(CNN) - The town of Waterbury, Connecticut, was buried beneath snow after the massive winter storm that blanketed the Northeast last weekend. By Monday, snow removal was underway, but the town's 32 schools still hadn't been touched.
That is, until hundreds of teens, parents and teachers showed up with shovels. The mayor said he'd pay $8.25 per hour to those who dug out the schools, and 500 came to help, including 300 teens, CNN affiliate WFSB reported - a turnout that surprised everyone.
(CNN) - Ben Linnabary still has a few more months to go at Colerain High School near Cincinnati, Ohio. His mom, though, didn't have that long to wait.
Jennifer Linnabary had been fighting an aggressive form of cancer since 2009. A few weeks ago, as her condition worsened, her friends, family and representatives from the school held a one-person graduation ceremony for Ben in the University of Cincinnati Medical Center intensive care unit. There was a red cap and gown for Ben, the traditional graduation music, applause when he received his diploma and a gentle toss of his mortarboard.
Less than 24 hours later, Jennifer Linnabary died, CNN affiliate WLWT reported.
"It was very surreal, just the fact that they could get all of these people together," Ben told WLWT. "It was very hard at the same time, being there with my mom and knowing that, you know, these might be the last hours I would spend with her."
(CNN) - With music and arts education budgets looking grim at schools around the country, some groups and artist are stepping in to fill the void. CNN's Soledad O'Brien spoke with hip-hop producer and artist Swizz Beats and Music Unites founder Michelle Edgar about their work with students in the Bronx - Swizz Beats' home.
"When they have that type of support and energy behind 'em, they're free to float like a butterfly," he said. "You can see them flourish."
Among the hundreds of thousands crowding the National Mall on Monday for the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, there will be 26 students from University City High School near St. Louis. The students won an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to witness history, and they'll be seated beside U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.
In the midst of civil war, Syrians face political upheaval, starvation, bombings and violence - nearly 40,000 people were killed in the civil war last year, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Tuesday. But one thing hasn't changed: a generation of children hoping to learn, to feel a sense of normalcy.
At one school in Damascus, 1,600 children come in two shifts. Educators say any child is welcome, regardless of political affiliation. Some students are new to the school, displaced from other areas. This school isn't entirely safe either, though. Within a few weeks late last year, 35 students and two teachers from the area were killed.
"We keep the school open and help with their fears," head teacher Abdul Kader Amouri told ITN's Alex Thomson. "We can't do as much as before, but the key thing is to try and deal with their anxiety."
By Miriam Gamoran Sherin, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Miriam Gamoran Sherin, a public voices fellow with the OpEd Project, is professor of education and social policy at Northwestern University and mother of three.
(CNN) - In the past several weeks, middle and high school students across the country brought home their first-quarter report cards. Many make a push to improve scores and grades before the holidays, and over winter break, some will study for final exams, knowing those results are a major component of their semester class ranks.
For many families, report cards serve as the key measure of a child’s success in school. They're assigned so much importance, grades can be the source of conflict and tension at a time when parents and their children could be celebrating the winter holidays peacefully.
But what if the report card itself is not so valuable? What do grades actually tell us about our children’s learning?
Not as much as we think.
Grades are one measure of our children’s success, but perhaps not the most important one. The level of learning is what matters.
My 12-year-old daughter is getting a B in her seventh-grade math class, and learning much more than last year, when she was getting an A. Her sixth-grade math class focused on rote computation with study guides that were almost identical to the following day’s test. This year, her class focuses on mathematical problem-solving. The tests challenge students to apply what they know.
It's the first day back in class since a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and questions aren't necessarily getting easier to answer. Just as parents and teachers want to know why 20 children and six educators died, many kids are trying to piece together what happened and what it means.
Here are tools, guidance and suggestions to help you decide how to talk about with the kids in your life, whether in class or at home.
1) CNN Student News devoted Monday's 10-minute episode to explaining and reflecting on the shooting and its aftermath. Student News is a free, commercial-free, daily news show for middle and high school classrooms. Some students who wanted to type out thoughts, questions, reflections and prayers are sharing on the CNN Student News A to Z blog, as well.
2) Know the signs of anxiety and fear. Children of different age groups express emotions in different ways, whether they're directly affected or traumatized by conversations and media. Here are suggestions for how to handle each age group, and what signs reveal they're still struggling.
"It is minute by minute, case by case. It's really a matter of listening and responding in a way that fits the framework of their understanding," said Dr. John B. Lochridge, an Atlanta-based child and family psychiatrist.
By Michael Y. Simon, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Michael Y. Simon is a psychotherapist, school counselor and founder of Practical Help for Parents, a support organization for parents, educators and mental health professionals. Simon is also the author of "The Approximate Parent: Discovering the Strategies That Work with Your Teenager," published by Fine Optics Press in 2012.
(CNN) - I don't have the answers.
Under the weight of mystery, loss and grief, most of us long for healing and look for answers. After hearing of the mass killing in Newtown, Connecticut, I asked a friend, the principal of an elementary school, how the children and parents there were doing.
"There was a different feeling and a much longer line than usual to pick up the kids," he said "Hugs held longer, smiles broader, more patience all around; these parents were mindful of the privilege of picking up their children today."
Not including the tragic killings at Sandy Hook, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence lists over 170 school shootings in the United States since 1997, prompting many to describe the tragic shooting as part of an epidemic of gun violence in America.
How do we make sense of these incidents and their antecedents and envision a better future? I don't know, and neither do many of the so-called experts, but that hasn't stopped them and the mass media from weighing in very quickly.Read Simon's full column
By Dani Carver, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Dani Carver is a senior at the University of New Mexico majoring in elementary education. She plays intramural volleyball at the university. She is also a member of the National PTA's Youth Involvement Committee.
(CNN) - As a former high school athlete, the recent rumblings surrounding new school lunches have resonated with me, but perhaps not for the reasons one may think. Decades of research show a direct link between healthy eating and performance in sports. For too long, we have accepted that student-athletes just need calories – any calories. That is simply not true. Athletes need nutritious offerings to do their best, whether that is in the classroom or on the field.
That’s why I support the changes and updates to the school lunch program made this year as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. A provision of the law, which took effect this year, requires schools participating in the National School Lunch Program to serve meals with more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free milk, and portion sizes appropriate for age groups.
One of the criticisms of the new meals is that they are not meeting the needs of student-athletes. That’s a real concern for some students. But when we look deeper at the issue, the facts may be surprising.
Florida 4th graders rank #2 in a worldwide reading test. Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart shares the success story.