From the Desk of a Veteran Teacher

For those who do not know me, I have been teaching high school for eight years .  I have gone through personal ups and downs in the profession, administrative changes, and federal mandates that turns a school upside down.  As we are about to embark on a new school year I want to give some advice to the parents out there.

1. Being Involved:  The first thing teachers will tell you is that you need to be involved in your child’s education.  This does not mean you do THEIR HOMEWORK for them.  Chances are you are going to get it wrong and then complain to the teacher about how you have multiple college degrees and there is no way little Johnny  could have got it all wrong!  Being INVOLVED means making sure they are dressed appropriately for school, they are at the bus stop on time, their homework is done, and try opening the BOOK BAG once in a while and clean out that rats nest and help them get organized.

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2. Contacting the Teacher:  In our world today you are more connected to your child’s teacher then ever before.  There is email, twitter, Facebook, and the old school phone (Some teachers even give out their cell phone numbers).  This means when you have a problem or a question for the teacher, you will probably hear back within 24 hours.  With that being said,  I hear from other teachers, in districts across the nation, about how some parent called the Superintendent’s secretary because their kid was given detention and they are beside themselves that this occurred.  Before you do that, use one of the above mentioned strategies and ask the teacher what happened. You will probably get a detailed report about what happened.  By going straight to the top you are only annoying people who have no idea about what happened and probably do not care.

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3. Your Brilliant Child: I love teaching students who love the content and already have some prior knowledge about the topic when they come to class.  These kids help facilitate classroom discussions and usually bring a level of passion that can be infectious to the other students.  Here is the thing about your brilliant child: THEY MIGHT FAIL! Now pull yourself together after your stop hyperventilating about the thought of your retirement plan failing their 4th grade spelling test.  It is okay. Failing or struggling in school can be a good thing.  It teaches them humility and gives them an opportunity to rise up to meet the challenge next time the test or difficult assignment comes around.  If you do not believe me check this video out.

4.The Uneducated Teacher: Search the internet for all the teachers on your students schedule this year and you will find plenty of information about them.  More than likely you will be able to find a review or rating about them as you would the new Italian restaurant in town.  Most of what you will find will be negative on those websites because unfortunately only the disgruntled peopled post to those websites.  What you forget is that we are college educated and most of us who have been teaching have an advanced degree in education and spend hours of our own time taking classes and going to training programs during the summer months.  Chances are when your daughter fails physics it is not because her teacher is UNEDUCATED and HAS NO IDEA WHAT THEY ARE DOING you are deflecting blame.  No teacher wants to see a student fail, and we are more than willing to offer our own time to tutor them and see them succeed.  We have made this job our life and we know what we are doing and if you work with us you will see improvement in your child’s performance.

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5.Remember They Are Your Child: If you child cannot READ it is probably YOUR FAULT.  If you do not believe me here are some doctors that do.  If you are not reading to your kid every day then you are setting you child up to fail in a big way.  It is not hard to grab a few books from the library (remember that place with all of those free books to borrow) and have story time before bed or maybe instead of turning on the Peppa Pig in the afternoon you pick up a copy of The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungary Bear and laugh at the story with your child.  Every book you read is introducing your child to new vocabulary, building literacy skills, and it is actually a really fun way to spend some time as a family.  If you have a middle or high school aged child who hates reading, try giving them a comic book with Iron Man or Batman on the cover and you will be surprised how easily they can get hooked.  Use a newspaper or an online news site and look over current events that may be effecting your child at a local or national level.  YOU are your child’s first teacher and YOU need to take responsibility for his/her education!

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It might be cliche but ” It takes a village to raise a child”  and teachers, parents, friends, and family members all need to work together.  I love my job and I love when students come back to visit or I see their name in the paper celebrating their college graduation.  Those success stories are not because of one person, but because a TEAM worked together to make sure each one of them succeed.  As the new school year begins think about how you can make this school year a successful one for your child and how great it is going to feel when they come home from school with a huge smile on their face.

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section. Do you have any tips or tricks that work for you? OR any suggestions for teachers? For everyone that comments you are entered into our Back To School Contest. Click Here to Enter  and look below to see what you can win!!

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Music for the School Carpool – Fitz and The Tantrums

Fitz-JumpDo you drive your kids to school? If so, school is about to start back up and you probably aren’t looking forward to the carpool process. It’s about time you start getting your carpool soundtrack ready. And, I’m not talking about the Frozen or Sophia the First soundtracks. In my car, the rule is whoever is driving the car picks the music. And, if I’m have to sit through the traffic in the drop off lane at school, then I’m going to want something that’s going to have a little beat to it. Something that whole car can bob their head to.

