Tag Archives: teacher

Jolly Rancher Hair

Many kids like to gussy up their looks with something creative (read: unusual) to help them feel special and be set apart from the crowd. Let’s face it, this is the only age they can get away with something like this. My own son is famous for this – finding unusual hats or resurrecting Halloween costumes to wear to school, and even creating masterpieces to alter his look dramatically. Sadly (and admittedly, not so sadly), he’s growing out of this. It was sometimes embarrassing to walk outside of the safety of our non-judgmental house with a boy who had fashioned a whole ninja costume out of paper and duct tape, though I appreciated his need to express himself.

Such creativity isn’t sparse in those younger grades. It’s not uncommon to see a girl coming to school with a little extra sparkle on her cheeks, a boy in a super hero cape, play dresses brought out as school clothes, or some other kind of expressive decorative embellishment. For 7 year old Ukailya Lofton, her creativity involved candy in a very unique way. She asked her mom to help her fasten Jolly Ranchers candies to the end of her braids after seeing the style in a magazine. And like most moms of 7 year olds, mom Lucinda Williams complied. And off to school Ukailya went. It goes without saying she created quite the stir. Even her teacher got out her camera, saying “My husband is not going to believe this.”

Ukailya Lofton's candy decorated hair, as seen in a photo her teacher posted to Facebook

Little did Ukaila or Lucinda know that the Jolly Rancher hairdo would end up on Facebook where it would be ridiculed by all the teacher’s friends.

“I laughed so hard my contact popped out”
“yeah this is foolishness”
“If you are going to make your child look ridiculous the least you could do is make them matching.”

The Facebook posting was noticed by one of the parents who is Facebook friends with the teacher. She promptly took screenshots of the Facebook posting and comments and sent them to the mom, who then furiously notified the school. The teacher immediately removed the photos and apologized. But it wasn’t enough. Lucinda felt that an apology was owed to 7 year old Ukailya directly.

“What bothers me is that she still hasn’t apologized to my baby,” Lucinda told the Chicago Tribune. “No child should have to go to school to be bullied by their teacher. She wasn’t even suspended, and an apology is not enough.”
Ukailya said, “My mama told me she put it on Facebook and then I felt sad.”

First of all, kids do strange things, and we adults should encourage their creativity as long as possible.  So the fact that Lucinda let her child come to school with candy in her hair does not make her a bad person.  Second, the photo should never have made it to Facebook as an avenue for teasing of a child that was not the teacher’s own. I’m sure it started out innocent enough, and meant in good humor.  I mean, candy as barrettes is definitely a sight to be shared.  But adults making fun of a little girl for her hair?  That’s just mean spirited.  And teachers especially need to be careful about what they post online about the children in their classroom, judging by all the many cases recently about teachers (here and here).  So I agree, the Facebook posting was in poor taste and judgment.  But here’s where I’ve parted ways with the semantics of this case. 

Why was Ukailya even made aware that her photo was on Facebook at all?

She’d have been just fine never even knowing that the photo was online, or that people were making fun of her. And no matter what that teacher says to her in the form of an apology, this little girl will undoubtedly be left feeling totally self conscious about exerting creativity. I agree that the teacher started it. But I believe the mom contributed to it. And now Ukailya’s mom is getting a lawyer to prepare a lawsuit against the school and teacher for the Facebook posting, bringing further attention to a case of creativity being snuffed out.

Think this child will ever try anything original again? Has your own child ever done something over the top creative that could be seen as unusual?

Teacher fired over Facebook photo

Ashley Payne, a high school teacher from Georgia, was confused as to why the principal of the school she teaches at asked her into his office for a meeting.  She was even more confused when she was asked if she had a Facebook account.  But things became really clear for the 24 year old when he finally spilled. 

A parent of a student complained because one of her photos on her Facebook showed her holding two glasses of alcohol while on vacation.

Let’s make this clear.  She was not drinking on the job.  She was on vacation.  And like the rest of us would, she was sharing her vacation photos with her Facebook friends, including a picture of her with alcohol.

