In today’s fast paced life, it seems that more and more children are being rushed through their childhood. Before they start school they are practicing flashcards, math facts, or sight words. Once they are in school they have homework, projects, and extracurricular activities. With so much on their plate, children have less and less time to play.
Fred Rogers, famously said, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”
Play is the business of children! It is what they should be doing more of. In children play is interconnected with creativity, problem solving, and social emotional learning. Essentially it is how they learn to be people. From infant through childhood, play plays a pivotal role in a child’s development.
Play is often the heart of high quality early learning programs and can help prepare children for elementary school. There are different types of play that promote growth and development. When educators use the term play, people often think of free play, which is child initiated and child directed. Free play is a great way for children to practice social and self-regulatory skills and develop creativity. There is definitely a place for free play but it shouldn’t end there.
Research shows that guided play, which is adult initiated and child directed, is a powerful tool to incorporate play into curricula. One that does not compromise learning goals. Guided play gives kids autonomy, but also gives teachers some control over what they want the child to achieve. It makes learning engaging.
While many forms of play are often used in early learning programs, which have been proven to be effective, these types of initiatives seem to be missing from the early years of elementary school. In many schools around the nation, kids enter kindergarten and are expected to complete worksheets, sit for long periods of time, and even take tests. They have less time for play, less time for art, and less time for music. There has been a drastic shift from the 1990s and Kindergarten now looks like what first grade was a few decades ago. According to NPR expectations are getting higher for school age children.
Jean Piaget wrote, “Play is the work of childhood.” Therefore we as their parents and teachers need to make sure they get to do more of what is most important for their development.
In the classroom play can take different forms throughout the different grades. In the younger grades, teachers can set up play learning bins for students to explore, have areas where students can pretend play, have puppets for students, and build in time for play. As students get older, play and learning takes a different form. Teachers can take students outside and play games to practice concepts, have lego stations, and use manipulatives.
Schools often take recess times away from students the older they get, but if you can take your students outside for extra play time, just for the fun of it. No matter what their age, children need playtime, and the curriculum will not be affected if you take a 15 minute break to play with your students, it will actually enhance learning.
Parents can do similar things at home. You do not have to have a fancy space in the home, all you need to do is give your child time to play. Give them a box, some markers, and tape, and they will design and create something. Give them space in the backyard, and watch them come up with a game. Invite a friend for a technology free playdate and watch them pretend play. Give children time and space to play, and we promise they will use it well.
As adults, stress causes havoc on the body and the brain. So, it is unsurprising that when children undergo stress in their lives, it affects their brain development. The brain is the central organ of stress and we need to ensure our children are being taken care of.
High levels of stress in early childhood can influence brain development and have short and long term influences, especially when it comes to emotions and learning. When young children are faced with overwhelming amounts of stress, without supportive adult relationships to help them cope, the results can be extremely damaging. According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, there are three types of stress: positive, tolerable, and toxic.
Positive stress response is a normal and healthy part of development, this might be starting a new school, or trying something new. This type of stress is essential and children will be able to navigate this type of stress with positive outcomes.
Tolerable stress response is more severe, this might be the loss of a loved one or a traumatic injury. This type of stress can cause damage to development, but the brain and other organs can recover when supportive adults are there to help them navigate and find healthy coping mechanisms.
Toxic stress response is when a child experiences prolonged adversity without any adult support. This could relate to abuse, a caregiver with substance abuse or mental health issues, or burdens of economic hardship. This can disrupt the development of the brain and other organs and increase the risk of developing stress related diseases.
Toxic stress during early childhood can affect the developing brain circuits and hormonal system, which can lead to poor control over a child’s stress response system. As a result, children can become angry or threatened even when there is no cause to feel that way, or they can experience excessive anxiety long after a threat has passed.
Knowing this, our message of balance is extremely important. It is not just our opinion. Research shows that children need balance in their lives, even more than adults do, because developing brains are not equipped to deal with high levels of stress.
Here are some tips to help your child cope with stress. Many of these techniques can grow with children, so as they develop they can have the mechanisms to cope with stress. These strategies can also be adapted to help support students in your classroom!
1. Exercise: Exercise is one of the best stress relievers there is. Exercising can ease your mind from the things that are causing stress. It also releases endorphins into our bodies, which makes us feel good. Make time to exercise as a family. Take a walk, run, hike, ride bikes, or play sports.
