Flag Football Team Wears Hijab To Support Irum Khan, Muslim Player, At Florida School


Hijab Sports

A flag football team took a stand against discrimination by donning hijabs in support of their Muslim teammate.

Members of the West Broward High School team wore the traditional Muslim headdress during the final game of their regular season in order to support their 17-year-old captain, Irum Khan, who has often been the victim of name-calling and racial slurs because of her faith, the Sun Sentinel reports.

Players wore the the colorful scarves while performing their pre-game warm-ups, though uniform regulations forced them to remove the headdresses before hitting the field.

The gesture opened the eyes of teammates like senior Marilyn Solorzano, who said she admired Kham for sticking to her beliefs.

“Everybody looked at us weird,” Solorzano told the Sun Sentinel. “I understand now everything she went through and how hard it must have been. We just wore it for one day, and we noticed the difference.”

Visit the Sun Sentinel online to read the full story on Irum Khan and her teammates.

Khan joins the ranks of Muslim women like fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, who are working to break barriers and empower others.

Muhammad, who is competing for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, said she believes a person’s faith or race does not dictate her future.

“I think my motto in this whole experience is that sports is something you can do in hijab, and you shouldn’t let your faith compromise how athletically gifted you become,” Muhammad told HuffPost blogger Laura Tillman.

If successful, Muhammad could be the first U.S. athlete to wear a hijab in the Olympics.

In the past, the hijab has been a topic of controversy in sports, such as soccer, where top organizations have banned women from wearing the traditional headscarf during play.

The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), however, is now considering the allowance of custom-made “sports hijabs” that are fitted to athletes, the QMI Agency reports.

Similarly, Caroline De Lazzer, coach of the UAE women’s jiu-jitsu team, is taking a stand against regulations that prohibit women from participating in international competitions while wearing the hijab, the National reports.

Unlike the organization in the UAE, the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) currently doesn’t allow women to participate in competitions while wearing the headdress.

De Lazzer asks that women be able to wear the sports hijabs and cites other sports that allow the garment.

“The headscarf is permitted and worn without incident in several competitive sports including taekwondo, an Olympic sport,” De Lazzer told the National. “Even [FIFA] are rethinking lifting the ban on the headscarf, so I am very hopeful we will receive a [favorable] response.”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Irum Khan as Irum Kham.

“Where’s the Joy in Learning?”

April 19, 2012 | 10:47 AM | By

Where’s the Joy in Learning?


A school is not a desert of emotions,” begins an article by Finnish educators Taina Rantala and Kaarina Määttä, published last month in the journal Early Child Development and Care. But you’d never know that by looking at the scientific literature.

“In the field of educational psychology, research on feelings is lacking,” the authors note, “and the little that does exist has focused more on negative rather than positive feelings.” Rantala, the principal of an elementary school in the city of Rovaniemi, and Määttä, a professor of psychology at the University of Lapland, set out to remedy this oversight by studying one emotion in particular: joy.

The researchers followed a single class through first and second grade, documenting the students’ emotions with photographs and videos. Through what they call “ethnographic observation,” Rantala and Määttä identified the circumstances that were most likely to produce joy in the classroom. No doubt many pupils would agree with this example of their findings: “The joy of learning does not include listening to prolonged speeches.”

Such teacher-centric lessons are much less likely to generate joy than are lessons focused on the student, the authors report. The latter kind of learning involves active, engaged effort on the part of the child; joy arrives when the child surmounts a series of difficulties to achieve a goal. One of the authors’ videos shows seven-year-old Esko, tapping himself proudly on the chest and announcing, “Hey, I figured out how to do math!” A desire to master the material leads to more joy than a desire to simply perform well, Rantala and Määttä add: joy often accompanies “the feeling of shining as an expert.”

Joy often accompanies “the feeling of shining as an expert.”

Likewise, the joy of learning is more likely to make an appearance when teachers permit students to work at their own level and their own pace, avoiding making comparisons among students. The authors recommend that children be taught to evaluate and monitor their own learning so they can tell when they’re making progress. Some pupils will take longer than others—as Rantala and Määttä write, “The joy of learning does not like to hurry.” Because joy is so often connected to finishing a task or solving a problem, they point out, allowing time for an activity to come to its natural conclusion is important. Granting students a measure of freedom in how they learn also engenders joy. Such freedom doesn’t mean allowing children to do whatever they want, but giving them choices within limits set by a teacher. These choices need not be major ones, the authors note: “For us adults, it makes no difference whether we write on blue or red paper, but when a student can choose between these options, there will be a lot of joy in the air.”