Even more, Ashley’s profile is private.  So she never would have thought any of her students or their parents would have seen her photos or snooped into her private life.  And now, because of it, the principal was asking Ashley to either resign or be suspended

Ashley had no choice but to resign.

This is just one more example of how anything on the web has become public knowledge.  In fact, if you want to be alarmed, take a gander at Spokeo.com, a website that has gathered information from various places on the web about none other than YOU.  Don’t believe me?  Type in your name on the search engine and see what comes up about you.  And then sit back and take in the fact that they know your address, your age, your salary…even your religion.  Same thing with your Facebook page or the like.  All someone has to do is copy your photo and put it somewhere else on the web and it becomes public knowledge – including companies that are BUYING your information.  Don’t even get me started on the so-called privacy of Facebook.  Basically, there is none. 

The internet has guaranteed that no one has a right to control their own privacy.

And that’s what killed Ashley’s job. First of all, it’s imperative that anyone who is posting pictures or comments know that they are posting them for the world to see.  So it makes it all the more important to not post anything that you wouldn’t want your grandma to see, let alone your boss. 

The photo that killed Ashley Payne's job

But something is seriously wrong when a teacher is forced to quit her job because of a photo of herself having fun on vacation.  And let’s face it, while it would be easy to believe that teachers live in their classrooms and drink nothing but water, that’s not reality.  Teachers also go on vacation.  They also enjoy a glass of wine.  They are just as G rated as the rest of us in their private lives – meaning that they aren’t, just like the rest of us.

They are entitled to a life.

But then again, some parents might disagree.  It eventually came out that the phonecall reporting Ashley’s photo was actually an anonymous tip – meaning that it may have been a parent, and it may not have been.  But someone was so offended by the fact that a teacher at the school had posted a picture of herself on the web of her drinking during her social time, resulting in the eventual loss of her job.  And this isn’t the first time I’ve heard of someone getting in trouble with their job over Facebook photos.  In fact, many jobs will search their applicants on Facebook to see the person that is interviewing, and what they are like when they aren’t in front of them in a suit and tie.

Should teachers, and other professionals, be judged at work for their personal profile pages on Facebook?  Do you feel that teachers have an even bigger job of making sure their lives away from the school are politically correct since they work with children and could be deemed role models?

First Day of Kindergarten

In one moment they're just exiting the toddler stage, in the next they are independent big kids going to school for the first time.

As the oldest kid in my family, I had never felt small. But there I was, suddenly small in a classroom of other kids just like me. My mom, pregnant with my youngest sister and my 4 year old sister at her side, handed me my lunch and coaxed me forward. I wasn’t entirely scared, not like the kid who was wailing in the coat room, begging their mom not to leave. I felt a little hesitant, but I wasn’t going to be THAT kid. And so I moved forward, carrying my belongings inside the classroom until the teacher could tell me where to put them. My mom stayed for the first 10 minutes as we all sang a song together. And then my mom was gone, along with all the other moms and dads. I was left alone in this big classroom, the strange teacher sitting in front of us, 20 kindergarteners cross-legged on patches of carpet waiting to find out which desk space would be ours.

It was in that year that I learned many lessons. I learned how to count to 100. I learned that there were more shapes than just the triangle, square, and circle. I learned that if my neighbor was talking to me and I wasn’t saying a word, I could still get my name on the chalkboard. And if I argued about it, I would get a check and miss recess. I learned that kindergarten boys liked everything that had to do with the bathroom, and could draw themselves peeing on just about anything (I learned later that they don’t really grow out of this phase and will go into their adult years obsessed with bathroom humor). I learned that while we were all 5 year old kids, we were all very different. This was made apparent by the girl who blinked too much, the boy who seemed to have lost something up his nose, the kid who made machine gun noises as he drew bombs hitting the school, and the girl who always seemed to have sat in water after the lunch bell rang.

And I learned independence.

