into the excitement. This will help the other person to connect to their thinking brain because they see you modeling it. 
  1. Respectfully seek to be understood. Once the other person recognizes that you are there to understand and want to help, it’s time to add your input. 
  • “I feel _______ about ________.”
  • “You could be right, however, ________.”
  • “Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with me. Would you like my opinion?”
  • “That sounds interesting. What do you think about ________?”

Empathetic listening says to the person that you care about who they are, what they are feeling, and are open to helping them. It is a simple skill with a profound impact that we can all practice in our day-to-day lives. 

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Located in Paso Robles in a newly built, state-of-the-art facility, AACA is open to all students from all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Don’t wait for your ship to come, swim out to it.

Cathy Hopkins

Habit 1 of Almond Acres Charter Academy’s study of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is Be Proactive. The premise of this habit is that we have the power to tell our brains what to do! It is such a simple concept and frankly, simple to do. Feeding our thoughts with positive and productive ideas nourishes our lives with happiness and success. Thinking about doing something is the first step. Taking the next step and telling our brains to do it, is the action. Actions lead to habits, habits lead to character, and character leads to destiny.

Students who practice proactive behavior are able to ignore distractions, prioritize tasks, complete class assignments, and plan ahead. Academic, athletic, artistic, or any other intelligence will grow by focusing on the circle of influence and minimizing time and effort on areas of concern or distraction.

An Almond Acres Charter Academy student wearing a green uniform polo puts the final cup on a pyramid he made out of paper cups. He is very focused on the task.

Trying v. Doing

There are so many occasions in life when the word “try” is incomplete and only reactive. I think that “try” is a half-baked idea. Most of the time trying is short sighted–doing is what gets it done! 
The next time you congratulate your child for an accomplishment and he tells you, “Thank you, I tried my best,” remind him that he didn’t just try – HE DID IT! If he says, “I’ll try,” instead encourage “I will”. Trying insinuates that we may have given our best effort, when in fact, when we accomplish things, we did give our best effort. Proactively telling ourselves to do it is power and causes great actions.

Reactive language v. Proactive language

  • I’ll try    vs.     I’ll do it!
  • That’s just the way I am.   vs.    I can do Better than that!
  • There’s nothing I can do.    vs.   There is something I can do!
  • I have to.    vs.    I get to!
  • I can’t.     vs.    There’s got to be a way!
  • You ruined my day.    vs.    I’m not going to let your bad mood rub off on me.
Almond Acres students work together to put playground equipment into a mesh bag.

Being proactive also helps us to take responsibility for our actions and to accept responsibility for our choices. Proactive citizens don’t blame others, they challenge them and step up and as change agents in families, schools, and community. Encourage this habit this week with the following efforts:

  • 🔵 Heart – reach out to a family member or friend who may need some encouragement
  • 🟡 Mind – search for an answer to an unanswered question
  • 🔴 Body – shop for foods that will support a healthy brain
  • 🟢 Soul – take 5 minutes to enter the classroom of silence

Being proactive is stepping up to life instead of letting it step on you. Like every habit, it takes 3-20 times to turn it into a habit. At Almond Acres, we teach our students to be patient, persistent, and positively proactive. We think it pays dividends.

“Have a can-do-titude.”

Mr. B

Learning Links

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Located in Paso Robles in a newly built, state-of-the-art facility, AACA is open to all students from all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Time management is a misnomer. We manage what we do, we don’t manage our time. Time is what it is; seconds, minutes, hours… there is no stopping it. Our success and happiness are dependent on what we do with our time. Making choices about what we do with each hour is what we really have control over. 

Putting first things first is a conscious choice to have a proactive approach to our day. There are a multitude of things we can do each minute of the day. Without thinking too much, we might find ourselves entrenched in something that may not align with our personal or professional well-being. Successful people recognize how they are spending their time and they mind their business. In other words, they put their energy into what is important and push away the distractions that may not be important or urgent.


The Leader In Me system of thinking that we use at Almond Acres illustrates this idea nicely with Quadrant Thinking. The matrix below identifies and organizes how we spend our time based on how productive we can be.

Looking closely at this matrix, you can see that Quadrant 1 is made up of tasks of the utmost necessity. We attend to these daily, and as needed, throughout our lives. Quadrants 3 & 4 can swallow up much of our time, allowing us to neglect not just what is important and urgent, but also what is important, but not urgent. It is in these two quadrants that most of us spend our time—it’s the path of least resistance. 

It’s interesting that we use the words “spend our time”. When we look at our day as an opportunity to invest ourselves in life, it becomes clear that we would rather spend wisely. 

Spending our time wisely is Q2 Thinking. Like fire prevention, we put our attention to the things that will benefit us now and in the future. As a parent, putting my time and energy into growing great kids should suppress many problems in the future. It’s about being proactive.