Not surprisingly, play was a major source of joy in the classroom Rantala and Määttä observed (even when that play was not exactly what a teacher would wish: the researchers’ video camera caught one student fashioning a gun out of an environmental-studies handout). “Play is the child’s way of seeking pleasure,” the authors write, and it is a learning activity in itself; it shouldn’t be viewed as “a Trojan horse” in which to smuggle in academic lessons. Lastly, sharing and collaborating with other students is a great source of joy. One of the authors’ videotapes shows a student reacting with pleasure when a classmate, Paavo, says, “You are so good at making those dolls!” The researchers conclude: “Joy experienced together, and shared, adds up to even more joy.”

Finland leads the world in its scores on international tests, and the country has become an educational model for many in the U.S. Rantala and Määttä’s paper is a welcome reminder that academic excellence can coexist with delight.

Link to the original article

“How Should Schools and Parents Be Involved in Kids’ Online Lives?”

How Should Schools and Parents Be Involved in Kids’ Online Lives?


By Matt Levinson

Parents are constantly grappling with how to deal with online privacy issues with their kids. Issues about whether to share passwords to email and social media accounts, whether to filter or monitor Web sites, and how much leeway to give kids of different ages as they experiment with their online identities.

Because kids spend most of their time at school, it’s not unusual when questions about these issues come up at school but have to be dealt with at home — and vice versa.

A recent example presented itself when a parent discovered that her middle-school-age daughter was interested in a social network site called Zorpia, which bills itself as a site to “share unlimited photos, post journals and make friends.” She found out about it by reading her daughter’s email, a policy they had both agreed to.

But after reading a review of the site, the mother was concerned about whether it was too risky to allow her daughter to interact with strangers online. She wrote to the daughter’s school “in the spirit of keeping the school abreast of what is going on off-campus” and with the goal of “educating more parents about the types of sites that exist and what are some good, common-sense ground rules.”

The goal is to maintain open communication, explaining to kids the responsibility that comes along with having an email account.

This incident brings up a few complicated issues, including whether parents should be reading kids’ private emails, and how parents should deal with open social media sites.

But even before addressing those questions, should schools even be involved in this conversation? Is this an issue for each family to sort out among themselves? One of the reverberating effects of online life is the fluidity of the connection between different environments, and with an instance like this, school and home become inextricably tied. Off-campus activity plays out on-campus, at recess, in the lunchroom and on the bus. Word travels quickly, both verbally and through texts and emails, and some schools prefer to become a part of the conversation in order to help parents and kids build a safe community, online and offline.


When it comes to deciding about kids and parents sharing their passwords, the most important goal is to maintain open communication, explaining to kids the responsibility that comes along with having an email account, and the need to ask an adult for help if the child feels uncomfortable with the nature of any online exchange. It’s a big responsibility, though, and changes with a kid’s age. Is it too much to ask of a 10- or 11-year old to know what’s worthy of alarm?

Some kids and parents decide the parent can have email access, but as kids get older and want more independence and privacy, those agreements may change. Some parents and kids agree to keep kids’ password in a sealed enveloped, promising only to open the seal when there’s a question of safety. Others figure out an arrangement with a parent’s close friend or relative with sound judgment who has emergency access to the email. The goal is to let kids know they’re not alone.

Whether kids under 13 are ready for open social media sites like Zorpia is another thorny issue. Zorpia has more than 24 million users, and a large international community, which could provide a great way for kids to interact with other kids from across the world. But reviews of the site mention plenty of criticism about unsolicited and inappropriate messaging when its privacy settings blocking strangers are not in place.

Bottom line: Kids are curious. They hear about a new site or tool and they want to find out what it’s all is about. It can be exciting and enticing to enter into a social network, and it’s important to acknowledge that interest with kids. Facebook is flooded with millions of under-13 users and kids are going to want to explore social networking.

