Tag Archive for Education

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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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……..you 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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Celebrating the Tearing of a Book

Today’s blog is meant to be much more light-hearted than the Sink or Swim blogs of last week.  But, behind the pomp and circumstance of what you are going to read, there is a serious message on how to improve a child’s ability to read, write, or perform math problems.  There’s not a better time than now to get started.  Let’s begin!!!

My youngest child who is 4 years old recently tore the cover off of a book.  Obviously, if there are any librarians reading this, you may want to hide your children.  Seriously though, the tearing of a book is a big celebration in the Thomas household and after reading this, you may seek to have your children tear a book as well.

People who have been reading my blog for a while know that I take education very seriously.  One of the ways I educate is through various activity books.  We have a quirky celebration though.  When we finish the activities of a book to my satisfaction, the front cover is torn off and placed on a cork board for all to see.  My youngest child just finished his first book.  Not only was the cover torn; but there was an ice cream celebration as well.  Now that the celebration is over, my boy has been clamoring to work on more things.  (Guess he and I have a similar sweet tooth)  I recognize though there’s much more to life than educational materials so I limit his work to about 15-20 minutes a day.  The book he finished was a simple alphabet book where he had to learn how to write upper and lower case letters.

I recently read a book by Malcolm Gladwell called Outliers which I highly recommend.  One of his chapters deals with education.  His claim is there are glaring reasons why our educational system falls short of other countries.  One has to do with economics.  In essence, lower class families can’t expose their children to the same experiences as middle class families over the summer.  Perhaps I’ll tackle that issue in the future but another claim was that certain other countries have longer school years.  In essence, they get to practice the skills being taught longer than Americans.

Obviously, if one person practices more than another in any discipline, it stands to reason that over time, the additional practice will pay off.  According to Outliers, “Americans typically go to school on average 180 days.  The South Korean school year is 220 days long.  The Japanese school year is 243 days long.”

From what I saw as a teacher, most parents don’t do anything academically with their kids over the summer.  Therefore, anything I do in a one on one atmosphere with my child should help him in the long run.  While 15-20 minutes may not sound like a lot of time; multiplied out over the course of the summer,  it makes a big difference!

For those of you interested, the materials I use can be found at most bookstores and office supply stores.  Any small amount of additional work you do can only help your child going into their next school year.  I wish you all the best and hope one day you will email me to brag how your child ripped the cover off their first book!

This Friday, I’d like to write a blog based on one of your parenting questions on any issue you choose.  On a former blog, I used to do this every Friday and it would consistently be the most read blog of the week.  No question is too silly and I don’t use identifying information.  I look forward to reading your questions at tantrumstroublesandtreasures@yahoo.com.

Have a terrific week!!!

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