Tuesday, August 31, 2010

It's Time...Parent Portals and What's in Store this Year

Okay, Spot. I see you out there pressing your nose against the screen. I hear your mommies moaning too! I get it. It's time.
We've been in there sweating it out, crunching the numbers and analyzing all the data, so we can make it just right for you.

We've got some great things in store for you, Spot, but I have to admit, we may have some not-so-great things too. Today, we talked about parent portals. Oy vey, Spot. This could get rough.

A parent portal is kind of like a hole in a wall where the mommy and daddy doggies can take a little peek from time to time. I'd almost rather have a real hole in the wall, honestly. The parent portal allows the parents to monitor your progress, peeking in each and every time I put a grade in the book. They'll actually receive an email when the gradebook is updated. It's okay, Spot...we can handle that, and maybe, just maybe, it'll make you more accountable.

But today, Spot? We talked about the same parent portal for the Accelerated Reader program we've discussed before. AR is a great thing in many ways, because it helps kids see and monitor their own reading progress, watching it grow while earning points in the bank. This year, parents will see each and every AR point as they make their way into your account. They'll be able to monitor quiz scores too. Is this a good thing, Spot?

Well...to my thinking it could be, but it takes a pretty balanced parent not to get too hooked on all these numbers. We've got to be ever so careful in this. Don't worry too much, though Spot. I'm going to look your mama and papa in the eye at Open House. A little knowledge can be dangerous and a lot more can be disastrous. My job is to help them understand.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Who Let the Dogs Out?

Hey Spot! I wandered over to Daniel Pink's blog and read the most amazing piece...and I got to gnawing on the idea he talked about there.

Netflix, you know that company, right? Movies by mail, anytime you want them. They have a new open leave policy for employee attendance it seems...vacation time: you need it/you take it! That's right! Can you imagine? I don't feel like going in tomorrow, I'm going to call it a 'zero day'!

I started applying that thinking to school. You see, Spot, all the mommies out there have been asking me, "Are you ready?" And then they smile. When I don't answer right away, they smile again. In other words, "It's your turn to take over those doggies again." I get it. You guys are getting a bit out of hand out there. But the true answer is I'm never ready...for summer to end. Who would be? Really. So, reluctantly I tell them..."I'm always ready." And then I smile.

In a way, that really is true. I love when we get back into the swing of things. I'm in my element there. But...leaving summer and the freedom it brings? Being constantly locked into a daily grind? Well, none of us are, not even the kids. But if we...like Netflix, had an open summer policy? I'd write the assignments on the board, promote cooperative doggie behavior, and quietly take my exit and go. In the immortal words of Snagglepuss, it'd be "Exit...stage left!" for me.

"Autonomy is not the opposite of accountability. It's the pathway to it." I like that, Spot. I'm thinking before long, I'll be able to teach in my jammies from my armchair. While you and all the puppies take over at school. So...go ahead, take all the recess you want. It's the trickle down theory you know! I'm thinking this 21st century learning is really a good thing.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Don't Go There: How NOT to Buy School Supplies

Okay, Spot. Here we go! Out there in the public arena buying games for our classroom this fall. Eavesdropping, it's what I do. I was incognito, sunglasses and all. I hear this mom say, "I can't afford another thing! I just spent $140 on school supplies." (Then she asks the clerk where she got her cute tee shirt, because she LOVED that syle!)

Well, first of all, you know me, I'm screaming at her inside my head. Me-"Are you crazy?" Seriously, who does that? Now she did have two kids with her, so I'm assuming, hopefully, that she spent this on two kids. Even $70 per kid is ridiculous. She was implying that the fault was the school's, but I beg to differ!

Here's what parents should never do when shopping for school supplies: bring their kids if they are not prepared to say no! Otherwise, follow the list. Kids do not need the $15 binder or the neato-keeno (I know, I'm dating myself) glitzy pens and pencils. When I send my list out, I ask parents for a few spiral notebooks, pens and pencils and an eraser or two. They also need a cheap bundle of paper to keep at home for homework. Staples has those spiral notebooks as cheap as six for a dollar sometimes. And the only thing I really want that's pricey is the #2 pencils...you just can't beat Ticonderoga, honestly. So...when parents are implicating blame for the old school supply game, it can't be placed on me as the teacher. Just say NO is my best advice...and that is really the best thing to practice out there for parents these days anyway. You have the power! Keep it simple.

Okay, Spot, that's it for today. Just one other funny thing. That mom that had no more money? Rushed right over to Chico's to get that shirt. Obsessive shopping. I get it, I've lived it. And thank goodness, I don't choose to live like that way anymore. Saying no starts with old number one. Once mom can say no to herself, she'll learn to say no to her tribe. Back to summer! It really is bliss!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Why So Glum, Chum?

Oh c'mon, Spot. I know it's been a long summer. I know you're tired of sitting around all day waiting for your dinner bowl to arrive. I get it. I'm tired of delivering those dinners here at home.

Here's some good news! I went into school today...yes, SCHOOL! Last week, I didn't want to hear that word, but today? Well, I almost skipped up the sidewalk. I, like you, love to see my friends. I knew we weren't going to get too serious. I mean, honestly, I'm still sporting my summer tan! The sounds of the ocean are still playing in my ears.

But...dog-gone-it, Spot! (No, I don't really know what that means!) We started talking about behavioral interventions. We talked about how to praise all the good doggy behavior and consequence the bad doggie behavior. Next thing you know, the conversation took a very different shift.

We started to talk about Responsive Classroom. RC is a model that builds positive interactions among students, immersing kids in conversations and fostering strong social skills. It takes huge amounts of time, but our elementary schools are up to that task. There are meetings and games and all sorts of great activities. BUT. We still need to have an umbrella system in place that covers it all...social/group acceptance with a system that clearly defines expectations too.

So, today, we nipped and snarled and agreed to disagree. We continued to have polite, but heartfelt conversations delineating what it is we really believe. And in the end? We grew closer as a team, because we all listened and kept what's right for kids (and doggies) in the center of it all. We rolled up our sleeves and lined up our beginning of the year launch.

And you know what, Spot. You are one lucky puppy, because teachers care very deeply about what they do. We're going to keep you protected and help you get started in the friend department next year. So, don't look so glum! We're in there fighting over you, boy! And in a few short days, you'll be right there at our side!

A few homework suggestions (if you must!): Climb a tree, chase a squirrel and take a long nap in the sun.