400 grandparents attended programs at Deerfield Public Schools this fall, to learn more about the school world of their 6th to 12th grade grandchildren. Grandparents of 6th and 7th graders at Shepard Middle School learned about social emotional learning and typical social media use at that age. 40 grandparents went to the annual Freshman Connection Program at Deerfield High School. Over 300 Grandparents joined their high school senior at the beloved pre-Thanksgiving Grandparents Day at Deerfield High School. All of these programs point their origin back to the efforts of Deerfield resident and tireless Grandparenting Advocate Jerry Witkovsky.
Social Emotional Learning and Social Media at Shepard Middle School
“Thanks so much for your support and participation at our grandparent’s event last night!” said Sam J. Kurtz, Associate Principal at Shepard Middle School, told Witkovsky, who initiated the program at Shepard in the fall of 2015.
The program covered Social Emotional Learning expectations for 6th and 7th graders. Social Emotional Learning is defined as awareness and self-management skills to achieve school and life success. That includes using social-awareness and interpersonal skills to establish and maintain positive relationships, make good decisions and exhibit responsible behaviors in personal, school and community contexts.
Mr. Kurtz shared some of the Social Emotional Concerns that 6th and 7th Graders experience. Those included coping with emotions (stress, anxiety), making and keeping friendships, conflicts with peers/bullying, organization skills/Executive Functioning, and more. The grandparents then learned about all of supports that the school has in place to ensure student success.
The next topic was understanding teens and social media. Mr. Kurtz cited usage statistics typical for teens (from Pew Research), including 88% of teens text at lease occasionally, and 55% text with friends every day. 72% of teens reportedly spend time with friends via social media.
So Grandparents could get a feel of what that meant, the school brought out the iPads for grandparents to explore some of the social media sites likely used by their grandchildren: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and SnapChat.
40 Grandparents attend the Freshman Connection program at Deerfield High School
“I think the connection to grandparents is very important for our students,” said Dan Chamberlin, Special Education Department Co-Chair and point person for Grandparent Programs at Deerfield High School (DHS). “The support they receive from their family only benefits the students and their performance at school and success as a well-rounded person,” added Mr. Chamberlin.
The freshman program at Deerfield continues to grow each year, with 40 grandparents attending the program for the class of 2021. The program included a welcome and overview of academic and extra-curricular activities available at the school. A highlight each hear is a panel of Sophomores who paint a picture of “A Day in the Life of a Freshman” based on their experiences of having successfully acclimated to the new world of high school.
Additional speakers talked about Chromebooks and how students use technology at school (with some inside tips for Grandparents on Apps, texting, SnapChat and other social media), the 9th grade English reading list, school safety and more. They also showed grandparents how to access information about upcoming events and programs via the school website.
Grandparents expressed concern about bullying and harassment, a hot topic in current events. Screen time and technology and how much is “too much,” is also an expected topic. Mr. Chamberlin is by now accustomed to the concerns of grandparents, and was ready with information.
“It sends a strong message to stay involved with your grandchild and how to connect to them in this fast paced technological world,” said Mr. Chamberlin. “Also, I think it is a good promotion for our school and district to showcase the opportunities and supports there are for their grandchild at DHS and District 113. And, for grandparents, “the program acknowledges the important role of grandparents to support their grandchild academically, with their activities and as an emerging young adult.
Grandparents Day at Deerfield High School
300 grandparents came to support 409 seniors at the annual Grandparents Day at Deerfield High School. The event is held the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, which also guarantees attendance during this holiday week. “You would have loved today at DHS,” school counselor Glynis Hirsch said to Jerry. Thanks to you, this program continues to thrive. It was wall to wall people, beaming from ear to ear.”
While the other programs are about learning for Grandparents only, Grandparents Day is enjoyed by grandparents and grandchildren together. After a welcome and overview from the school principal, grandparents shadow their senior through a truncated version of the day, followed by lunch. Jerry helped initiate the program over eight years ago, and it continues to run strong.
What can you do at your school?
Research shows that when grandparents are able to enter the world of their grandchildren, it has a positive impact on all involved, including families and community.
Does your school have a Grandparent Program? Programs may start with the Principal, the District, the PTA or with a committed volunteer. Take a look at Jerry’s Grandparent Connection School Kit to see about getting started, or give him a shout. He is happy to help.