Parents Education Network e-Newsletter October 2008


Welcome to our October edition! It's packed full of information, so please take a few minutes to look over the contents.

Included here are details of all of our upcoming events for the next 2 months, and a download of our complete Event Calendar for 2008-2009. We also report on our recent events.

Important announcements: We are launching our Annual Fund Appeal of 2008 and we need your help! The SAFE Voices book, Read This When You Can, is now in print and on sale! We are also proud to announce the launch of the Teachers Education Network which has just held its first event for teachers.

A new section of our newsletter is the Parent Exchange, where we ask parents to exchange stories of their struggles and triumphs on our website, with a different topic heading every month.

Finally, please see our announcements section for an exciting job opportunity, volunteer oppportunities with PEN, and other notices.

Upcoming Events

We have three important events coming up in our Speaker Series.

On Friday, October 17 at 9am, Tuck Geerds, M.A., Educational Consultant, formerly with the Charles Armstrong School, will offer Help for Those Homework Hassles, focusing especially on elementary and middle school students, at the Exploratorium.

Saturday, November 8, Paul Grossman, Civil Rights Attorney, will explain that There Are No IEPs in College. This event will be held at the Star Academy in San Rafael. Parents and professionals working with public and private high school students are urged to attend this important presentation, so please spread the word to anyone who might be interested!

Our first evening Speaker Series event will take place on Monday November 17 at 7pm, at Convent of the Sacred Heart. Esteemed psychologist and author Robert Brooks, Ph.D., who provided the keynote address at PEN's 2007 Conference, will talk about Raising Self-Disciplined and Confident Kids. Join us as Dr. Brooks helps parents explore various disciplinary styles and outlines positive strategies that will encourage children and teens to become more responsible, respectful and confident. He will leave us with a clear plan for preparing our children to become independent adults.

Click here to download our full Event Calendar for 2008-2009.

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Recent Events

Dr. Bisagno at the Exploratorium
On Friday, September 12, Joan Bisagno Ph.D. spoke on The Transition to College for Students with LD/ADHD, to a crowded theater at one of our wonderful new venues this year, the McBean Theater at the Exploratorium. PEN Board Member Julie Traun has written a full review of the event.

We held our Board of Advisors Annual Meeting on Wednesday, October 1 at the Bay School in San Francisco. PEN's Board of Advisors, an extraordinary and dedicated group of professionals, meets annually, and communicate with PEN throughout the year, to help us shape the direction of the organization. We discussed PEN's growth since 2003, from first providing a voice for parents, to then including schools and other organizations, to providing a voice for students through our work with SAFE Voices and Project Eye-to-Eye, and most recently providing a voice and a forum for teachers in the Teachers' Education Network (TEN). Mitch Bostian, Susan Deemer, Rochelle Bussi and Carrie Pallister, founding members of TEN, presented their vision for TEN to our advisors, who were very impressed and clearly excited about the project.

Advisor Jonathan Mooney spoke passionately about the concept of cognitive diversity and about PEN's Annual Conference 2009, a conference by students, for students (parents and educators are invited too), featuring student panels and student-centered workshops, which he and Eye-to-Eye co-founder David Flink will facilitate. The meeting finished with a robust discussion of the role that PEN can play in bringing brain-based and strengths-based educational practices to the Bay Area. Many thanks to all of our advisors, who give so generously of their time and expertise.

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Annual Fund Appeal 2008

It's that time of year again: your opportunity to help fund PEN's programs for the year. Our Annual Fund Appeal officially launches on October 15, but donations are of course gratefully accepted at any time! Our target for this year's campaign is $45,000, and we'll keep you regularly informed as to how we're doing. Donations may be:

Thank you for your help!

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SAFE Voices Book

The SAFE Voices book, Read This When You Can, is finally available for purchase! We have an excerpt for you to read online: SAFE member Dash Seerley Gowland's piece, "Dash's Advice to Help Students, Parents and Teachers". And if you missed it, check out a review of the book from last month's newsletter.

The books are $10 each; shipping and handling is $4 for the first book and $1 for each additional copy shipped. Payment is by check to PEN, 281A Sixteenth Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94118, or by Paypal to You may also arrange to stop by the PEN office to pick up your copies.

