10 Ways to Bully-proof your Child

Photo taken from http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/11/living/bully-proof-kids-hetter/
Experts agree that bullying begins in preschool and gains momentum as kids grow. Depending on which survey you read, between 40% and 80% of middle schoolers (junior high) admit to bullying behaviour. Kids will get bully because of their appearance or dress, their academic ability or hobbies, a disability or just the fact that they are the new kids in town. 

Not only is Bullying pervasive, it has become increasingly dangerous, so that children are committing suicide or being beaten to death by their bullies. Schools with vigorous anti-bullying programming are more likely to stop bullies in their tracks, but not every school has a commitment to stopping the abuse. However, there are things parents can do to strengthen their children before the bullying starts, convince them to tell parents if a verbal or physical attack occurs, and keep them safe.

Below are 10 Ways to Bully-Proof Your Child suggested by Dr. Laura Markham from aha! Parenting.com:

1. Model compassionate, respectful relationships from the time your child is small. The most effective way to keep children from being bullied, and from becoming bullies, is to make sure they grow up in loving relationships, rather than relationships that use power or force to control them.

2. Stay connected to your child through thick and thin. Lonely kids are more likely to be bullied.

3. Model confident behavior with other people. If you tend to back down easily so you don't make a scene, but then later feel pushed-around, it's time to change that. Your child is learning from watching you.

4. Directly teach your child respectful self-assertion. Kids need to know they can get their needs met while being respectful of other people.

5. Teach your child basic social skills. Kids who are outsiders are more likely to be bullied. Bullies prey on children whom they perceive to be vulnerable, including needy children who are so desperate for peer acceptance that they continue to hang around a group of peers even when one of the group leaders begins to mistreat them.

6. Teach your child basic bully avoidance. Bullies operate where adults aren't present, so your child should avoid unsupervised hallways, bathrooms, and areas of the playground.

7. Teach your child that there is no shame in being frightened by a bully, in walking away, or in telling an adult and asking for help. Bullying situations can escalate, and saving face is less important than saving their life.

8. Teach kids to intervene to prevent bullying when they see it. Bullying expert Michele Borba says that when bystanders -- kids who are nearby -- intervene correctly, studies find they can cut bullying more than half the time and within 10 seconds. Bullies have power when the audience of bystanders is silent. "When one kid gets bullied, everyone is silent or laughs or goes along with it because they don't want it to turn on them," says Kenneth Ginsburg, a pediatrician at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and co-author of Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings

9. Coach your child to handle teasing and bullying by role playing. Research shows that bullies begin with verbal harassment. How the "victim" responds to the first verbal aggression determines whether the bully continues to target this particular child. If the aggression gives the bully what he's looking for -- a feeling of power from successfully pushing the other child's buttons -- the aggression will generally escalate. It's imperative to discuss this issue with your child BEFORE he is subject to bullying, so he can stand up for himself successfully when a bully first "tests" him.

10. Don't hesitate to intervene. Your job as the parent is to protect your child. That means that in addition to teaching your child to stick up for herself, you may well need to call the teacher or principal. Don't give your child the message that she's all alone to handle this. And don't assume that if there isn't physical violence, she isn't being wounded in a deep way. Despite the old rhyme about words not hurting, mean words and isolation are terribly damaging to our psyches, and cause lasting negative effects.

In her post, Dr. Markham's provide specific examples for each one of these tips. I recommend you read her post (click here to read it) for more information about this and other related subjects.

What are you doing to bully-proofing your child?

Costumes for Halloween: 25% OFF on everything at BuyCostumes

HALLOWEEN.....Did I mention that this is one of my favorite times of the year? When else can you re-live your childhood fantasies of being pirates and princesses or rest assured that TV stations and viewers alike are unanimously in favor of Hocus Pocus  airing in every two-hour slot leading up to the big day? …None. 

