Pray for Me

refugee unsplach

If you had told me a couple of years ago I would be going to Uganda to help establish a school in a refugee camp, I would have never believed you.  I walked away from a 20-year career as a public educator with no idea what I was going to do.  I only knew I couldn’t continue in the public-school system.  The grace had lifted. My time there was up.

Starting an educational consulting and tutoring company seemed to be a commonsense move.  Once an educator, always an educator…in some form or fashion. To supplement a start-up, I took a job with Adventures in Missions walking the parents of World Racers through their own journeys.  I had been volunteering for them since Hannah’s return, and it was something I loved doing. Why not get paid to do it?  Mornings in the office, afternoons building up the tutoring business.  Win-win.  I had this feeling someday these two jobs would intersect.

In October, I had a nudge in my heart to go and find out if the plan for long term missions bases had an educational component to it.  When I asked, I discovered Adventures was a partner in something called the South Sudanese Refugee Project.  Currently, the largest refugee crisis since WWII is happening with over 2 million people displaced due to the war in South Sudan.  Have you heard about it?  Me neither.

What I found out is as shocking as it is heartbreaking.  86% of those in the camps are women and children.  Many of the children are orphans or unaccompanied minors who do not know if their parents are alive or dead. They flee in the night through the bush to try to get to Uganda before they are caught by the rebels. Some families send their children because they have a better chance to make it out alone than with the whole family. Some families, attempting to escape, have taken in children they come across along their way.  In the refugee camps, these families have as many as 10 or 15 children living in the tarp covered shelters with them.  They flee with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.  Many die along the way from dehydration, or malnutrition. Others have witnessed the rebels come through their villages killing everyone.  Kids have seen their parents slaughtered.  The trauma rate in the camp is nearly 100%.  Everyone has a story of the atrocities of war due to the fighting of numerous rival tribes in the region.  This is happening in 2018.

Ministries on the ground reached out to AIM and formed a team of volunteers to work with the refugees.  It is a big project with many moving pieces.  One of those pieces is Hope Primary School, which was started under a tree by a teacher who fled South Sudan.  He gathered children together and began teaching.  The South Sudan Project collected money to build a pavilion for the school so they could be under shelter.  Now, there are approximately 600 hundred children (numbers change quickly in refugee camps) and only 16 teachers.  The UN gave the school 30 desks.  One book per classroom.  No chairs.  The children bring their own.  It soon became evident to those working on the project that the school has the potential to become the center of the project. A bridge to create community and some routine in a rather chaotic place. The school is an important first step to educate the next generation of leaders of a war-torn region of the world.

The idea is to develop an educational model that would empower the children rather than just give them handouts.  It would provide practical involvement that would not only build the school, but give students opportunities to transfer their academic knowledge to real life problems in the camp and how to think critically about hard issues.  Growing food.  Building shelters. Having teams of students and community members working together on projects around the school. The overall project is huge, but starting with the school will help get the whole community involved in building, empowering them to take ownership and create what they want for themselves and their community for however long they are there.

For the school part of this project there was the need for an educator.  A practitioner who sees the strategic vision, but can put in practical steps which break things down in pieces that are manageable in such a difficult place.  I had no idea about this project, when I asked about an educational component.  When I read the documents about the school my heart about beat out of my chest.  All the initiatives, mandates, and reforms I have been a part of in my career are included in the outline of how this school is designed.  I cannot tell you how this will all look, or what the exact steps will be.  I only know the first one is for me to go to Uganda and meet these incredible teachers who have seen the future of their troubled country in the children.  They have put aside their own problems and are teaching without pay, so the children can have a better future.  As you can imagine, this pulls on my teacher-heart.