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Teachers' Education Network

Introducing TEN

by Carrie Pallister, Learning Specialist

A simple email suggesting that PEN expand its ideas to teachers started the newest initiative of PEN: the Teachers' Education Network (TEN). Mitch Bostian contacted Dewey Rosetti last year, and at that time, an exciting collaboration began. A founding committee of bay area teachers is working to positively impact teachers using PEN as a model. Committee members include Susan Deemer, Rochelle Bussi, and Carrie Pallister.

Central to TEN are these beliefs: teachers desire to be effective in the classroom and are motivated by student success; teachers need knowledge of brain based research to help reach all the learners in their classrooms; teacher to teacher based professional development is most effective. TEN seeks to understand current neurological research, connect that research to the classroom, and share the knowledge with our peers. These goals will be accomplished in four ways: readings available online, presentations, all day workshops and discussions.

The first TEN event was held on October 6th with a presentation by Pat Wolfe. On Thursday, October 23rd, the first TEN discussion will be held at Recess Urban Recreation in Potrero Hill. Teachers are invited to read and discuss an article by Pat Wolfe, enjoy refreshments, and revel in a spirit of camaraderie. These evenings are designed with teachers in mind; they’re free, informal, fun and filling (food provided). TEN hopes to generate buzz among bay area teachers with these evenings of professional development with a twist. For more information on upcoming events and registration, please visit the TEN section of PEN’s website.

The full calendar of TEN events can be downloaded here.

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Parent Exchange

By Dewey Rosetti, PEN President

The start of the school year brings a whole new flock of parents to their phones and emails with questions about a child who is struggling. Their questions come from all stages of the learning curve and from a wide variety of perspectives.

We have created a discussion forum on our website as a way to help these parents and many others to gain more insight into their children’s difficulties, by learning from the very best resource: other parents who have been there.

After all, this is the premise on which PEN’s founding was based and every day we get more proof that the most comforting help and clearest understanding of effective strategies, “best practices” for parents, is from other parents.

I believe so strongly in this idea, that I am working on a book by parents for parents which will be a compendium of strategies with stories as illustrations of how things did or didn’t work.

You can help with this effort to reach more parents, by sharing your stories, resources you found helpful and those you didn’t, giving other parents hope for their kids by sharing your child’s struggles and successes.

Please let us hear from you on the monthly topic on this discussion board. We begin the series this month with the topic, “To test or not to test.

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Book Review

Click image to purchase

SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain
by John J. Ratey, MD

Review by Sandy Otellini, PEN Vice-President

In Spark, John J. Ratey, M.D. makes a case that exercise is good for learning. He cites cutting-edge science and compelling case studies to support his case.

Dr. Ratey points to a revolutionary “New P.E.” program at Naperville, Illinois School District 203. The phys. ed. teacher decided to grade the kids on their effort, rather than skill and performance. He gave high grades if they worked hard enough to keep their hearts in aerobic training range (70-80% of maximum heart rate).
What's most remarkable about the new P.E. is its correlation with test scores. Naperville consistently ranks among Illinois' top 10 school districts even though it not among the top spenders per pupil. What's more, struggling students who participate in gym before school significantly raised their grades.

Why is exercise good for learning? Because our biology evolved for the life of the hunter-gatherer, so now "the relationship between food, physical activity, and learning is hardwired into the brain's circuitry." Exercise also improves responses to stress, which is necessary in the right amount. It's like lifting weights for the brain. "Neurons get broken down and built up just like muscles — stressing them makes them more resilient."

Dr. Ratey also has chapters on exercise's effects on anxiety, depression, ADHD, addiction, hormonal changes, and aging. He details the structure, chemicals, and processes that make our brains tick.
Spark is an interesting exploration of the connection between exercise and the brain. Everyone will benefit by understanding this connection, and then getting our bodies moving to improve the way we think.

John J. Ratey, MD is a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He is the author or coauthor of eight books, including Driven to Distraction, Shadow Syndromes and A User’s Guide to the Brain.

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  • Volunteer! PEN needs volunteers to help with our growing workload. There are often administrative tasks like envelope-stuffing and mailing, which might be good for students' community service. We also need volunteers to help set up events and sign in guests, at our next 3 Speaker Series events. And finally, we need someone with video-editing skills and equipment. Please send us an email at if you're able to help.
  • An exciting Job Opportunity: St. Ignatius College Preparatory is seeking to fill the new position of Academic Support Director. Full job description and application info online here.
  • Don't forget to check out other organizations' upcoming events on our website.

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PEN e-Newsletter October 2008