If you have not started to think about Halloween perhaps you should consider to start soon! A great place to find costume ideas and excellent deals is BuyCostumes. If you want to start your Halloween shopping early take advantage of the BuyCostumes Orange Tuesday event!  On Tuesday, September 2nd onlyEVERYTHING is 25% OFF at BuyCostumes!

Now is the perfect time to plan out what each member of the family wants to dress-up as this Halloween season. And don't fret - BuyCostumes has an "I Want to Be Guarantee" so you can exchange your costume for FREE anytime before Halloween. Visit BuyCostumes.com now and start making your game plan so you're ready on September 2nd!

BuyCostumes Halloween Costumes - Orange Tuesday

#1 - Princess & Prince Costumes

#2 - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Costumes

#3 - Skin Suits Costumes

#4 - Ninjas Costumes

#5 - Superhero Costumes

#6 - Villains Costumes

#7 - Fairy-Tale & Storybook Costumes

#8 - Star Wars Costumes

#9 - Animals & Bugs Costumes

#10 - Pet costumes

Replacing Textbooks with Nonfiction Science Books

The fall semester will start very soon, so I have started to prepare the material associated with the courses that I will be teaching very soon.

Like most instructors, I always try to integrate assigned readings into my courses in hopes to help students create a deeper understanding of the content and expand their thinking past the surface. Because scientific material can be presented in different ways, I ask students to read scientific papers, scientific daily news and pages from their textbooks.

Unfortunately, many students simply don’t like or try to read scientific material presented under these forms. In particular, students dislike reading textbooks. The interesting thing is that we (instructors) know that students do not usually read their textbooks, but we keep asking them to do it.

Why don't students read textbooks? Well, there are certainly many reasons. A possible one is that the content of papers or textbooks can be difficult to relate to everyday knowledge, or to form a mental image of scientific facts.

The Song of the Dodo
 About 7-8 years ago now, I introduced a different type of reading material in one of my upper-level courses, "Biogeography and Macroecology". I decided to replace the textbook with a non-fiction scientific book (~700 pages) called The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions  

First, let me tell you why I pick this book.  The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions is part travelogue, part natural history essay, and an excellent example of science writing.  It is a detailed overview of the factors that determine the distribution and abundance of organisms (especially animals) on islands.  In this book, the author, David Quammen,   makes you travel to different places across the world, including Brazil, Madagascar, and Komodo Island.  Readers learn about many different key concepts/topics that are usually covered in biogeography courses. Thus, the book is the perfect companion for any biogeography course!

 Replacing Textbooks with Nonfiction Scientific Novels
I thought that the use of a nonfiction book with more of a narrative would bring the course material to life. Well, I am happy to say that I was not wrong!  The use of a nonfiction book has encouraged students to read about the topics discussed during lectures, improved discussion participation, and has simply made the class more fun not only for students, but also for me.

Of course, students are not only asked to read The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions (which is ~700 page), but are also asked to conduct a few other activities (just to ensure that they read the book!). Each student is asked to be the leader of a book chapter (or part of it depending upon the number of students taking the course).  As a leader, the student is required to facilitate a class discussion, prepare focused questions for the discussion and organize 1-2 class activities.  Although most students choose to create a game (e.g., Jeopardy, Who wants to be a Millionaire), this year some students prepared a movie (theatrical representation of the chapter) and others wrote a song to engage participation and discussion.

Replacing the textbook with a non-fiction scientific novel for my biogeography course has really been a great success, and has inspired me to try to do the same for other courses.

For instance, I am currently reading the book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert. I am hoping to use this book in my "Biodiversity and Conservation" course that I am teaching this coming fall. This book is the #1 Bestseller in the  Natural History Books category in Amazon.com. So far, I am enjoying very much this book which discusses how humans are affecting species extinction.

I realize that it is not always possible to replace textbooks, it is worth a try to do it whenever possible. In particular, I feel that it is a good option for upper-level courses where class discussion and critical thinking should be expected.