I leave on Monday for a 10-day trip to Uganda to see Hope Primary School first hand.  Please pray that what I bring will be useful and that I can do some training with the teachers as well as hear their stories.  I know my heart will be broken with what I hear and see. There is a media team coming a day or so after me to film a documentary of the crisis.  I will share their work with you as they post it.  It is our desire to blow on the coals of hope to ignite a flame.  Only God can do a work in such conditions, please pray his presence surrounds this camp and this project.



teacher waving to kids on bus

How to survive the last two weeks of school:

  • Smile and nod.
  • Take deep breaths.
  • Restock your chocolate supply.
  • Wear jeans every day.
  • Drink coffee every morning.
  • Drink wine every night.
  • Take more deep breaths.
  • Make it through field day without killing anybody.
  • Smile and nod some more.
  • Do creative projects.
  • Include glitter and glue to keep them interested.
  • Keep them busy.
  • Pack up your room as a geometry lesson.
  • Sign 1,000,000 year books.
  • Give 1,000,000 hugs.
  • Accept gifts of coffee cups and candy with a smile.
  • Store the handwritten notes in your filing cabinet.
  • More deep breaths.
  • Refuse to pull your hair out or beat your head against the wall.
  • Enjoy your students one last time.
  • Do cartwheels as the buses pull away on the last day.

Thank you for all you do, teachers!  Enjoy your summer!!

6 Ideas for Teacher Appreciation Week

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Teachers do not do what they do for the glory…or the money…or the respect…or the appreciation.  They do it because they want to make a difference in the lives of kids.  That said, a little appreciation goes a long way to making teachers feel valued.  Who doesn’t like to feel valued?  Teacher appreciation week typically falls just after testing week, which is arguably the most stressful week of the year.  They receive trinkets of all kinds, such as I love my teacher coffee cups, candy, flowers, gift cards to Starbucks, socks, lotions, and numerous other small tokens.  Sometimes the community comes together to provide treats in the front office or luncheons, all designed to encourage teachers in their desire to prepare the next generation.

While the week-long celebration is nice, it is not all these things that make teachers feel appreciated; it is the heart behind them.  If you want to know what makes the biggest impact on lifting teachers up, I am going to tell you.  It is your words of affirmation. They are more treasured than all the money spent on items which are relegated to a closet, shelf, cupboard, digested or passed along to the local nursing home. The words are the gifts that make their way into filing cabinets to be pulled out on difficult days, to remind teachers of why they do what they do.  Here are five ways to use your words to inspire a teacher.

  1. An Email– This alternative to snail mail is instant encouragement. You don’t have to wait for Teacher Appreciation Week either.  Any time you see your child grow you can jot it down and hit the send button.
  2. A handwritten note– These notes never lose their appeal. They are classic, and when a parent sends one in on no particular occasion it is even more special. My “Why I Teach” file is full of handwritten notes from both parents and students. I pull them out on rough days and they take me down memory lane and make me smile.
  3. A homemade card– When students make a homemade card it is one of the cutest things ever. When those cards have made up poems or notes it is even more special.  No need to correct the spelling either, the mistakes are part of the heartfelt charm.
  4. A text message– These are instant. They can be just a quick word of appreciation, or a report on something good your child has said or done.  I love when parents send me a quick text telling me about a former student’s accomplishment because it makes me feel as if something I did made a difference.  Just don’t blow up their phone every day…it’s OCCASIONAL use makes texting a great gift. (If teachers won’t give you their cell phone number, don’t be offended, just use the other five gifts on this list instead.)
  5. A letter– You may ask how this is different from a handwritten note…a letter isn’t written to the teacher. (though it can be) It is written to the principal about the teacher. Most teachers would LOVE it if the principal got a letter saying they are doing something RIGHT.  We are all familiar with the sinking feeling of the principal getting a complaint.  Letter writing that expresses appreciation for a specific teacher turns that around and builds up positivity.  You could also write a letter to the paper if there is a particularly exceptional teacher. Around here being in the paper  for something good is a wonderful thing.
  6. A tag on a gift– I certainly do not what to imply teachers don’t want gifts. 🙂 If you have it in your heart to buy a gift, have at it.  Just don’t forget to add some encouraging words on the tag to lift the teacher up.

Affirming words are something teachers are good at giving to students, and they tend to give out of their own abundance.  By affirming teachers, they have even more words to pour into your kids.  It’s a win-win.

Testing Week

This post is a combination of my two regular series Pointers and Tidbits in celebration of testing week. Pointers for Parents and Tidbits for Teachers are regular SHORT inspirations to bring hope and encouragement as we set about educating our children.