After the first week of school, being dropped off by my mom was no big thing. I would barely glance at her as I bounded off to be with my friends once reaching my classroom. And I reminisced about this as I stood with my daughter 7 years ago on the first day of kindergarten, surrounded by strangers and waiting to leave her with a teacher I had never met before. She hung by my side, shyly glancing at all the other kids who were about to become her classmates. A few of them she knew, and she glanced up at me cautiously before making her way over to them. But after awhile, she was one of the crowd, joining in the laughter as kids ran all over the yard. The bell rang, we all made our way to the classroom, and soon it was time for the parents to leave. And as I swallowed the lump in my throat, I realized something. This might just be harder on me than it is on her. And for the first time, I realized that my mom might have been feeling the same way as she relinquished care of me over to someone she had never met before for several hours out of the day.

Many of you parents are about to drive your children to a brand new school for the first time, leaving them in the care of someone who is a virtual stranger. It’s not uncommon for there to be tears in this new adventure – YOUR tears. And there are fears as well. Know that you’re not alone in this. Letting your baby grow up so much that they are attending a big kid school is a HUGE step. And it is a bit intimidating. And you may find different worries rattling around in your brain as they embark on this adventure without you. Will they find the bathroom ok when they need to go? Sure they will. Will they eat all their lunch? Probably not (but they won’t starve). Will they make friends? Most likely they will. Will they follow all the rules? Perhaps, perhaps not. This is a growing time for them, and a time for learning more than just the ABCs.

And it’s a growing time for you too.  As for your tears? It’s ok. This is a huge step for you. You are learning to let go, and this is the first in a long line of many times you will be loosening those apron strings. But my advice is to save the tears for when they are safely out of sight so that they don’t have to worry about how you’re going to make it without them.

How are you feeling now that your 5 year old is a big kid? Are you scared or nervous? Are you excited? Are you counting down the days until they are out of the house, or dreading the day you have to let them grow up?

Stripping schools of their sports

(Cardinal Newman's Karl Kobler, right and Danny Binz. Photo by Crista Jeremiason.)

Imagine, if you will. Colleges send their scouts out to all the different high schools looking for their next Tim Lincecum or Zack Greinke. They sit in the stands at numerous games, taking notes and writing down names for those ballplayers they wish to extend invitations to for the next season’s college teams. Several students will receive scholarships to guarantee their entrance to their college. And a select few of those star ballplayers will go even farther and be drafted to a major league baseball team.

These scouts will not be attending any Santa Rosa high school games.

Last night the school board voted to strip the Jr. High and High Schools of their spring sports. This includes, not only baseball, but track, swimming, softball, badminton, boys tennis and boys golf. They also voted to shorten the school year by 3 more days, increase the class size from 28 to 29*, and take away the IB program that is dedicated to those students excelling in their studies. On the only bright side of the evening, the board agreed to defer the vote on eliminating 7-8 librarian positions – a move that could mean much less study time for students who use the library during school breaks and study periods. That vote will take place February 17th.

Read the article that ran in the Press Democrat today.

Frankly, I’m furious. It is true the Santa Rosa schools are strapped for funds right now. And budget cuts have to come somewhere. But taking away school sports? To be a part of a high school team, a student must maintain a minimum of a C average and stay out of trouble. For some students, this is their motivation for keeping up their grades and behavior. For some students, being a part of the high school team is equal to breathing. It is their passion, their drive. And we are yanking it away. And yes, this vote strikes a personal chord with me. My 9 year old son is passionate about sports, and is exceptionally good at baseball. I am excited for the day when I can be in the stands at his high school, cheering him on as he plays. This vote takes that future hope away from me. If I am outraged over this vote before my son has even reached that stage, I can only imagine the anger and disappointment of those students and their families that this vote affects now.

