Archive for the ‘Parents’ Category

New Blog on the Block

In an effort to both a) document the work we do at our school to support character education and social-emotional growth and b) publicize that information to our district’s community, the guidance counselors and Child Study Team at my school have started a blog!

In just the first two weeks of its existence, the blog already has five posts by three different authors (there are eight staff members between the two departments).  It is also interesting to see how it has started to evolve from the original intent – simply documenting and publicizing the character ed activities in our school and how they align to our Six Pillars of Character – to also sharing resources with readers (see Dr. Todd’s and Ms. Kabo’s posts on relaxed performances and the impact of irregular sleep habits on behavior, respectively).

I have to admit, I’m very curious to see how this blog develops over the course of the school year.  I’ve been blogging here for over six years now, but have never been part of a group blog before (save for two posts I wrote for a parenting blog back in 2008).  I can’t wait to see how the group effort gels once we’ve all had a chance to bring our perspective to it.

In the meantime, if your school’s Guidance Dept. and/or Child Study Team has their own blog or Facebook page, please leave a link in the comments – we would appreciate any models we can get our hands on!

What’s Good for the Goose

Amidst the seemingly endless parade of art projects, desk clean-outs, and partially depleted school supplies that have been coming home over the past few weeks, my son brought home a portfolio of his work from his Gifted Support program.  My wife and I sat down to look at the contents this weekend and, of course, were very proud of both the quality and creativity of the work, as well as the progress our son has made over the course of the year (especially with regard to his handwriting; he’s definitely my son in that regard).  As a point of reference for the reader, my son was in second grade this year.

Beyond my son’s work, however, what impressed me was the structure and the content of the portfolio assignment; i.e., what the teacher asked the students to do, both in terms of class activities and their own reflection on the learning process.  Among other things, I noticed evidence of ongoing reflection, particularly on using different strategies to solve problems.  There were multiple references to Paideia seminars, as well as discrete examples of how to generalize skills learned through these units into everyday situations.  Clearly, both my son and his teacher did a lot of thinking about thinking and learning this year, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

Where I get a bit tripped up is wondering how many students in the general education setting, who don’t have the benefit of this sort of instruction outlined in a GIEP, get that kind of metacognitive approach to learning?  I don’t necessarily mean in my son’s district, but across the board – why are we limiting this beneficial instruction to a subset of students?  I’m glad my son has that exposure, but really, could that not benefit all students, not just those labeled as gifted?

I also wonder how the overall instructional model will change, if at all, in third grade next year, when my son and his classmates will take the PSSA exams for the first (but sadly, not the last) time.  I have no reason to believe it will impact my son’s Gifted Support program, but I’ll be interested to see if/how the shadow of this test impacts his general education classroom experience.  Will there be fewer projects and more skill drills?  What percentage of the year will be comprised of practice tests?

I don’t really have any solid answers to offer in this post; it’s really me just spilling some of my thoughts and concerns.  They’re not even about my son’s district in particular, but more about the state of education in general.  It’s one thing to think and write about this stuff from a professional perspective, but there’s another layer added to it when not only your profession and livelihood, but also the educational well-being of your own kids, are impacted.

The Best Five Minutes

Happy New Year!

While it’s a brand new (Gregorian) calendar year, educators in the US are just about smack in the middle of the school year.  Seasonal Affective Disorder notwithstanding, it’s easy to get a little down in the period post-Christmakwanzukkah festivities.  The trees come down, the lights get put away, the gift-giving and family & social engagements die down, and everything gets a little greyer for a little while.  With that in mind, I’m taking this opportunity to reflect on a part of my day that brings me much joy year-round.


Since moving from a high school to an intermediate school schedule a year ago, I don’t have to get up as early anymore.  My wife – a high school teacher – is up, ready, and out the door by 6:15 am (or so I’m told).  I spend the hour or so between when she gets up and when I get up in a half-awake, half-asleep state, enjoying the toastiness of the bed as well as the newly-doubled space.  But while that’s very nice, that’s not the best time of my day.

The best time of my day is a five-minute period from 6:30 – 6:35 am.  That’s when my 7-year-old son wakes up, turns his alarm off, pads down the hallway, and climbs into bed with me.  Sometimes he snuggles into the crook of my arm and lays his head on my chest, sometimes we just lie next to each other in mirror-image fetal positions.  Sometimes we talk softly, sometimes we lie in complete silence.  Either way, it’s a peaceful time that is special for just the two of us.

He’s at a time in his life when he is testing boundaries and discovering himself.  He no longer believes in Santa Claus, he has started to neglect his once-dear army of stuffed animals, and he asks his parents “Why?” and “Why not?” with much more force, sharpness, and challenge in his voice than when he asked as a three-year-old.  He’s seven going on seventeen, and most days I look at his tall body and lean face and wonder where my chubby-cheeked baby boy went.

But for five minutes every morning, he comes back to me, at least for now.  I know it won’t (and shouldn’t) last, but for now, that five minutes is our special time, a time when everything is perfect and calm.  As 6:35 rolls around, we get up, I get my daughter up, and we all start our respective morning hustle and bustle.  I can’t speak for him, but as for me, having that time together in the morning is soothing and centering, and starts my day on such a positive note.  I am so pleased with and proud of the young man he is becoming, but I am also acutely grateful that while he spends so much time within himself figuring out who he is and isn’t, he continues to grant me just five more minutes each day.

Pressing Pause

Just taking a few minutes out of the hectic holiday season to wish everyone a happy, peaceful, restful week-and-change off from work.  The work we do with other people’s kids is of paramount importance, no doubt, but I’m taking this time to completely focus on my own kids (and wife) and enjoy some uninterrupted time together.  Hope you are able to as well.

Happy holidays!

Do Parents Make Better Teachers?

This is bound to make some people angry, but here goes anyway: does becoming parents ourselves make us better teachers?

Of course, the first follow-up question is, “what does ‘better’ mean?”  I don’t even know if I have an answer to this, but I started thinking about this because in the last three years I’ve been a school psychologist/case manager, one question I’ve been asked many times by (usually angry) parents is, “Does Mr./Mrs. So-and-so have children?”  The implication, of course, is that a teacher’s behavior or decision-making process would be different (further implied: more favorable to this parent’s child) if he or she was a parent.

This is not to say that my child-free colleagues are not or cannot be excellent teachers, so maybe the initial question is misleading.  Perhaps a better question is: how has having children of your own influenced your professional practice?  This doesn’t just apply to classroom teachers, but educators of all capacities.  For my child-free readers, how do you respond to inquiries, from parents or colleagues, such as the one I described above?

Having become a parent during my fifth year of teaching (and again during my eighth), I can speak only to my own experience, but I want to keep schtum on that until I hear from some of you, at which point I’ll weigh in in the comments.  Teacher and new mom Tracy Rosen has blogged her thoughts here, so feel free to respond to either or both of us.