Marian’s Teaching Philosophy, Pt. 3: Content & Curriculum Expertise

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My content and curriculum expertise serves as the third philosophy facet. Although I possess advanced degrees, I am a life-long learner, avid reader and researcher, and conscientious about maintaining cutting-edge child development and education knowledge.

This requires participating in professional associations and conferences and learning from colleagues. I thoroughly enjoy returning from training and incorporating new ideas into my courses, writing, and speaking.

I absolutely love research. My most recent research topics include restorative practice in schools, peer mediation for elementary and junior high students, and faculty peer evaluations. What can I say? I’m a research geek.

During a CAEYC Play Conference, I documented my colleague and me learning through photographs. Then I created a PowerPoint presentation titled “Visual Documentation” for my Observation and Assessment college course. The students actually enjoyed seeing their professors “play” while they learned how to document their child observations using photographs.

New knowledge generates renewed energy. Students and speaking audiences are immediate beneficiaries. They experience firsthand the value of continuing education. education as I share what I learned and integrate new material into the course content.

Another favorite aspect of teaching is developing new curriculum and courses. The first phase is gathering research on the course topics. Then I categorize the massive amounts of information, choose the best materials, create interactive learning activities, and integrate it into existing content. As a curriculum specialist, I’ve applied my content knowledge by developing over twenty-five courses.

As an author, speaker, and educator, my web site features over 45 topics. Speaking categories include: Restorative Practices in Schools; Parenting Young Children; Patenting School Age Children; Parenting Adolescents; Topics for K-12 Educators; and Topics for College Professors. If you know a school, parent group, community group, or church looking for a speaker please consider one of my topics.


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Marian’s Teaching Philosophy, Pt. 2: Students & Teacher Learning Together

I’m sharing a series on the six facets of my teaching philosophy. The foundation of my philosophy is creating a safe and inclusive classroom environment.

My second teaching philosophy concept is that students and teacher are all learning together. As a vigorous and enthusiastic professor who enjoys education and interacting with students, I include myself as a learner.

I constantly discover new ideas from my students because I don’t possess the same background and experiences they offer. Everyone has something to contribute. Students bring life experiences that are critical to learning.

The safe environment fosters students asking questions and participating in small and large groups while processing and applying what they are learning. When I don’t know something, I reply, “That’s a great question. I don’t know the answer. Let’s find out.” One of my favorite questions was, “Does head size affect a child’s intelligence?”


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Marian’s Teaching Philosophy, Part 1: Creating a Safe & Inclusive Learning Environment

[]-2500644518_4 Creative Commons Bully Free ZoneMy coursework at Fresno State laid the foundation of my teaching philosophy. Through years of experience and refinement, my philosophy includes six components: creating a safe environment; we are all learners; content and curriculum expertise; education across the curriculum; multimodality teaching style; and reflection and assessment. Today I’ll address my first component.

The foundation of my philosophy is creating a safe and inclusive learning environment. If learners don’t feel safe and included, whatever I do as an instructor or speaker won’t matter.

Since students’ socioeconomic, cultural, age, educational, and ethnic backgrounds comprise a dramatic impact on their ability to learn, I generate a classroom environment that encourages individual differences by incorporating diversity and awareness whenever possible.

Creating a safe environment requires consistently role modeling and reinforcing the class guidelines: one person talks at a time and while we don’t have to agree with one another, we must demonstrate respect. I build students’ confidence by motivating and encouraging them while providing support skills, such as study and exam tips, resources, announcing workshops, and writing hints all within the course delivery.

As a college professor, I have my own office. An open office door policy encourages students to come in for personal and/or academic reasons. When I’m in my office, a steady stream of students comes by. Sometimes they let me know they found a job, lost a job or need a job.

Other times relationship crises bring tears. Unplanned pregnancies are a frequent topic. Sometimes students pop in to say hi and encourage me. Interestingly, most do not come by for academic support. No matter what the reason, my office is a happening place where I trust I’m making a difference in the lives of my students.


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New Resource: Easter Books for Children

Easter is just around the corner. Last year I didn’t update my Easter Books for Children for my resource page, so this year I covered two years. If you’re looking for books about bunnies, Easter eggs, chicks, and egg hunts, you don’t need any recommendations. These books are prolific. However, if you are looking for Easter books that tell the true Easter story from a Christian perspective, I can assist you.