Santa Rosa High student, Hannah Croft, also voiced her outrage in the Teen Life blog. “…as I’ve learned in my month in economics, there is money left unspent. The reserve funds, a percentage of the district’s annual income, are untouchable. However, even without the reserve funds, the district finishes each year in the black, with more money than they expected. We are tightening the budget at this point, because our school board isn’t much for estimation. Our projected spending exceeds the actual spending year after year, by thousands of dollars.” She continues that “steps can be taken to save money before we cut spring sports, leave Mesa students in the dust, or throw forty students in one English class. Ask teachers to unplug their refrigerators, microwaves, computers, and other appliances over the weekends. Turn off heating and air conditioning when no one is on campus. These steps seem simple, yet we’ve bypassed them, and jumped into these anvil-sized budget cuts.”

My opinion as far as budget cuts go? Reduce the amount of school districts by combining them. Does Santa Rosa really need 41 school districts, complete with their own staff and offices and all the other costs that go along with them? Increase fundraising efforts from those participating in sports. Cut classes or programs that aren’t as popular or necessary in the school program. There has to be other avenues and measures that can be taken before taking away programs that are beneficial to our students.

The board promises to revisit this issue in April or May to see if any of these changes can be reversed. Parents, if you are as outraged as I am, I urge you to be a part of this meeting and make some noise. Our high school students deserve so much better than this.

*Note: class sizes are not being increased to 40 as previously stated, but are only increasing in size by 1 student.  Thank you, Tad, for bringing this to my attention.  🙂

Education – Who's in charge here?

Over the past several months, I have written several articles on kids in school, mainly because of the troubles I’ve been having with the Taz – a bright kid who has a hard time not being a distraction in class or staying focused on the lessons he is being taught.

Mark Alton, a teacher at Rancho Cotate, wrote to me after I wrote “When Teachers are Great”, an article on the lengths my son’s teacher has gone to ensure that my son was working to his fullest potential, and to tackle the problems he was having in school. He wrote:

“Is it necessary for teachers to work harder and spend more of their own personal time in order to “prove” they truly care about their students? I wonder if this is an unspoken assumption by the public. Would this teacher be an “uncaring” teacher if he had not necessarily been able or willing to meet each and every week outside of class to help this child, but simply did his very professional best in class to meet the needs of his students? I think not.”

“Ultimately, the primary person who needs to care is the student — care enough to get a good night’s sleep prior to a school day, care enough to come every day to school, care enough that he/she values an education for what it will do for his/her future, care enough to behave respectfully and responsibly in class, care enough to pay careful attention to instruction, and care enough to actually do the schoolwork assigned (because education is an active process requiring the actual involvement of each student).”

(Read the rest of the article he wrote called “Teachers Can’t be Alone in the Learning Process”.)

I confess, I had to re-read his article twice to get what he was saying without jumping to the defensive for the teacher who has changed my son’s life.  And I had to admit, he brought up a lot of good points that were not mentioned in the first article. As a follow-up, I wrote the article “Parents, the First Line of Defense”, an article about the fact that while a teacher is there to teach, it is the student’s responsibility to want to be present and learn what is being taught to him. And because that passion may not come naturally, it is our job, as parents, to help instill the importance of learning and being a productive part of the class, and to not let our job end as soon as our child enters the classroom door.

This last article inspired Kate Sholl to write this letter to the editor:

“Tenth paragraph, first sentence: “Students need to want to be present.”
Children are born with a deep and abiding curiosity; a love of learning. During the collective total of 33 years my children spent in school, they had a total of six teachers who inspired them to be present and learn. During the other years, my children hated school. A teacher’s job is to make learning a fascinating experience. I learned this by homeschooling my youngest two for a collective total of nineteen years. Those two children not only love learning still, but reached the age of 18 with their self-esteem in tact, something the older two did not. Crissi Dillon should look broadly for answers to the issue of her son’s easy distractibility; possibly he is too smart of the teacher he has and is, well, bored to distraction.”

Obviously, these are very different views on the same subject, which leads me to believe that there are many worthy ideas as to what makes a successful student.  So these are my questions for you:

Where does the responsibility lie in keeping a student working to his full potential: the parent, the student, or the teacher?
As a parent, what are some ways to ensure that your child understands the importance of school?
As a teacher, how do you keep your students motivated to stay present in the classroom?
What kind of steps need to be taken to encourage a flailing student to pull himself up from potential failure?