Training a Puppy: Family Walks and More

Our Chocolate Labrador Retriever, Lola, is now 15 weeks old. Since she came to our lives, things have been so different at home. Some days are very chaotic while others are just extremely busy. 

As expected, my husband and I have discovered that we now have three children instead of two. Not only that, we have also found out that although our two boys love very much their puppy, reading a book or playing with a friend is still more interesting than taking her out for peep or poop.

Walking with Lola
Since my husband and I consider Lola as the daughter that we have never had, we both are treating her as our little princess! We always do our best to involve in her in any family activity. But, our family routines have changed since Lola came to our lives. For instance, we are now having family walks almost every evening right after supper. We take Lola with us, so she can explore the neighbourhood, meet other dogs and practice her commands. It's just so fun to see Lola trying to chase everything that moves, including dead leaves. She is such an active little puppy.

But my favorite moments with Lola are the morning walks. Everything is so quite at that time. It's often just the two us walking on the side walks.  Lola is so curious and gets excited with everything that she sees, from bushes to crows everything is interesting. For some reason, she is very attracted by the flowers and always spend a few seconds "smelling" them. When I see her doing this, I always say to her, "Oh Lola, you are a romantic".

Once she gets tired of smelling things or putting things in her mouth, Lola always decides that is time to play with Mommy. Then, she looks at me and starts biting my feet or my pants. Unfortunately, biting is one of Lola's bad behaviours that we are trying to correct at this point in time. We have been suggested that when going for a walk, we should always carry a toy or something to distract her when she starts biting. The problem is that it's sometimes difficult to remember to do this when you also have to carry dog bags, food treats and the house key!

Training Lola

As Lola "parents", we are also trying to educate her. Although we are all participating in her education, my husband is playing the most important role in Lola's training. He is the one who spends the most time teaching her key commands such as down, sit, stop, etc. He is very patient with her and it's clear that she loves him very much.

In addition of registering her in an obedience class, we are also doing a lot of reading to educate ourselves regarding beaviour and development of puppies. These are three books that we have read, or are in the process of reading.

Specific to Labrador Retrievers: 

The Everything Labrador Retriever Book: A Complete Guide to Raising, Training, and Caring for Your Lab (Everything®) 

Your Labrador Retriever Puppy Month By Month

- Labrador Retriever Training: Breed Specific Puppy Training Techniques, Potty Training, Discipline, and Care Guide

Puppy and Dog Behaviour:

The Dog Whisperer: A Compassionate, Nonviolent Approach to Dog Training

Cesar's Way: The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems 

-  Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know

Activities for a Successful First Day of Classes

Technically, there is still almost one more month before summer is officially over. But, for me, summer is over when classes start.  Not only my children will go back to school next week, but the fall semester at the university is also starting next week.

I have to admit that the beginning of the fall semester is always an exciting moment for students and for us, faculty. A new academic year brings with it new faces on campus as well as a sense of excitement that is only matched by convocation day.

I am one of those people who believe that what happens that first day of classes sets the tone of the rest of course. So, I always do my best to try to make that day unique and inspirational. I take time to plan carefully what I want to do on this day in order to give my students a clear impression of the course content and both my expectations and teaching philosophy.

Activities for the First Day of Classes

Although there are many different activities that can be done during the first day of classes, these are three activities that I am planning to do in my courses this academic year.

Best and Worst Classes – This is a quick and easy activity that can be done in less than 20 minutes. First, I ask students to form groups of 5-6 students to facilitate discussion. On one section of the whiteboard I write: “The best class I’ve ever had” and underneath it “What the instructor/professor did” and below that “What the students did”. On another section I write “The worst class I’ve ever had” and then the same two items beneath.

Without naming the course or instructor, I ask students to share their personal experiences with other members of their group. They do this for about 5-7 minutes depending upon the size of the group. Then, we have a class discussion. Each group is asked to participate. I begin filling in the "table" on the board based on what students mention. If students are silent or there are only few comments, I add some key words or notes based on my own experience with some of my best and worst classes. 

