Get Ready To Read Across America!

 

Parents and teachers will join forces on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 for Read Across America Day, which is not coincidentally the birthday of Dr. Seuss.  Dr. Seuss is known for writing beloved children’s books such as “Cat in the Hat” and “Oh the Places You’ll Go.”

The celebration in some schools may last a week, and others may recognize, March 2nd, in honor of Theodore Seuss Geisel with the goal to promote reading through classroom activities and special visitors. This celebration is a wonderful opportunity for children to see how reading can be fun.

There are numerous ways to promote this week.  As a building reading specialist I have coordinated many celebrations for the past 16 years.  Here are our top 10 favorites:

  1.  Invite community members in to read to classes.  Students especially love police officers, firefighters, parents.
  2. Ask local television celebrities in to read.  Many local television anchors are willing and happy to read aloud to a grade level or even an entire school.  On several occasions the visits have been filmed and aired on the local news which was very exciting for the students.
  3. Contact a local sports figure (or mascot) to join the fun.  Locally, our Pittsburgh Pirate Parrot visited many times.  Although the mascot can not read, the read aloud becomes a lot of fun when the mascot is acting out a book such as “Casey at Bat” being read by a principal, teacher or Superintendent!
  4. Reach out to a local bookstore.  Barnes and Noble is one example of a bookstore that may offer a promotional deal to schools that will afford districts a chance to invite a popular author in to read at a discounted price.
  5. Bring the world to your school for free.  Visitors can join students remotely through a long distance connection.  Skype in the Classroom has been a tool I have used for many years and have met many wonderful authors who have connected for free or for a minimal fee.
  6. Have a Dr. Seuss Riddle Challenge.  A daily riddle is created by a  group of students and then read on the morning announcements.  All riddles pertain to a Dr. Seuss book that classes must solve within the hour.  Winners are announced on a daily basis and the class with the most points by the end of the week wins a small popcorn and movie party.
  7. Create whimsical Seuss-like art to be displayed throughout the halls.
  8. Have a door decorating contest.  Judges could be principals, art teacher and board members.
  9. Reach out to a local shelter to see if they have an outreach program.  Handlers and their dogs visit individual classes and read stories to students.  Students not only strengthen their listening and comprehension skills, but learn valuable information about how to interact with our furry friends.
  10. Have a reading challenge.  Motivate children to read more with a book challenge.  When the school meets the goal a reward will be earned.  Display a large thermometer poster in the lobby of your school to see the progress being made.

Reading is a fundamental skill for children and NEA’s Read Across America helps children discover their potential. So let’s join forces and work toward the goal of creating a nation of readers and don’t forget to take the pledge! Reader’s Oath

Additional links that will help you to plan a great event:

Background on Read Across America

Seussgestions for a Great Event!

NEA’s Read Across America

The Mailbox Read Across America Ideas

Steaming for a Cause!

S.T.E.A.M is an educational term that refers to a means of teaching students how all things relate to one another, in school and in the real world.  The acronym S.T.E.A.M stands for:  Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. STEAM becomes a more engaging approach to learning for students because the learning is based on exploring and investigating. “S.T.E.A.M for a Cause” has proven to be a worthwhile challenge for our students.

“Steam for a Cause” offers students a chance to engage in lessons that not only incorporate science, technology, art, and math, but also seek ways to help make the world a better place. Learning to help others is a valuable skill for building strong friendships.  When children begin to see how everyone’s actions connect and effect the world, change is possible.  Books are always a good starting point and a few of my favorites are Stand in My Shoes, Kids Learning About Empathy by Bob Sornson , Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. and Dolphin Tale the Jr. Novel by Gabrielle Reyes.

                 

Students’ learning can be pushed to a new level of complexity without the same level of stress that would be associated with a traditional classroom environment. Students begin to ask the natural questions of who, what, where and why without prompting.  With the correct activities, students will begin to volunteer their free time to work on projects that connect to the real world.  With careful consideration these same activities can open their eyes to how they can positively impact the world.