Raising the Ambitious Child

Ambition. It’s what the goal of the week is for my son, instructed by his teacher at yesterday’s conference. Really, it’s the goal for the whole year. Ambition to do his work neatly and with care. Ambition to pay attention during class. Ambition to show he is there to learn by staying near the front of the class anytime the teacher has something to show the class to give them more insight into what they are learning about. This week, ambition is the focus as we enter the second half of the year, eventually saying goodbye to 3rd grade as he enters the higher grades at a different school. It’s ambition to change the negative habits of yesterday and create positive habits for tomorrow.

Ambition, according to Mr. M, means two things. First, it’s brought on by enthusiasm to reach a goal. That morning, when the teacher had come over to the Taz’s desk to point out a couple of things, my son sighed and got an attitude of defeat. He would have to re-do everything he had already done to make the paper correct. Mr. M asked my son if he is bothered by him coming over and helping him without being asked. Truthful as an 8 year old, my son told him “yes” and said that he’d prefer if Mr. M only came over when he asked for help. That’s when Mr. M pointed out that my son doesn’t ask for help because he doesn’t seem to know when he needs it. He encouraged him to ask for help if he doesn’t understand what they are learning or why his answer seems to be different from the rest of the class. Together, they worked out that, at this point, it is actually ok if the teacher comes over and checks out my son’s work and helps him when he needs it. And that’s when he addressed my son’s attitude towards his help. His impression of my son sighing and moaning over more work to do was all too familiar in my house, and it made me laugh. My son got a sheepish grin on his face as I related to Mr. M’s description with my own rendition of what it was like while he did homework at home.

Me: You didn’t write out the sentences for these words you had to correct, you missed the corrections for this paragraph, and you didn’t even do this side of the paper.

Taz: Aw man! I just want to have fun! I thought today was going to be a good day!

Mr. M talked to my son about a different attitude he could have when errors were found and needed to be fixed. “Oh! Now I see what I did!” He had my son repeat it to him. At first my son said it in a monotone voice, still picking at the jeans with a hole in the knee. But Mr. M stopped him midsentence and told it to him again. Together, with zest, they repeated the words. “Oh! Now I see what I did!”

The second part of ambition is what it leads to – success. We talked about my son’s progress report that he brought home. The report only had numbers of 3, 3+ and 4 on it. On a number scale, a 4 is equal to an “A”, and a 3 is equal to a “B”. So his report card was exceptionally good. There were also notes about what he needed to work on, but Mr. M noted that the Taz had improved a lot since the beginning of the year. But we both agreed that the Taz was capable of so much more, and could possibly have all 4s. While math is his strong subject, Mr. M was especially impressed with my son’s writing skills. The Taz had recently written a letter to me from school, reminding me of a task I needed to complete to be turned in to the teacher. The teacher had told him the points he had wanted him to convey, and my son took the reins and wrote out a full letter. It read like he was talking to me, completely clear and well thought out. This is coming from the child who, last year, wrote sentences for class that had to use two spelling words. The sentences he wrote were mostly three words long. Over the year, he was suddenly writing long essays with ease, stories with description and conversation, and letters home to his mom about how he needs a letter to the teacher every time he forgets his homework.

The teacher was very adamant to my son that he is a smart boy, and capable of so much. He was capable of being successful, and had my son repeat the word “success” to him. My son, at that point, was still more interested in what was going on outside, or how much bigger he could make the hole in his jeans. And he mumbled “success” a couple times before the teacher finally accepted his most enthusiastic reply.

After the conference, I talked to the Taz in the car, telling him how wonderful it was that he had worked so hard to get to where he was at now, and how confident I was in his abilities. The Taz groaned in the backseat, tired of the conversation on ambition, just wanting to be done. But I was invigorated by the motivation of the meeting, excited about everything in store for my son.