My choice for Music for the School Carpool is “The Walker” by Fitz and The Tantrums.

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Last Trip of the Summer: Schlitterbahn

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Here in Texas the school year starts a lot earlier then I ever remember. Growing up in Michigan school didn’t start up until until after Labor Day. Down here they get things going a lot earlier. Some schools had their first day last week. Most are starting this week. And, for Caroline, she starts pre-school on Wednesday.

To mark the end of the summer, we thought we would take one more family trip. It was only a day trip and it was only a 25 minute drive away, but we sure got our monies worth. We closed out our summer with a trip to Schlitterbahn.

As the old saying goes… “Everything is bigger in Texas”. And, water parks are no exception. Schlitterbahn, located between Austin and San Antonio, is a water park of epic proportion. It opened in 1979 with just four water slides, but now boasts over 65-acres of water slides, tubing rides and kids themed parks. 

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Back to School Giveaway!!!

A set of these great Football Themed Party Invitations can be yours courtesy of Small Moments if you enter our back to school giveaway this week.  Leave a comment on one of our posts this week or like us on Facebook.  Click the Link at the bottom of the page to find out more or check us out on Facebook

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Back to School: School Supplies Scavenger Hunt

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As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I try to save money when possible.  This holds true when it comes to school supply shopping for my first grader.  His elementary school offered a package last spring in which they would give us my son’s supplies for a certain price.  That price was 20-25 dollars more than what you would pay in stores for them, but you didn’t have to run around town.  I figured we would save the money and it really wouldn’t be that big of deal especially since both my wife and I have summers off.  We could slowly accumulate the items as things went on sale or while we were out and about running errands.

In retrospect, I should have just spent the extra money.  The list of supplies we received didn’t seem that complicated, until we read the fine print.  We couldn’t just simply buy 5 two-pocket folders.  That would be too easy.  The folders had to be specific colors (red, orange, yellow, blue, and purple), be plastic, and contain prongs on the inside.  Still, this didn’t seem to be that difficult.  Well, except for the fact that there must is a major shortage of theses exact folders in Lafayette, Indiana. We began the folder quest at our local Wal-Mart.  They had an entire aisle of just folders, but nothing that met the exact requirements.  Their folders didn’t have the prongs.  In total, we looked at four stores before we even found one that carried folders which met the school’s specifications.  Target was the winner; however, they didn’t carry plastic folders, with two pockets, with prongs that were orange.  We literally had to order that single folder online.

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See that orange folder…it is as real as a unicorn

The folder fiasco was annoying enough, but it doesn’t get better.  Every item on the school supply list was a very specific brand, color, or other specification.  This ranged from the type of crayons and pencils he could have to the brand of water colors (apparently Prang is the Cadillac of watercolors).  I’m not quite sure the point of all of this.  Maybe it is to take away some of the socioeconomic differences of the kids?  Every kid is required to have a box of 24 count Crayola crayons.  Gone are the days of kids bringing their box of 128 crayons that included a built in sharpener and colors like “Mauvelous” and “Pink Sherbert.” Ahhh, the goold ol’ days.

A few days before school started, we had finally collected all our son’s required items, save one . . . an art smock.  These things simply don’t exist for a 6-year-old.  Places like Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, and JoAnn’s sell ones that are basically bibs (they are for ages 24 months +)  or they have adult ones which are clearly for semi-professional artists.  I didn’t know there was a market for either of those age groups.  We looked online with very little luck, so my son is the proud owner of one of my old t-shirts as his art smock.  Luckily, we saw many parents had the same idea when we went to the meet the teacher night.  As a parent, there is definitely something built in that makes you not want to have “that” kid in class, even in the first grade.  Much like Adam Sandler says in Big Daddy when he his son, Julian, has become “the smelly kid” in class.  We didn’t want our son to feel this way for not coming to school with an official “art smock”.

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My 6 year old son is NOT wearing this!

So that he is not this…

After having everything collected came the absolute worst part:  labeling EVERY item with your kid’s name.  We literally are required to take every crayon out and put his name on it.  EVERY crayon.  EVERY pencil.  EVERY glue stick.   EVERY marker…you get the picture.  I understand the point, so that all items are clearly my son’s, but it sure was a tedious process to complete.

Shopping for school supplies is definitely one thing that they don’t tell you in the parenting books, but I seriously stressed about school supplies this year.  Oh well, it’s all part of the journey.

 

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I’m not an outstanding teacher. Nor is anyone.

This a great article as the school year is starting back up. I head back to work next week full of meetings and classroom prep and this post did a wonderful job of painting a picture of the current state of schools everywhere.

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This article appeared in the Guardian this morning. There’s much in it I agree with.

