From the President...
We are wrapping up this most unusual school year with our two most beloved programs for students: Middle School Forum and Sixth Grade Ethics Day. Of course these are both being run differently this year, but we know they will be as impactful for students as they head into these transition years. Thank you to our Youth Advisory Council for their hard work in preparing the programs and to our elementary and middle school teachers and counselors who are our program implementers this year!

We are looking for enthusiastic volunteers with elementary, middle or high school school children who want to be part of a larger community-focused nonprofit like the SCC. Most of us on the board now are former PTA/PTO volunteers and agree that the commitment is smaller! Please contact us if you are interested.

And finally for some return to normalcy, we are holding our annual meeting June 8, 7-8:30 pm at the McLean Community Center. As always, this meeting is open to the public. We will briefly review this year and discuss plans for next year.

As always, let us know how the SCC can help in your community, school, and home.

Elizabeth Hale, President
SCC in the Community
A Brighter 2021: Ending the School Year Strong
With just a few weeks remaining of the school year, helping students finish the school year strong while also laying the groundwork for how to thrive this spring and summer is a top concern for local parents and caregivers.
To reach a wide audience with strategies that could help, the Safe Community Coalition hosted their annual spring speaker virtually in a webinar presented by international author and educator Ana Homayoun entitled “A Brighter 2021: Ending the School Year Strong” hosted by the Safe Community Coalition on Tuesday, April 13. 

“As we near the end of the school year, the level of grief and exhaustion from the past year is coming our out more and more,” said Homayoun. “We’ve been running a marathon since last March and now that we’re nearing the finish line, the wheels come off and there’s a sense of exhaustion.”

As an author, educator and school strategist, Homayoun noted the challenges she’s seeing in the remote learning environment, including managing distractions and staying focused; planning out time to complete work; keeping track of where individual teachers assign work and would like the work to be submitted (and when the work is due); social-emotional disconnect from classmates; and navigating various learning platforms by class with different teachers using different portals with non-uniform expectations. 

As kids transition from online to a hybrid or in-person learning environment, another set of challenges emerge. To help, Homayoun recommends having a system for organizing notes, homework, and quizzes that can be used in both remote and in-person models; identifying strategies for how to check school portals for upcoming assignments and missing work daily; using paper planners to visualize work blocks and due dates; and ensuring kids know how to effectivelycommunicate effectively with teachers.
Here are the six recommendations Homayoun offered to finish the year strong academically, socially, emotionally and physically:
Acknowledge and Validate “Where are your kids now in their journey, and what do they need?” she asked.  Acknowledging and validating their experience is often the first step in reframing our expectations and supporting students during this time. 

Focus on Energy Levels and Mood Management “People talk about procrastination as if it’s a time management problem because that’s what it looks like, but in reality it’s a mood management issue,” said Homayoun. Procrastinators have lower self-compassion and are harder on themselves, and they easily fall into shame spirals which can aggravated by varying energy levels.

Provide Time, Structure and Support Parents and caregivers do not have to do this all themselves. Family friends, older cousins, relatives, to can sit with a student for 20 minutes, in person or even virtually. A little extra support system can greatly reduce the tendency to procrastinate. “Hybrid is hard to navigate when you think about two different situations – kids need a little bit of side-by-side extra time, structure and support.” 

Promote Daily Movement and Intentional Transitions to Start and End the Day Aches, pains, and headaches are the physical consequences of the extended disruption, social isolation, and stress are taking a toll on our bodies. Encourage students to identify two to three different daily habits that bring them joy, calm or energy with varying time levels, from 1 minute to half an hour or more. Examples could be one minute of deep breathing, 10 minutes of shooting hoops and 15 minutes of walking the dog. 

Encourage Self-Exploration of Hobbies, Interests, and New Pursuits (or Continuing Old Ones) Last spring many students had sports or other activities cancelled and had the opportunity to learn new skills, hobbies or sports. Now that more activities are becoming available again, ask students for three to five examples of things they’d like to explore, spend more time on, or try that’s that are available right now. “How do we help our kids use this time as a sense of exploration?” asks Homayoun, “because none of us are going to be coming out of this last 12 months the same.”

Practice Grace When we look back in this unique moment of time in our lives and in American history, our goal above everything else is that our kids emerge socially, emotionally and physically intact. Parents, especially those feeling exhausted or overwhelmed, need to acknowledge what we need for ourselves to be able to help our children. Outsourcing, asking for help, or going to plan B instead of plan A are all ways to think about giving yourself a new outlook. 
Middle School Forum

Our Youth Advisory Council, comprising 80 McLean and Langley HS students have completed the 2021 Middle School Forum
(MSF) and sent it off to Cooper and Longfellow. Twenty-two of these students served in leadership roles as part of the Planning and Training Team (PTT) and met with middle and high school administrators to plan how they would design and deliver MSF virtually. They planned and facilitated breakout groups on Zoom and helped new YAC members get to know their peers and feel welcome in the group.