“Let’s put it this way,” I said to the Taz. “You want to drive a sports car one day?” I asked him. He nodded his head, but then shook his head.

“I’ll probably just drive a cheap car when I grow up,” he said.

“I don’t think so. I could see you in a sports car,” I told him. He grinned at that, no doubt thinking of himself behind the wheel of some sleek, red car that went fast down the highway and took turns while hugging the road. “Well, to get that fancy sports car, you’re going to have to make money. And how do you get money?” I asked him. “You have a really good job. And to get that good job, you have to have done really well in school. And to do well in school, you have to WANT to do well. That’s why we’re meeting with your teacher. That’s why I’m so excited about the progress you’re making, and excited for your future. I want you to make a lot more money than me. I can see you making a lot of money. And I see you driving that fancy sports car.”

“I’ll probably be poor when I grow up,” he said to that, intent on staying in the negative.

“I highly doubt it,” I said back.

“I’ll bet you a hundred dollars I’ll be poor,” he told me, $100 being the equivalent to all the money in the world in his mind.

“It’s a deal,” I said. To that, his eyes widened and he grinned. I continued, “If you live your life with ambition, truly doing your absolute best at everything you set your mind to, and you still end up poor and unsuccessful, I will give you $100.” And we shook on it.

I was talking with Mr. Wonderful’s step-father last night, relaying the story of the Taz and his teacher, and how his goal for the week is to have ambition to be successful. And after I told the story, he told me this:

“There was this 40 year old man, some years ago, that called into a radio station after hearing a similar story about a boy that was being encouraged by his teacher. He told the host that in all his 40 years, he had failed at everything he had attempted in his life. He had lost job after job. He had three failed marriages under his belt. Every attempt he made to turn things around resulted in another failure. And he couldn’t figure out why until this very moment. When he was a young boy and sitting in a parent teacher conference with his mother and teacher, the teacher had turned to his mother and said,

“Your boy will never amount to anything.”

The man thanked the host, and told him that now that he knew, he could finally move on, and change things for the better – for good.”

Without our encouragement, our children will never be ambitious. If they are brought down time after time, they will believe the negative and will become the negative. Ambition is directly linked to self-esteem. If a child has low self-esteem, they will see the glass as half empty and won’t even be able to do their best. But if a child is encouraged repeatedly, told that he is capable of so much, and is encouraged to picture his future as something wonderful, they will believe that. And they will live it. Think of it this way – if a child is told that their room is a mess after they just spent time cleaning it, they will be less enthusiastic to help out the next time. But if they are praised for their efforts, raised up by compliments on how well they cleaned their room, they will be more enthusiastic about cleaning it the next time, and maybe even keep it tidy in between cleanings. If a child is told they are stupid, put down because their report card is less than satisfactory, or told they will never amount to anything because they can’t seem to stop goofing off in class – what exactly is going to motivate them to try harder? But if they are praised for their strengths, they will try even harder to utilize those strengths. And if they are recognized when they turn the corner on something they have been struggling with, they will be more apt to continue down that positive path.

Honey attracts more flies than vinegar.

It is enthusiasm about the goals that have been set that motivate ambition. And it is ambition that leads to success. But what leads to the path of enthusiasm? Our encouragement. And that’s what it takes to raise an ambitious child.

Are you making less than $50,000 a year?  You may be able to qualify for EITC and get up to $5,000 or more back, even if you don’t owe taxes.   See the forums for more details.

Parents, the First Line of Defense

(Part Two of When Teachers Are Great.)

Teachers have one of the hardest jobs in the world. As a parent, I am handling the issues of my two children, and there are times when I am so frustrated I want to throw my hands up in the air. I couldn’t imagine the frustrations of a teacher who has a classroom full of children that they are trying to teach when they have students, like my own son, who are easily distracted, and who easily distract others. On top of that, the limitations that the state is imposing on schools are making the classroom a much harder place to maintain a proper learning environment. A teacher’s job is not easy at all!