 School leaders [] have been informed that this country’s teachers are failing, and that they must take charge of a lazy and unprofessional teaching staff, leading to suspicion within our schools. [] I often found that by 9:30am (by which point I had been at school for two hours) I felt I had been reprimanded five or six times in emails to all staff, or in departmental meetings, or staff briefings – all a direct result of current education policies.

This had me nodding along, and at some point in the future I’ll probably have a full spleen vent about the adoption of Cult of The Leader enforcement nonsense by rather too many SLTs. However, this is only a quick piece, and I want to focus on this :

I am an outstanding teacher.

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Death, Sadness, and YouTube

Did you watch a man die lately?

I clicked on the Tony Stewart crash video from Saturday night that would show me the final moments of Kevin Ward Jr’s life.  The YouTube Ad showed that I had 30 seconds before the video started.  As the time clicked away and I got closer to the start of the video, I thought to myself should I really be watching this?  My answer was no, I do not want to see another man’s death  and I clicked the X in the top right corner of my browser window.   I feel better about myself for a moment, but began to worry about why myself and so many other felt it was important to watch such a horrible scene.

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Millions of people have watched Kevin Ward Jr. die on the internet since it was originally posted and I am struggling with the why I wanted to watch it in the first place or why anyone would want to.  We have all slowed down at that car wreck on the side of the road or have turned on the local news only to be engaged by the stories of the horrific murders in our local communities.  But why?  Why do we find it important to watch someone die or people suffer unthinkable pain and emotions?  Do we ever think about the victim’s family and what they are going through? How would we feel if that would our family member and they experienced a tragic death?

I am far from innocent in this discussion. Only a week ago I jumped on YouTube to watch the video of Paul George breaking his leg in a horrific accident while playing for Team USA and made a scene in the middle of a restaurant with my reaction. I wish I knew why I had to see that the video, because frankly it was a horrible thing to watch and I hope that if you have not seen it much like the Ward video you simply choose to find something else to watch or just read the article if you need to know what happened.

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My wife and I try to censor what our daughters see on the TV when they are in the room.  They are only one and three years old, and chances are they are going to see a baseball game or possibly Food Network if Giada is cooking up something for dinner (A favorite of my oldest daughter).  My question for more experienced parents is can you shield your children from the horrors of the world but at the same time educate them and not seem like helicopter parents? Or how do you handle the unlimited access that the internet is giving the world today?

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Help out a young father or anyone else who has these same questions.  Leave us a comment with some advice.

 

 

My Roasted Chicken…Camp Fire Edition

Summer is not over yet grab the family find a camp and make this chicken. While your at it try out out my campfire pizza

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For the long weekend we packed up everyone and all our camping gear and headed to the lake! My Mother-In-Law booked some great cabins at the Elinor Lake Resort and I was so happy to get away for a couple of days and relax!  I decided that I was going to do beer can chicken over the fire.  Unfortunately the can and the chickens did not cooperate and almost fell directly into the fire! So I decided to make it a bit easier and just roasted them over the fire.

Don’t be afraid to cook more than hot dogs while you are camping, you will be surprised how easy it is to cook something more!

You Will Need:

– Butter
– Fresh Herbs (I had rosemary, thyme and basil)
– Garlic (Of Course!)
– Whole Chicken (x2)
– Salt n Pepper
– 1 Lemon
– Beer
– Roasting Pan

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Grill Porn

No recipes just a great photo of my loaded grill. What is on your grill tonight?

Thai Peanut Glaze Chicken Tenders
Balsamic and Herb Chicken Tenders
Sweet Corn w/ Cilantro Lime Butter
Sweet Potato Chips w/ Sea Salt and Pepper
Cast Iron Peaches

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A 2 Year old, a Fishing Pole, and a Proud Father

I originally guest blogged and posted this story on July 16th on the site What I Didn’t Expect While She was Expecting but realized some of you might not have seen it. Now as my summer vacation is ending I have been reflecting on my favorite moments and this is at the top of that list. So Enjoy my story of teaching my daughter to fish.

My oldest daughter is almost three years old (now 3 she just had her birthday) and has reached the age that I can start teaching her some major life lessons and passed down to me from my parents. I decided it was time for my daughter to receive her first fishing pole. Going fishing was one of my favorite pastimes from my childhood. I can vividly picture going fishing with my parents during the summer and I want to start to recreating some of those moments with my her.

When my daughter was handed her pole and tackle box you would have thought it was Christmas morning. She quickly ran to put on her shoes and declared she wanted to go outside and practice. I attached a bobber and added a little weight and we worked on casting and pretended we were reeling in a big one. If it was not time to eat dinner, she would have stayed outside for another thirty minutes. Read More…