Tag Archives: school

Bells Will Be Ringing…Part 2


Back to school new


Hello and welcome back to my back – to – school series re-blog.  As I mentioned last time, I wrote these posts on back – to – school this time last year and thought that now would be a good time to revisit them.  Today’s post will include  Back to School Basics: Let’s Go Shopping (I think you’ll be surprised!) and Back to School Basics: Striking the Right Balance.    I know that I previously said that the last post would be about sending your little munchkin off to Kindergarten, however, I misspoke.  That post didn’t come until much later.  What can I say?  This is what happens when you do your blogging late at night after everyone is asleep and your brain has turned to mush.  Forgive me.  Actually, a post on finding balance is probably more appropriate coming from a woman who has her kids in absolutely everything.  I hope that these posts actually help you get ready for the return to the classrooms.  Summer is slipping away too soon.



It’s Time to Talk to the Teacher



Aaahh, yes… the parent/teacher conference.  It’s that time of year again, Mom and Dad, when teachers tell us all about our children – the good, the bad and the ugly.  I tried to count up all of the  parent /teacher conferences that I have been to over my past 23 years of raising kids and I lost count.  I’d have to say that most of them have been very encouraging with positive feedback and constructive criticism.  A few were a bit scary, like my son’s ninth grade algebra teacher.  I had seen his grades so I was aware that it was not going to be pretty, however, upon placing just one foot over the classroom threshold, his teacher Mr. Butts (I kid you not), a former Marine, bellowed “INCONSISTENT!”  Yikes! At least let me get seated and comfy before you start yelling about my kid.  Then there was the teacher who opened her classroom door to see me standing in the hall waiting for her, let out a sigh of relief and said “Oh, thank goodness it’s you!  I thought it was another parent.”  Awkward silence.  “Oh, maybe I shouldn’t have said that!”  No, maybe not.  I will let you in on a little secret: Teachers dread parent/teacher conferences as much as we do.

If you read my previous post Back to School Basics: The Parent/Teacher Partnership , then you know that I feel that parental involvement is an extremely important factor in a student’s success.  So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I think parent /teacher conferences should be on the high priority list for every parent.  I consider it one of those things that both Mom and Dad must schedule time off to attend because it only takes about thirty minutes of your time, at the most, but can produce much longer lasting dividends.  I guess then that it also won’t come as much of a surprise that over the years, I have developed a strategy for making the most of these usually brief meetings.  

The lines of communication between parents and teachers should be open from the first school bell of the year.  An introductory e-mail should have been sent (see my previous post) to the teacher, follow – up contacts have been made and you have attended curriculum night and open house.  You have gotten their attention and the teacher now knows (hopefully) that you are involved and cooperative parents.    Now it’s time to get specific.  Use parent/teacher conferences to ask specific questions because by now, specific areas of concern, or at least areas of  interest have become apparent. Most of the time teachers have a form that they have filled out with information that they must share with you.  Let them talk first and get this out of the way, but be attentive because your questions may get answered or there may be follow up questions that arise.  Maybe your child is doing well academically, but socially she is feeling a bit left out. Or, maybe your student wants to become more involved in extra curricular activities but doesn’t know how to go about it.  Make a note of things that have come to your attention and discuss it with the teacher face to face.  This serves two purposes: 1) you will get your questions answered and 2) you will find out just how well the teacher knows your child.  Today’s classrooms are often over crowded and teachers are often lacking in classroom support.  Unfortunately, what that can mean is that unless your child is an over achiever, disruptive or performing behind the class, they often can be overlooked.  You don’t want this to happen to your kid and, as the parent, it’s your job to bring the teacher’s focus back to your student.

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The parent/teacher conference isn’t intended to be a negative experience although, don’t you just love the expressions on your children’s faces when you tell them that you have and appointment with their teacher?  I always get a little kick out it.    On the contrary, the conference is intended to help the student. Not belittle. Not berate. Not humiliate.   The goal is to encourage,  to uplift, to provide constructive criticism and to assist.  It’s for THE STUDENT!  It’s not a referendum on your parenting skills,  your genetic ability to make a perfect child or your own intelligence.  It’s all about THE STUDENT!  With this in mind, when my older kids started middle school, I made them go with me to meet with the teacher.  After all, since it’s all about them, they need to hear it straight from the teacher and they need to be able to give feedback of their own.   In so doing, I have experienced both children who suddenly backed down from their complaints about their teacher when sitting face to face and having to answer for their own behavior and/or performance; and I’ve had the teacher that had to do the same.

