Archive for School

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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4 Tips Before Your Child Takes a Standardized Test

I have seen many children’s faces this time of year.  For some, the little wrinkles and the pursed lips seem to come out even more than when they get into trouble.   For others, they seem to get a bit more quiet than usual even to the point of being withdrawn.  That’s because standardized testing is right around the corner.  What you’ll find inside are some tips which have worked very well for students of mine over the years.  I hope something you’ll read will work for your child as well! 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

I also wanted to announce that over this past weekend, I receive the 1,000th comment on  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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The Belly Floppers

Disclaimer: Although I am not certain “belly flopper” is an actual term, I am using it to describe a person who belly flops figuratively speaking.

Over the weekend, my wife told me that my oldest child is going to start school in two weeks.  My first thought was where has the summer gone?  School supplies have already been bought and there’s nothing to worry about.  When my wife told my son about going back to school; he looked surprised but acted ready.

For a lot of families, what I described isn’t exactly the norm.  Parents stress about school shopping and the stress passes along to their child.  Parents stress about the next grade and the stress passes along to their child.  Parents stress about the teacher and…… get the picture.

Being the on the other side of the desk as the teacher, I watched these stressed parents year in and year out.  Some children were unfazed by their parent’s stresses but others took their cue and had a lot of stress at the beginning of the school year.

Secretly, I thought of these kids as “the belly floppers.”  The impact of returning to school for these children was like belly flopping into water off a cliff.  They knew school was going to happen but the “landing” was shocking.  The children who “belly flopped” were always the ones who looked like they were in a trance the first week of school.  It was almost like school work was foreign and they didn’t remember the most basic concepts taught the previous year.

There may be some who are reading this and do not quite realize how serious this can be so let me put it this way.  I only could think of 3 children, in all my years of teaching, who “belly flopped” into school and finished in the top half of my class academically.  All children settled down mentally in my classroom eventually.  But, perhaps the stress and/or lost time were too much to overcome.  I would argue it was at least a contributing factor.

I would like the children of anyone who reads this to be the opposite of a “belly flopper.” There are many kids who enter school hitting the ground running.  Teachers like love these types of children.  Here are some suggestions on how your child can hit the ground running.

1.  School shop early.  When you get the supply list, beat the procrastinators and make school shopping a pleasant experience with your child.  I would even suggest things like buying the backpack your child chooses (if it’s within your means) because it gives a child that little something extra to look forward to going back to school.  You may spend a couple of extra dollars on their preferred choice; but your child will be in a better frame of mind going to school.

2.  Meet the teacher(s).  Schools usually have times when parents and kids can get situated and drop off supplies in their classrooms before the first day of school.  They get to pick their desk and get the general lay of the land.  This drastically decreases the shock on the first day.   Teachers like seeing the parents before the school year begins.  They keep mental notes of which parents go out of their way to meet them.  A favorable impression is important and will most likely be passed along to your child.  It’s human nature.

3.  Start the school year with your child before it begins. You can do this by purchasing an inexpensive workbook that correlates with the grade your child is going into.  The child will get a feel of the material that will be taught.  Also, when the child runs across a concept that they don’t understand, they can get help from you before the school year begins.  This also greatly decreases the shock value of a difficult school lesson during the school year.  When other children are struggling with the material, your child will look like a star.

Returning to school can be rough for some children. I wish all of your children the best of luck!!!

My next post will be on Friday.  I look forward to having you back.  Don’t forget, if you place your email in the subscription box, the blog will come directly to your email without having to remember a thing.

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Education Children Deserve

Good Monday morning to all of you.  Before I get started on today’s topic, I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you for coming.  Over the weekend, my blog surpassed 5,000 hits.  Considering this blog is about 3 months old and there were two major holidays, I’m very humbled- thank you.

I would also appreciate a bit of understanding for today’s blog.  Last Friday, I teased a post that was going to compare illusionists to teachers.  That post is laid out on paper and ready to be written.  Over the weekend though, a story in my local newspaper really struck a nerve. After conferring with my editor (me) I am going to address it instead.

