Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Spring Fever or Loss of Motivation

Submitted by Roni Gillenson

Spring Fever or Loss of Motivation:  How to Help Your Underachieving Teen
By Jennifer Jones, LCSW, Site Director, Palo Alto High School

                  It’s that time of year; the long winter is over, trees are blossoming, the temperature is warming, and we all want to go to the beach instead of to work.  That’s why Spring Break was invented.  But what if a week of vacation doesn’t revive and re-inspire?  What if that loss of interest in work isn’t temporary? As the Supervisor in a counseling center on a high school campus, I have been hearing a lot lately from parents and teens about a general loss of motivation and interest in doing well in school.  If it didn’t just start prior to spring break and isn’t “Senioritis;” if it’s been ongoing, what can parents do to increase a teen’s motivation to succeed?

                  As human beings we develop the motivation to please our parents as we receive nurturance, love, food and other basic needs from them.  As we grow from babies to toddlers and throughout childhood, we receive both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards for behaving appropriately and doing what we are told.  By the time we become independent adults, we have learned what happens when we “don’t behave,” when we procrastinate, don’t complete our tasks, act irresponsibly, or make poor choices. How we spend our time is our choice now and we deal with the consequences. Teenagers need to test; they need to find out “what will happen if…?” on their journey to adulthood.  Making poor choices or mistakes is part of the process. 

As parents, we have the most influence over our children’s lives, until they hit adolescence.  At this time, their focus turns to the outside world.  They begin to learn more from their friends, other adults, and the surrounding culture. They start behaving differently and want to spend less time with family, all normal developmental processes.  Their interests may broaden and motivators may change.  But when a parent notices a significant and alarming shift in their teen’s school performance it can be a cause for action. Two factors that tend to lead to a loss of motivation in teens, and which parents can still greatly influence, are:

1) Loss of self-confidence/self-esteem, and
2) Lack of control/choices in their life. 

Sometimes a very authoritarian-style of parenting, which includes lecturing, criticizing, having unrealistic expectations, and engaging in frequent power struggles with children can erode a child’s self-esteem.  If there are too many conditions for love and acceptance, the child may just give up entirely or chose to rebel by doing poorly. 

Sometimes we parents don’t realize we continue to parent our teens as if they are still younger children.  We haven’t shifted our parenting role to match their changing developmental needs.  We may continue to tell our teens what to do, when and how to do it, and how they should feel about it.  This can create dependence, low self-esteem and/or resentment.

Parents can help re-motivate their teens by empowering them to act responsibly.  Teens need to be given choices. Consequences of each choice can be explained while allowing the teen to make their own decision, and ultimately learn from their own mistakes. Parents can create a more respectful, cooperative environment by allowing teens to participate in creating the house rules.  Parents can be firm but kind, “I love you and I don’t like this behavior.”  Natural consequences are generally more effective than punishments.  Parents can involve teens in problem solving.  Parents can ask their teen what they think they should do in a given situation, leading the teen to finding a solution rather than telling them what the solution should be.  Parents can also help re-inspire their teens by doing the following:

1     1.   Provide unconditional support and acceptance
2      2.   Encourage teens to explore their passions, validate those passions and provide the tools necessary for exploration
3      3.   Help teens discover their unique strengths and abilities
4     4.    Set small, realistic goals, especially for the procrastinator
5     5.   Provide positive feedback and constructive criticism
6     6.   Provide incentives (money, electronics, more freedom, etc.)
     7.   Encourage teens to do volunteer work in their community

When something more serious is suspected, there is help out there for parents and teens.  Parents can go to their student’s Guidance Counselor, School Psychologist, Student Support Services or ACS Counselor to meet, discuss and figure out what is going on and where to access the best support, help and resources that is needed.

Teens respond to the same motivators as adults.  As parents we should remind ourselves about what motivates us, what it’s like to feel inspired, and how it feels to be successful - then consistently model that for our children.

Adolescent Counseling Services is a community non-profit, which provides vital counseling services on eight secondary campuses at no charge to students and their families. To learn more about our services please visit the ACS website at or call
Sabrina Geshay, LMFT, Site Director at Gunn (650) 849-7919.  ACS relies on the generosity of community members to continue offering individual, family, and group counseling to over 1,500 individuals annually.  ACS provides critical interventions and mental health services, building a better future for tomorrow. If you are interested in helping to support our efforts, do not hesitate to call
to make a donation.  It goes a long way in helping teenagers find their way!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Site Council Agenda May 6