But rather than instill unnecessary fear of stranger danger, when talking with kids about privacy, anonymity and creating online identities, a few questions to ask:

  • How would you respond if a stranger tried to contact you through a social media site?
  • What would you do if you found out that one of your friends was talking to random strangers?
  • When would you go to an adult for help if something uncomfortable happened?
  • Why are you interested in social media sites?
  • Where do you find out about them? What do you friends say?
Matt Levinson is the Head of the Upper Division at Marin Country Day School in Corte Madera, Calif. and the author of From Fear to Facebook: One School’s Journey.

“The Flight From Conversation”

A New York Times article by Sherry Turkle, a psychologist and professor at M.I.T., on the lost art of conversation due to social media and mobile technology devices.

The Flight From Conversation

Photographs by Peter DaSilva and Byron Smith, for The New York Times
Published: April 21, 2012
Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

At home, families sit together, texting and reading e-mail. At work executives text during board meetings. We text (and shop and go on Facebook) during classes and when we’re on dates. My students tell me about an important new skill: it involves maintaining eye contact with someone while you text someone else; it’s hard, but it can be done.

Over the past 15 years, I’ve studied technologies of mobile connection and talked to hundreds of people of all ages and circumstances about their plugged-in lives. I’ve learned that the little devices most of us carry around are so powerful that they change not only what we do, but also who we are.

We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being “alone together.” Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another, and also elsewhere, connected to wherever we want to be. We want to customize our lives. We want to move in and out of where we are because the thing we value most is control over where we focus our attention. We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one, loyal to our own party.

Our colleagues want to go to that board meeting but pay attention only to what interests them. To some this seems like a good idea, but we can end up hiding from one another, even as we are constantly connected to one another.

A businessman laments that he no longer has colleagues at work. He doesn’t stop by to talk; he doesn’t call. He says that he doesn’t want to interrupt them. He says they’re “too busy on their e-mail.” But then he pauses and corrects himself. “I’m not telling the truth. I’m the one who doesn’t want to be interrupted. I think I should. But I’d rather just do things on my BlackBerry.”

A 16-year-old boy who relies on texting for almost everything says almost wistfully, “Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.”

In today’s workplace, young people who have grown up fearing conversation show up on the job wearing earphones. Walking through a college library or the campus of a high-tech start-up, one sees the same thing: we are together, but each of us is in our own bubble, furiously connected to keyboards and tiny touch screens. A senior partner at a Boston law firm describes a scene in his office. Young associates lay out their suite of technologies: laptops, iPods and multiple phones. And then they put their earphones on. “Big ones. Like pilots. They turn their desks into cockpits.” With the young lawyers in their cockpits, the office is quiet, a quiet that does not ask to be broken.

In the silence of connection, people are comforted by being in touch with a lot of people — carefully kept at bay. We can’t get enough of one another if we can use technology to keep one another at distances we can control: not too close, not too far, just right. I think of it as a Goldilocks effect.

Texting and e-mail and posting let us present the self we want to be. This means we can edit. And if we wish to, we can delete. Or retouch: the voice, the flesh, the face, the body. Not too much, not too little — just right.

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Survey Results: 1 out of 10 Women Feel Attactive

Troubling results from a recent study regarding the self-esteem of women in the United Kingdom.

Are You Attractive? 9 out of 10 Women Say NO

A UK survey explores the rules of attraction

A thousand women were recently surveyed on the topics of beauty and confidence. The Dove Body Confidence Census 2012, conducted in the UK among women aged 18 to 64, suggests that low self-esteem apparently runs quite high.

“If you ask a normal woman on the street how she describes herself — her looks, her body — the biggest response that comes back is that she feels average,” said a spokesperson for Dove in an interview with Female First. “Only 2 percent of women are saying, ‘I’m beautiful’ and only 1 in 10 are saying, ‘I feel attractive.’ That’s just not where we want to be.”