2. Unplug from technology: Technology is a wonderful tool, however research has shown that too much technology use can have a detrimental effect on children. Restricting or taking away technology can be stressful too, so we suggest coming up with a plan with your family. Sit and have a conversation with your children, make rules together, and have technology free zones and times in the house. Most importantly, model model model for your child.
3. Spend time with family: Children LOVE spending time with their family. We hear how happy they are when they tell us all about “Family Night” at school. Play board games with them, color, paint, or make art with them, practice throwing the ball, read books, or just sit and listen to them. Spending quality time with you, will reduce their stress and you will make memories they will remember for a lifetime.
4. Spend time in nature: There is something about being in nature that brings (even the most city lover like Jen) peace. Finding a park, trail, mountain, or body of water, and spending time in the sun is so relaxing and peaceful. Going into nature with your children is a wonderful way to spend quality time with them, unplug, and destress.
5. Let them play: Today’s Children often have a lot to do after after a long school day. After 8 hours of school, many children have after-school activities, plus reading, and homework, they are often on the go for many hours a day. Giving them time to play and relax in an unscheduled or unplanned way will let them just be kids and relax.
6. Mindfulness: Teaching children to practice mindfulness will give them skills to develop awareness of inner and outer experiences that can help them better understand their emotions. Start off simple and focus on what is happening “right now.” Be grateful and recognize positive things in the moment. Teach children breathing exercises or meditation.
7. Model Stress Management: Children learn the most from the adults in their lives. If you model stress management techniques, they will learn from you. Bring balance into your life, and your child will follow.
If you have read our past posts you will have noted that we are big proponents of independence and responsibility. Developing these skills can boost children’s confidence and will give them the tools that they need in school, in life, and later on as adults. When these skills aren’t developed, challenges can arise that impede them from developing into self-sufficient adults.
A recent trend that we have noticed is overly dependent children. In these instances, children have a hard time trying things on their own, they give up rather quickly, and they immediately ask for help from an adult. In the classroom, these students tend to interrupt lessons or directions being given by the teacher because they fear not knowing what to do or getting it wrong. Even when it is a simple task, they might immediately raise their hand and ask for help because they lack confidence in themselves. Other signs of an overly dependent child, is when children don’t try new things and won’t attempt a problem, project, or activity if they do not have an adult nearby to ask help from. They fear taking risks because they are uncomfortable with not knowing if they will succeed.
Children adapt to their environment and if adults in their life do everything for them, they begin to rely on that and become overly dependent. They know that someone will come and “rescue” them so they learn that they don’t need to try on their own. This is a challenge in a classroom where a teacher or two have to teach, lead, and support many children.
Not to worry, it’s never too late to implement strategies if your child has become overly-dependent. Here are some things that can help make a difference:
Let them answer their own questions
If you notice your child asks you questions for everything, you can turn it back on them and guide them in a way that will help them get to the answer on their own. Asking questions like “What do you think?” or “How do you think we can figure that out?” This can help empower children and help them develop self-efficacy.
In the moment it might seem easier to complete a task for your child. A little patience and time can be extremely beneficial. When children learn to do things for themselves they develop high self-efficacy and become empowered.
Let them do their homework independently
When working in the classroom students are expected to complete their work independently. Teachers walk around and assist as needed, but they do not sit with only one child, if you sit with your child and complete their homework with them, they get used to having an adult nearby. Set up an area where they can work independently and you can support as needed.
When your child comes to you with a problem, you don’t always have to fix it. Be there to listen and ask questions, but don’t feel you have to rescue them all the time. When children learn to solve age appropriate problems on their own, it will equip them with the tools to solve bigger problems later on.
If you have gotten used to over-functioning for your child, it can be hard to make changes, it might get worse before it gets better, but it will be very beneficial in the long run to give your child space to grow. It can help to make gradual changes to help your child become more independent.
There are many books on the shelves that offer advice and give insight into children, child development, parenting, and teaching. Through our schools and with our own personal curiosity of how to help raise children we have read many books that have become a big part of our philosophy on child rearing.
We often read books, make connections with our students, and learn techniques that help us become better teachers. We also love sharing these books with the parents of children we know because children do not come with a guide book, and often parents feel like their child is behaving in a certain way or that they are the only parent going through a difficult stage when in fact it could be a very normal part of growing up.
