Brag Tags

a fun and easy gift for an encouraging Valentine’s Day!

I was preparing to work in a kindergarten class not too long ago when I discovered a fabulous tool for positive reinforcement and encouragement! I was all set up and meandering around the room, waiting for the students to arrive. This moment is like the calm before the storm for educators. All is serene and peaceful and you think you can handle anything the day will bring. Then the bell rings and they descend upon you in a pile of puffy snowsuits and rosy cheeks, all demanding you help find their lost, frozen mitten that they just flung across the coat room two seconds previous. Nothing like thirty, five-year-olds to make you sleep real well at night! But I digress… back in the classroom, I noticed a large display of “brag tags” hanging from a bulletin board brightly displayed under the same name. They hung on small chains… one for each member of the class. Upon closer examination, I discovered each one contained a few tags for various accomplishments: “I can tie my shoes”, “I can print my name”, “I was a good listener”, etc.

What a brilliant idea, I thought! Such a creative teacher! Such incentive for positive behaviours, self learning and motivation! Upon further research, I discovered that it is not a new concept among teachers… there are a great many teacher/schooling sites that have all kinds of “brag tag” ideas and places to buy your own or edit and print. This teacher was not alone in her ideas! There is a whole classroom incentive entity out there about these fab tabs or spirit sticks (as they are sometimes called)! There was even one teacher who decided teachers themselves should have their own brag tags! A little tongue in cheek, I suppose, but fun! A human resource project for your next motivational meeting perhaps? ūüôā If you are an educator and have come looking for more brag tag ideas, please check out my Pinterest boards for lots of fabulous resources posted there!

Now… even though I work with children and have my own beloveds at home, I will be the first to admit I am not very encouraging. I try. I really do. But more often than not, my task oriented, in the box, do it this way brain takes over, and I am more apt to focus on what you should do instead of what you are doing great already!! It is so much easier to correct then to encourage, isn’t it? The Bible is full of verses about encouragement.¬† Jesus had a time and place for correction, no doubts about it, but usually, He teaches us to be gently encouraging — even in our corrections.

Our family brag tags!

Which brings me to my Valentine’s Day project. My kids are older now… far beyond their kindergarten years… but no matter what the age, we are are always in need of some encouragement, aren’t we?! So I made each of my family members some brag tags… even the hubby! I gave them 5 different ones each, and included some things I love about each of them. Things I want them to know that I have noticed they are doing, and doing wonderfully! Things they have accomplished or are working diligently on. Some of the tags were ready made ones in my gift wrapping collection. Others I punched or cut out and wrote on. Each were ringed on some old shower rings we had hanging around. Simple, but meaningful. I don’t expect them to wear them around their necks the way a five year old might. It’s a small token. But one I hope they treasure. I’m not a good encourager with my spoken word. I have a hard time saying those things I should. This is one way I can make my thoughts tangible to the people I love. Maybe you are not a good verbal encourager either… so, go ahead, steal my idea… I encourage you to ! Make your own “brag tags” for your crew… and let me know how they turn out!!

Is Homework Necessary?

¬†December first has come and gone.¬† We celebrated the first Sunday of Advent,¬†and are anticipating the weeks of holiday bliss which are about to arrive.¬† But before the Mitton clan goes whole hog on Christmas, we have to get through the last few weeks of school.¬† Which, in our neck of the woods, means a whole whack of homework.¬† A topic that has led to a rather brooding debate amongst us… is homework really necessary?!¬† My first answer as mom, educator and lover of learning, says yes, yes, of course!¬† Homework is a must.¬† How can we continue learning if there is no homework, no testing, no study?¬† The rest of the clan disagrees.¬† It’s stressful, it’s useless, it’s too time consuming, it has no purpose.¬† These are the things I am hearing!¬† Even the hubby, who is thinking of branching out of his comfort zone and taking a course in the new year (to which I am very proud!) wants only to audit a course and not do the homework.¬† Awk!¬† No, no, no, I say!¬† How can you really learn if you have no concrete evidence… nothing to show at the end…no “mark” of your ability.¬† But — I am willing to be open minded — and so I muse:¬† Is homework really necessary?

¬† From what I have gathered, “homework” — the work sent home because either it is not completed in class, or is assigned to enhance the practice, preparation for, or extensions of, lessons done in class — is becoming a hot topic.¬† There seems to be a growing trend to eliminate it all together.¬† In Canada, “no homework policies” are being pushed by both parents and educators alike, labeling homework as stress inducing, and time-robbing.¬† A 2008 study done in Ontario, discovered that the dreaded homework hour can become the primary source of arguments in a household.¬† Not only in parent/child power struggles, but even among marriages as well.¬† (Which seems to be happening in my house, too…)¬† And so I muse again… Why?

Apparently the answer lies in the amount of time.¬† The “ideal” amount of homework, as laid out by the National Parent Teacher Association and the National Education Association in the US, suggests a standard of 10 minutes of homework per grade level.¬† Canadian educators pretty much follow this standard as well.¬† However, reports are coming in that students are doing much, much more than this.¬† On average, Ontario students are given 40 minutes of homework per night.¬† Add multiple subjects and this can get pretty stressful. Families argue that this cuts into family time, not to mention that if there is misunderstanding or learning struggles — that 40 minutes could drag on in to infinity….

So.¬† Let’s take a step back.¬† Let’s look at the big picture of why we educate in the first place.¬† If our Christian lifestyle impacts our understanding in this topic, then God should have something to say about it too.¬† The Bible tells us in Proverbs to “…get wisdom and understanding at all costs…” (Proverbs 4).¬† Could this mean giving up some favourite television show to study the multiplication table?¬† Or forcing our students off the devices to sit with pen and paper to make a “useless” title page?¬† Possibly.¬† Now, don’t get me wrong, we are not perfect scholars over here… we have had our fair share of homework struggles… pulling our hair out to get that perfect paper mach√©d, 3-D model of some obscure parallelogram.¬† Or setting the timer for exactly 21 minutes of reading because that is the bare minimum required.¬† ¬†I have seen my teens burn the midnight oil on more than one occasion to complete that assignment simply because they procrastinated the rest of the week.¬† Homework can certainly be stress inducing.¬† And as parents, I think it is our job to shape, encourage and instruct our children… that yes, education is important.¬† And yes, this teacher’s expectations may be out of the ball park… so let’s deal with learning to have difficult conversations, let’s deal with how to interact with people who do not see our points of view, let’s be present in our education systems and seek wisdom.¬† Let’s make homework part of the bigger idea of “gathering wisdom.”

I’m not convinced there is an easy answer to the homework debate.¬† We are a full mix of people with many given gifts.¬† We have different goals and different learning styles.¬† Good grief… even within my own little clan, we cannot agree on this debate!¬† For now… I will encourage the completion of homework in our house, with the premise of gathering wisdom.¬† Skills like multiplication tables and correct spelling and grammar are necessary, yes, but so is good communication, and loving your neighbour, and standing up for what you believe.¬† Can homework achieve this?¬† Certainly not in 40 minutes a night.¬† It becomes a piece of a much, much broader idea, that I will continue to muse about often.

Let me know your thoughts… do you home school and avoid homework altogether?¬† Do you enforce homework time at your house?¬† Is it a struggle? Have helpful hints to share?¬† We’d love to hear from you!¬† ¬†Drop us a line!