Principal's Monthly Update
Principal's Monthly Message
Posted on 11/30/2017
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Mary K. Ferreri, Principal


December Update

Good Morning Orchard School Families!

Well, the month of November has flown by and we are onto the hustle and bustle that is December.  We started our week off with gratitude and generosity, as we kicked off our annual “Change Drive” to support children in need this holiday season.  We are still collecting change through tomorrow! We will also be focusing on the theme of “acceptance” of others, as we continue with our Choose to Be Nice initiative.  We will be reading We are All Wonders as our book for this month.

As always, before you read below - please login to Village Fresh and place your December lunch orders if you have not already!  Tomorrow is not only December 1st - but a Friday, which is a pizza lunch.  Please remember that we do not have a working kitchen - and there is not “extra food” if your child does not have lunch.  So please order lunch...and keep reading below!



Community Outreach Program:  This month, the district hosted two community outreach programs.  Last night, Dr. Devorah Heitner was here discussing her topic and book:  Screenwise:  Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in the Digital World.  It was great to see so many Orchard faces in the crowd!  If you missed it, here are my top 10 takeaways from the night:

  1. Modeling, modeling, modeling.  In our world, using the telephone, watching TV, was heavily supervised (whether we realized it or not!).  Today, there is less of a shared sensibility about what is “okay”, what is “polite”, what is a socially accepted norm.  Create boundaries and find clarity through them.

    1. The phone was in a public place.  We heard and saw how our parents spoke to people.  We knew there were rules (no calls during dinner, it’s too late to call a home, etc.).  The telephone was public, and we were constantly observing others or being observed using it.

    2. The television was similar.  It had rules!  There were shows you could/couldn’t watch.  It was in a public place.  Even the shows or movies we “couldn’t” watch were already pre-screened and put out from a network.  They had a broadcast standard which doesn’t exist on YouTube with user generated content.  Consider the things you as a child “couldn’t” watch - and what is available to view on YouTube (virtually, anything).

  2. Let’s move away from the term “screen time”.  It is being widely misused.  Instead, look at what kids are doing on their screens.  Are they learning?  Reading?  Writing?  Creating?  Think of it not in minutes per day, but what they are doing with their technology.  For the non- active moments, like watching YouTube, identify what they are doing.  Are they watching someone play a Minecraft game?  Get them back into their own Minecraft game and attempting some of those tricks.  Are they watching someone make Slime?  Get the ingredients and have your child make their own.  Even YouTube doesn’t need to be a passive activity. Move it into real life, and even collaborate with them.

  3. Look at our own tech use to have conversations with our kids.  Dr. Heitner was not the first to suggest that we should not be surprised by our children’s tech behavior when it mimics our own.  As an example - at night, do we get “cozy” with our tech?  Do we cuddle up with our phone/laptop?  Does it sleep with us?  Why are we then surprised when our teens want to do the same thing?

  4. Mentoring vs. Monitoring:  use a teaching framework in place of a policing one.  The idea is to maintain the conversation throughout your child’s years and developmental stages - the “tech use” discussion is not a one size fits all, one time talk.  Expect that your child will make mistakes on tech, not that they’ll handle it all perfectly.  Capitalize on those mistake moments (or even share your own!) to create a dialogue and teachable moment.  This is not to say that you don’t also want to monitor your child’s tech use, especially when they are first starting out texting or utilizing social media sites.  Just make sure it is open monitoring, not spying.  Let them know that you do this, and why you do so - make it part of the ongoing mentoring conversation.

  5. Don’t be mislead by your child’s comment that they “know more about [tech] than you do”.  They still need our guidance and our years of experience.  A perfect example?  Social exclusion.  That existed in our generation, and generations before us.  There were always parties, events, etc., that we weren’t always invited to.  This is natural, it occurs!  What is different for our kids?  They can watch it happen in real time as photos are posted on Instagram or Snapchats are taken.  What to do?  As a parent - step in and offer guidance.  “I know that this is disappointing.  It’s happened to me to.  Let’s do something together.  Do you want to watch a movie?  Netflix?  Go out for dinner/ice cream?”  Be the Plan B for your child, and have them put the phone down!.  Normalize their feelings, and keep them from wallowing in the “I am left out” moment.

  6. Texting is complicated by the fact that we aren’t present while “talking”.  This leads to a lot of misconstrued statements (“I don’t know what he meant by that?”).  On a developmental level, work with your child on texting given their age and experience.  Encourage them to identify how they feel before they respond to a text.  Are you upset?  Are you breathing - quickly or at all?  Are you frantically typing?  Pounding a keyboard?  Explain to them what to do.  Tell them about times you responded in haste, or waited (waiting always wins out).  Encourage them to work it out face to face.  AND - don’t share the text!  Don’t involve others, screenshot it, show it around.  Go to the source and talk in person.

  7. As your child for their permission before you post their picture.  This is excellent modeling for them on how to set boundaries with online photos.  Who knows?  It could become part of their norm - and you might just develop a teenager who asks their friends more often than not about posting their picture!

  8. Model your social media use for your child.  Discuss the difference between how many “friends” you have and how many friends you have.  Who are close friends?  How do you know?  Are followers the same as friends?  Remind them that a number is not representative of friendship.

  9. Tech use and distraction - a perfect example:  Is homework really taking so long?  Or is your child distracted?  Teach them “hacks” - tell your friends you are off messaging for the hour, turn off your WiFi, put your phone away, close your other tabs, etc.  When finished, discuss how good it feels to have the whole night spread in front of you.  Encourage them to make these choices for themselves and model how you do it with your own work.  

