The Joint Parent-Teacher Enterprise: Self-Possessed Children

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

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Share

Making Better Schools is a Local Enterprise

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

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Share

Where Am I Going? Who Am I?

A Discipline of My Calling

“I don’t mean to be disrespectful but I wonder where you have been lately with all the pressure on all the…” were the words that greeted me from my computer screen this morning, when I opened it up at 5am for my customary morning of writing. Someone I don’t yet know had commented on my blog post entitled: “In Education Failure IS an Option.”

Saying to myself, “This is one of those times to apply the discipline Act. Don’t react,” I went to put on the kettle. Continue reading

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Share

Failure to Launch? Stop Parenting and Be a Parent

With a simple click, Amy French – at home, work, or on her cell phone – can find out how her 13-year-old son, Bryan Kimball, did on an exam or if he turned in his homework.

French is on PowerSchool, a “Web-based student information system” used by the North Stonington School District. She scans through Bryan’s different courses, checking his grades or emailing a teacher. It’s 24/7 access to all information concerning her eighth-grade son.                    Sasha Goldstein in theday.com

Increasing communication between home and school is a good thing, of course. Kids need to know that parents and teachers are in communication and working together, and I am all for technologies that serve that end. Improvements beyond the standard technologies of email, phoning, notes in backpacks, newsletters and chatting in the parking lot? Sure, let’s see how they work—watching out, of course, for the unintended negative consequences.

And there will be negative consequences.

Parental fear about children’s success can be self-fulfilling, Continue reading

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Share

Management-Speak Disguises a Short-Sighted Vision of School

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

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Share

Be a Parent: Five Mantras. Your Only Hope for a Long and Happy Relationship with your Child

A father sent me this email the other day:

Want to be a great parent? Remember these five mantras:

1. Stop Parenting.
Stop using parenting as a verb, as in “How should I be parenting my child?” Those parenting books on your bedside table—put them on a shelf and replace them with a novel.
2. Be a parent.
3. Have a relationship.

The relationship that began at birth—let it build and grow as you interact and learn from each other.
4. Be your dynamic self.
Learn. Listen to your own genius, let it guide you in helping your child learn the requirements of her environment, and let yourself be changed.
5. Have fun.
Notice, delight, respond, conflict, challenge, inquire, define, love, and watch how the child’s unique character reveals itself to you. Notice how that character is driven by some ineffable inner voice, her own unique genius.

Even as she grows increasingly independent of you, she will always be interdependent with you. Allow yourself to be interdependent with her (as in “Hmmmm.”)

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Share

Meditation on the Equinox

Yesterday, on the return leg of our evening walk. Victoria and I saw a dark thing sticking up from the rail of the fence that lines our driveway.

“What’s that? Is that an owl? Or a hawk? Or….?”

“Can’t be an owl. Must be a hawk. Amazing.”

But the most amazing thing is that neither Victoria, nor I, nor the hawk changed what we were doing. We kept walking, and it kept perching. As we passed, Victoria could have reached out and touched it with a yardstick. Continue reading

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Share

In Education Failure IS an Option: New Myths for Successful Kids and Better Schools

In Education failure IS an option, and a pretty good one at that.

Fear of failure is not a big issue for most kids going off to first grade. Their life is not yet framed with questions of success and failure. Even after a year in kindergarten where their mission was to make friends, create, do fun things, and learn as much as they can, the concept of failure isn’t really on the brain, much.

Unfortunately, most schools try to change this. Our culture is obsessed with success and failure in the context of a pyramid model of society, Continue reading

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Share

Blessings on the First Day of School

On the first day of school, Peter had had a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast. His teeth were brushed, his lunch and snack were in his backpack, and his favorite shirt was on his back. As his father scurried around the kitchen, he talked to Peter saying things like, “Have you got your lunch? Have you got your backpack?”

Peter was in the lead as they stepped out the door and down the steps to the car. Five feet from the car his father yelled: “Peter! You don’t have any shoes on!”

Looking down at his stocking feet, Peter saw that it was true and said, “Okay. But you don’t have to get mad at me.” Continue reading

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Share

Procrustean Education

Procrustes was a blacksmith who had his house by the side of the sacred way between Athens and Eleusis in ancient Greece. Being a friendly, hospitable guy, though, Procrustes also ran an inn. When tired travelers came down the road, he would sometimes invite them in to spend the night.

The rooms in the Inn were equipped with special beds. When the guests lay down, if they were too long for the bed, a special guillotine-type knife would drop down and lop off whatever was hanging over the foot of the bed. If they were too short for the bed, they would be stretched to fit. Continue reading

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Share