As a teacher recently pointed out to me, the responsibility for how students learn is not in the hands of the teacher. Are you shocked about this? It’s true. The responsibility lies in the hands of the STUDENT. It is up to the kids, themselves, to own their right to an education by staying on task and being present in class, physically and mentally. When students don’t, it is a major disruption to the class, and it impedes the child’s ability to learn all that the teacher has to offer. My son, unfortunately, is one of those students. I may get a lot of story material out of him (let’s face it, nothing is more interesting than the misbehaving), but it’s been a sore subject when it comes to school.

So what if your child is one of those disruptive students that is goofing off in class? Is it then the teacher’s sole responsibility to curb the behavior? Are they required to stay after school, taking time out of their own personal lives to ensure that your little troublemaker is toeing the line? No. Some teachers will. But really, the teacher is not the first line of defense. You are. We are the ones who have brought these children into the world, and we are the ones who are responsible for the adults they become. Teachers are there as a guide in their education to help them gain the tools they need to be able to succeed in life. But it is up to the parents to instill the importance of soaking up this education into their children. And it is also important to teach them, and to keep teaching them, about respect in the classroom so that the teacher is able to teach, and so that their classmates are able to learn.

Unfortunately, there are instances when parents fail. The parent is never home. They don’t show interest in their child’s schoolwork. Their child is falling behind or causing trouble at school, and the most they are doing to correct it is to yell at the child but never take the steps to change the behavior. These are the children that fall through the cracks. Their first line of defense is missing. Their last line of defense, their teachers, see them as a disruption to the class and dismiss them. Because they aren’t being prompted daily to do their best or praised when they are showing effort, they don’t see school as important. It is a lucky student who has a teacher like my son’s teacher who is able to see through the rubble and find the gold that lies within. But without parents to stay involved every step of the way in their own children’s lives, it is hard for anyone to be able to reach them. Most teachers try. I have seen it time and time again. But without the same goals being encouraged at home, any efforts that teachers make will just fall by the wayside. And what is left are kids that, more often than not, flunk out of school and fail in life, and fail in the moral decisions they are faced with. Kids need to want to be present. In most kids, it is not a trait that is natural. It has to be learned, and then repeated over and over to the child so that it can become second nature.

It has to be repeated by you.

So be there for your kids. Encourage them every step of the way. Keep in constant communication with their teacher so that you know their progress and know what you still need to work on at home. Praise your child for work well done. Remind them of proper behavior and respect for their teachers and their learning environment. When your child leaves your home and enters the classroom, your job is not done since the teacher is there to take over. In all actuality, your job has become even more important so that they have the tools to learn and grow and someday be a really great adult.

Does your toddler throw temper tantrums (is the sky blue???)?  How do you deal?  Share in the forums!

Getting Back into the School Routine

It’s the time of year when kids cringe and parents jump for joy. Gone are the days of going to bed late and waking up around noon. No more video games for 4 hours straight, knocking on friends’ doors all day long to see if they can play, and seeing if it actually is possible that pajamas will stick to their skin if they wear them for a week without changing. It’s when your child, who has been looking at you for months through shaggy uncombed locks, suddenly looks like a shiny new kid with a haircut and unwrinkled clothing, a new backpack slung over their shoulder…and a scowl on their face.

I can’t promise you that the scowl will disappear completely. But I can guarantee that, in most cases, it does get better. And, with the help of some local moms and teachers, I have compiled a list of some definite DO’s to help get your child on track in the transition from the lazy days of summer to the busy days of school.

The first, and most important, is to set a bedtime and stick with it. Caren McLerran, a kindergarten teacher at R. L. Stevens Elementary, suggests that routine is vital when it comes to bedtime. “Begin early enough to get ready and have a settle down time to read a story. It should be consistent every school night. Children thrive on routine.”