Books for Little Ones

This spring I haven’t seen any “religious” Easter books at places where I shop. You may need to order books online. I arranged the book list by year & then by ages, starting with our youngest readers, 2 – 4/5 years. The Easter Story (Candle Books) is now available in a board book (2015). This book for little ones begins with the entry into Jerusalem and ends with the Ascension.

Thomas Nelson published God Bless Our Easter in a board book, Kindle, and paperback (2014). This book features many baby animals with the focus that each blessing comes from God. The third book for this age group is a Veggie Tales Book, The Great Easter Egg Hunt (Candy Cane Press, 2014). Junior finds an empty Easter egg and learns about the empty tomb and Jesus’ resurrection.

Books for 4 – 8 Years

There are a number of books in the 4 – 8 year age range. The Sparkle Egg story captured my attention (Ideals Children’s Books, 2014). This hardcover book illustrates God’s grace in a way children can understand. The 32 page hardcover book, The First Easter, tells the story of the last week of Jesus’ life (Lion Hudson, 2014). The Legend of the Easter Egg: The Inspirational Story of a Favorite Easter Tradition got a facelift in 2014 with all new illustrations (Zonderkidz).

Food Allergies?

I included a book that does not have any true Easter meaning but may be helpful to families whose children have food allergies. Dear Easter Bunny, I am Allergic to…: features Bonnie the Easter Bunny who visits bunnies with food allergies (2015). She reads a letter at each house to determine what kinds of treats to leave.

Armenian Culture

Mariam’s Easter Parade is a hardcover picture book set in the 1900’s about how people of the Armenian culture celebrate Easter (Pomegranate Publishing, 2015). I’m interested in the cultural aspects of this book including colorful costumes, parades, friends, and food. The final page explains how to decorate eggs the Armenian way. It is unclear how much of the book focuses on the true meaning of Easter.

Free Resource

The 2014 & 2015 Easter Books for Children features 16 books. Unfortunately, not all books have age recommendations. This resource list is available on my web page. Go to the “Writing” tab; then click on Resources. You can also access Children’s Easter Books compiled  2013.  Let me know how you like these books. Happy Easter to each one of you.


Restorative Justice: Oakland Schools Report Significant Positive Results taxonomy term 2956The Oakland Unified School District reports significant positive results using restorative justice at many of their sites, including elementary, middle, and high schools.

I’m only on page 29 of the 85 page report, but I just couldn’t wait to share some of the significant, positive results with educators, parents, and those I’m training in Restorative Practices!

In February I discovered the “new” September 2014 report Restorative Justice in Oakland Schools Implementation and Impacts Report: An Effective Strategy to Reduce Radically Disproportionate Discipline, Suspension and Improve Academic Outcomes.

This report was prepared by the Office of Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education. For those interested in methodology, the study capitalized on existing secondary data from multiple sources. Researchers used the existing student information system (AERIES) and the California Department of Education suspension and expulsion data files (p. iv)

A combination of qualitative and quantitative data was used to answer key questions. Mixed methods included focus groups RJ implementation survey, one-on-one semi-structured interviews, and informal discussions over the past year. Input was obtained from key stakeholders including students, teachers, RJ coordinators, Principals, Assistant Principals, and Program Manager (p. 61).

Restorative Justice (RJ) began in Oakland Unified School District 10 years ago with one site. During the 2013-2014 school year they had 24 sites. An implementation survey by 23 of the 24 sites reported that over 90% of their staff has been practicing RJ for less than three years.

Since five of the ten school site teams Marty Villa (Stanislaus County Youth for Christ) and I are training in Modesto, California are in their second year, these sites are only one year behind 90% of Oakland’s staff with three years experience. This observation made me even more curious to discover their results. The survey also indicated, “Over half of the staff said that it is very easy or easy to conduct restorative practices” (p. iv).

The report states results educators can get excited about. The impact of RJ participation addressed three areas: Reduced referrals for disruptive behaviors, repaired harm/conflict, and built developmental assets.

  • Eighty-eight percent of teachers found that Restorative Practices (RP) were very or somewhat helpful in managing difficult student behaviors in their classrooms while 63% of staff surveys note that RJ has improved the way students resolve conflicts not only with other students, but with adults (p. v).
  • One tenet of RP in Schools is making things right. One strategy Oakland uses is called Harm Circles. Almost 76% of the students successfully repaired the harm or resolved their conflict (p. v).