The survey contains telling insights, though you can’t quite call it a serious scientific study. It’s no mistake that the survey was conducted by Dove, the body-products company whose self-esteem campaign has been noted for challenging modern body-image norms — or at least the norms in advertising and the media. The models in Dove print and television ads would be dubbed “plus-sized” by the fashion industry, while the rest of us would call them “people-sized.” Much to their credit, Dove also has a social mission to inspire good role modeling for young people, and is partnered with kid-influencing organizations like the Girl Scouts and the Boys & Girls Clubs Of America. We won’t hold against Dove that it’s made by the same global corporation that produces Axe, whose commercials for male grooming products perpetuate the exact stereotypes Dove is trying to wash away. Unilever also makes Popsicles and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. But we digress.

Why the apparent lack of confidence among women? And are the results reliable, or might someone who’s genuinely beautiful inside and out have the grace not to say so? It seems like a no-brainer to blame low self image on media outlets at large, given all the bony butts on display in commercials, movies, and magazine covers. Yet the highest percentage of survey subjects — one in four — said the biggest pressure to be beautiful comes from within. “Society” was the second culprit. Only one in ten women blamed the media. A mere five percent felt pressure from friends, family, and partners.

“Being loved” was the greatest confidence booster of all, and half of all women said they feel more confident when they are complimented. Curiously, the number of compliments women delve out drops as women get older. Does that indicate that beauty gets deprioritized with maturity, or just that older women become less generous? The survey doesn’t say. But what does seem clear is that no matter how likely a woman may be to appreciate what she sees in the mirror, she just won’t believe her eyes till someone else tells her to.

Tell us on Facebook: Do you think you’re attractive?

REACH Prep Luncheon

I had the great honor of attending yesterday’s REACH Prep benefit luncheon.  See below for REACH Prep’s mission statement:

“REACH Prep helps motivated and talented Black and Latino students from low to moderate income families gain admission to and thrive in competitive independent schools in Fairfield and Westchester Counties and The Bronx. Upon placement, students benefit from an eight-year educational continuum–including comprehensive academic enrichment, leadership training and supplementary individual and family guidance–which prepares them to succeed at competitive colleges.”

REACH Prep scholars are chosen from a large pool of applicants; chosen participants participate in an intensive fifteen-month program including two six-week summer sessions and Saturday classes throughout the school year.  There is no fee for partipation in the program as all expenses are covered through individual and corporate donations. 

Sacred Heart, one of the founding members of REACH Prep, is one of twenty-five independent schools that supports the program.  We currently have four REACH Prep scholars in the Middle School and look forward to having two more girls join us for the 2012-2013 school year.  Yesterday’s luncheon featured information on the accomplishments of previous REACH Prep scholars and served as a great reminder of our call to provide a quality education for all children.  It also reminded me of Sacred Heart foundress Sr. Sophie Barat’s words: “I would have founded the society for the sake of a single child.”

For more information, or to support REACH Prep, visit their website.

FYI: Sacred Heart also support students from Prep for Prep and A Better Chance.

“Attention Problems May Be Sleep-Related”

 A New York Times Article


April 16, 2012

Getty Images

Diagnoses of attention hyperactivity disorder among children have increased dramatically in recent years, rising 22 percent from 2003 to 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But many experts believe that this may not be the epidemic it appears to be.

Many children are given a diagnosis of A.D.H.D., researchers say, when in fact they have another problem: a sleep disorder, like sleep apnea. The confusion may account for a significant number of A.D.H.D. cases in children, and the drugs used to treat them may only be exacerbating the problem.

“No one is saying A.D.H.D. does not exist, but there’s a strong feeling now that we need to rule out sleep issues first,” said Dr. Merrill Wise, a pediatric neurologist and sleep medicine specialist at the Methodist Healthcare Sleep Disorders Center in Memphis.

The symptoms of sleep deprivation in children resemble those of A.D.H.D. While adults experience sleep deprivation as drowsiness and sluggishness, sleepless children often become wired, moody and obstinate; they may have trouble focusing, sitting still and getting along with peers.

The latest study suggesting a link between inadequate sleep and A.D.H.D. symptoms appeared last month in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers followed 11,000 British children for six years, starting when they were 6 months old. The children whose sleep was affected by breathing problems like snoring, mouth breathing or apnea were 40 percent to 100 percent more likely than normal breathers to develop behavioral problems resembling A.D.H.D.

