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An Apple a Day

The teaching of children should not be sacrificed in favor of paperwork - ever!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Summer Reading - Kids, Teachers, and Parents

Growing up every summer my mom would offer a summer reading incentive for her five children. If you read one book per week, you got a candy bar (usually a Hershey bar). For some of us, this incentive was the only thing that motivated us to read for pleasure. For me, the reading was the prize! This was before the myriad of library summer reading programs that exist now. For much of my growing up we did not have a library in our community. We had a book-mobile instead. It came to our neighborhood in New Jersey and for me it was the best day of the week!

You had to wait your turn to get on and peruse the selections. The selections were limited, but there always seemed to be enough from which I could choose. It wasn't until 8th grade that a library was built in our town - Old Bridge, NJ - and our biweekly trips to the library occurred among the stacks with that new book smell instead. But there's something romantic about the book-mobile experience. I treasure those moments when I found something that sparked my imagination and occupied my summers.

In this day and age of electronic books, you can easily download your summer reading list. You don't have to leave your backyard hammock or your beach umbrella to get your next book. Research suggests that summer reading helps to close the achievement gap. It also shows that it prevents the summer learning slump. Are your kids reading this summer? Are you? If not, let's find ways to engage kids, parents, and yes, even teachers in summer reading.

Your local library is a great place to start. For those who need that "carrot" to read for pleasure, summer library programs offer that. There are adult summer reading programs available as well if you need a social reason to read. And finally, publishers like Scholastic, offer online summer reading programs. 

What are you reading this summer?

My goal is to read 10 books this summer....that's a lot for me; I'm a slow reader. The first book on my nightstand is A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler.

Create your own Good Reads bookshelf of you and your child's summer reading! It's a great way to chronicle your summer reading and share your experiences with others. It can be our virtual book-mobile! Let's get started!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Striking and "Opting Out" - What Will it Take to Have Your Voice Heard?

On Tuesday, May 19, 2015 6000 Washington teachers went on strike calling attention to the lack of education funding in Seattle. As a result more than 70,000 students were out of school. Teachers strikes are illegal; although no penalties are described if they do strike.

This Spring thousands of students across the country "opted out" of Common Core aligned standardized tests as part of a national movement. Again consequences such as lower teacher and school evaluations are threatened, but have not yet occurred.

There is more unrest and backlash to national educational reform efforts than ever before. But are the voices being heard? Will it make a difference?

It is interesting that there are such threatened consequences in place for protesting. It's as if schools and those affiliated with them don't have the same rights as the rest of our population. I agree that there are "natural" consequences for going on strike (e.g., lost income, children out of school), but why are there extra consequences leveraged as threats?

It's important to weigh the consequences of speaking your mind, taking a stand, and sometimes being the voice in the wilderness. If you can identify what you may lose if you do take a stand and can live with that loss, then by all means take a stand. Each must decide for themselves.

When I was in kindergarten in 1968 in New York, 60,000 teachers went on strike. This was the largest strike in history and it was particularly disruptive because they were staggered in intervals of several days and weeks between September and November. In total, a fifth of the school year’s instructional time was lost, and nearly 1 million children were affected. I was one of them. We started out the school year on strike, and then I got the chicken pox and lost 2 more weeks. I don't remember being in kindergarten, but I remember the stories of why I don't.

The 1968 teachers' strike was about "community control" or "local control." It appears that we are once again at this juncture. I applaud all those teachers who strike and all of the parents who have opted out of Common Core aligned standardized tests for their children. But I wonder what it will really take to change the narrative and have the voice in the wilderness be a part of a Hallelujah Chorus instead.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Finish Well

It's getting difficult to keep kids motivated until the end of the school year at this point. Whether they are in kindergarten or a senior in high school, they've mentally already left the building. Unfortunately, the goal is to "finish well" so look for ways to keep your child focused until the very last day.

Teachers are challenged to stay motivated and energized as they hurdle toward the last days of school. Social media is full of memes that show the difference between what a teacher looks like, thinks, and does at the beginning of the school year and what they look like, think, and do at the end. Funny as it may seem, it is all too true to ignore. We're all tired.

But for those high school and even college seniors, the last weeks and days are distracting at best or disappointing at worst. For those with high school seniors who have already been accepted into a college for the fall, keep in mind that how they finish their last semester matters. Colleges and universities request the "semester 8" transcript to see how well your child did. Their acceptance is conditional upon that last semester's performance. They have every right to rescind that acceptance. It happens all the time.

"A job worth doing is a job well done" - as a parent it's important that you instill and model for your kids what it takes to finish well even when you're tired of it all and ready to move on yourself. The lazy, hazy days of summer aren't here quite yet.

Feel free to focus on that countdown. Keep the end in mind. The idea is to run to the finish like a sprinter and not hobble across it. Let's all shoot for a photo finish! Encourage your kids to stay neck and neck with their peers as they race for the finish line.

And then CELEBRATE big time!