Yay! I have been waiting for Sunday all week, just so I could see what everyone else is thinking about Part II of Ron Clark's "The End of Molasses Classes". Make sure you hit the TBA linky party to read what others are saying!
Part II is addressed to the parents - it's everything we all want to tell parents about how to support their child's education. It hit home for me both as a teacher and as a parent. I'm going to limit myself to 3 principles, otherwise I'd go on and on! My 3 favorite principles from Part II are:
Principle 25: Be Prepared for the long haul if you want your child to succeed. Oh my word, I love this one! Yes, parents should actually read the notes we send home, they need to help their child study, they need to make sure they monitor their child's television intake (I had a 5 year old tell me his favorite movie was Saw III - and he described it in gruesome detail!). I have some little darlings in my class who are struggling big time right now. Their parents turned down retention or Transitional First Grade so instead they are in my 1st grade class, floundering. Unfortunately, these are also the children whose parents don't help them with homework, don't read with them etc. I wish I could tell parents that there's only so much I can do at school - even with tutoring help during school hours - and their child is going to continue falling behind unless they get the help and support they need at home! As a parent myself, with 4 school aged children, it is sometimes hard to find the time to make sure everyone is doing their homework and understanding concepts, while I cook dinner and clean up and make lesson plans etc. I understand that it's difficult and sometimes the last thing I want to do after coming home from a hard day of work is work with my own kiddos, but it is so important. I can't say I'm perfect - there are times when I turn up the radio and tell everyone in the car that the ride home is to be talking-free lol. One way I make sure to connect with my kids is by having dinner together (even if I cheated and got fast food!) We eat at the table together and each child has to tell us one thing that went well that day, one thing that was bad/upsetting and one thing they're learning.
Principle 27: Realize the power of gratitude and appreciation. This is a biggie for me - there have been times when I stood in line at a store and listened to employees and customers carp about teachers and having to buy supplies. "Instead of buying school supplies, why can't we just send $10 in at the beginning of the year and that's it?" was one conversation I overheard. ($10?! Seriously?!) When talking to salespeople I have learned to immediately let them know that I am a teacher so they don't try the "You have 4 kids so I know money is tight, especially with schools constantly asking for you to send in this or that." Now, I'm not expecting presents, in fact I'd rather parents buy their child a book than get me anything, but a nice note once in a while is awesome! My firsties are such loves - they constantly write me notes or draw pictures and I love them. Notes from parents are just as nice! Being a military family with 4 kids, money is tight sometimes, so I usually don't buy teacher gifts for the holidays. Instead, I have my kids write cards, including favorite memories of the year or why they like their teacher etc. As a teacher myself, I know those notes will be treasured much longer than a box of chocolates or knick knack.
Principle 32: Realize that even very good children will sometimes lie. Recently, one of my firsties got in trouble on the playground for bullying. It was the 2nd time within 10 minutes that she was in the middle of an altercation - not necessarily being the aggressor, but definitely instigating. I told all of the children involved that they had to sit out the remaining 5 minutes of recess since they were not getting along with everyone. Immediately, this little darling said "My mama says you can't talk to me that way!" I think my jaw hit the ground. I have never met mama, never talked to her, so what on earth was this child saying? Turns out that every time she got in trouble she would go home and tell mama that I was being mean and picking on her. Rather than contact me, mama just told her that I wasn't allowed to talk to her "that way" and to let me know that she was going to come talk to the principal about me. It's been a few weeks and mama still hasn't come to school, but in the meantime this child and I still have to try to work together. It infuriates me that mama would take the word of a 5 year old without even contacting me and set us up for even more problems by letting the child think that it was okay to be disrespectful and not listen. I don't think it even occurred to the mama that there are 2 sides to every story and that her daughter might not be telling the truth. Oh, just to be clear, I have sent many notes home to the mama, never receiving an answer, no responses to phone calls etc. I am hoping that she shows up to parent/teacher conferences but I'm not holding my breath. As a parent, the cardinal rule in our family is "Lying is the worst thing ever." There have been times when I have punished my children, not for the original misdeed, but for lying about it afterwards. I absolutely know that children can/will lie, and my own children are no exception. I remember lying as a child, and it was always with the intent of getting out of some kind of punishment. Therefore, punishment for lying in my house is a much bigger deal than anything else. My oldest 2 children have learned their lessons and rarely ever lie, now we are just trying to ensure that the younger two learn that telling the truth is always the best option.
Whew! That was long wasn't it? Thanks for reading this far! Make sure to check out the rest of the linky party and come back next week for Part III! If you haven't purchased the book yet, there's still time, I highly recommend it, even if you can't take part in the linky party, it will change how you think about teaching and parenting!