My question today is what type of education do children deserve?  This question has tugged at me for a while. This leads me to the article in the newspaper that had to do with the Wade County school district in Raleigh, North Carolina and its plan to move toward neighborhood schools.  Of course, there is a public outcry like in a lot of cases where a major change is being made.  Both sides of the aisle have their strong supporters and neither side wants to give an inch.

I can certainly see why neighborhood schools makes sense. Obviously, parents could be more involved in the school and there would be a huge savings in the cost of busing.  There is also a dirty little point to be made as well.  In many schools, if you were to eliminate the lower economic families by sending them back to their neighborhoods- test scores would most likely shoot up immediately at those schools.  That would make certain principals, teachers, and remaining kids look very good.

The argument against neighborhood schools is equally as compelling.  Some people would claim that diversity of race and cultures is a good thing.  Neighborhood schools would eliminate that in many areas.  Another point is we had neighborhood schools as late as the 1960’s.  How did that work out for us?  Finally, if we went to neighborhood schools, some schools in hard hit economic areas would most likely fail miserably.  What would we do then?

If you are someone who has read my blog for a while, you know that I really advocate working with your children and relying as little as possible on the school system.  The argument over neighborhood schools is the latest reason.  We had these same debates and many others 11 years ago when I started teaching.  Despite any changes that were made, not much has helped when you compare the data.

For what it is worth, the first school I taught in (Portland Elementary in Louisville, Kentucky) was a neighborhood school and it was a nice place to work.  We had our share of problems (academically) but we made strides and improved test scores every year I was there.  After I left, the principal I worked for retired. A new principal was brought in and (from what I can see) has done some great work including improving the test scores.  The improvements may not be enough in the eyes of some people though.  Being that I worked there and know the neighborhood, I would say the school should be proud its accomplishments.   

As far as whether I think there should be neighborhood schools; here’s the truth.  Neighborhood schools are a great idea but there is a huge drawback.  The drawback is I doubt if they will work in many areas.  Let me explain.

In order for neighborhood schools to work in my opinion, there has to be an understanding that there will be areas where poverty, discipline, and overall culture will be at an all time low.  These area would have to be inundated with the brightest educational minds the district could muster.  The student- teacher ratio would have to be extremely low (6:1 would be ideal).  There would have to be at least 2 full time assistants for every class.  Teachers would have to have a 25% pay increase over their peers at higher performing schools (based on educational rank and seniority) directly hired by the principal.  Because of the lack of overall space and to keep the ratios low, two full time teachers would most likely have to team teach in every room.  It is very possible two full time security guards would be needed in each school as well.  Even if all these ideas were to happen, it would take years to see tangible results because the kids are that far behind.  In short, this is simply not going to happen. 

Before any of these ideas could be implemented, one more thing would be needed as well- cooperation.  I am talking about the teachers, principals, unions, school boards, local and state government, and, of course, parents. If it is one thing I have seen over the years, these groups have their own agendas and getting along with each other is not one of them.  It is sad but true. 

So what kind of education do children deserve?  That’s not a question any school can answer (unless you want to hear the standby answer- students deserve the best education possible).  Rather this is a question only you, the parent, can answer.  Here’s my advice for what it’s worth.  Your job should be to let the talking heads fight, beat each other up, and get little accomplished.  These people are good at it and have been mastering the art for many years. The names may change but the results generally stay the same.

I understand you can debate me on this by citing your tax dollars for instance.  I understand your concerns should be heard as well.  I also understand your voice is important.  But, what I understand the most is that time is ticking when it comes to your kids.  I’ve made my decisions concerning my children and have been very pleased with the results.  My hope is for you to be equally happy with the educational progress of your kids.        

In the meantime,  I want you to continue working diligently with your kids on their reading and math especially.  Take an active interest in your child’s report cards and focus on your kids areas of weakness.  It is also a good idea to form support groups with other parents and have study nights. (Ever heard the saying it takes a village to raise a child)  The point is the more you take control of your kids future, the less you have to worry about what a school is going to do.

Usually, my blog posts are more light-hearted or have a humorous twist.  The truth is that debates such as neighborhood schools angers me because I think of the kids I used to teach.  Most are not receiving a good education today (though I bet their teachers are working hard) and I wish there was more I could do.

This Wednesday will be the long awaited behavior blog called Competing for Mama.  I will lay out some insights and the opinions may surprise you.