Tag Archives: parenting

I Am Not A Perfect Parent!

Not A Perfect Parent

 

Perfection does not exist; especially in parenting.

Just this week…

  • I forgot about the “Read With Me” with my 1st grader. The only thing that saved me was that I was going to the school anyway, and remembered as I was parking.
  • I lost track of time and didn’t get home before my 7th grader (and I took his house key because I have temporarily misplaced mine), leaving him locked out of the house in the chilly fall weather for 15 min until I got home.
  • Made my daughter skip her dance class, not because she was sick, but because I couldn’t bear to do anything more or go anywhere else that day.

Yet somewhere, somehow along the line, I have given the impression that I am a “perfect parent.”  In my opinion, they don’t exist and anyone that says they do has never been a parent. When I mentioned to my children that someone might have this impression, all of them laughed. One said, “why would they say that?” Another, “that’s what they think!” And the best I got was a semi head nod and “so-so” hand gesture (from my littlest one…because at 6 I still rate).

The conversation came up in passing with another parent when we began talking about our children and school. This parent was almost apologetic when she said there are some nights that after a long day at work she simply wants to watch her show on occasion. Not do school work. When I said, I am no better, she was relieved and said I should video tape my evening as evidence. This makes me literally nauseous to hear another parent feel bad or apologize for not living up to anyone else’s standards.

Earlier this month, we hosted #ParentCamp at our school. Our keynote speaker was psychologist, Dr Adam Berman. He mentioned so many important points for parents to remember:

  • It is not natural nor beneficial for anyone to be solely focused on our child’s needs
  • Do not judge yourself or other parents
  • We need to have empathy for ourselves as parents
  • We need to learn from previous experiences
  • And….there is NO perfect parent

Parenting has to be one of the most difficult jobs. There is no training beforehand and there is no right answer. Not only can what works for one household not work for another – but what works for one child may very well not work for their sibling. Add to that the fact that there are no days off. (This was one of the harshest realities I remember facing as a new parent.) We have to do what we feel is best for our family…no one else’s.

So besides being bothered that someone has held me to a standard that I can never live up to; I was concerned that this image can or will cause others to tone out the suggestions that I and others share on how families can support their children and be effective advocates. Besides helping to build relationships between home and school, sharing out information and resources is the most important role our group can play. If someone thinks that these ideas are all or nothing. Then chances are they are going to opt for the nothing when they can’t keep up with doing it all every day.

When we share information with parents, be it from a PTO or school. I think we need to preface it with the fact that no one is expected to do these things with their child every day (other than love them, feed them and provide them with shelter). That you do WHAT you can, WHEN you can. That something IS better than nothing. Yes, we have goals to strive for – but they are just that, they are goals we are striving for. We share many, many ideas…it is up to each family to choose which best suit their family and that they can manage…and that may be different each day.

So for the record…Yes I try to be the best parent I can be, and I believe I have many good moments, but I don’t manage to do everything, every day. I am not a perfect parent, never will be, AND I don’t ever expect anyone else to be. 

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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.


Fostering Home and School Partnerships Through Education

pyramid

“Visible learning, in all forms, helps a school truly become a community. It takes a village…” Stacey Wallwin commented on our discussion on Twitter about engaging parents. I couldn’t agree more. If we want to aid in building long-standing, strong partnerships between home and school, we need to be a source of information.

In speaking with our group of over 40 class captains and many other parents, the common “favorite moment” among all of them, were the times when they left the school with knowing something new to help them as a parent. Our parent-teacher book chat, our staff voice piece about RtII (What is it? How is the data used? What does that mean for my child?), and #ParentCamp all received numerous raving comments. This year we are trying something new for our monthly parent meetings. Well, not entirely new…more like expanding on what we were doing last year. We are using our monthly meetings to continue to share out as much information and resources with families and the community as possible. It is more than a wish to build the number of participants at our monthly meetings – it’s about empowering families so they can be part of the foundation that our great community is built on.

So last week, at our first board “gathering” (meeting sounds to heavy for summer), I made a suggestion; that we scrap our current agenda outline and build a meeting that parents would want to attend; packing it full of opportunities to learn about the school, students, community and how to support learning in all of those hours when our children are not in school, yet with the little free time we all seem to have.  We will then plan out the year in advance and post the schedule for families to plan in advance to attend the meetings most relevant and appealing to them. So what are we looking to include?

Tech Training (30 min prior to start of the meeting): a chance for parents to get a quick lesson in technology. The first one on how to join our meetings (or anything else) virtually. That means they have a choice over the following 8 months on how they wish to join us…physically or virtually. Others we are looking to include are social media use, tools/sites helpful for students as study tools or to complete HW or research; Study Island & Edmodo (both used by students at school and from home); edu-sites and apps.

Parenting: This will be a piece that we will share an article, chapter or short video in advance of the meeting (something that parents can read or watch in less than 15 min) and then participate in a mini discussion or Q&A during the meeting.