Submitted by Rene Hart

May 6, 2013  3:55pm Staff Lounge

CALL TO ORDER                                                                                      Geoff Butner
OPEN FORUM:  Members of the public may address the Council on non-agenda
                            Items.  (LIMIT of FIVE MINUTES per person.)
Approval of April 8, 2013 Meeting Minutes (five minutes)
Elana Zizmor information on proposal #2
Data from Titan 101 Surveys/Overview Titan 101                                  Daisy Renazco
Safe Schools Plan Approval                                                                    James Lubbe
Final Discussion and Decision of New Proposals
Evaluation Presentations
       #11 Judy Adams/Cindy Peters     
Agenda Lightning Round - List of Critical Topics not on the Agenda
    (To add to end of agenda or for future agendas or follow up)
Constituency Representatives’ Reports
§  Principal’s Report                                                                       Katya Villalobos
     Call for Principal’s Cup Committee
     Update on School Activities/Student, Faculty Achievements
                  Update on GAC and Gunn One Year Action Plan
                  Facilities Update/Site Council Tour before end of May
                   Summer School Update
             Board of Education                                                                     Katya Villalobos
§  PTSA                                                          Becky Thomas
§  Parent Report                                                       Linda Lingg
§  SEC                                                                                               Kathleen DeCoste
§  Site Council                                                                                  Rene' Hart
   Preliminary Allocation
   Fall Call for Proposals    Due date will be 9/3/13 to submit.
       We will review in September and vote in October.
   Call for 4 Faculty Members for 2013-15 (need to spread word among faculty).
      Chris Bell and Tina Nesberg are eligible for re-election.  Josh Paley is eligible for 2  more terms since he is completing Faith Hilal’s term..Gabriella Garger has served 2 terms and is ineligible to run again. 
   Goodbye and thank you to Gabriella, Linda, Monica, Wonhee and Somina.
   Next Meeting on September 9, 2013 at 3:55 in Staff Lounge.                        
              Round Robin - questions or concerns
Light Refreshments provided by Judy Adams and Meg Omainsky

Running with the Bulls 5k race on Sunday May 12

Submitted by Ruta Puranik

RUNNING WITH THE BULLS: 5K Race on Sunday, May 12th at 9am- Please volunteer.
This year's Running of the Bulls 5k Race is on Sunday, May 12th in Palo Alto celebrates its 11th anniversary (   Don't miss this special event.  Not a runner?  Please consider being one of the many volunteers needed to make this long treasured event a success.  If you are unfamiliar with our race; costumed cows and bulls chase you through our 5k course. Some of them are Olympic Athletes, others just like dressing up. 100% of event proceeds go to our beneficiary organizations: A Foundation Building Strength, GunnHS and the Bay Area Track Club.
Race Registration begins at 8:10am  on day of the event or mail in your registration. It is a fun family event on mother's day. The starting point is 780 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto, CA.

Thank you for participating...a portion of the proceeds from the event will be applied to scholarships for students in the Gunn Class of 2013 who would otherwise be unable to attend Grad Night festivities.

P4P Thank you Article

Submitted by Kathryn Latour

On Monday, April 22, 2013, the weather was so gorgeous and the sky so blue, it was as if the Earth knew that Gunn would be holding a Rally for the Planet to celebrate Palo Alto-wide Earth Day. The day began with the distribution of tickets for all students who elected NOT to come to school by car (carpoolers excepted). Adult volunteers Don Nielson, Kim Harisay, Nina Bell, Loren and Linda Baker, Steve Shi, and Sonya Bradski assisted Penny Ellson and Kathryn Latour (P4P) and members of the Gunn Green team in handing out over 1000 raffle tickets to bussers, walkers, skate boarders, and -- our favorite -- cyclists, who made up over 585 of those eco-friendly commuters.

At the lunch time rally, Gunn students were honored by the presence of PAUSD School Board President Dana Tom, and City of Palo Alto Mayor Greg Scharff who drew the winners of the Earth Day Raffle. Congratulations go to these winners who won the following gift cards: freshman Sherry Z. (iTunes), senior Paymahn M. (Sprinkles), junior Lauren S (Cinemark), and junior Stephanie C (Van's). Also at the rally, the Green Team and Traffic Safety manned displays underscoring the importance of recycling, biking safely, and using VTA as a commuting option. VTA gave away bike reflectors and provided information on bus service, including their new Summer Blast Pass for students up to age 17.

The following afternoon, the Earth Day celebration continued with the Palo Alto Police Department, represented by Officer Michael Kan, offering bike licensing to Gunn students. He was helped by Explorers Austin K. (freshman) and Dillon T. (sophomore), adult volunteers Marilyn Keller, Lynne Russell, and Nancy Smith, Kathryn Latour and Penny Ellson and Green Team members Eliana R. (junior), Chrissy K. (junior), Mario K. (junior), President Wendy P. (senior), Yannie Y. (senior), and Kevin L. (sophomore). All totaled, these volunteers licensed 51 bikes! Students who were not able to take advantage of this on-site licensing can go to any Palo Alto Fire Station to have it done. (Call for times.) There is a nominal fee but licensing one's bike is a surer way to get it returned if it is stolen.

Many thanks to the Gunn community for helping its student body value our planet!

P4P Team