Over three sessions, including one with guidance from a film editor on digital storytelling, they created Padlets, collaborative, digital bulletin boards for topics specific to Langley and McLean, and a video answering previously submitted questions from current 8th graders. YAC shared strategies on how to reduce stress, build new friendships, stay connected with people during the time of COVID, amid other important-to-middle-school-student topics.

See the Padlet and some of our very impressive YAC members!
Heading to College

Having addressed the transitions from elementary to middle school and middle to high school, we will also add some resources we have gathered on the transition from high school to college.

Among our Managing the Moments videos designed and produced this year is one that is relevant EVERY year: Managing the Moments Episode 12, How to Launch Your Kid to College. The link includes slides to go along with the video, which covers topics including conversations, expectations, friendships, mental and physical health, documents, and when to step in and how to step away.

These short videos are produced by the psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers of the SCC’s Mental Health Committee and supported by generous funding from the New Dominion Women’s Club. Topics selected reflect what they are seeing both in their private practices and on the homefront. 

The total library includes:

  1. Deescalating Conflict
  2. Effective Communication
  3. How to Talk to Your Parents
  4. Brain Breaks During Distance Learning
  5. Self-Care and Calming Techniques
  6. How Are You?
  7. Coping With the Holidays
  8. Creating Coping Capacity
  9. Connecting Through Play
  10. Anxiety in School
  11. Your Daily Prescription to Cope with Covid
  12. Launching Your Kid to College
  13. Building Resilience
  14. Supporting Your Teen through Covid-19

All videos and accompanying tip sheets are free and available on the SCC website, mcleanscc.org. Make sure to bookmark the page and watch any time!
Dranesville Leaders Connect

Throughout the year, the SCC has helped facilitate virtual gatherings between Elaine Tholen, the FCPS School Board Member for our area and PTA/PTSA/PTO leaders at all school levels. We just wrapped up our last session, and parent leaders and Elaine agree that this has been a worthwhile venture (in particular because it is virtual and not another meeting to attend) and plan to continue next year. Parent leaders have used the sessions to share information about what kind of activities they have held during the pandemic and how they’ve adjusted other events. They have gathered tips on increasing membership without the usual events to meet new families, celebrating and thanking faculty and staff without being onsite or holding luncheons, and making families, especially new ones, feel part of the school community. SCC representatives share our programs and facilitate speakers on a variety of topics for parent meetings. Several groups brought in members of our Mental Health Committee to their virtual meetings.

Incoming and outgoing leaders met this week to discuss Teacher Appreciation Week and graduation activities, brainstorm topics for future meetings, and share external resources they have found beneficial. We think one of the most lasting outcomes is that parent leaders learned they are not alone in managing their programs, and that they have a wealth of resources in other parent groups in the area. We are proud of this new cooperation and look forward to next year!
Upcoming Events
Sixth Grade Ethics Day

In the coming weeks, sixth graders in the Langley and McLean High School pyramids will participate in a modified Sixth Grade Ethics Day event. Instead of our usual day-long field trip, we are bringing our annual exercises in ethical decision making to students, by way of a video version of our talk.

Using social-emotional health curriculum time, school counselors will present a video describing the Could-Should-Would model. After a description of the model by our longtime Ethics Day presenter, the video presents members of our Youth Advisory Council describing various scenarios to which sixth graders will apply the model. Students are given a situation and then brainstorm together about what they COULD do in that situation. They consider the full range of possible responses regardless of whether they think of them as necessarily the “right” things to do. Next, they discuss what they SHOULD do, considering their own sense of morality and what parents, teachers, and other leaders think they should do. And finally, they talk about what they WOULD do. Counselors have been encouraged to start and stop the video to allow for critical discussion among students.

We do hope to return to our usual programming next year where students discuss in smaller groups, typically with adult volunteers, and to include the second half of our program day on the topic of bullying and being an ally.
Reading List
From the Washington Post

Kids need less academic pressure and more support after a year of isolation and learning losses By Kelly Glass

Finding the right balance between caring too much and caring too little is tough. Read more
From Challenge Success
Increased Stress In Kids by Denise Pope

This two-minute talk was recorded pre-pandemic, but the advice she gives to parents on how to support a child who feels overly stressed certainly applies to today’s environment. She reminds everyone to keep the big picture in mind and provides concrete questions you can ask your child to better understand their sources of stress.

Watch video and find more at Challenge Success.
Finding Motivation When You’re Depressed
One of the most challenging aspects of depression is the profound impact mood has on motivation. Depression often makes tackling even the simplest of tasks seem insurmountable. It can make it tough to go to work or school, keep the house clean, take care of basic hygiene, and even simply get out of bed. However, as the saying goes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Depressed people often tell themselves that they must wait for the energy to return. They think, “If I wait it out, if I give in to the urge to stay in bed and to isolate myself, I’ll find myself recharged and reenergized and the depression will be out of my system so I can get back to living my life.” Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.

The SCC thrives in its 25th year as an all-volunteer organization with funding from community grants and individual donors including the New Dominion Women’s Club, Rotary Club of McLean, McLean Community Foundation, the Zavela Foundation, and through the SCC Mental Health Committee. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and welcome all donations.