Edu-Voice: In the past we were always turning to the teachers to inform us parents. Although the teachers are still an important resource for us to learn from, this year we are looking to expand it to anyone in our community that can share their expertise on a topic relating to our children. With tools such as Skype or Google hangout – we are able to learn from those across the hall or across the world.

There are some things we are not looking to change…

Student Voice: A piece from last year that we believe in keeping. Us parents loved hearing about the good things happening at our school, the students (for the most part) liked having the spotlight for a few moments, and it brought in a few new faces each month.

1 hour time limit: This is key! Families are busy and no matter how much they want to know what is going on at the school…they don’t have the time to spend hours at a school meeting. To accomplish this, it requires clock watchers who aren’t afraid to say, “move on.” I hope that the number of families using our Facebook page and on Twitter continues to grow and the discussions can continue not only when we are together in the same room – but also online while we are waiting for our children to finish their extra curricular activity or sitting in the pediatrician’s waiting room.

Business as Usual: We want to keep all families in the loop and participating with the home & school association. They need to know what is upcoming and in the plans so they. To save on time, and because we have already shared it online and in the newsletter, we will eliminate the re-hashing of news that has happened since the last meeting.

Live streaming: It is the most successful tool we’ve used to reach and include more parents and staff than any other. We’d be crazy to abandon it.

I see our group’s role in the school and community much like the role of those I turned to as a new parent. When we had our first child, we read endlessly, talked to everyone from the doctors to our family and friends, and then in the end, pulled the pieces of advice from each, that best suited our child and family, to form our own parenting style. Here, we are one of the pieces to help each student achieve their potential.

Image credit: sxc.hu


Appreciating Those Making a Difference

THANKS

 

This was a week of thanking all those who make a difference in our children’s lives. This week we all took time to thank the wonderful teachers and educators, this weekend we thank all the wonderful moms out there, and just around the corner we will be thanking the dads. Our children are surrounded by so many people who care and want the absolute best for their physical, emotional, social, and intellectual well being.

As a child, I don’t know that I fully understood how blessed I was to have teachers that were there for us not only in the classroom teaching us the skills we needed to pursue our dreams – but also there for us outside the class as a coach, friend or cheerleader. As an adult looking back, I am so greatly appreciative of all that my teachers provided me. As a parent I have been so lucky to connect with some of the most amazing educators both at my children’s schools and those I’ve learned from on Twitter. These people don’t stop learning when they receive their degree or caring when their day ends at 3:35pm. They are tirelessly giving their time and hearts to make sure our children get the best education possible, and keeping them safe when not in our care.

As a mom, I can honestly say that until you become a parent, you have no idea what it is like. I don’t care how much time you spend with children; nothing compares to the amount of time, care and heart it takes to raise a child of your own….and NOTHING is more gratifying. Every decision you make affects their lives. The toughest part? There is no class or book on the steps to being a “good” parent. You can read and listen to all the advice in the world, but in the end it comes down to you making a decision based on what you feel is best for your child/family. There are many “live and learn” moments.

I feel so lucky to say that I am surrounded by more parents and educators than I can count that not only care about their child or class, but also all the other children and schools out there. They all serve in different ways. The neighbors who pick up your child from the bus stop when you’re running late; the parents volunteering in school to provide the students with a day of fun; the parents and teachers sharing and learning from each other online and in person to find better ways support and educate our children; the dad who coaches long after his children have grown because he loves sharing his passion for the game; the teacher who lends an ear when a student has no one else to turn to; the advocates pushing to improve education.

This week I am so grateful for not only my mother & teachers – but for all the people making a difference in children’s lives every day. You all are what inspire the rest of us to do more and be the best we can be. THANK YOU!


We Are Our Children’s Role Model

Its not always what you do and say LR

From the time they are little. Before they can use their words. We tell our children to use inside voices, share their toys, say/wave hello. As they get older, we send them to school and friend’s houses and remind them to be good, use their manners, and remember to say please & thank you.

We talk so much about teaching our children to be compassionate, empathetic and respectful of others, both in school and at home, yet as our family begins another baseball season, I am quickly reminded why our children do what they do. Why we continue to see kids saying and doing hurtful things to others. Just as they mimic the positive things the adults in their lives do, they also mimic the negative.

In just the last week I witnessed parents yelling at umpires, arguing with coaches who are volunteering their time, complaining about a schedule not working with their personal schedule, making insulting about the kids on the opposing team, and a mom shocked that I would allow her to sit on the my dry blanket on the wet bleachers simply because I was from the opposing team. After watching and coaching my children in sports over the last 10 years, I shouldn’t be surprised anymore…yet I am because I do believe there is more good than bad; that the bad news simply travels faster and speaks louder. These issues are not limited to sports; we witness them while shopping, at work and while at school, just about anywhere you go.

We need to remember that children are not only listening to what we tell them, but they are also observing our actions. We need to model those “good” traits that we so wish for our children to possess…even when we think they aren’t paying attention.


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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