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Posted by on in General


I have a front row seat to one of the greatest shows on Earth. You see I get to watch the teachers in my building work magic everyday. Many get to school before I have even finished my breakfast and some do not leave until I am tucking my children in for bed. Their dedication is amazing and spending time with them each day is an honor.

This is why when I hear folks blame teachers for low test scores, poor behavior or low motivation I cringe. I can't begin to imagine how teachers could do anymore. And so the next place to blame is the home. Parents and guardians are very easy targets because they are not us. Why would we blame ourselves when we know that we are doing all that we possibly can?

A child comes in without their homework. Their parents must not take their education seriously.

A child misbehaves in class. Their parents must not teach them right from wrong.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

My daughter finished Kindergarten last week. My goal has been to keep her summer as unstructured as possible. I want her to have downtime after her first year of elementary school. I want her to have the mental space to develop and nurture her own interests. I want her to have fun. Which is not to say that she won't be learning. She's six years old. She is a little sponge, soaking up opportunities for learning every day. Here are the things that I plan to do that I think will support my daughter's learning process without taking away her autonomy or joy of learning:

KnuffleBunnyFree1. Keep piles of picture books on the kitchen table and by her bed. Rotate these every couple of days to give her choice. Keep the simple reading log that we've been using on the kitchen table, so that we can jot down books as we read them. Read to her while she eats breakfast, before bed, and during whatever other times she requests it throughout the day. Visit the library as needed to keep the piles of books fresh. We are still mostly reading these books to her, but whenever she decides that she wants to read a picture book or early reader aloud, we're happy to listen and help out.

2. Keep a Grade 1 workbook on the kitchen table or the playroom desk, in case she wants to use it. She especially likes the Scholastic workbooks that I get from Costco. She has already asked me to get the Grade 2 workbook, for when she finishes. I am not requiring her to do the workbook at any time, and certainly not to finish it. But I find that if it is her own idea, and she has some downtime, she's happy to use the workbook to practice her writing and math. Last night she was practicing sentences while my husband and I were finishing dinner. I loved workbooks as a kid, and seeing her industrious work does make me smile.

3. Keep her afternoons as open as possible (vs. having structured activities). My daughter ended up deciding at the last minute to sign up for swim team. There is practice every morning, though she is only required to go three times a week. These practices do get her outside exercising and spending time with her friends. They've been staying to play together at the pool for longer than the 45 minute practice time, so I figure this is a reasonable compromise. She also has two 50-minute karate classes a week, but as previously discussed, the karate classes bring her great joy. She's also going to do one week of "spy camp" because I couldn't resist. But otherwise, her schedule during the week is clear.

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens



It’s a disgustingly hot and humid September afternoon at Palmer Trinity School in Palmetto Bay, Florida, where I teach history and coach varsity cross country. The weather doesn’t deter one of my top runners—an eighth grader who runs 3.1 miles in 18:36 minutes—from giving everything his has on his last four-mile repeat. As he makes the final turn and sweat beads off his grit-determined face, I yell one simple command—“Enjoy the pain.”

To become stronger and faster, pain is necessary. Muscles must be broken down and rebuilt in response to heightened physical demand. Capillary capacity must improve to ease the flow of oxygen into cells. Bones must become denser and the heart stronger, more efficient. Only through experiencing this process, however painful, can runners hope to reach their fullest potential.

As I read Dr. Wendy Mogel’s most recent book, The Blessings of a B Minus: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Resilient Teenagers, I consider a more profound idea. Outside of running, adolescents must experience pain to blossom into healthy-functioning adults.

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Posted by on in Conferences


Most teachers (at least good ones) want to hear from parents, and we encourage their involvement. Without question, parents play the most pivotal role in the intellectual and behavioral development of their kids, and I’m always grateful when parents show interest in how they can help their children succeed as students.

But whether you’re the parent of a student in a private, charter or public school, there’s a common list of not-often-publicized parental do’s and don’ts. I want to focus on the “don’ts.”

  1. Don’t get angry or argue with the teacher about your son’s or daughter’s receiving only a B+ or an A-. This smacks of entitlement and snobbery, while also reflecting poorly on your communication skills. Not everything your child does is flawless, and that’s not only okay, it’s also entirely human. There’s nothing wrong with striving for perfection, but you’re much better off politely inquiring what you child can do to improve next time.
  2. Similarly, don’t tell a teacher that as a history major yourself, you feel your daughter should have received a higher grade on an essay. There’s a lot more to teaching than sheer content knowledge, and your obvious bias aside, you don’t know how your daughter’s paper stacks-up against 9th-,10th-, 11th-, or 12th-grade standards.
  3. Don’t get angry over your child’s not being recommended for honors or Advanced Placement courses. Teachers work hard to place students where they are most likely to achieve the greatest success. By forcing your student to bite off more than she can chew, you show that you care more about how a transcript looks than your child’s intellectual growth. Few things make teachers more upset.
  4. On back-to-school night, don’t corner teachers to ask about your son or daughter’s progress. For many teachers, that evening is already fraught with enough tension and nerves. Expect to learn about what your child will be learning, and feel free to ask questions related to the curriculum. But it’s too early in the year to expect any authentic assessment on an individual’s performance.
  5. Don’t offer excuses as to why your son or daughter didn’t do the homework. This is all the more true if your student is an upper-classman, about to go to college. Except in rare or especially delicate situations, students should be encouraged not only to advocate for themselves, but also to deal with the consequences of their actions—or inactions, as the case may be.
  6. Nothing smells more like a “bribe” than a fancy gift. Even if this isn’t the intent, as in most cases I’m sure it’s not, perception is reality. Over the holidays or on special occasions throughout the year, a simple “thank-you” card more than suffices. On the whole, teachers are much more comfortable with receiving larger gifts from graduating students, after final grades have been entered.
  7. Wait until after graduation to invite teachers over for dinner. Most teachers feel honored by such an offer, but it’s important to remain friendly, not friends, with students and their families. Certainly, this can change after graduation. I’ve become friends with several of my former students and their families, but only after commencement.
  8. Don’t tell teachers that an assignment is “stupid” or “childish.” Rarely, this may be the case, but it’s important to use tact and politeness when communicating your feelings. Otherwise, you risk burning bridges and otherwise inflaming the situation. Teachers are professionals, and they deserve to be treated as such—even if they make a mistake now and again.
  9. Don’t approach teachers as if they are servants, at your beck and call. If you wish to speak with a teacher, please, take the time to email or call for an appointment. Don’t just show-up.
  10. Don’t go over a teacher’s head. If you a have question or concern, as a first step, reach out to the teacher first. Afterward, if you are still unsatisfied, contact the department chair. If after doing that you are still unsatisfied, as a last resort, contact an upper-level administrator.

If you’re a teacher, do you have any other advice for how parents should or shouldn’t communicate with teachers?


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