Springtime Thoughts from Mr. Elson
Dear Gator Nation,
As the end of the school year races toward us, there are many Gators (of all ages!) who eagerly look forward to the fun-filled, relaxing, invigorating days of summer vacation. There are many others for whom the busy days of spring and even the impending summer vacation can be very stressful. While I wish I had managed my time better to send this message to you a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to share some thoughts with you now, as a means of achieving several goals:
- bringing some concerns (specific and general) to your attention
- sharing some strategies for your consideration
- helping to ensure our students' health and well-being
Fidget Toys / Distractions
There seems to be a dramatic increase in the number of toys that are being brought to school. While I believe, at least in part, these toys are being seen by some families as a means to address stress, hyperactivity, etc. they have definitely become a distraction to these children (and their classmates) in the daily instructional setting. To be clear, there are students for whom very specific tactile “tools” are discussed and allowed, via written documents specifically accommodating for individual students' needs. For all other children, we need the finger spinners, fidget balls, etc. to stay at home. If you have any questions about specifics, please contact your child’s homeroom teacher.
Some Increased Stress
One of the four words I use with great care/judiciousness in my professional life is “everybody.” (The other three words being “nobody,” “always,” and “never.”) We have nearly 500 Gator Students at KGES, each one a perfectly unique treasure with wonderful strengths and certain challenges. In the recent past weeks, we have seen an increase in the stress level of some of our students (no, not “everybody”). I share this not to alarm anyone but rather to encourage you to work closely with your child’s teachers to help ensure we muster our school and home forces together in perfect harmony, in order to fully help, support, and guide our Gators in the most effective manner possible. As I’ve shared before, we are blessed to have the outstanding, experienced services of three of the finest mental health experts with whom I’ve ever worked.
- Elaine Stottlemyer (Counselor, full-time at KG)
- Kathy Baker (Psychologist, part-time at KG)
- Haleh Royanian (Social Worker, part-time at KG)
All three of these professionals, as with every single Gator Staff Member, stand ready, willing, and able to do anything we can do to keep our eagle eyes peeled for signs of stress in our students, so that we can bring it to your attention. While we certainly respect your prerogative to keep any issues you observe at home to yourself, we would much rather you share any observations with us very openly and frankly, trusting that we never forget the critical importance of confidentiality and privacy.
Digital Distractions / Social Media
Writing to you (in this area) more as a fellow FCPS Parent than a principal, I truly feel for our three Elson kids at home, just as I know you do for your own angels. Trying not to sound like a “technophobe,” don’t I wish I could magically turn all cell phones into “dumbphones,” only functional to be used to TALK to others (well, and maybe play a little Brickbreaker!) Don’t I wish they could be rendered useless in the hands of (supposed) "teammates," not allowing them to bash last night's struggling high school pitcher in the big District Tournament Game. Or used by the group chat of six girls focused on the seventh (excluded) one. Or used to access some of the most inappropriate, unhealthy content via the Internet. Or used to communicate with total strangers across town or across the world. Or, or, OR. In my role as a leader at KGES, it’s not about ginning up hysteria and panic at The Glen but rather sharing some of my thoughts as a means of helping to preserve our Gator Students' days of joyous, carefree, innocent childhood while we can.
- Sam's Totally Unsolicited Advice (worth as much as you paid for it?!)
- Trust and Verify – I’ve never been afraid to be called a micromanager, bad cop, nightmare helicopter parent, etc. by my beloved Elson Trio. Without even realizing it, they desperately depend on Kristin and me to help protect them and help guide them through the scary maze of life that 18, 15, and 9 year olds constantly navigate each day. There will be plenty of time for their fully unfettered freedom….someday….but not just yet. They're good (real good), but they need us now, more than ever.
- They are MY phones – when our 4th grader reaches 7th grade, I’ll buy another phone for MYSELF, and I’ll let her use it like our older two have, ever since they reached middle school. Until the day when they take over the monthly payments, they will remain MY three phones, and they will remain in the Kitchen/Family Room when at home, with passwords that allow me full access to every site/app/function…..in order to trust and verify.
- Living life is more than Instagram – while I don’t do any social media myself, I absolutely spend time on YouTube for fun/learning/entertainment, and yes…true confession…I LOVE me some Blackjack, Trivia Crack, and Luminosity. But, like you, being a responsible adult, I’m very careful never to let those totally trivial games get in the way of me experiencing life. I work very hard to ensure my kids know the difference between VIRTUAL and REAL!
- FCPS has phenomenal information on our website that could surely be of great use to us all in this area: https://www.fcps.edu/node/32086
Final Thoughts….at least for now!
Let’s all remember to breathe good deep breaths…every day, all day…with the awareness of the tasks at hand, with the knowledge that our vigilance is invaluable, and with the confidence that in working together, we can do ANYTHING we need to do for our kids.
As always, it’s an honor, privilege, and joy to work for your children, their teachers, and you each day. Call me Cup-Half-Full Guy, but I see the daunting challenges of today….as unnerving as they can be at times….as great opportunities for us all to learn and grow, in order to help nurture and develop the most resilient, most fulfilled, most successful generation of Americans we’ve ever seen. We can do this.
With respect, admiration, and love,
Samuel L. Elson Principal, Kings Glen Elementary School