Archive for Educators

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

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.

Read more

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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Illusions

Welcome back my friends!  Today’s post is going to have two parts to it.  The first is comparing public school teachers to illusionists while the second is going to say goodbye (for now).  Off we go!!!

I’ve always been amazed with illusion.  First, you see it; then you don’t.  They can do card tricks, slight of hand, and even levitate.  How they do it, I don’t know. But these acts entertain millions and I am one of them. 

One of the tricks that baffle me are the escapes.  I know there are secrets as to how they do it but I typically don’t know how it’s done.    When people have their hands tied, handcuffed, and shackled by their feet, escapes shouldn’t be possible.  Yet, they are time and time again.

Thinking about these incredible acts, it strikes me as amazing that teachers are supposed to make the magic happen much like an illusionist no matter how unrealistic the trick really is.  Here are some examples.

1.  Teachers aren’t handcuffed but they are significantly restrained by what they can and can’t do.  For example, when  discipline problems exist in the classroom, there is not much a teacher can do besides deal with it to the best of their ability.  Remember, every minute spent dealing with a behavior issue is a minute taken from your child’s education. The time lost is not accounted for when future tests are taken.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot an administration can do as well.  I remember as a teacher some colleagues would get mad at the principal and the counselor because of their lack of help.  The problem is there are hundreds of kids in a school and they have a laundry list of things that have to be accomplished.  In all my years, I never caught a principal or counselor playing card games on the computer or sitting around doing nothing.

2.  Teachers are expected to solve what appears to be an unsolvable mystery. What is a teachers job?  Simplistically, most of us would say to teach.  But, since teachers are evaluated on test scores, what happens when they are low?  Does it mean a teacher spent almost 10 months with a kid and didn’t teach?  That seems a bit unlikely.

Test scores are obviously a quantifiable measure of progress.  But, this isn’t like working the line at Ford Motor Company.  The parts aren’t all the same.  Yet, teachers are supposed to produce a highly qualified and highly efficient test taking machine. Does this mean I disapprove of testing?  No.  Does it mean I approve of standardized testing?  Not really.  Again, it’s an unsolvable mystery to me.

One of the main differences between an illusionist and teacher is this.  An illusionist only appears to have an unsolvable mystery.  With teachers, it’s real.

3.   Teachers are expected to “perform” like illusionists with kids even if they aren’t ready for the course work.  When a third grade teacher has to work with a 1st grade brain (happens a lot more than you may think) then either you give the kid extra instructional time (which means the other kids get less) or partially neglect the kid (in the air of fairness to the others) or totally neglect the kid (in order to work with the other kids who are on or closer to grade level).  There are not too many more options for teachers. Whatever direction the teacher goes will directly influence your child.

The grandest illusion of all is when parents believe schools will solve the problems.  The public has been fed the same line way before I started teaching and year after year, there are many parents who believe them.  That’s why they get so mad at the system when problems occur.  They actually were fooled in believing it was going to work to begin with.  While it’s frustrating even to me at times, I don’t get surprised or upset.  I have responded by educating my kids to the best of my ability and wrote a blog almost 6,000 people have hit telling you all about it and what to do.   

Teachers work very hard but many are in a “box” they can’t escape.  I was in that box as well and didn’t realize it until years AFTER I left the profession.  When I taught, I can guarantee you I worked a lot of hours, ran a disciplined classroom, and taught the lessons I was expected to teach to the best of my ability.  There were kids who exploded with knowledge as the school year progressed.  There were others though who I couldn’t help enough and continue to be “shackled” to this day.

Please keep a finger on the pulse of your children’s education and help whenever you can.  Don’t get caught up in the illusions.  I promise you’ll never regret a minute of life working with a child you love.  

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As I said before, this will be my last post for a while.  I try not to say never because I know better.  For those who have been following, you know I wrote a parenting book and am looking for the right publisher.  It takes an extraordinary amount of time to do this.  I am to the point where this needs to be my focus.  The purpose of the blog was to help great parents become even better and to get my name in the cyber world.  I truly feel I have accomplished both in a big way and had a lot of fun in the process.

I have had many people ask me about the book and when it will be available.  I am not sure but if anyone who has followed my work would like to purchase a copy down the line, shoot me an email.  If and when the book is published, I am sure I will be deep in the blogosphere again.

As far as people who have submitted parenting questions, I plan on responding to you privately.  If you are going to take the time to ask a question, I should take the time to answer it to the best of my ability.  This blog will also stay up indefinently.  If you have a question in the future, feel free to shoot me an email.  My door will stay open for you.

I wasn’t sure how to end this blog until I checked my Twitter messages (@claylauren2001) about 10 minutes ago.  A girl I’ve never met wrote to me “we are beginning an adoption process from an orphanage and wanted some tips.”  I fully admit I teared up a bit.  Anyone who knows my past would understand why.  If I help this stranger out in the smallest bit, all the hours spent in the creation, promotion, and writing of this blog will have been worth it.

Thanks again to everyone who has made this blog the success it’s been.  Thanks for telling your friends.  Thanks for your comments.  Thanks for your words of encouragement.  If all goes well, maybe I’ll be in a town near you someday signing my book.

Goodbye (for now) from the world of Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures.