How do I get my child to behave? How do I teach my child to be polite or thoughtful of others? Is spanking ever O.K.? How do I get my children to practice the piano or do their homework? How do I get them to do anything or even listen to me? What do I do when they’re bad? What kind of discipline should I use?
Do I back off or get in their face like a “tiger mom?” How can we exercise parental authority so that our children will become authorities themselves? It’s actually not hard; it’s just tricky. Don’t get mad; get creative. Continue reading →
Last week I saw 25 kindergarteners walking through the hallway of a school, each with a 4×6 notebook in one hand and a pencil in the other. They flooded slowly along quite naturally, heads turning left and right, eyes going up and down, and all with studious expressions on their faces. Looking, looking, looking. Every onceinawhile one would jot something down. Continue reading →
How to behave in public is something the students at St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Oakland, California, practice daily on their two-block walk to the park for lunch, recess and physical education. Continue reading →
Sitting in the speaker’s chair at morning meeting Claire presented a yellow silk scarf to her class. As she spoke she floated it through her hands and around her neck, all eyes of her second grade classmates were on her. Continue reading →
One day second grader Miranda said: “I was in the garden looking at the tomatoes with Patrice and Josh, and we saw a wasp tackling a fly. Then it tore the fly’s head off and flew away with the body. An ant found the head and started eating it and the fly’s eyes separated from its head.”
The teacher asked, “What did you think about when you were watching this happen?”
She replied, “I thought, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I wouldn’t want to be that fly.”
Later that same afternoon Sasha and Kate joined in the insect hunt and Kate said, “The garden seems to be so calm when you first look at it but when you look closer it’s very alive.”
On another day first graders found the front half of a dead snake and immediately started generating hypotheses as to what happened: Continue reading →
Just because children are self-centered, doesn’t mean they have to be selfish.
Last May I stood on a polished hardwood floor in the middle of an 80-year old multipurpose room with a 30-foot ceiling in front of 250 wooden seats that rose before me like the stands in a baseball stadium, looking up as a couple of hundred 10- to 15-year-olds, flooded in and filled up these seats. Continue reading →
In the summer of 1974 I became principal of my first school. It was in trouble—such trouble, in fact, that I was the only person they could find to be its principal.
Demographic change had hit the school hard. White flight and other changes had dropped the enrollment to only 210 students, 38% of whom were now African American. The neighborhood of the school was what the real estate agents charmingly called “a little salt and pepper,” and everyone believed what one trustee whispered in my ear: “Research has shown that if a third of a school goes black, it goes all the way.” Continue reading →
Dominique, age 8, sat in front of a computer screen doing addition problems—level one on Khan Academy.
When 9 + 3 = ? appeared on the screen, “That’s easy,” she said, and started hunting for 1 on the keyboard. She was new to the computer, and it was slower than she was. Nonetheless her approach was determined and persistent. She found the 1, hit it with her forefinger, found 2 next to it, hit that, moved the curser to the green “Check answer” button and clicked. For her efforts she got a smiley face. A bright bar of royal blue appeared in the success bar just above the answer box, and Dominique smiled. Continue reading →
In decades of trying to improve schools, things aren’t working out. Maybe, we should apply a lesson of life to our approach to elementary school: Do the present right, and the future will take care of itself.
On the surface much of the lingo of school improvement seems full of confident commitment to excellence and success for all. Language like accountability for measurable outcomes, high standards, data driven decision-making, racing to the top, leaving no children behind, and so on is seductive. Hearing this language in a school system one imagines thousands of children working hard to produce results that will someday make thousands of adults proud of their collective commitment to success. Continue reading →