Look, there’s no way of getting around this because parent/teacher conferences are kind of like a fact of life.  In a weird way, I kind of look forward to them because I get to talk about one of my favorite subjects – my kids.  What it boils down to is the fact that attitude is everything. So….

1) Show up!

2) Be positive!

3) Be specific!


4) Be helpful!

Good luck and have a happy conference. 🙂

Back to School Basics: Let’s Get Organized!


Back to school new


Oh, Oh!  The party’s almost over.  We’ve swam, vacationed, and pretty much partied our way through the summer.  We’ve lived like rock stars…well, rock stars that have a 9:30 bed time.  However, the reality is that change is in the air and school bells are about to ring across the country.  Personally, I have mixed emotions about the approaching end of summer.  While I am looking forward to some quiet time in my house (especially so that I can write during the day instead of the middle of the night), I have thoroughly enjoyed my summer with my kids, specifically my two youngest children. Also, I have not missed the hustle and bustle of school days.  Between my schedule, my husband’s schedule and my kids schedule, it takes a lot of control and focus to keep things from getting chaotic.

As the mother of five, ages 23 to 6 (every time I say that out loud, it sounds crazier than the last time that I said it), I know just a few things about getting kids, and myself, ready for back to school.  Over the years I have developed my approach to getting organized, back to school shopping and strengthening the parent/teacher relationship.  I will share these with you in my next few blog posts and talk about when your baby goes off to kindergarten.  I’ve sent a few kids off to kindergarten yet, never seems to get any easier. This back to school series  is kind of my “blue print to sanity” to help me navigate my way through the school year.   So, remember to check back often to keep up with the series or, better yet, check the “Follow” button at the bottom of this post and you will receive my blog in your in-box (it is also posted on my Facebook page, Twitter, Pinterest and Linked In) .

I have a confession to make: I am the most unorganized/organized person that you will ever meet.  I tend to compartmentalize my need to be organized by the importance of whatever is going on.  For the most part, I give myself a C+ on my general organizational skills.  I just don’t put that much energy into it on a daily basis, as evidenced by the stacks of unopened mail on my desk.  Sometimes in an effort to deflect my responsibility, I stack it on my husband’s desk. I don’t recommend you trying this at home.  However, in the areas of my life that I am passionate about, I am almost obsessively organized: my kitchen, my blog and my kids. Not necessarily in this order.  I discovered a long time ago that the key to making anything work, no matter how fervent you are, is to be organized in thought, purpose and action.

Organization in thought, when it comes to school, refers to the question: What do you want to get out of the educational experience for your children?  It’s not just that you want to send your child to school to “learn”.  To “learn” is very general so, be more specific.  To learn what and how?  What kind of curriculum does your district teach? For high- schoolers in particular, does the high school that your child attends have vocational training for students that are more inclined to go in that direction after graduation? Are you interested in a more holistic approach to learning or is it okay to predominately teach to the test?  Look at the standardized test scores, but don’t get stuck on them because they don’t tell the whole story. How does the district and/or school deal with learning disabilities? Is there a gifted program? How do you feel about the push to common core standards across the country and is the school/district participating? How important are extra curricular activities to you and your students?  If you don’t know the answers to these questions or have never thought about them, then you have some work to do.  RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH!  Even if you are in a situation where economics dictates where you live and the school your kids attend, that’s even more of a reason to know the answer to all of these questions and more.  Talk to other parents of current and past students; talk to educators in the district; go to the district and school websites; and search the internet for any news regarding the district.  It sounds corny, but knowledge is power and by gaining all the information that you can, you will be able to leverage your insight to get what you want for your children.

Organization in purpose refers to: Determine your place, or purpose, in this process?  Do you believe that the educational process starts at school and should be led by teachers or do you believe that the educational process starts at home and is led by parents? Are you looking to be partners with the school/district?  Do you feel that you are an advocate for your child or do you feel that you should get involved as the need arises? Do you see yourself as proactive or reactive? That last question is probably the most important because it will determine how and when you interact with your child’s teacher,  If you are proactive, then your initial contact will come earlier in the year and will probably be initiated by you.  If you are reactive, then the first contact will most likely come from the teacher.  These two approaches set a completely different tone in the parent/ teacher relationship.  We’re going to talk about this more in a later post, but, it boils down to what you are comfortable with and, more importantly, what you want for your child.