I’m frequently asked, “Do Restorative Practices really work?” I answer by sharing stories about students and staff that are changing the status quo. The report answers this question by stating,

Students in restorative justice circles report an enhanced ability to understand peers, manage emotions, have greater empathy, resolve conflict with parents, improve home environment, and maintain positive relationships with peers. They are learning life skills and sustainable conflict management skills (p. v).

These students improved their developmental assets, all while still engaged in the K-12 Common Core Standards designed to prepare them for college and careers.

Many school districts’ personnel express interest in RP when they discover the possibility of reducing suspension and expulsion rates. Sixty percent of Oakland Unified School District staff believes RP did just that. Suspensions declined significantly over the past 3 years (p. vi).

The most significant decline has been for African American students suspended for disruption/willful defiance, down from 1,050 to 630, a decrease of 40% or 420 fewer suspensions in only one year (p. vi).

Not only did suspension rates decrease, but academic outcomes improved. Chronic absenteeism in a middle school with RJ dropped by 24% compared to an increase in non-RJ middle schools of 62.3% (p. vi). I had to re-read that one a few times. I kept interrupting my husband to read aloud these vital statistics. Even he inquired, “What’s the name of this report? I need to get it.”

And what happens when students attend more school days? Reading levels increase, dropout rates decline, and graduation rates increase. Here are some statistics to support their findings:

  • The Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI) reading levels in grade nine doubled in RJ high schools an average of 14% to 33%. This was an increase of 128%, compared to 11% in non-RJ high schools.
  • School drop-out rates declined 56% from 2010-2013 in RJ high schools compared to 17% for non-RJ high schools.
  • For OUSD public schools with RJ in schools, four-year graduation rates increased significantly in the past 3-years. Researchers report a cumulative increase of 60% for RJ schools compared to 7% for non-RJ schools (p. vi).

Statistics can be manipulated by a wide variety of methods to obtain positive results. However, if you read more of the full report, you will discover substantial documentation for their findings. I recommend that educators, parents, and community members download the 85 page report or the nine-page Executive Summary using the link below.

What do you think? Do Restorative Practices make a difference in our K-12 schools?


Jain, Sonia Dr.PH, Henrissa Bassey, M.P.H., Martha A. Brown, M.Ed, Preety Kalra, Ph.D. Restorative Justice in Oakland Schools Implementation and Impacts Report: An Effective Strategy to Reduce Radically Disproportionate Discipline, Suspension and Improve Academic Outcomes. Prepared for the Office of Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, September 2014. OUSD Restorative Justice Home Page

3-Year-Old Development: Cognitive Milestones by Amy Aitman for

Cutting Shapes From PaperYour toddler is growing bigger and smarter by the day. Know which development milestones your 3-year-old is reaching so you can support and encourage her.

A 3-year-old enjoys all the world has to offer and wants to soak it all in. With your little one officially a preschooler, watching her imagination take flight is exciting. She’s beginning to think for herself and make logical connections and is developing the ability to really communicate and make sense her daily schedule.

“They become much more teachable at 3 as their cognitive milestones develop,” says education and child development specialist Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, founder of From Diapers to Diamonds. “Cognitive development at this age is all about how children learn and process information. They are becoming much more cooperative and have extensive verbal skills.” Here are some 3-year-old development milestones to look for over the coming year.

Cognitive Milestones

Your child is learning some preschool basics this year. She should correctly name some colors and may even know a few numbers, according to the Amercian Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Dr. Fritzemeier adds that your tot may know the alphabet and understand the concept of counting by the time she turns 4 — that one apple represents one thing, and two apples represents two things. Your little one is becoming a better problem solver, too, which usually means she wants to do everything herself — even if she can’t. Let her try, but be patient. Her motor skills will eventually catch up with her cognitive skills.

The concept of time is also starting to make more sense this year, as your 3-year-old starts to understand the parts of the day. Your tot will be more imaginative and will engage in more involved fantasy play, so she might visit Elsa in her frozen castle one day and turn into a superhero the next. She will start to tell you more about her day as her ability to remember and recall parts of a story improves. You’ll be amazed at the silly tales she’ll tell.