My first encounter with this type of teaching was brought to my attention while on a family vacation in Marco Island, Florida on the Dolphin Explorer Boat in 2011.  As my family and I were enjoying the scenic ride aboard the Explorer, the naturalist shared valuable information about the dolphins, manatees, birds of prey and mangrove forests.  It came to my attention the team of experts would be using Skype to connect with students around the nation.  An experience that  has changed my perspective of what teaching should truly embrace.  To gain a complete understanding of the program and how it turned out to be an experience of a lifetime,  visit the following links:

A Walk on the Beach

Saving Seymour the Dolphin

Seymour the TV Star

It’s Elementary My Dear Seymour- Sea Rescue

What I learned very quickly was that when learning connects to the real-world students will become active participants in their learning.  A goal I strive to achieve on a regular basis since my students showed me the way to “help to save a dolphin” all the way from Pittsburgh, PA.

A few of my students’ favorite S.T.E.A.M  activities include:

  1.  City of Bridges– Students read books such as Seymour Simon’s, Bridges.  Simon’s book incorporates interesting facts about the more than half-million bridges in North America and how they impact our travel. After learning about how bridges connect us to the world students then have a chance to build a bridge made from toothpicks, gumdrops or K’Nex.  (There are many more options but these are some of the materials my students worked with and found successful).  The topic of bridges lends itself to bodies of water and how the environment is effected by litter and pollution.
  2. Impact of Oil Spills– Students take part in a mock oil spill experiment and the challenges in saving the environment and wildlife.  A meaningful conversation about how  pollution can effect our health and safety concludes the experiment. A great link that offers free lessons to carry out this experiment can be found at Alaska Oil Spill Curriculum.  Prince William Sound by Gloria Rand and Oil Spill by Melvin Berger perfectly and would act as a wonderful introduction.Prince William
  3. Pillowcase Dresses– Students can learn about measurement and sewing and contribute to a worthy cause.  Visit the following link to learn more: Little Dresses for Africalogo
  4. Shoebox Recycling- Students initiate a shoe recycling project and learn about the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling in the process.  Also, all money earned can be donated to a favorite charity.  Visit Shoe Box recycling to learn more. Favorite books that connect with this lesson:  A Bag in the Wind by Ted Kooser and George Saves the Day by Lunchtime by Jo Readman.

Product Details       

These are just a few of our favorites.  The art portion of the projects usually lend themselves to the creation of environmental posters to hang throughout the school or using recycled materials to create artwork.

There are so many valuable lessons to investigate that will help to foster a love of learning, much more than any worksheet or website can offer.  I am certain there will not be another opportunity to share with the nation what my students and  I are doing in class, but I will definitely continue searching  for lessons that will prompt students to look more closely at the world.  By presenting opportunities for students to take a closer look at real-world problems we are preparing our students for their future.

 

Making Reading Real!

Avid readers realize how a great book can transport you to another world. Elementary age students can gain approximately 3,000 new words per year. Unfortunately struggling readers do not make those same gains and are faced with the ongoing struggle of catching up to their peers.

We have all asked the same question. What can I do as a teacher to make a difference? Research based strategies are the first step. Students must be exposed to daily interventions which include: word building, sight words, encoding, decoding and fluency. In addition, students should be afforded opportunities to read leveled books that are engaging, high-interest and on their independent reading level. I have found the following  to be helpful:

1. Listen to the experts. Making Sense of Phonics by Isabel Beck is a wonderful resource for all. The book offers insight as to the research behind reading and links teachers to prepared activities.

2. Build a leveled library. Pioneer Valley Books has many collections that include a variety of genres and themes.

3. Offer students activities they perceive as breaks, but are cleverly incorporating reading skills within the instructional time. A few rewards I have found to be purposeful are Education City, Starfall and ABC Mouse.

4. Be Consistent, Keep lessons structured and predictable. The routine helps students to focus their attention on the reading.