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It is testing time.  The week we have all been dreading all year!  Seriously, the pressure of standardized testing is one of the most agreed upon topics in education.  It’s all too much.  While teachers and parents both understand the need to measure growth of students, none of us agree with HOW we are currently required to measure them.  Our cries for relief, or at least some common sense, fall on the deaf ears of those in leadership who make the decisions. Rather than rehash same old arguments and repeat the concerns to be blown away in the wind, I have made a list. There are some not-so-serious tips, and a few poignant pointers for all of us, parents AND teachers, who need to survive the weeks ahead.  Happy Testing!

  • Relax. Haha…just kidding.  It is not possible to relax, so do your best to hide your stress.  Stuff it if you have to.
  • Photograph. Show your students/children that a picture only shows one moment in time…just like a test.
  • Eat. On testing weeks, we feed the kids healthy meals in the morning and at lunch, while parents and teachers get candy, cookies, doughnuts as comfort foods.  Since you are stuffing your stress, you might as well stuff your mouth, too.
  • Explain. Discuss what it means to be a good citizen.  How to be kind.  How to be caring.  How to take responsibility and show respect. How to be a community that honors one another.  Tell them those things are more important than any test they will ever take.
  • Resist. The urge to fuss at kids who finish in 2 minutes is strong. Let’s face it, you really want to do much more than just fuss.  Those who don’t read, who don’t use scratch paper, or work out any problems, those who use their paper to doodle, who write in incomplete sentences, who cannot type, those who fall asleep.  RESIST.  Go back to number one…stuff it.
  • Remember. They are kids.  No matter what the powers that be believe, they are just kids who don’t fully understand that all of our futures rest on their performance.
  • Cry. In private of course.  You know how they are doing.  You know it is not all good. You know you will be in the office explaining the low scores in defense of yourself, your parenting/teaching, and the quality of the job you are doing. Get all the tears out BEFORE that meeting.
  • Chin up. If your child/student doesn’t do well, remember their results are not yours. Don’t let it define you. Or them. It is not an accurate measure of success.
  • Dance. Every. Single. Day. Of. Testing.  It shows everyone the test isn’t so important AND it lets the stress explode out of you in a positive way!!  Not to mention it makes the kids think you have gone crazy.  They LOVE this idea.
  • Pray. If you don’t believe in God, this is the week to start.  Pray for calm and peace.  Knowledge to flow and that no one would throw up during the test.
  • Drink. If nothing else works get a glass of wine, beer, hard liquor, water, or sweet tea…whatever your taste, drink to testing.  Cheers!

Spring Break

Pointers for Parents are regular SHORT inspirations to bring hope and encouragement to parents. I hope to build a bridge between parents and teachers as it pertains to the education of children and how we can work together for the betterment of our kids.


Spring Break.  Those two words just have a lilt to them, don’t they?  They roll off the tongue in kind of a bubbly, sing song voice.  They are the two words every parent, teacher, and child can agree on.  The giddiness that floods the heart when they are heard, or even thought about, is uncontainable.  Of all the breaks in the school year, Spring Break is probably the most anticipated of all of them.  No feast to cook for the relatives.  No gifts to buy.  Nothing but rest.  Whether you are going on a vacation to a tropical place or staying home, it is a week of time just to be together with family.  The pep in your step just from the anticipation of sleeping in is visible to all with whom you come into contact.  The smile on your face is contagious because of the freedom that is coming your way.  Freedom from homework assignments.  Freedom from lessons.  Freedom from schedules.  Freedom from extra-curricular activities. Freedom from practices, games, and rehearsals.  Freedom to picnic or camp.  To hike or shop.  To swim, or ski.  It is a holiday for fun.

I am aware that not every parent gets to join in the fun.  Some still have to work, and there are kids who go to daycare for the week, or grandma’s house.  There are some parents who have to juggle more because of the break. For others sleeping in is still only a dream. However, the freedom is still real.  No coming home to fight over homework.  No calendar of events to keep.  Mostly, you get to see your kids in a relaxed state, and in these days of cram packed schedules it is a joy to see them simply play.

