Tag Archives: Parent

What I Want From My Child’s School…

It s that time of year and there’s lots of talk about what families want from their schools and teachers. For a hot moment here and there I get caught up in convos and then I realize, as a parent, I need nothing fancy or trendy. I asked a few friends (from various schools), thinking maybe I was not of the norm…and they all responded with almost the same kind of answers (some of which I’ve inserted throughout).

First and foremost, I want my child to be safe. I want to know that the people caring for my children the 6 hours or so when they are not with me, are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure they come home that afternoon. We live in a different world than the one I grew up in, it’s more than a crossing guard at the street corner and periodic fire drills.

I want the best educational experience possible for my child. “For my child,” because each child is unique and what is best for little Joey three seats over isn’t always what’s best for my child. This means you need to get to know them. You need to know what makes him/her tick; when you can push them to do more and when they are overwhelmed.

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I say “ experience” because I want more than good grades on tests. I want them to experience learning in ways that I might not think of as a parent or have the means to teach at home. I want them to see your passion in learning and want to mimic it. Yes, I expect them to know that 2×2=4; why that is, other ways to get the same results, and how to get the answer when someone isn’t there to help them. But education is more than test grades. They’re in a room/building full of people their own age who very well may come from a place unlike what they know at home. That might mean a different religious belief/culture, how they get down the hallway, or that family doesn’t always equal a mom, a dad, a brother, sister and dog. These things should be celebrated and shared. One thing I love about my children’s school more than the one I attended is the diversity. For me growing up, we had to read, watch a movie, or travel to learn about others different from us. My children have the ability to learn about them from their friends, classmates and neighbors. If our schools have that, we should use that to our advantage. Let the kids and their families share their first-hand knowledge with others. What better way to expand their mind and make them more empathetic to others as they go through life; teaching them that the world is bigger than them.

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Communicate with me…not just at. I like using technology to communicate; it is my preference since it makes it easier for me when on the go – but it isn’t required. A simple hand-written note or phone call works just as well. But if my job is to make sure my children head into school prepared and then support your efforts from home; I need to know what and when something is happening. (Yes we need to teach our kids to be responsible for themselves – but younger ones don’t always remember, and I don’t enjoy having to run items to the school last minute nor do I enjoy seeing my child in tears because they missed a spirit day or did poorly on a test because didn’t feel comfortable asking for help in class). I enjoy knowing what they are learning and what is expected of them. Not to be the helicopter parent who doesn’t trust you are doing your best – but because there are many opportunities for us to build on these lessons at home; providing them with a deeper understanding. Ultimately – I want to have a line of communication in place from the start of the year so that we all are being proactive and not reactive. I’m a much happier mom when I know an issue seems to be arising (be it with learning or social), then when I am learning about the issue too late (i.e. report card has been issued or my child is sitting in the principal’s office).

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Along the same lines – I want to be Informed. This may be my oldest child or first time experiencing this issue and I am learning some things as I go. If you know of tools, resources or upcoming events…please share them. I don’t take insult that I am a bad parent and need to be told or taught. I know I am a good parent – but I don’t necessarily know how to help my child struggle with a learning issue that I never had myself or how to apply for financial aid to minimize the amount of money we are spending out of pocket for them to attend college. Just as I turn to my dentist to provide me with the best treatment options out there today for my teeth, I turn to the school to provide me with the resources or answers out there to help me provide the best education possible for my children.

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Respect. Just as you want my child and I to respect you and your position; I want you to respect my child and me as equal partners in their education. You may have the degree in education – but we all bring something valuable to the conversation.

In making these requests, in return I promise to support your efforts from home. To respect and trust you with my child. Ultimately…do the same from home that I am asking to be done at school.

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It’s Time to go for a Leadership Position in Your Parent Association

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Image Credit: www.technorati.com

In many PTA’s throughout the land, it’s that time of year again….time to nominate the next year’s executive board. It’s also time to sign up for committees and leadership roles throughout the organization.

If you have already held a position on your PTA, then you know the value of participating as a leader in your parent association. If you haven’t, here are a few things to think about.

Taking a leadership position provides growth and development opportunities. Organizing events, working with other parents in your community, and collaborating with school staff is a very fulfilling experience. The on-the-job learning is one you can really only get by doing it.

It allows you to see how things work. By stepping up your involvement in PTA, you get a behind the scenes look at how things run. You get to see how everything comes together, all the programs, fundraisers, and events.

It gives you a voice in how things are done. If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “Why don’t they do it this way?”-  this is your chance. Share your expertise and ideas. You also have an opportunity to decide what events and programs will take place in the coming year.

It provides opportunities to get to a new level. In my experience, joining the executive board introduced me to the next level of parent leadership, which is the district level. My eyes were opened to how all the schools in the district function, both independently and collectively. I also became involved in discussions about state mandates, budget, health & safety concerns, and more. These were topics not usually discussed in depth at our general PTA meetings.

Your school needs you! I’m assuming your school is like mine. Generally the PTA is comprised of a specific number of active parents who take on many responsibilities, wearing many hats throughout the year and their experience in the school. New members are always welcome and genuinely wanted! With new faces come fresh ideas.

