Book Tour Half Way Point



Parent Backpack 2 coverToday feels like one big Wednesday for me.

I’m halfway through my fall book tour for The Parent Backpack for Kindergarten through Grade  - completing my ninth out of 18 talks this week. It’s been energizing to see so many parents engaged in their kids’ education. While each talk has been different – from bookstores to schools to libraries – the questions that bubble up are similar, so I thought I’d share some of them here.

One question that comes up more than any other is, “Should I talk to the teacher about this (insert situation) – and if yes, how do I do that???”

The situations range from “my son doesn’t want to go to school in the morning,” or “my child is feeling bullied by some kids at lunch,” to “my daughter is really distracted by what’s going on in the classroom,” or “my son has become friends with a kid who’s not a good influence.” In most cases, if a situation or an issue has caused you to ask yourself more than once, “should I mention this to the teacher?” then the answer is probably “yes.” But how you go about this makes a difference.

Teachers want to know

Most teachers appreciate a heads up when something isn’t going well, feels out of sync, or is causing your child stress. More often than not, this “something” falls in a child’s social-emotional world. And that’s ok because the social/emotional part of school is just as important as academics. When kids feel disconnected socially or emotionally, their learning suffers. Teachers know this and would prefer to hear your concerns sooner than later so they can work to resolve the situation before it becomes a bigger, more complicated issue.

How to bring it up

If you’re familiar with my work, you’ve read or heard about the Power of P3 (chapter 5 of my book – Words that Work with Teachers). P 3 means being Positive, PROFessional and Persistent so your child’s teacher hears your concerns and takes action rather than feels attacked and defends prior actions.

P3Start out with a Positive statement (I’m concerned about x, and I’m confident we can work this out), be Polite and Respectful in your Observations and Feelings (PROFessional) and keep them focused on your child (Alex feels anxious about coming to school, Sam doesn’t feel safe at lunch, Lindsey feels overwhelmed in the classroom and can’t focus on her work, I’m concerned about Jake’s new friendship) and be Persistent in following up as needed (using P3 each time).

If you’re fuming mad about something related to school and your child, it’s ok to get it all down in an email – but don’t send it to the teacher.  Convey your thoughts to your spouse, a trusted friend, or your mom. It’s important to channel your own emotions first so you can refocus your energy on communicating effectively with the teacher. If you do send an email, use P3 and keep it brief. Emails are best to give a heads up, resolve a simple situation, or to agree on a time to talk about an issue, if needed.

Common Core

You may have heard about changing curriculum in your child’s school. The Common Core is basically a new set of standards that 45 out of 50 states have adopted for math and literacy, from K-12.  This means the majority of kids in the country will now be taught the same knowledge in each grade but the strategies and materials schools and teachers use to teach these standards will vary by district. Some of the changes you’ll see in your child’s work this year will be more writing, more non-fiction reading and more understanding in math (show how you got this answer).

The Common Core will also trigger new standardized tests. Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, your child will take a test called PARCC or Smarter Balanced depending on which state you live in, which will replace the state by state tests.  For more information about the Common Core, click here.

The Parent Tool Kit

This past week, ABC ran their annual program, Education Nation.  While often criticized for being political and driven by Bill Gates and Pearson Testing, this program does offer some good perspective on the state of education in our country. This year, Education Nation provided a Parent Tool Kit that some parents have asked me about.

If you dare to check out the Common Core website, you’d come away with your head spinning. The Parent Tool Kit gives parents a terrific user-friendly summary of what kids will be expected to know at each grade level in math and literacy – and what you can do to support this learning. But I offer one caveat:

Making connections at home to what our kids are learning in school is one of the most important things we can do to enhance learning. But be careful that those connections don’t become another lesson. Keep them fun and casual – one statement that reiterates what the teacher states in a newsletter, a question about a book your child is reading, or helping your kids memorize math facts are all good supports. Drilling your children on each benchmark listed before they complete a grade or making a check list of what they know and don’t know will turn kids off and demotivate learning.

IMG_1511And remember to praise progress and effort over grades or outcome. This is another topic I talk about that has many parents shaking their heads in agreement. If you’re interested in attending a talk on The Parent Backpack for Kindergarten through Grade 5, you’ll find my book talk schedule here. Hope to see you soon!

 

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