The only shadow that falls over this blissful week is the coming of the most hated week of the school year.  Testing week. At the end of this fabulous holiday is a week or two of reviewing every standard taught throughout the year, and a few that haven’t been taught yet.  It is the time when parents, teachers, and kids ratchet up the anxiety that Spring Break all but removed. The regression and forgetfulness that happen in one week are shocking.  This creates panic as students return with blank stares in classrooms across the country. Here are a couple of simple suggestions to prevent a total loss over the break.

  • Read with your kids. I don’t mean crack the whip and force it, just take books to the beach for FUN.  Reading is supposed to be enjoyable, what better way to make it so than finding a good book and reading together.  No pressure of writing a response.  No test to prepare for.  No analysis to do.  Just read.
  • Practice real world math. Include kids in on the economics of your vacation.  Let them calculate the cost of food.  Have them decide what activities are the most economical. Let them see why you are not able to go on an exotic trip, or show them the reasons you are. Money management is a real thing.  It has to be done so why not take this as an opportunity to show them how.
  • Go to a museum. There are museums of every kind in nearly every city.  Find one where you are and go to it.  Read the displays for reading practice. (Shhhh, don’t tell them that is what they are doing.)  Look at exhibits for science, social studies, or art information. Even if you don’t go on a trip, there are local exhibits to see and usually the admission price is pretty reasonable at museums.  Interact with others and each other.  It is fun.
  • Go to an aquarium. They are a bit more expensive than museums, but the connections kids make with the sea creatures are worth it. There’s more reading and the shows they offer share what is involved in keeping, caring for, and training the animals.  It is entertaining for the whole family.
  • Go for a hike. Parks are cheaper than most other kinds of activities.  They have interpretive trails which come with paper guides that explain each station. (More reading.)  Learning about the habitats of animals and environments gets in some interesting science, and hiking is good for the body.  Win-win.
  • Go shopping. Shopping is another chance to practice economics.  Give your child a set amount and help them manage it.  Whether you are buying souvenirs or school clothes, shopping is an opportunity for them to see where your hard earned money goes and to learn that you don’t get everything you want.  Decisions must be made and priorities set.  Life skills come in the form of a trip through a store.

You get the idea.  Spring Break is supposed to be fun, and acquiring knowledge can be embedded into your holiday if you are intentional.  If you do it right, they will never even know they are learning.   🙂

Close Your Door and Teach

old desk.jpgTidbits for Teachers are regular SHORT inspirations to bring hope and encouragement to teachers in all settings.  I hope to give you a shot in the arm and remind you why you chose this career in the first place.

Teachers have many jobs beyond teaching, and supposedly those other jobs help you become a better educator.  Data collection has its place, but I am not sure I agree it makes my lessons better.  Mandates from the government are important to follow, because they help you keep your job, but they don’t help you help Johnny learn to read.  Testing is a thing, but it shouldn’t be the only thing.  Committees, grade levels, professional learning, staff development are all required, but none of them can replace having a hunch that a student is acting out because they would rather be the trouble maker than the kid who doesn’t know how to read. Ultimately, your intuition is your most important feature.  It cannot be taught or forced or bullied or measured out of you.  You get it from experience.  It is that simple.  All of these other “jobs” take away the time it takes to gain the experience you need.

So how are teachers to improve their practice? Close your door and teach.  I am not saying don’t do the things required of you. You will lose your job if you don’t show up for all the meetings.  I am saying put less importance on anything that is not actual teaching. Close your door and teach.  Do what you know to do.  Collaborate with your students. They are the ones who matter.  Plan with them what they want to do to learn the material.  Close your door and teach.  Avoid teacher drama.  Close your door and teach.  Walk away from administrative bullying.  Close your door and teach.  Adjust to the latest in a long line of standard changes.  Close your door and teach.  Rid yourself of anxiety and angst about possible changes politically. Close your door and teach.  It takes discipline to walk away from pressure packed meetings that tell you how to do your job, which is contrary to what you know.  It requires laser focus to put ‘things that are not helpful’ into the correct perspective and recognize how much they take you away from actual teaching. Close your door and teach.  It takes guts to teach your students developmentally appropriate lessons. Close your door and teach. You know what works.  You know what doesn’t.  You know who to go to when you need help.  Close your door and teach.

