Archive for Education

A Passionate Plea for a Teacher—TO TEACH

I think most of us know that (nationally speaking) there are a lot of problems with high school education.  There is a disconnect at certain schools.  Some students do not want to learn due to a poor attitude.  It also could be a lack of understanding of why the material they are learning is relevant.  There are also teachers who get frustrated because of student attitudes.  This sometimes can hamper teaching efforts.  But, the situation I am placing the spotlight on is different.  Teachers should be wise to assume that every child has a camera phone.  One child captured a 90 second rant from a student named Jeff Bliss like something you have probably never heard. Read more

Criminalizing Kindergarteners

What should happen to a boy in kindergarten who has had a history of poor behavior and decides to kick his female principal?  Should she place her hands on him?  Should she call the parents?  There is a trend that is not widely talked about but has happened in more cases than you may anticipate.  This principal called the police and she stands by her decision.  I am going to lay out the pros and cons step by step.  I would love to hear your comments after you read this to know where you stand.

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Detention for Kindergarten Tardiness?

A Texas kindergarten student named Brooke from Olympia Elementary School was subjected to two days of lunch detention due to being tardy.  This specifically means that the child sat facing a wall by herself.  On the surface, this probably sounds absolutely ridiculous to a lot of my readers.  This post is going to take an honest look though at the specifics of the case and determine if the school was wrong in punishing the child.

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Teacher Rattled by Violent Threat Response

Yesterday, Annie’s Mailbox printed a question posed by a teacher of two seven year old students with “major behavioral issues.”  Both students have threatened to kill her with a gun.  The teacher has gone to her principal and vice principal but no one has spoken to the boys about their behavior.

The link to this disturbing piece can be found at the bottom of this article.  Though I am a fan of their column in general, Ms. Mitchell and Ms. Sugar really missed the mark on this one and I am going to set the record straight.

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The Achievement Gap

This is one of those controversial topics where people in power tread lightly.  Why is there an achievement gap?  What can be done to turn it around?  No matter where you live, I am sure this is a serious topic of conversation. Unfortunately, I can’t give you all the answers.  Regardless, here are some things I couldn’t tell you when I was a teacher but can share with you now.

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Teachable Moments

Good early morning to all!  Have you ever had an idea so obvious- you felt like you were slapped in the face with it?Yesterday- that’s exactly what happened to me.  The idea for this article came from the sky- literally!  Once it hit me, I knew what I wanted to write.  What you will find inside is a real key to education seldom discussed.

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Inventive Spelling

Happy Friday to all of you.  Today’s education blog is going to give you an inside look to what is going on in some schools around the country.  Unfortunately, it’s a trend which is not helping our children.  I believe when parents are informed- children will benefit so let’s dive in.

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6 Parent/Teacher Conference Tips Not Often Heard

Parent- teacher conferences are a time where there should be a meeting of the minds.  Teachers should be able to lay out their case for the child’s progress academically, socially, and emotionally.  Parents should be able to compare what they are hearing to what is going on at home.  At that point, a plan should come together as to how to work with the child going forward. It should be the ultimate collaboration crammed into about 15 minutes.

When I was a teacher, I was meticulous about laying out my arguments about how a child was performing before a parent walked through my door.  Instead of dominating the meeting, I would lay out these arguments as quickly as possible in order to allow the parent to agree or disagree with my assessment.  Because I have been on both ends of the parent teacher conference table ( I was an elementary teacher for 7 years) perhaps these tips will guide you through a conference.

 

The first tip is for a parent to keep samples of student work just like a teacher.  This is especially helpful if there is a disputed grade in a subject.  Bring the student work to the conference and compare it with the work the teacher presents.

The second tip is to respect the knowledge of the teacher concerning your child but don’t take it as the law.  You have been around your child for years.  At this point, a teacher has had your child two months (give or take).  I’m not saying that teachers do not know what they are talking about.  What I am saying is that you know your child better than anyone.  There’s nothing wrong with trusting your instincts unless the teacher can present irrefutable evidence.

The third tip is to approach the conference as a problem solver.  The last thing a parent should want is to be lectured for 15 minutes about poor grades or behavior then sent home shamefully.  Let’s pretend there is a behavior problem in the classroom.  As a parent, you should be able to present a few effective methods you have used at home for handling discipline. If concentration is an issue, what do you do at home to help your child concentrate?

The fourth tip is for parents to understand that teachers aren’t the only professionals in the room.  All parents should be treated like professionals because when it comes to your child, you might as well have a PH. D.  If you feel like you are being talked down to or belittled by a teacher, you can choose to address it on the spot.  If you are not confrontational or if you have a situation that catches you off guard; going to the principal is always a good option.

My fifth bit of advice is to not get too excited or too depressed about the results of a parent/teacher conference.  A conference is simply a snapshot in time.  If a conference goes well, be happy for your child but understand there is still more work to do.  If a conference doesn’t go well, that’s fine in most cases.  There is  plenty of time to turn the problem around.

Finally, here’s the key once a conference has concluded.  Follow up with the teacher (in the next couple of weeks) by phone or email to make sure that the game plan from the conference is being implemented to everyone’s satisfaction.  Often, I had parents who I would not see again until the next conference 5 months later.  It’s much better for all parties (especially children) when the parent clearly demonstrates they are keeping their finger on the pulse.

I hope you liked today’s article.  Don’t forget that there are many other lessons parents can learn from my parenting book Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures.  Feel free to read the preface located right below my picture.  I hope the lessons you will learn from the book will serve your family well.  Here’s the direct link to the book from www.lulu.com:   http://tiny.cc/8gs8o

I also wanted to announce that over this past weekend, I receive the 1,000th comment on www.claytonpaulthomas.com.  For everyone who has ever cared enough to leave a thought on my website, I truly appreciate your time and effort.