5. Don’t be afraid to challenge your struggling readers. Picture books are a favorite of most students because of the colorful pictures that support their reading. Emerging readers feel safe when presented with a picture book, but it is our job to strategically nudge students outside of their comfort zone. Novels allow students to dig deeper into their comprehension. With appropriate support, students can read grade level novels that challenge their abilities in a safe setting. These opportunities allow students to feel a sense of accomplishment and realize how much fun it is to be a part of a “book club”. 

6. Keep Parents Informed! Using technology such as Remind allows teachers to share messages with parents throughout the day or on a scheduled basis. Good news notices can be sent to congratulate a child on extra effort. A free and interesting site is Wonderopolis! http://wonderopolis.org/ Children can explore wonders and submit their wonders to the site to be answered too. 

7. Connect with the world. Through the use of Skype technology students can connect with other classrooms around the world. Renowned teacher, Pernille Ripp created the Global Read Aloud in 2010 and her 6 week project continues to be a motivation to teachers all over the world. Sign-up for the 2016 project at:  http://theglobalreadaloud.com/category/2016/

Maintaining effective practices for struggling readers is a necessary component, but motivation to read is also key in making a change. Make books readily accessible, high-interest and connect reading to the real-world when possible.

Is Homework Necessary In Elementary School?

Elementary school kids have a full plate these days. Between school and extracurricular activities, the last thing they want to do when they get home is hours of homework. But is homework even necessary at all? Does it help our students improve their academic performance?

If you look back at the history of homework, in the early 1900’s homework was nonexistent. This was because children often helped their families with important chores like tending to farms, animals, etc. Fast forward to the 1950’s when there was pressure for the United States to keep up with Russia in the Space Race and the thought was that students were falling behind the Russian students. Teachers began to assign homework to their students. In the 1980’s there is a feeling that American education is just mediocre and in the 1990’s the majority of educators and the general public are in favor of homework.

A study was done in 2006 by Duke researcher Harris Cooper concluded that homework does have a positive effect on student achievement with a much stronger correlation in for those in middle school rather than elementary school. But, too much homework can be counter-productive for students in all grades. Cooper said the research is consistent with the “10-minute rule” suggesting the optimum amount of homework that teachers ought to assign. The “10-minute rule,” Cooper said, is a commonly accepted practice in which teachers add 10 minutes of homework as students progress one grade. In other words, a fourth-grader would be assigned 40 minutes of homework a night, while a high school senior would be assigned about two hours. For upper high school students, after about two hours’ worth, more homework was not associated with higher achievement. The authors suggest many reasons for why older students benefit from homework than younger students. Elementary teachers may assign homework to establish study skills.
“Kids burn out,” Cooper said. “The bottom line really is all kids should be doing homework, but the amount and type should vary according to their developmental level and home circumstances. Homework for young students should be short, lead to success without much struggle, occasionally involve parents and, when possible, use out-of-school activities that kids enjoy, such as their sports teams or high-interest reading.”

There needs to be conversations in elementary schools about what kind, how much, and the importance of the homework teachers are assigning. Teachers need to collaborate, especially if there is a departmentalized model taking place throughout the grade levels, to ensure too much homework is not given.

Reference
Cooper, H. 2006. Homework Helps Students Succeed in School As Long As It’s Not Too Much. http://today.duke.edu/2006/03/homework.html


Preparing for the Inevitable: 10 things you should always have available for a substitute

I wrote in a previous post (Substitute Survival Guide) about my recent return to the classroom as a substitute teacher and I offered some advice for my colleagues who teach on an ad hoc basis. This post offers the flip side – what you can do as a classroom teacher to make life easy on your sub and your students.

There’s no one who can run your classroom as well as you. From the carefully organized bookshelf to the exact location of your favorite stapler upon your desk, everything has a place and purpose. You have the flow of the day calculated down to the minute, making sure everything is accomplished with enough time to fully explain the homework and wrap up the lesson. Even the climate and ambience of the classroom has been carefully cultivated. Perhaps it’s this personal attachment and investment with our classrooms that makes it so hard for teachers to allow someone to step in and take over – whether it’s for an afternoon dentist appointment or a 6-week parental leave. I hated calling off sick when I was a classroom teacher. Even more than the unplanned absences that come about from illness or emergencies, I would stress over writing down each detail for a upcoming day off for PD or an appointment. Sometimes, it feels like more work to prep for a sub than to just go to work!