Finally, organization in action refers to what specific things you do to help you create some structure around your life as it pertains to school.  I am not going to go so far as to tell you what specific tools you should use to keep your school related items organized.  We are all different so different things work for different people.  For instance, I am not a fan of apps to keep my calendar on my phone.  I am old school so, I have an actual notebook/calendar that I carry around with me.  Old fashioned, I know but, it works for me. You do what works for you.  However, I have developed some strategies that have helped me keep from going crazy in the whirlwind of activity.

  • Keep copies of EVERYTHING! Every form, every application, every check, every communication with the teacher/school…EVERYTHING! I know that this will produce a mountain of paper (and emails) but, do yourself a favor and create a file for each child at the beginning of the year and do not throw them away at the end of the year.  The goal is to have a chronological record of your child’s school career that includes academic and attendance records, standardized test scores, any disciplinary actions, academic or sports awards, etc.  This is a great resource when it’s time to apply to college (everyone has a story to tell – it’s a road map) as well as a practical way to recall important events as the need arises.
  • Set aside at least 15 minutes of your night with your child to go through his or her backpack.  Ask questions; comment on returned assignments; and most importantly, LISTEN TO THEM. This is a small investment with big payoffs.  You can and need to read information sent home from the school.  They are there for a reason and if your kids are like mine you will never get the straight story from them.  Additionally, you really need to know what their homework assignments are and I’m not just talking about young kids.  While you may not go through your high-schooler’s backpack,  you certainly can and should strike up a conversation with them just to see what’s going on.  It shows your interest in them and their lives. It also serves as a conversation starter and trust me, you will need conversation starters with your high school aged children.
  • Getting things done the night before a school day is critical to maintaining one’s sanity.  Lay out their clothes, fill out any papers, pack lunches and snacks, locate library books that are due, etc. Do anything and everything that can be done prior to the next morning.  It seems like common sense and so simple but, raise your hand if you have been held up on a school morning trying to do something that should have been done prior to leaving the house for school?  Or, if you have ever uttered the words “Why did you wait until now to look for that ________ (book, shoe, sock, pencil, notebook, etc.)?” I know I’m not the only one with my hand up! Once, my daughter actually wore two different shoes to school because she couldn’t find the mate to her shoes and we were running late.  She declared it the worst day of her life.  Oh, well.

Some days all of this is easier than others.  Admittedly, I have fallen off of the organizational wagon and by the end of the school year, I am usually holding on for dear life.  However, start thinking about these questions that I’ve put to you and organize your thoughts.  Let’s start this year off right.  Next post we will talk about establishing the parent/teacher relationship.

Sink or Swim



I think that I may have said this before but,  this move to Texas has been hard, particularly on me, Mr. C and Thing 1.  Daddy and Thing 2 have been a little better at adapting to their new surroundings.  The part that really broke my heart was Thing 1’s increasing dislike of her new school.  Kindergarten had been such a huge success that I became concerned that her social struggles during First grade would become academic struggles.  There were some bumps along the way, but they were mostly normal for an active, six-year-old Drama Queen.   Let’s just say that it’s been a long school year.

Finally, about a month ago, I took her to lunch after a doctor’s appointment but, before I took her back to school and gave her a pep talk (and macaroni and cheese).  During our talk she said to me “Mom, I just don’t like it here.  I want to go home.” I knew exactly how she felt, but I said “Sometimes, you don’t have control over your circumstances.  You’re just thrown into it, kinda like if you get thrown into a swimming pool and you’re either going to sink or you’re going to learn to swim.”    For the next 30 seconds she looked at me, then looked at her food, then back at me, then back at her food.  Finally, she said, “Oh, I get it!  If  you get thrown into a pool and even if you don’t like it, if you don’t learn to swim, you’ll drown!  So, I just gotta learn to deal with it!”  That sounded way more drastic than I had intended but, it was indeed an accurate translation.  I smiled, “Uh, exactly.”  We really didn’t talk much about it after that and she continued to complain but, at least she stopped crying before school.

Well, here we are at the end of the year and I just attended Thing 1’s Celebration of Learning ceremony.  This is when the teacher hands out to the students various awards that they have earned for the year.  The students and the parents are unaware of the awards that they are going to receive and quite frankly, I didn’t care.  I just wanted to go and celebrate the end of the year and the beginning of the summer with my girl.  Apparently, sometime after our little lunch chat, Thing 1 decided that she was Olympic medalist Missy Franklin because boy, did she ever swim:


Honor Roll Award


Principal’s Award


The Good Friend Award

(This is my favorite.)

The awards themselves don’t really matter to me,  after all she is only in First Grade.  It’s certainly not going to be the hardest year of her academic career.  It’s the fact that she did her best even when she wanted to be somewhere – anywhere – else that make me proud of my girl.