In 20 minutes or less, two very different class portraits appear on the whiteboard. I move to the best class section of the board and tell students that this is the class I want to teach, but in order to achieve this, I need their help. I make clear to them that together we have the power to make this course one of those “best class” experiences. 

Syllabus Speed Dating – Karen Eifler, an education professor at the University of Portland, designed this activity that consists in:
- I distribute the course syllabus and give students 5 minutes to peru
- Two rows of chairs face each other (this can be adapted to large classes if necessary). Students sit across from each other, each with a copy of the syllabus that they have previously reviewed.
- Students are asked two questions: one about something in the syllabus and one of a more personal nature.
The pair of students has a short period of time to answer both questions.
- I check to make sure the syllabus question has been answered correctly. 
Then students in one of the rows move down one seat and I ask the new pair two different questions.

 Not only does this activity get students acquainted with each other, it’s a great way to get them reading the syllabus and finding out for themselves what they need to know about the course.

First Day Graffiti – This an adaptation of an activity originally proposed by 
Barbara Goza (Journal of Management Education, 1993) and recently modified by Maryellen Weimer (editor of The Teaching Professor Newsletter). Flip charts with markers beneath are placed around the classroom. Each chart has a different sentence stem. Here are a few suggestions:

“I learn best in classes where the teacher ___”
“Students in courses help me learn when they ___”
“I am most likely to participate in classes when ___”
“Here’s something that makes it hard to learn in a course: ___”
“Here’s something that makes it easy to learn in a course: ___”

"Here's something that I don't like from labs: ____"
"Here's something that I like from labs: ____"

Students are invited to walk around the room and write responses, sharing experiences with each other and myself as they do. After there are comments on every flip chart, I walk to each one and talk a bit about one or two of the responses. 
Because sometimes I run out of time (my lectures are usually 50 minutes), I tend to finish this activity at the beginning of the second class.


If you want to teach during your first lecture, but would still like to use at least some minutes to motivate students to invest in the course, I suggest you use one or more of the activities below.
  • Learn each other's names: ask students to introduce themselves or take a class photo.
  • Ask students to write their expectations of the course on index cards for your review.
  • Communicate learning outcomes explaining what students should know or be able to do as a result of completing the course.
  • Explain how you will create an inclusive environment for students.
  • Present content using a real-world scenario that will give students a context for the course.
  • Stimulate interest in your course—what exciting questions or topics will  be discussed during the semester? 
  • Give students a taste of what is expected of them. Will they be expected to actively engage in learning activities during lectures? Will they be required to participate in group work? If so, engage students in these types of activities on the first day.
  • Discuss the syllabus near the end of the class period. Use the first valuable moments of class time to make a memorable impression on the students.

Preparing for Back to School - Lunches and Labels

In less than two weeks, children will be back to school. Our oldest son (Noah) is starting junior high while our youngest one (Elijah) is starting kindergarten. They are also both starting French immersion programs. So, they are both a little nervous since school is bringing big changes in their lives this year.

In preparation for the school year, we have started to work on a few things, including school lunches and labeling.

School Lunches

Mexican Muffins - Click Here for recipe
One of my goals for this school year is to add variety to the school lunches. I have started to accumulate a good number of recipes and ideas for lunches in my Pinterest Site. Our oldest son (Noah) has celiac disease, so I have to make certain that I include ideas for gluten free lunches. Of course, schools in Canada are generally peanut free, so can't include nuts in their lunches!

Although sandwiches can be healthy and interesting, they can also be boring. Our kids find them very boring, and I don't blame them. So, I am trying to find other type of foods that can be easily prepared and packed. I am also planning to prepare a family schedule, so our mornings are more efficient. 

Labels for the Stuff that Kids Lose

We know that things will get lost, so it is imperative that we LABEL EVERYTHING. So, I have already put my order for labels from Mabel's Labels.