Whether you leave your sub a well-detailed novel about what should happen in the course of a day, or you scribble, “Students should continue yesterday’s assignment – they know what to do” on a post-it (I’ve encountered a number of variations of both!), here’s a quick list of 10 things you can prepare ahead of time and have accessible for when a substitute comes to your classroom:

  1. Class rosters: Are all of these students supposed to be here? Who is missing?
  2. Schedule: When does that bell ring? What subject should you be teaching at that time? Most importantly, when is lunch!?!
  3. Homeroom Responsibilities: In addition to taking attendance, do you need to do anything else like collect lunch money or monitor the dress code?
  4. Supervisory Responsibilities: Do you have lunch, recess, hallway, or dismissal duty? If so, what does that entail?
  5. Lesson Plans: What are you supposed to be covering today?
  6. Emergency Procedures: What do you take with you for a fire drill? Where do you go?
  7. Behavioral Procedures: How do you handle misbehavior? Is there a system in place that you should follow?
  8. IEP / Special Education Information: Don’t violate FERPA, but who needs accommodations?
  9. Go-To People: What teacher nearby can help, or who do you approach in the office if you need help? Which students can you trust to give help?
  10. Support Staff: Is there anyone who pushes into the classroom for help? What is their role?

If you feel overwhelmed with the idea of creating a substitute resource file from scratch, there are a ton of planners, binder templates, and documents that you can download from the Internet to help you plan these items in an organized fashion. Here’s one that I created and offer for free download. Whatever you choose to use, make sure that this information is accessible – it’s really frustrating to wing it through the day, only to find the sub-binder on a shelf in the back of the room or the lesson plans on the floor under the desk where they were knocked off by the janitorial staff!

Once you have all of this work taken care of, don’t forget to take some vitamin C, eat a balanced diet, and exercise regularly so that you can use less sick days and just let that newly created sub-binder collect some dust!


Substitute Survival Guide

 

While I’ve been active in the education profession as a writer, consultant, and trainer for the past 6 years, I haven’t actually held a classroom teaching position in that time. Recently, I decided to avoid being disconnected from the classroom by taking up a position as a substitute teacher. In the midst of all the chaos – classrooms without plans, students trying to take advantage you, or getting called for a shift 15 minutes before the school day starts – I do really love subbing. I learn more about connecting with students, lesson delivery, and classroom management in a day or two of subbing than hours logged in university education or professional development. For those of you who share in this role as a substitute teacher, whether on-call daily or in a long-term position, here’s my top five tips for surviving subbing.

 