Teaching Respect


Pointers for Parents are regular SHORT inspirations to bring hope and encouragement to parents. I hope to build a bridge between parents and teachers as it pertains to the education of children and how we can work together for the betterment of our kids.

Respect seems to have gone the way of the dinosaur in recent years. In all areas of our society, there is less and less of it as people clamor to have their own voices heard. These voices are getting louder and louder at the expense of common courtesy. Ears seem to be stopped up and consideration for what others think and feel is at an all-time low. This concerns me as both a parent and a teacher because our children are watching.  My question is what are they learning?

The word respect is defined in this way: courteous or considerate treatment of others due to personal worth.  If you break the word down into its parts, the re- means to do again, and –spect means to look at.  In Latin, it means to look at again. In regards to other people, it means to contemplate, or consider other views in a way that is courteous and considerate. It is not what we are witnessing at this time in history.

So how can parents teach their children to be respectful in a day when it is not the “in” thing to do? Here are a few ideas.

  • Show respect. This may seem pretty basic, but children learn by watching you.  Of all the people in their lives YOU as the parent have the most influence on their behavior.  If you are respectful, they will be too.
  • Do not yell at the TV. I know, I know…this may seem like an impossible thing, but you can do it.  Really you can.  Instead of venting your frustrations loudly, try having a conversation with your child that is respectful of those you oppose.
  • Have discussions. It is hard to be respectful if you have no idea what the word means.  So have discussions and talk about respect, what it is, and what it is not.  Do not depend on other people in your child’s life to teach them this important life skill. Show them how to identify it.  Show them how to practice it.
  • Ask questions. Each day, check in with your child.  How were you respectful today?  Did you witness or participate in any disrespectful behavior?  How could you have done it differently to still express yourself but in a way that does not put down others who are different than you? What do you do when you see disrespect at school or in the community?  How can you turn things around?
  • Pay attention.  When you are on the phone, pay attention to the conversation your children are hearing.  They are always listening.  This does not mean you have to pretend to agree with everything all the time, but it does mean you need to demonstrate what healthy debate and disagreement looks like. Your interactions with the people throughout your day are their examples.  Your talk around the dinner table sets the standard.  You are their role model, make yourself a good one. Otherwise, they will find one you may not like.

Respect should not be a difficult subject to teach our children, yet it seems to be in short supply. We need to be intentional in our efforts.  It does not start at the White House, or at school, or on the television.  It starts at home.  It is time to look again… at respect.

Don’t Forget Who You Are

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Tidbits for Teachers are regular SHORT inspirations to bring hope and encouragement to teachers in all settings.  I hope to give you a shot in the arm and remind you why you chose this career in the first place.

Are you bogged down yet?  Are the looming test scores causing you to lose sleep?  I thought so.  As teachers, it is difficult not to allow those scores to haunt you in the back of your mind. Even when you are unaware of it, they are in the shadows of the corners.  This is because you are conscientious. You have the desire for every one of your students to succeed, not just on a test, but in life.  It also doesn’t help much that your job depends on their scores, and that their scores depend on so much more than just what you teach during the school day.  But rather than focus on all the pressure of upcoming testing, and all that you have yet to teach, I want to focus on what is true about most teachers I know.

  • You are both passionate and compassionate.
  • You work extremely hard.
  • You love teaching.
  • You are good at what you do.
  • You teach and reteach not because you have to, but because your students succeed when you do.
  • You truly want them to get it.
  • You know more about your subject area than most people.
  • You know that content is only a small part of educating children.
  • You recognize that teaching life skills, and social skills will take them further than content ever will.
  • You find a way to love even the difficult-to-love students.
  • You spend more of your own money on your classroom than you should.
  • You endure the difficult parts of your job for the privilege of working with kids.
  • You sit through meetings that question your worth, and you take it all personally.
  • You get up and try to jump through whatever the new hoop is, in order to keep doing what you love.
  • You tune out all the voices everywhere that point fingers at you as the problem with education.
  • You rise every morning before the sun to prove that you are NOT the problem.
  • You pray for someone somewhere to listen to you.
  • You keep going even when they don’t.
  • You are resilient.
  • You are tough.
  • You are strong.
  • You are the most determined group of people on the planet.
  • You are amazing.