All parents worry about what kids’ development, but Dr. Danelle Frisbie, a positive-parenting expert and founder of Peaceful Parenting, says to remember that your child should grow, learn, explore and discover at her own pace. “You should not be concerned with her hitting benchmarks at the same time as her peers,” she says. With your guidance, development will occur naturally.

How to Help

“The best way to support your 3-year-old’s cognitive development is to support her language development,” Dr. Fritzemeier says. “And the best way to support her language development is by talking to her all the time, and reading to her every day.”

It’s also important to give kids the chance to make choices in order to develop their problem-solving skills. “Go to the grocery store and give your child a list of things she has to find and pick out herself,” Dr. Fritzemeier says. These everyday activities build cognitive skills in a way that is fun for a child.

Another everyday task your little one can help with is meal prep. “Cooking is one of the best activities you can do with your kids to build cognitive skills,” Dr. Fritzemeier says. “Let her measure out the list of ingredients, talking about them along the way.” Cooking lets kids learn about counting and sorting concepts, which is the precursor to math skills. “Your preschooler is a natural learner at this stage, and doesn’t need formal lessons to figure things out. Instead, give her lots of ways to explore the world on her own.”

This is the age when kids are getting ready for school, and you can see those verbal and cognitive skills really develop. Don’t worry too much if your child isn’t hitting the 3-year-old development milestones at the same time as other kids. Instead, Dr. Frisbie says to focus on what your child can do and what she enjoys.

For more developments, check out this overview of 3-Year-Old Milestones.

Amy Aitman is a professional freelance writer and writes her own mommy blog, mommypatter. She knows what it’s like to worry about a child’s development — her now 4-year-old has some cognitive and language delays, but is improving through early intervention and support. Published 3/19/2015 at


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No Choice Situations: Primary Decisions & Secondary Choices

All of us have situations in which there aren’t any choices, like living life. There are responsibilities that must be done. Children need to learn that they don’t always have a choice.

Many times decisions are made by parents or other adults. For example, parents are responsible for their children’s safety. For example, children can’t play with everything, like the stove or burner controls when helping make brownies. 1

Sometimes children can’t do something because of time constraints, like when parents need to drop the children off at pre-school or get to a medical appointment. Parents make the primary decision, it’s time to get ready, but then children can make subsequent, secondary choices, like what to wear.

A secondary choice for baking brownies is whether they want to pour in the water or crack the egg. Dr. Grossman, a child development expert, adds, “When children know that they will be given sufficient opportunities to choose for themselves, they are more willing to accept those important ‘no choice’ decisions adults must make for them.” 1

Today, when you have responsibilities you must do, make a primary decision. Then how can you allow your children to make secondary choices?


  1. “I did it myself!” Kate Southwood, Parenting, May 2006, pp. 118-120; 122-123.
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Introduction – “I Can Do It:” Responsibilities for Young Children

[] deck-chair-2-356294-mAfter five years of living in rainy Eugene, Oregon my husband and I were thrilled about the weather change when his job transferred our family to sunny, southern California.

His new boss required that we lived in the same city as he did, so we rented a home in very expensive Orange County. Every home in this planned community had a mandatory membership to Lake Mission Viejo.

Our four year-old preschooler and six-year- old first grade daughters loved the weather too. Almost daily after school, the three of us traipsed to the sun drenched lake. Both girls carried their own plastic pink or purple tote for their beach towel and any other items they wanted, such as sand toys. They were entirely responsible for packing their bags and toting them to and from the car and lake.

“But what if she forgot her towel?” parents retort.

“Then she was wet. Or maybe her sister kindly shared her towel.”

But the girls quickly learned, just as your young children will learn. They are responsible for their items, not Mommy or Daddy. Teaching this lesson when the stakes are low is invaluable as they get older. I know one mom who still packs her daughter’s bag for basketball practice. The daughter is a senior. Who’s going to pack her bag at college?

Just as our daughters learned about personal responsibility, in my talk, “I Can Do It:” Responsibilities for Young Children on March 10, we’re going to cover giving preschoolers choices to learn decision making; developing preschooler’s thinking skills; fostering independence and initiative with chores; actually implementing the chores; countering the myth, “It’s easier to do it myself”; ensuring success while making chores fun; and ages for responsibilities.


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Common Questions Parents Ask About Childhood Friendships, Part 2

What can happen if my child doesn’t have friends?