  1. Don’t undervalue your role. I get asked by students, “Why aren’t you a real teacher?” I usually reply with dramatically feigned surprise, “This isn’t real?!?” Subbing is seen as the bottom of the totem pole for education careers. There’s a mindset that if a substitute is below retirement age, then obviously they have this job because they just couldn’t land a full time job. Anyone over retirement age is just filling in for nostalgia’s sake or to cure boredom. Regardless of your reasons for subbing, you have a really important job. You need to provide stability in an unstable situation. Teachers need to be out of the classroom due to illness, professional development, family needs, or even for a vacation (yes, those a real!). You need to hold down the fort. Like a soldier taking over the post, you are responsible for this group of students – even if it’s for just a few hours. You are not “only a sub.” You are the superhero swooping in to hold back the chaos of routine disruption.
  2. Build relationships. Sure, you might just be a day-to-day sub in a different classroom, building, or even district each day of the week, but it’s still critical to connect with people (children and adults) everywhere you go. Every time you walk through the halls of a school, smile and greet people. You’ll find it makes your day generally more enjoyable. If you re in an elementary building, also make an attempt to get to know all of the “specials” teachers because chances are you will see at least one of them each time you work. Build a relationship with the building secretary; this is the person whom you see first and last each day. They wield an awful lot of power and act as the glue pulling everyone else together. Finally, try to get to know the children. Try to learn their names. Let them know you care. Too many children have adults come in and out of their lives and they never feel valued. In a class period, or over the course of a day show them how important they are.
  3. Observe to learn. Look around the classroom and the building. You can learn a lot about the school culture and classroom social environment by taking a few minutes to just look around. Don’t go through cupboards or desks in a snooping, invasive sense – but even a superficial evaluation could be enough. See what teachers are doing that works. Do you like a center strategy, library arrangement, job chart, or seating plan? Jot it down, or take a photo (but do NOT photograph students or their likenesses). Write down materials you like and consider writing a note to the teacher to ask where materials were purchased. If you are familiar with the school and are a frequent visitor, you can even ask to borrow a book or resource. Learn from each room that you are a guest in.
  4. Try it all. Go through your Pinterest board, web bookmarks, favorite blogs, or dog eared book pages and give a try to behavior modifications, bell-ringer activities, popcorn reading strategies, review games, transition ideas, and time fillers. Each day, you get a new set of students to be your guinea pigs for pedagogical experimentation. Keep a log book or chart noting the strategy you tried, the age level of the children, and pros/cons of your facilitation. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you come to learn what works well for you. This trial and error process can be critical research as you reaffirm your personal philosophy of education. You will know what you believe in because you have not only tried it with success, you know that it is better than other strategies that have failed for you.
  5. Keep a bag of tricks. What’s in my bag? Multiples copies of a daily evaluation sheet that I leave for teachers. (I use this Teachers Pay Teachers freebie: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Freebie-While-you-were-outA-Substitute-Feedback-Form-685967) I also keep stickers, a smiley face stamp and scented ink pad, pencils, erasers, and a box of crayons to share with students. The placement company I work for forbids giving food to students (it’s a liability given food sensitives, allergies, and dietary restrictions) but I know many other substitutes who keep crackers, pretzels, or small candies in their bag as well. For my own use, I also have hand sanitizer, tissues, cough drops, a granola bar, and a notebook. I also usually throw in a book to keep me occupied if I have a long lunch or planning period (those are the days to live for!).

 

Hopefully these tips can help my fellow substitutes embrace their role and arrive prepared to create a great day of learning for students!


Using Rubrics as a Grading Tool

Recently I have had an interaction with an individual employed in higher education who indicated that as long as a rubric is filled out no reasoning is necessary to define why sections of a rubric were selected. Most of us in academia would agree that, that is wrong, as it leaves ambiguity for our students. It leads me to this post where I intend to offer some key characteristics to using a rubric properly.

Create Your Own Rubric:
There are resources abound that will offer sample resources on nearly every assignment you may give. Most will actually offer sample rubrics for particular assignments. So why do I think it is a good idea to create your own? Creating your own rubric allows you to tightly wind what you are looking for in an assignment. Some assignments might only need to be defined as Average, Good or Very Good, while other assignments may need multiple designations as to what each section defines. For example, if you ask for 5 resources on a research paper and a student doesn’t meet this expectation you will need to define all possibilities from 0 resources to 5 resources to properly assess this criterion. You can use examples to gather ideas, but creating your own allows you to grade in a more efficient fashion, since you’ve defined everything in accordance to the way you grade.

Follow Your Rubric:
I have experienced situations where the same rubric was used on multiple assignments. On one assignment I would receive one grade and on another assignment I would receive a different grade even though the rubric was followed in both cases. Once you’ve defined your rubric structure you must follow it. If you use the rubric for multiple assignments you must be consistent. Failing to be consistent can impact student morale and cause fatigue.

Be Prepared to Explain Your Rubric:
Some of us think in different ways. To avoid any issues it is best to explain your rubric to your course for the best execution of your plan. Failing to explain your rubric can lead to ambiguity or even a complete lack of understanding that leads to no one following it.

Be Prepared to Execute Your Rubric:
If you’ve detailed 5 resources are necessary for an assignment and only 3 are provided be certain to select the section that notes 3 resources were provided. This helps define to a student where they missed points.