You are a teacher.  It is who you are to the core. Go and teach your heart out, and know that you have given it your all.  Hold your head high.  Stand firm in your knowledge that you are doing all that you can.  Rest in the fact that there is nothing more you could give.  You have left every ounce of effort on the battle field. On testing days be confident of that.  Then pray that your students will also give every ounce of their own effort.  In the weeks between now and testing, pray that your example of giving it all would inspire them to do the same. Be assured that confidence is caught more than it is taught.  Know that you are good enough, and they will know it too.

What I Know

michelle-in-front-of-yonahI sit here, not knowing what to write.  My newsfeeds are full of political statements.  My friends are on both sides of the aisle.  Many are yelling at one another and I am taken by the polar opposite opinions, each saying the exact same thing about the opposing side.  The names I hear, are liar, bigot, hater, idiot…and some not as nice as those.  Each is convinced that the names they are using are correct, that they are the ones who see things clearly, and that the fog of deception is resting over the eyes of those simple minded fools on the other side.

The thing is, I don’t feel that anyone is simple minded, on either side.  I think every person has valid reasons for their opinions. The miles and miles they have walked in their own shoes have colored their world a certain way. They have not walked in the shoes of another, so they cannot possibly understand things from a different viewpoint.  Disrespecting others viewpoints is not very becoming.  I also do not believe that solving our country’s problems is a simple matter, otherwise they would have been solved by now. It is not as simple as voting in one party or another.  It is not as simple as slashing laws, banning things, or creating new policies.  Both sides have tried this technique, and neither has succeeded in unifying our severely divided country.  We are more polarized than ever, and most folks I know on both sides are deeply concerned about that fact.  Yet, most of us are also passionate about our varying positions, and refuse to consider another point of view other than our own.  It is a conundrum.

I am afraid of where all this self-righteousness will lead us. Our righteousness is as filthy rags…so the Bible says.  Superiority is never a flattering character trait.  In my experience, it requires a bringing low…a humbling.  Humiliation is never fun, in my own life, God has found it necessary at times to show me that his ways are not my ways. Usually, this requires circumstances beyond my control, which bring me to a place of desperate prayer on my knees.  Shocker of shockers, he doesn’t actually need me or my opinions to run the universe!  Nor does he need the United States of America to fulfill his purposes on the Earth. I know that statement is heresy to many, but it is the truth.  We are tiny dots on a small planet hanging in space, and our ideas which say we are more important than that are incorrect. We just need to settle down and think on that for a minute.  Deep breaths. Our lifetimes are but a second…a mist that is gone before the blink of the eye of eternity.  Governments rise and fall…only love lasts beyond human structures…because it is NOT human. It is beyond our capacity to stop it.  Thank God for that!

You may have noticed I do usually not do political statements, or blogs.  There is a reason for that.  I know the passion with which beliefs are held. I respect that passion because it shows care.  If you are a passionate person you are a caring person and you feel your convictions deeply. I am aware that I cannot change a person’s mind on any issue. I do not find the need to vent my own opinions to the world and receive hate mail in return.  I do however, feel pretty passionately on certain issues myself.  In my own household, we run from one extreme to the other. We have to set a limit on how much political talk can happen at family gatherings.  We are all learning to hold our tongues to some degree, but also how to listen to one another.  We have not yet mastered the art of listening with an open heart, to actually consider where we might be mistaken in our own views. We are working on that and will be, as far as I can tell, well into the future.

Education has always been one of my passions and therefore, I cannot always keep silent.  I am trying to wrap my head around the appointment of Betsy Devos.  I cannot understand how this will be a good thing, and I feel pretty strongly about this for a number of reasons, which I will not elaborate on here. Instead, I will try to think positive, and hope that such a huge change might be the impetus to bring the changes our schools so desperately need. Yet, even in typing those words I feel a knot in my gut that says otherwise. Time will tell. However, rather than argue and rant and rave over an issue I cannot change, I want to emphasize what I know.