When we spend most of our time on things that are important but not urgent, we are putting first things first. Parents realize that the urgent and important are also critical and must be attended to, but minding our Quadrant 2 business is powerful. It forces the mindless tasks to the bottom of our list and makes the best use of our limited time.

An Almond Acres Charter Academy student in red polo shirt uniform uses her time wisely by helping load cereal into the back of a car to take to a local homeless shelter.

One of my favorite lessons in the Middle School Pathways program is the rocks and sand exercise that is illustrated in this video, The Pickle Jar. It is a clear metaphor for getting our priorities straight and finding ways to be more intentional about our life and likely, being able to achieve more than we may have thought possible. 

Happy and successful people are great at spending their time and talent on what is most important to them; heart, mind, body, and soul. You can help your children examine their priorities by asking them about each of the AACA colors:

  • 🔵 Heart  – Who are the most important people in your life?
  • 🟡 Mind  – What topics do you enjoy learning about most?
  • 🔴 Body – How do you like to spend time physically? (favorite sports, hobbies… )
  • 🟢 Soul – Why are you so special?

The other important message tied to this week’s habit is knowing what is important and urgent, and what is important but not urgent. Sorting the tasks and activities in our lives between these two ideas helps to keep our plates from feeling too heavy. I have attached a simple guide that may support our families in organizing our week/month and helping us to be intentional about our time and talents. I encourage you to print it, talk about it, and decide as a family how you can best use the precious asset of your time.

Further Reading on Putting First Things First

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Located in Paso Robles in a newly built, state-of-the-art facility, AACA is open to all students from all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids! 

Choose Your Own Weather

“If you can’t see the bright side of life, polish the dull side.” – Nathan, Mr. B’s son

Did you know that it’s possible to choose your own weather? No, you can’t control what falls from the sky, or when spring will arrive, but you can control your own personal weather forecast each and every day. 

Our choice to smile or grumble is controlled by our personal choice power. It’s true that “stuff” happens every day, but how we respond to that stuff is entirely in our circle of control. We are influenced by the people and circumstances in our life and our response to them is a choice. Believing that we have a choice and control is the first step toward personal efficacy and empowerment.

Almond Acres Charter Academy 4th graders play in the mud during a field trip

Mess or Fun? Almond Acres 4th graders prove that mud is just a matter of perspective.

One of my jobs as a parent is to get myself out of the job before my child is an adult. I expect that he or she will have the personal strength to handle what life dishes out each day. Teaching our children to think positively and proactively when it comes to life events, academics, sports, hobbies, or relationships, etc. can help them to recognize the power they have over their circumstances. 

When you achieve success in school and life, it’s clear how important it is to prioritize and organize studies, work, play, and relationships. Here are some examples of how this proactive philosophy works in conjunction with our Almond Acres mission to develop the heart, mind, body and soul of each child: 

🔵 Heart – Assume the best in people.
🟡 Mind – Organize a study schedule that gets things done before they are due.
🔴 Body – Make lunch the night before so that it’s ready and right for a healthy lifestyle.
🟢 Soul – Spend time in the classroom of silence to reflect on the day and consider ways to make tomorrow terrific.

A positive and powerful approach to life is infectious. If someone calls me a knucklehead and I respond with, “you are brilliant and beautiful”, I can stop them in their tracks and help them to realize that their negativity is pointless in the face of positivity. It doesn’t mean to always be Pollyanna about things, but adding a negative to a negative only leads to more negative. Adding a positive to a negative reverses things in a positive direction. It’s fascinating to see a grouch put on a smile when someone with a positive disposition gets in their way.

There is a neurological term for eliciting a response from someone with a smile or a frown. The response is called “mirroring”. Mirror neurons exist in our brain and can cause us to smile when someone smiles at us, or frown when we frown. A proactive decision to make someone think positively because we are acting or speaking positively has powerful results.

The See – Do – Get Model

The See – Do – Get model of thinking helps us to remember that how we SEE things (whether it be our perspective, feelings, or thoughts) will lead us to action (DO) and our actions achieve results (GET). When we don’t achieve the results we hope for it is often a result of an error in how we are seeing things or in the actions we hoped would achieve the result. Use this model to help your child recognize that his or her proactive response to life can have dramatic positive results on their future.

A graphic of the See Do Get Model with arrows. In the center of the model, the principles of responsibility, choice, accountability, initiative, and resourcefulness are illustrated.

Interested in taking your learning on Choosing Your Own Weather a bit further? You can watch an interesting video here and take a deep dive on career coaching here. How do you make your own weather forecast everyday? 

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Located in Paso Robles in a newly built, state-of-the-art facility, AACA is open to all students from all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!