Be Prepared to Offer Commentary:
Simply receiving a rubric with sections checked off is unlikely to help any student understand their grade. You should provide your reasoning for selecting the rubric sections. This provides students with the opportunity to not only see where they need improvement, but use this information for the next assignment.

Be Prepared to Discuss:
Students may not necessarily agree with every point we take off for, so it is important to allow for dialogue. Be ready to confirm your commentary by using examples. Then offer ideas for improvement, such as proofreading, peer review, etc.

Modify Accordingly:
Nothing is ever perfect. Be willing to modify your rubric according to how it is working. You might find a rubric that fits one class nicely might not fit another class. You might find that a rubric might be too harsh or too vague once you have all grades computed. Fine tuning your rubric allows for greater opportunities that it can be used over and over in the future. Be sure to modify the rubric any time you modify the assignment as well.

Rubric Tools:
Rubistar
Annenberg Learner
Teachnology Rubric Maker
iRubric
Essay Tagger

Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Rubrics

You can also use Google and Google Docs to find more tools and samples to use.


The Technology Conversation

There will be no “last word” on how technology affects our society, and as a result our kids, education system, etc. Every new app, new device, new way to create a prosthesis or synthesize a formula has potential impact on the world, so as long as we make new things, there will be no finality to the conversation.

I would love to say I am a casual observer of the effect, but I am clearly not. I am a parent of technology-users, I am a product (in terms of learning), a consumer – my life is directly affected by the ability to use technology. Many things would be much more inconvenient for me, whether writing this article or conducting my banking without going to the bank.

Before I go any further, I am going to cite three folks who are absolute GOLD when it comes to this conversation. Consider following them on Twitter, because while their viewpoints are not all the same, they are resonant, credible and poignant.

Jordan Shapiro’s (@jordosh) column today makes me think about the technology conversation. It can be found here. In short, Shapiro expresses concern about Sherry Turkle’s (@STurkle) position on modern technology, which is that modern technology is not a surrogate for true conversation and connection.

What strikes a chord for me is that Turkle said the same thing Shapiro is saying about technology when she was a young advocate for the adoption of technology. Is it really just a conversation that moves from, “Hey, the kids are alright” to “Hey, the kids are not alright?” over the course of 30 years? Danah Boyd (@zephoria), the author of “It’s Complicated” may also promote the tenet that digital connection is the connection in this day and age, and in many ways reinforces stronger bonds for young people. Danah also reports the experiences of young people who have experienced the extremely damaging power of those connections when peers turn on you.

(And Danah, if you do read this, I love your Twitter banner right now! For everyone else: It’s all R2, R4 and R5 astromech droids with an R7 tucked in the bottom right hand corner. What’s an astromech? R2-D2 from Star Wars is an astromech. But I digress…)

That probably depends on who you speak with. Now in my mid-40s, I have observed first-hand the problems students incur when using technology unfettered and undirected. I have also observed the ease with which people can complete the process-oriented pieces of life that previously consumed the life of a high school student and parent. So, more than trying to take an adversarial position in any direction, what I need to tell educators working with any student is this: Every position in this conversation is important. Sherry Turkle has experienced and grown with changes in our culture and society. Danah Boyd has lived experience and has researched first-person how technology is affecting the culture of young people (who by the way, will generally become older people). Jordan Shapiro is enmeshed in how tech, simulation and gaming are changing the dynamics of interaction.

All three of these folks have a unique perspective and focus in the tech realm, and all three (as well as many others) have important things to share. Continuing to have thoughtful and meaningful discussion about how tech is affecting our society, our young people and in turn our ability to educate those young people academically and socially is probably the most important part. So please, read away.

I also like to share articles through LinkedIn and Twitter on current technology events that are shaping our world. Feel free to join the conversation at:

LinkedIn – www.linkedin.com/in/ericjchancy

Twitter – @ericjchancy

The Inequity of Global Comparison

For years, we have heard about how the U.S. education does not keep up with our global competitors. I would like to make a few analogies to the comparisons to help illustrate the deficiency in such a comparison.