My next post will be on Tuesday.  Have a terrific weekend.

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Working with Students on September 11th

Today’s post won’t come to you with the same authoritative tone as my others.  Nothing I learned from the house parents of St. Joseph Children’s Home or from any teacher I have ever worked with could have prepared me in how to work with children on September 11th, 2001.

President George Bush and I had something in common that morning.  My class was being read to when an aide came to me, whispered what happened after the first plane struck the World Trade Center, and asked me to handle it the way I wanted to- similar to the former president. Everyone who reads my blog regularly knows I am a problem solver with parents, teachers, and children.  To be honest though, I’ve never felt more lost that day either before I started working with kids or since.

My options were simple enough.  I could tune in to find out what in the world was going on.  I suspected the risks of exposing 6-7 year olds to this but I also knew something big was happening.  On the other hand, I could go on with my lesson as if nothing happened.  Keep in mind, no one at this point was reporting this was definitely a terrorist attack.

Though I can’t explain my reasoning, I turned the television on.  It wasn’t long after this point that the second plane hit.  Even in all my confusion, I knew the second plane couldn’t have been an accident.  My wife has many friends in New York and my thoughts turned to her: thus taking me even further away from my class (mentally).

The students in my room had reacted in various ways.  Some of them understood something wasn’t right while others didn’t really pay a lot of attention.  Besides the event itself, their faces are the thing still etched in my mind.  A couple of children were laughing but I’m certain they didn’t understand what was truly happening.

I don’t know how long after the buildings came down that it dawned on me that I had a job to do.  I’m not sure how well I taught my lessons the rest of the day.  Perhaps it’s best my mind has erased the memories. Hopefully, I composed myself and did a good job.  Like many others, I was numb.

Maybe it’s because my focus is constantly on children but after I left school that day, I remember driving home and thinking about the kids who lost their parents.  It made me physically ill.  To think that it’s been 10 years is mind blowing.  The same children who were with me that day are now juniors and seniors in high school.

I almost feel silly trying to teach a lesson after sharing these memories with you.  The thing is though that many people come to my site to receive parenting information or a nugget of knowledge.  Therefore, here’s my shot in teaching today’s lesson.

Sometimes, you do things with children without knowing whether it’s the right thing to do or not.  Most of the times, you can reflect back and think about ways you could have done something better.  That reflection will help make you a better parent.

There will be other times though when, after reflecting, you still have no idea if what you did was the correct decision.  My advice to you is to shrug it off knowing that you did your best.

This Friday, I will be back with a more upbeat blog.  Best wishes to you and your loved ones.

Three Reasons to Delay Kindergarten

First, I want to acknowledge my influx of new followers from Twitter, Facebook, and Feedburner.  I’m happy you are here so let’s get moving.

Today, I want to delve into my theory of when to send a child to school.  Most parents who have the means really care about “the where.”  In other words, they study schools relentlessly until they have discovered “the perfect fit” for their child.  Although where a child goes to school is certainly important- WHEN they start should be, in my mind, an equal consideration.

After being an elementary teacher for 7 years and studying this topic at length, I have some fairly strong opinions on this topic.  Here are three reasons parents should wait until their child is 6 before sending him/her to kindergarten.

1.  The Maturity Factor– Speaking in general terms, there is a major difference between a 5 year old child who was born right after the cutoff date versus another child who is a few months older. Children in kindergarten are considered fairly equal in age but the truth is the months that separate children can be significant.  When I was a teacher, I never looked at a child’s birth month in my class as a contributing factor of success although maybe I should have.   Over time, children naturally separate themselves in terms of cognitive ability.  This separation is really important.  In many schools, they are “grouped” or “fast tracked” into ability levels.  As a parent, do you want to give your child the best chance to be placed in the higher ability group and thus pushed to succeed at a higher rate?

2.  Bullying- Obviously with time, children grow.  Would you like your child to be one of the bigger ones in the class?  The biggest children in the class aren’t the most bullied (unless we are talking about a weight issue which is different). Instead, what I have found is they are usually the leaders of the class other children look up to.  Sometimes, they wind up being a bully but that is more of a parenting issue or a teacher’s lack of control.

3.  Athletics- For the sake of kindergarten, this doesn’t matter but as time goes along, it certainly does.  It’s advantageous for any child to be one of the older ones on a school’s sports team.  Although sports shouldn’t dictate when a child goes to school, it can be considered with points 1 and 2.

There are some who will argue that their children are ready for school and in some cases it’s true.  I have close friends, for example, whose child is one of the youngest in his class; yet one of the smartest.  Also, the school he goes to is a blue ribbon school which basically means they have tested in the top 10% in the country of Catholic schools in the last seven years. He is certainly an exception to the rule.

In most cases, what I find are parents who decide to send their child to school merely because he/she is 5 and going to school at the age is the social norm.  They believe the child is “ready” but I question if that should be the criteria.

With my youngest child, it’s true that he would be ready for kindergarten by the time he is 5.  But, readiness isn’t my criteria.  I am looking to give him more academic time in a one on one environment which you do not get in school.  Certainly, this won’t hurt my child to say the least. More importantly, it should help down the road and has certainly paid important dividends for his older brother where the same tactics, in essence, were implemented.

While I acknowledge each parent has to decide for themselves what is best, I have heard few counterarguments once the facts are on the table.  The only good exception I have heard is if the parent doesn’t bother to work with their child and watches trashy talk shows all day.  In that case, please disregard this post and send your child to school as early as you possibly can.

I will be writing to you again Friday.  Until then, have a terrific week!

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