Potential consequences of a childhood spent alone can include being isolated, victimized by peers, or confused about why he/she doesn’t have friends. It can also result in problems adjusting to life and possible engagement with deviant behaviors.

What are some of the adult problems that can be avoided by learning to develop meaningful friendships as a child, and how are these childhood habits and adult issues related?

Unfortunately, the adult without social skills is often isolated, lonely, rejected, criticized by others, is not included in work-related activities, and can become the brunt of office jokes. Most adults know another adult who fits this description.

The Problem

Parents, relatives, coaches, teachers and other adults working with children without friends, did not serve these children well. Childhood habits and adult issues are closely related. If the skills are not “caught,” the skills need to be taught. Children, who don’t have social skills, will not just pick them up.

Be Proactive

Instead of ignoring and neglecting children who don’t exhibit basic social skills, adults can help prevent adult friendship challenges by teaching these skills to children. Educators now recognize that poor social skills will continue throughout adulthood unless the child is taught good skills.

Start Help Early

Early intervention can help children prior to entering kindergarten. Most states provide early intervention for toddlers and preschoolers who exhibit deficits in social and/or emotional development. Many elementary schools offer social skills groups for children so children can learn these skills. Children who lack social skills are being helped tremendously by being identified and taught basic interaction skills. Developing these critical skills will mean that fewer adults will experience adulthood without friends.


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Common Questions Parents Ask About Childhood Friendships, Pt. 1

It is important for children to have solid friendships because it offers them a greater sense of well-being, better self-esteem, makes school more fun, and results in fewer problems as adults.

How can parents help their child choose friends?

Parents can help children choose the right kinds of friends by modeling appropriate social skills. They can provide a variety of opportunities to play and socialize with other children and get to know their child’s friends. Observe your child’s skills and provide appropriate feedback through casual conversations. Parents can affirm positive skills and build additional skills by role playing with the child.

What if my child is shy?

Parents with an introverted child need to accept their child’s social style. However, there are ways they can help their child learn to make friends. Bring an ice-breaker with you, such as a toy or pet, to help draw kids to your child while visiting a park or other activities. Get your child involved in an activity, small group, or club with other children who have similar interests.

Why is it important for parents to accept their child’s introverted personality and not try to change them or push them to be more outgoing?

Years ago it was believed that children develop a temperament by age three, but children are born with an individual temperament. Some will be naturally outgoing and noisy, while others may be quiet and reserved. Not only does a parent need to consider the child’s temperament, but the child’s activity level. Often quieter children are less active than their boisterous counterparts.

Parents who push their children to become someone they are not increase the children’s stress levels. As children get older, they might begin to question whether their parents want them to be more like them or a sibling.

What are some of the positive friendship skills that parents should affirm and/or teach in their child and what are the best ways to do this?

Role modeling is significant. How parents interact with their children and their children’s friends helps the child learn positive friendship skills. For example, if friends come over, the parent may suggest, “Emily, maybe your friends would like a snack. I can help you.” Over time, offering a snack to friends becomes automatic for your child.

Friendship skills include how to join in with a group already playing, listening and communicating with their friends, demonstrating manners, including others in play, using kind words, letting others have a chance to choose the next game or activity, expressing compassion and empathy, and the delicate dance of give and take.

What if, in observing a play date, a parent notices that another child is not exhibiting positive skills? Should they interfere? If so, what is the best way to do so?

If you are the parent supervising a play date, address both children with a positive reminder. “Our friends like us to use our kind words instead of name calling.” Sitting with the children and interacting with them for a few minutes may also get them back on track.

When other parents are around, play dates can be tricky. Parents can teach children with verbal skills to say what they need. When parents don’t intervene in their child’s misbehavior, your child can stick up for him/herself. “Please stop throwing sand.” Or, “I don’t like it when you take my shovel.” This helps your child develop independence and communication skills.

If your child is younger or does not have the verbal and/or social skills to say what he/she needs, direct your conversation to your child. Again, a reminder often works. “Keep the sand in the sand box.” Often parents will follow your suggestion with their own child. If other parents allow their child to continue behaviors that are harmful to your child, find another area for your child to play. “We’re going home soon, so let’s play on the slide.”

What questions do you have about childhood friendships? I can address the questions in a future blog.


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