I know that:

  • Teachers love their students.
  • Teachers will always teach, no matter who is in charge or what is changed.
  • Teachers are passionate people, who use their passion as fuel to do the best job they can.
  • Teachers care for ALL students, and that will be true no matter what happens.
  • Teachers desire the best for schools.
  • Teachers have strong opinions about what that looks like, and will vote accordingly.
  • Teachers are bold.
  • Teachers are some of the hardest working people you will meet.
  • Teachers feel called to their profession.
  • Public schools reach every child, because in the U.S. we believe education is vital to alleviating poverty and creating caring citizens.
  • Public schools bring hope to those children who don’t have much hope at home.
  • Public schools help families to help their children.
  • Public schools are compassionate places.
  • Public schools bring learning to life.
  • Public schools are inclusive.
  • Public schools teach life skills.
  • Students in poverty need public schools and caring teachers.
  • Students mature and grow in classrooms.
  • Students learn how to be a part of a community in school.
  • Students master content.
  • Students make friendships and learn to relate to others.
  • Students see what compassion looks like.
  • Students grasp hard concepts.
  • Students believe in themselves, when they accomplish learning.

Are our schools perfect?  Absolutely not.  Any teacher, parent, or student can tell you that. However, learning takes place in classrooms and it always will.  So while things in Washington change and the wind blows in new directions, know that teachers will not stop teaching.  Schools will go on, and students will continue to learn. No matter what happens.

Winter Blahs

piles of books.jpgPointers for Parents are regular SHORT inspirations to bring hope and encouragement to parents. I hope to build a bridge between parents and teachers as it pertains to the education of children and how we can work together for the betterment of our kids.

A new year is a new start.  It is true for us as adults, and it is true for students as well.  Actually the time between Christmas and Spring Break is some of the most intense instruction, interrupted only by a snow day or two here and there. Ask any teacher and they will tell you that the main thing they hope for during these winter months is uninterrupted instructional time.  It is fast and furious, and to get every standard in before testing, is a challenge even if every minute is used properly.  For parents it is a season to double down and help your child to set some new goals regarding schoolwork.  Otherwise, spring fever starts early.  Yikes!  Here are some pointers for getting the most out of the winter months and avoid the winter blahs.

  • Have your child in school all day, every day. That may sound like common sense, but you would be surprised and how tempting it is to sleep in on a cold morning, or to check out early for an appointment that could have been scheduled after hours.  In winter there are sniffles in the air, or they plain just don’t feel like doing schoolwork. Even homeschool kids who have more flexibility as to when they do schooling seem to lose motivation in the dreary winter days.  Sit down and make a commitment with your child to attend (mentally as well as physically) EVERY SINGLE DAY.
  • Reiterate time management. When the projects, tests, and assignments ramp up in intensity it is time to have a plan of action.  Whether you use an agenda or some other system of scheduling, remember you can schedule academics as well as extracurricular activities.  When there is a paper due, you can back it up and put rough draft on the calendar a few days before the paper is due.  Then put complete research on the calendar a week before that. This is essential for projects as well. By backing things up and getting them written down your child will learn time management which is a critical life skill.
  • Create organization. By this time of year, the folders, binders, and notebooks are a mess.  What started as a fresh system of order has likely degenerated to a backpack full of loose papers with no rhyme or reason. Take all that stuff out and start over.  Throw out papers that are no longer needed.  Get your subjects back in the correct notebooks.  Organize your work space at home as well.  Replenish office supplies like paper, pencils, glue, and make sure you know where the scissors are.  Disorganization disrupts time management by creating a crisis of not knowing where things are and having to stop everything to find the necessary supplies before the work can even start.
  • Be supportive. That means encouraging your student by helping them stay on top of assignments.  It means helping the teacher to help your child by making sure homework is completed and makes its way back to the book bag.  That means paying attention to work that comes home and going over it with your child.  Celebrate the good scores and review the reasons for the bad ones.  It may look different between private, public and homeschool environments, but all kids are the same and need the care and support of their families.

Being engaged in your child’s education doesn’t mean you take the responsibility from them, it means you find ways to gradually transfer the ownership of their learning to them.  After all, you don’t want to be going to college with them to make sure they get their work accomplished.  Teaching these skills at the beginning of a new season will reinforce them.  Then one day, they will be mature enough to do them on their own and you will sit back and smile at a job well done.