Two different people have two separate gardens. In both gardens, they plant 100 tulip bulbs. In the first garden, you wait two weeks and eliminate 25% of the tulips who are not thriving. In three more weeks, you eliminate another 25% of the original planting, leaving only half still in the garden. In another few weeks, you eliminate another 25-35% of the original crop, leaving only 15-25% of the original crop to benefit from the garden’s (hopefully) nutrient-rich environment. You have a stellar crop of 10%.

In your second garden, you allow all 100 tulips to grow unfettered for the duration of the cycle. You have some stellar tulips, some pretty tulips, some fair tulips, some rather unsightly flowers and some that just did not grow the way they should have.

How should the choice being made by the gardeners on how to allow their gardens to come to fruition be judged? Is the first a better gardener for whittling his yield to 10%, but the best 10%? Is the second a better gardener for attempting to allow his entire yield to grow?

Many counties competing with the United States run the first garden. They only allow a certain percentage of children to move up in each level of schooling. Essentially, if the U.S. ran it’s “garden” the same way, we would remove a large chunk of students with each rise in school level. From the elementary level, we would push a large number of students to training only for work-focused activities. From the middle school to high school level, we would again remove a large chunk, pushing them toward work, vocational school or government (military or civil servant-oriented service). The last remaining 10% of students would compete doggedly for seats at the college / university level. In essence, the system decides for you what your options are based on your demonstrated academic level (and sometimes your connections).

Compare that with a system that lets you decide how when and where your options are. Maybe you don’t put the work in while in high school, but you decide at 30 to get yourself together and make it happen. You can’t do that in the first garden.

The way that we are evaluating our effectiveness in preparing our adult workforce IS NOT congruent with the systems in which our young people are being educated. In those competing countries, 10% of the population is effectively being compared with the progress of 90% of the students in the US.

It comes down to what freedoms you are willing to give up. Are you willing to run the risk that your child will be refused entry to a traditional high school because we want better performance statistics, or does your child deserve each and every opportunity to succeed, even if it means there is potential for failure? I have my own bent, but I went back to school at 35 to get my doctorate. No one, not even our global competitors who would never have let me in can take that away from me.


Helping your child to make a difference!

All of us have had the experience of going to a restaurant, hotel, supermarket, bank or somewhere else and been giving less than the best customer service. Some people, regardless of what they’re getting paid, do the minimum. Their attitude is “good enough is good enough”.

On the other hand, we’ve all experienced super customer service, at hotels, banks, auto dealerships or whatever else. We can appreciate this special attention to detail, making us feel special and doing their job very well.

So what makes the difference between great customer service and average customer service. It comes from two different areas: it comes from those companies and organizations that have a philosophy of great customer service. They train their people from top to bottom to provide the best customer service possible. I believe it also comes from parents and teachers who expected the best from children and taught them to never give less than their best effort. This starts in schools with teachers and at home with parents. Many students have the attitude of “what is the minimum expected of me to get the best grade possible”. Their only concern is getting that A or B that will help them get into the college or university of their choice.

It’s not about learning….. it is more about promotion. It is sad, but too many teachers and parents allow this behavior by accepting less than the best from students. Students will copy and paste from the Internet, to do a report, not caring about why the report is important or what they can learn from it. This same attitude can be found in the home where parents can ask children to clean up their room or finish a specific chores and accepting less than the best effort from the child. For many parents it is easier to go behind the child and pick up the room or finish the chores then to fight with them over the issue. In my opinion this is a big mistake! It sets the stage for teaching children that it is okay to give less than your best.

So here’s why parents need to take charge. It’s your child, it is their future and you can make a difference with them. Don’t accept homework that is less than their best effort. When doing weekly spelling assignments often they are asked to write a sentence using the word. Many students will write the shortest possible sentence that barely meets the requirements of using the word in an effective way. Don’t accept that! Talk with your child’s teacher and explain to them that you want to be supportive and get the best from your child’s effort. This should be a goal that every teacher will embrace and support. Together you can make a difference.