  10. Questions from the audience:

    1. What do you do in a social situation when you see all of the kids are on their phones?

      1. If you feel comfortable, lead the moment and make it more inclusive and present.  Find an activity for the group and get them to put their phones down.

      2. If your child is uncomfortable, and you don’t feel comfortable leading, allow your child to guide you.  Let them come up with something else they could do, or, ask them if they’d like to leave and honor that.

      3. If you are the host?  Be proactive.  Put a basket out and ask kids to unplug.  Set the expectation for your home and help kids normalize putting the phone down.  

      4. When other parents complain about your actions - OR - when your child is a guest in their home, try not to “techno shame” other parents.  Instead, share that your child is overly sensitive to ____, and it would help if they weren’t watching/doing _____.  Not - “I don’t let my kid use/do _____ because it’s not appropriate”.  

    2. When do you introduce your child to social media?

      1. Model your use, show it to them first.

      2. Start with texting before opening up the world of social media apps.

      3. Venture into social media one app at a time.

      4. Talk to your children about privacy.  Keep it relevant.  In middle school, have the discussion about what people can see. Maybe your middle schooler isn’t moved by what Rutgers will say when they view their pics.  Instead, keep it current.  Ex:  you know that ____’s mom monitors her phone.  What would her parents say about your post?  Would this be a disaster if someone shared it?  Forwarded it?  Sent it around?  Then, don’t post it!

As always, it was an informative event.  I hope that you can join us for upcoming topics.  Our next two events include:

For more information, please visit the RPS website to view the complete lineup for the 2017-18 Well-Being series.  



Media Usage, Cell Phones & Students:  Yet another interesting article was published this month on this very topic.  Check out this article from Business Insider.  We continue to stay abreast on this topic as a district.  I invite you all to attend our next district presentation, on January 11, as we work with local cell phone providers to inform and update parents on the latest they can do to keep their students safe and exhibiting positive behaviors.  The calendar of events can be found here.  This discussion was springboarded by our work with the book, The Big Disconnect, from last year’s community outreach program.  Consider putting that, and Screenwise on your 2018 reading lists!  It literally will take a village to tackle these issues together.  




Long Range Planning Team Meeting:  Last month, we held our first (of 3) Long Range Planning Team meetings.  Please note - the LRPT will play a major role this year in helping to shape our areas of interest for fundraising at our auction this May!  We invite any and all interested community members to come out and join in this process.  

At our meeting in November, the following topics were discussed.  Each will be researched and followed up on at our next meeting (1/17/18).  Following our March meeting (3/21/18), information regarding fundraising options will be put out to vote by the HSA.  We hope to have everyone informed and involved!  Please see below for our current areas of interest, in no particular order:

  • Updating our Performance Space:  Investigating updating/refurbishing curtains, upgrading stage lighting to LED’s

  • Making a Difference - Creating a Philanthropic Connection:  Identifying and connecting with a “sister” school in an area of need, locally or internationally, to support and connect with on an annual basis

  • Beautification & Aesthetics:  Creating a mural for our front school wall, completing remaining landscaping work near back playground, front school bed, amphitheater and cafetorium area

  • Playground Upgrading:  Repurposing basketball court to accommodate 3 smaller courts with adjustable rims, repainting and adding in additional blacktop games, refurbishing and repainting games on Kindergarten blacktop

Again, each of these topics will be discussed in greater detail at our next meeting on Wednesday, 1/17/18, at 7 PM at Orchard School.  Any and all are welcome to attend, listen, and add to our work together!




As with every monthly update, we need reminders about our procedures and policies here at Orchard.  Please read below on two items of note:

  • Holiday Sing-A-Long:  Our annual holiday sing along will take place on Friday, December 22, at 9 AM.  All are invited to come and participate in this memorable event as we kick off the holiday break!

  • Important Dates:  Please check our website, review the list below, and use the HSA Google calendar to keep up to date on the happenings at Orchard School!

  • Link and follow our Google Calendar for HSA events!  Go to this link and click on the +Google Calendar in the right bottom corner.  

  • Lunch Ordering:  Another reminder for ordering lunch through Village Fresh.  All orders are placed online.  Orders must be in by 8:00 AM, otherwise, they will not be delivered on that day.  December lunch begins Friday!  Thank you!

Please review the list of dates below for upcoming events at our school.  I look forward to seeing you at the upcoming Long Range Planning Team meeting on 1/17 and other district events.



Mrs. Ferreri




Upcoming events:

12/5 -6: Book Fair!

12/14:  Grade 3 Play, 9 AM

12/11:  Community Outreach Program:  Communicating about Puberty with Special Needs Youth, 7 PM, Education Center (49 Cottage Place)

12/15:  HSA Holiday Luncheon

12/21:  Spirit Day

12/22:  Minimum Day; Holiday Sing a Long, 9 AM ~ all are invited!


1/11:  Tech Night:  Hands On Support from Service Providers, 7 PM

1/15:  No School - MLK Jr. Observance

1/17:  Long Range Planning Team Meeting, 7 PM, Orchard School

1/18:  CBA - Choose to Be Nice; HSA Meeting 9:15 AM - Spotlight Grade 3

1/19:  Bingo Night!  6:30 PM, Orchard School

1/23:  Winter Concert, 1:30 PM (Grades 4&5 Perform)

1/24:  Community Outreach Program:  How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World, 7 PM, GWMS

1/26:  Wizards Basketball Game, 7 PM, RHS Gym