On that note, reading to your elementary kids is an extremely vital part of a kids’ development. I admit it, I have gotten out of practice when it comes to reading to my kids now that they are at an age where they can read by themselves. Problem is, kids don’t always read on their own time. But there are reasons why kids need to be read to. It helps them to be able to hear more carefully the emotions involved in reading so that they can read the same way on their own. And Caren gave a point that I had never thought of, to use reading as an opportunity to “discuss the story and ask them to make predictions. Talk about the plot, the characters, the setting, and the problem and resolution. Ask what they liked or disliked and why. It’s important to stretch those summer-mode attention spans and re-spark those higher order thinking skills.”

Timeliness is another important factor, and it sets the tone for the day. It’s those extra few moments spent at home that can determine whether your child will be there on time, or if they will have to get a tardy slip. And being tardy not only reflects on your child’s school performance, it is incredibly disruptive to the class. The teacher must catch the tardy student up to speed while the rest of the class must wait. Santa Rosa mom, Kari Cagle, came up with a simple solution. She has her daughter, Kassidy, “put her outfit out the night before and pack up her backpack and homework the night before as well.” You can even go one step further and have the kids plan out their lunches, and pack as much as they can the night before. This way they aren’t wasting time standing in front of the refrigerator trying to decide what to eat. It also helps to have a lunch meal plan for the week, easily accessible on the refrigerator so that there is no guesswork involved.

Ask any teacher what their number one hope for every student is, and organization will be at the top of the list. Kari told me, “One thing we always do is restock her home supplies as well as her school supplies. It’s always a good idea to get them excited about homework. New fun things like new pens, pencils, color pencils, crayons, erasers and other supplies seems to get my girl in the mood to do homework. There’s nothing like breaking in a new crayon!” Another important tip is to “make up a homework kit,” Caren McLerran offered. “Have all of the pencils, erasers, crayons, scissors, glue, paper and folders that they will need for the year. Get a container to put the supplies in and figure out a quiet spot that will be designated as the “homework spot”. This way when they actually start getting homework they’ll be ready to hit the ground running. Homework should be done early and not right before bed when our brains are sleepy.”

High school teacher, Jessica Dennis, gave a different view, “Since I’m a high school teacher, it’s a little different, I suppose, because we treat students like mini-adults. You know, school is their “job” so once summer is over, they’re back on the clock, so to speak, and we simply expect them to start being responsible. Organization is obviously important, so it’s vital to have all the school supplies ready to go early on….but with high schoolers, they need to do it themselves, so parents shouldn’t dictate an organization system, but rather work with kids to develop one that works for them individually. Not all students can have immaculate binders, and not all kids can use a daily planner.”

In my family, the one item we cannot do without is our dry erase calendar. Listed on that calendar is every single thing we are doing each month. The kids know where we need to be at any given time, and that takes the surprise out of it. It helps them to prepare for the day, and to know what’s going on for tomorrow. If they have soccer practice the next day, they know that they are going to need a clean uniform and will have to locate their gear. If they have a book report or a project due, it is listed on the calendar so they can be aware of the date every day, and work towards being done by the due date.

Perhaps one of the most important tips is YOUR involvement in your child’s school life. Parents, even junior high and high school parents, need to keep involved at the school. It is important to meet and keep in contact with your child’s teachers, go to the PTA meetings, and attend Open House and Back to School night. To better understand your child’s workload, check your student’s planner and homework lists every night, and look at their homework. There will come a time when the work they are doing will surpass even your knowledge, but you can at least be familiar with what they are expected to learn. “The advice I’d have for my parents is to be excited for school to start, and to share that excitement with the kids,” Jessica Dennis said. “Talk about what this year is going to hold, and discuss ways your kids can get involved in the school community, whether through sports or clubs or other activities. A student who is “plugged in” will always be more successful than one who feels like they’re just going through the motions.”

It’s not like school is a kid’s favorite place to be. And no wonder when they have to break free from waking up in the afternoon and beating their high score on Guitar Hero. But with a little prompting and a lot of organization, school won’t be faced with feelings of dread. And this school year could be your child’s best year ever.

(See a version of this article in today’s Sonoma Living section of the Press Democrat)


Have more tips on getting back into the school routine?  Share them here, or on the forums at SantaRosaMom.com.