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“Coping with Disappointment”

by Dr. Roni Cohen-Sandler
Local clinical psychologist, author and speaker


Although dealing with disappointment is an important and inescapable part of childhood, one of the hardest things for parents is seeing kids fall short of their goals. Not only does it hurt us to see them feeling sad, disappointed, or rejected, but also it’s challenging to know how to help them. Yet our response, and the lessons it teaches our children, is vital to their development. Typically, life gives us plenty of opportunities–for example, dealing with a 11-year-old who doesn’t make a premier sports team, a 14-year-old who gets turned down by a competitive orchestra, a 16-year-old who isn’t elected to student government, or a 13-year-old who doesn’t get a leading role in the school play. In my view, how we respond powerfully shapes the way our teens and tweens process these experiences, feel about themselves, and make future decisions.

During the past weeks, when many high school seniors heard back from colleges, I was reminded many times of our key parental roles. Of course, it is far easier to respond helpfully when our teens are accepted to their dream schools. But this year many students and their parents were shocked by rejections from colleges they considered “safeties” rather than “matches.” In many cases, the news sent families reeling.

Mothers and fathers reported feeling “awful” or sick,” “unable to sleep,” and withdrawing from people to avoid having to talk about college. These initial reactions to disappointment are perfectly normal and understandable. By acknowledging our feelings, we are modeling for our kids that it is okay to be upset and distressed when they don’t get what they want–whether it’s a romantic partner, internship, or graduate school slot. And then we all have to move on.

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“At a Brooklyn School, the Cool Crowd Pushes the King Around”

A New York Times article:

Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

Chess master James A. Black (in track suit) with the I.S. 318 team and their national trophy.

By and
Published: April 17, 2012

The classroom at Intermediate School 318 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, was filled on Tuesday with the thumping and clattering of a half-dozen high-speed chess matches, played with a rambunctious energy more reminiscent of a hockey game than of Garry Kasparov and Deep Blue.

Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

Sixth-grade chess players at I.S. 318, whose answering machine announces, “Home of the national chess champions.”

The school’s conquering heroes — its chess players — were blowing off steam. On Sunday, in Minneapolis, they became the first middle school team to win the United States Chess Federation’s national high school championship. The team, mostly eighth graders, beat out top high schools like Stuyvesant in Manhattan and Thomas Jefferson in Alexandria, Va.

The victory burnishes what is already a legend in the chess world. At I.S. 318, more than 60 percent of the students come from families with incomes below the federal poverty level. Yet each stairwell landing bristles with four-foot chess trophies, and the school celebrities are people like James A. Black Jr. A 13-year-old with twinkly eyes and curly eyelashes, James is not a football hero or a valedictorian, but a certified chess master who gently corrects his teachers on the fine points of strategy.

Watching over a particularly raucous game on Tuesday, James, wearing a black sweatsuit and a huge book bag, took notice of the moment when only kings and pawns were left. “Automatic draw,” he declared. “Insufficient mating material.”

I.S. 318 is a perennial powerhouse, often sweeping middle school national championships against exclusive schools where more students can afford private lessons. A recent graduate, Rochelle Ballantyne, has secured a chess scholarship to the University of Texas-Dallas — though she is still a student at Brooklyn Tech — and aims to be the first African-American female master in chess history. Even before the big win, Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the No. 1 ranked player in the world, was scheduled to visit the students next week.

But the new milestone means something more, say school officials, who express hope that it will help the program survive budget cuts that threaten chess and other after-school and elective programs across the city.

“The difference in mental development between a junior high school kid and a high school kid is impossible to overstate,” said Elizabeth Spiegel, the school’s full-time chess teacher, who helped turn a small after-school program into a national contender, the core of the school’s identity and the focus of a recently completed documentary, “Brooklyn Castle.”

The school placed second in the high school competition in 2011. This year, I.S. 318 and Manhattan’s elite Hunter College High School tied for first, but I.S. 318 took home the first-place trophy because its opponents in the tournament won more games than Hunter’s.

Remarkable as it is, the accomplishment is not as unimaginable as it would have been 20 years ago, when players developed more slowly. But computers and better training methods have made 13-year-old masters less rare than they once were. Last year, a Chinatown elementary school, Public School 124 Yung Wing, placed first at the high school tournament, albeit in a lower-rated division.

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