I hope these reasons have inspired you to take the next step and reach beyond your current level of participation in your PTA. There are so many reasons to do so, and it will benefit your child, your school, and YOU!


Are We Really Supporting Their Learning At Home?

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“Knowledge will bring you the opportunity to make a difference.”

~Claire Fagin

 

I thought I was doing it all “right”. I made sure my children had plenty of books to read at home, reviewed their homework at the end of each night and made sure they understood everything (because too often I found they didn’t feel comfortable, or think to ask the teacher to explain something in more detail), maintained regular contact with their teachers, and took them to museums and such to build on the topics they were learning in school.

It was my answer to the following question that led me to doubt my support: Were my children prepared to compete with their peers for the same spot in a school or job down the road?  When I answered that with a “no,” I realized I didn’t know (nor did I ever think to ask) for a few basic pieces of information.

  • What are the long term goals beyond the chapter or topic they are currently studying? What is it that is expected of them the following year, or even a few years down the road? Without this information, my children are simply setting short term goals to get through an upcoming test or chapter, and not preparing for what’s to come.
  • What is in the curriculum? For example, my kids come home and share what book they read in school. They have no idea what the teacher is trying to teach them through that story; be it a genre, grammar, or an underlining message. If I know what the curriculum is, I can work on the same thing at home using a different story or in a different context, and ask more thought provoking questions about the book; reinforcing everything taught in school.

 

Do I think I wasted my time over the years or not add to their learning experience? No. But with these few things I can begin to be a real partner, more effectively supporting learning at home. If parents and teachers are going to work together as a team to educate our children – parents need to be provided with the information, tools and resources to do so.

 (A note: this is one of my “live and learns” with my oldest, who is getting ready to transition from elementary to middle school.)

 


Connected Parents and the Power of Twitter

Twitter Meta Moo! too far?

(Photo credit: Josh Russell)

Once I decided to give Twitter a chance, it took me months to figure out how it might be of use to me as a parent. To start I sat through a Twitter 101 night at our school. I went because I wanted to learn how to use a tool that I knew my children will be using sooner or later, whether I liked it or not. I will warn you that a 1 hour crash course is not enough time to learn a new language. It is a start though. Twitter, just as a new language, is best learned when you are immersed in it.

The first few months went by and I enjoyed seeing snippets of the school day as the principal and a few teachers tweeted…but was this it? Was it just about following celebrities and watching what happened at school? After a few months, I joined in on the weekly #PTchat. Although the title stands for “Parent-Teacher chat”, it was mostly educators (not to say they weren’t also parents – but they were speaking mostly from the educator’s perspective). As great as the topics were, just sharing out from a parents lens wasn’t going to keep me interested in using this tool…I had to get something from it.

The more people I followed, the more I participated, the more I realized that everything that is shared could also be used by parents to help their children continue the learning outside of school, educate ourselves to be better advocates for our children, and provide insight on how to improve all of our home and school partnerships. Twitter has given me tools and ideas on how to help my children get more from their studies. Ideas that I possibly could have gotten from reading dozens of books, but realistically don’t have time for. One of my biggest takeaways so far (remind you I’m only a year in) is my recent discovery of the literacy powerhouses we have access to (this sentence can be translated to whatever your interest is). It is through Twitter that I found several phenomenal books on reading comprehension; given the opportunity to observe another school’s reading workshops; and connected with and learned from literacy experts from all over the world on how to help my children improve their reading skills and then bring those ideas to the attention of our school for all students to benefit.

So where can parents start? Who can they follow? Below are two places I found people who I have drawn from. These are just a few – I encourage you to share those who have inspired you.

If your school and/or teachers, principal and fellow parents are on Twitter – follow them. The glimpse into the school day provides you with great conversation starters outside of “how was school?” and it is nice to see what other classrooms are doing. For me it was @knappelementary, @joe_mazza, @miss_a_abel and @lspencerslp. (This list has grown since then – but too many to list)

Check out chats. The first one I joined in was #PTchat. Not only can you share and get some great info/ideas from these – but you also can find other people to follow that share similar interests. This is my number one source to finding great minds and inspirations. It also provides you with the opportunity to interact with people you wouldn’t otherwise have the chance. Some of the people I have pulled the most info and ideas from are: @lisaodavis (my partner in this blogging adventure and a role model for advocating for our children); @lornacost, @drpricemitchell, @smconstantino, @drmerylain and @larryferlazzo (connecting parents and schools); @sirotiak02, @coachyetter and @johnfritzky (teachers who share the ways they inspire kids to want to learn and how they include the families in the learning); @pennykittle, @kylenebeers, @sharonletslearn (literacy superstars); and @freeingyourmind, @micheleborba and @annie_fox (pros in the mental well-being of our children).

Twitter didn’t make me a connected parent or an advocate for my children’s education – but has made me a more effective one.


SheilaSpeaking

A space for thinking, reflecting and sharing about education -- and the odd other thing...

Ingvi Hrannar

Icelandic educator, iPad 1:1 classroom, speaker & entrepreneur.

Penn-Finn Learnings 2013

Sharing our inquiries - March 23-30

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