If you are not familiar with this company, let me tell you that their labels are fantastic. They are waterproof, microwave safe, and can go through the dishwasher. The School combo package includes labels of various sizes and characteristics; so, they can work for all kind of items. Mabel's Labels also has more sophisticated labels with very unique designs for those who want to pay a little bit more. 

Myself, I decided to purchase the School Combo package because Mabel's is currently having a special sale for them. Shipping to Canada is free, so it's just perfect for us. I am planning to use these labels for everything, including backpacks, jackets, shoes, t-shirts, water bottle, sport & winter equipment, etc. I am hoping that this will reduce the number of lost items this year.

What are you doing to prepare for Back to School?


How Long Can you Expect your Dog to Live?

Now that we have a puppy at home, we have really become very interested in all that has to do with dogs. 

For instance, I recently bought the audiobook of "Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know", a fascinating book about dogs behaviour. In this book, the author (Alexandra Horowitz), shows us that though humans bond with their dogs closely, they're clueless when it comes to understanding what dogs perceive-leading her to the not-inconsequential notion that dogs know us better than we know them. 

Since we have Lola (our puppy's name), we are also trying to investigate other issues regarding dogs that we think are important.

Although it's a kind of morbid thing to think about it, we have been discussing the issue of life expectancy. Yes! We have asked ourselves the terrible question: How long is our dog going to live?

We know that smaller dog breeds usually live longer then larger dog breeds. Our dog is a Chocolate Labrador Retriever which means that she is a large breed. So, I decided to do a little research and found interesting data.

Life Expectancy of Most Popular Dog Breeds
(data obtained from: http://www.pets.ca/dogs/tips/tip-46-life-expectancy-in-dogs-how-long-will-my-dog-live/)

Afghan Hound (12.0)
Airedale Terrier (11.2)
Basset Hound (12.8)
Beagle (13.3)
Bearded Collie (12.3)
Bedlington Terrier (14.3)
Bernese Mountain Dog (7.0)
Border Collie (13.0)
Border Terrier (13.8)
Boxer (10.4)
Bull Terrier (12.9)
Bulldog (6.7)
Bullmastiff (8.6)
Cairn Terrier (13.2)
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (10.7)
Chihuahua (13.0)
Chow Chow (13.5)
Cocker Spaniel (12.5)
Corgi (11.3)
Dachshund (12.2)
Dalmatian (13.0)
Doberman Pinscher (9.8)
English Cocker Spaniel (11.8)
English Setter (11.2)
English Springer Spaniel (13.0)
English Toy Spaniel (10.1)
Flat-Coated Retriever (9.5)
German Shepherd (10.3)
German Shorthaired Pointer (12.3)
Golden Retriever (12.0)
Gordon Setter (11.3)
Great Dane (8.4)
Greyhound (13.2)
Irish Red and White Setter (12.9)
Irish Setter (11.8)
Irish Wolfhound (6.2)
Jack Russell Terrier (13.6)
Labrador Retriever (12.6)
Lurcher (12.6)
Miniature Dachshund (14.4)
Miniature Poodle (14.8)
Norfolk Terrier (10.0)
Old English Sheepdog (11.8)
Pekingese (13.3)
Random-bred / Mongrel (13.2)
Rhodesian Ridgeback (9.1)
Rottweiler (9.8)
Rough Collie (12.2)
Samoyed (11.0)
Scottish Deerhound (9.5)
Scottish Terrier (12.0)
Shetland Sheepdog (13.3)
Shih Tzu (13.4)
Staffordshire Bull Terrier (10.0)
Standard Poodle (12.0)
Tibetan Terrier (14.3)
Toy Poodle (14.4)
Viszla (12.5)
Weimaraner (10.0)
Welsh Springer Spaniel (11.5)
West Highland White Terrier (12.8)
Whippet (14.3)
Wire Fox Terrier (13.0)
Yorkshire Terrier (12.8)

Of course, keep in mind that there are exceptions to any rule. These are just average values.

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