Books written by experts in the fields of psychology, education, or child development also open our eyes to things that we might not have known or thought about. It never hurts to learn a little bit more about children and how to help them grow up to be kind, independent, resilient adults.
Below is a list of books that we ABSOLUTELY LOVE. They are all easy reads, and come highly recommended.
Voice Lessons for Parents by Wendy Mogul: Dr. Mogul writes and explains how parental language and voice is important. She offers techniques and examples for how to speak to your child at different stages of their development.
The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogul: Here again Dr. Mogul offers parents a good road map to help raise children in a world of over abundance, overscheduled, and over protected children. She helps the reader see the importance of all types of experiences for children.
The Hurried Child by David Elkind: It seems that childhood is rushed more and more in our society, and David Elkind writes about why rushing children through their childhood is detrimental to their development. This book tells us why we need to slow down and let children be children. An oldie but a goodie!
Mind in the Making by Ellen Galinsky: Galinsky writes about 7 life skills that will help children reach their full potential in life and discover a passion for learning. The book is easy to read and offers a lot of techniques that families can use with their children in a simple manner.
The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt: With anxiety, depression, and suicide rates rising, Lukianoff and Haidt trace these rates to changes in parenting, childhood, and education. Children have less unsupervised time, less child-directed play, overly fearful parents, and a new world of social media to contend with these days. This book lets the reader understand what is happening, and helps parents and teachers understand what they can do.
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown: She writes beautifully about personal growth, imperfections, and self worth. If we want our children to be resilient through mistakes and failures, they need to see us live that truth, and Brené Brown helps adults see what we can be.
UnSelfie by Michele Borba: Children today have less empathy than they did decades ago. Borba writes that our self absorbed culture, represented by the “selfie,” is to blame. She connects less empathy with bullying, less resilience, an inability to problem solve, and not having the skills to collaborate. She offers techniques to teach children empathy and help them begin to see the world less about themselves and more about others.
Yardsticks by Chip Wood: This book describes child development of school age children. It is a must have for any educator or parent because it helps us see what is happening with children and how to better support learning. It describes what to expect in your child at each age, offers examples, and is very easy to read.
We believe that these books are good tools to have in our collective teaching and parenting tool boxes. Books and experts in these fields are all good to learn from, however, don’t forget that ultimately you are your child’s parent, and you know them BETTER than anyone else. Don’t feel like you have to read all the parenting books. Remember life is about balance too, and you cannot feel bad if you just don’t have the time to read every book there is. And always know you are doing a great job by showing up for your child everyday!
What are some of your favorite books relating to raising balanced kids?
One of the many interesting things about teaching is the wide spectrum of students in our classroom. They are so uniquely themselves in so many areas. Take work habits for example, we might have students who rush to get things done, others get distracted by their peers, and others who consistently go above and beyond expectations. And in every class that we have ever had, we always have at least one student who is hindered to complete their projects or work by their own perfectionism.
These students have such an extremely high expectation on themselves across everything that they do. They struggle when they cannot spell a word correctly, the picture is not drawn as if an artist who has drawn for years has drawn it, the lines are not perfectly straight, or their penmanship is not perfectly neat. They often erase obsessively, fall behind others as they attempt to have precise work, crumple their papers, and start projects over and over again. While we have to push others to be more diligent and put more effort into their work, with these students we have to encourage them to move forward and to not be so hard on themselves.
In addition because of their perfectionist, these students are less likely to try something that they might not be good at. They don’t like the feeling of failure, thus they stick to the things that they know they are good at. When they struggle with something challenging they often become anxious, frustrated, and give up. They are unwilling to take a risk.
If you have a child that tends to be more of a perfectionist, below are 6 ways that you can help them . . .
1. Make mistakes. Children learn from observing the adults in their life. Model mistakes for them. We will make mistakes on worksheets, directions, or lesson slides. When they catch them, and they always do, we simply respond with, “Oops! I tried my best, but I am not perfect. No one is perfect.” Throughout the year we model our imperfections and the kids catch on that our class is a place where mistakes are ok.
2. Focus on the process not the end result. When they bring back work or projects, ask them about the process. How did they feel about it? Did they have fun making it? Try not to point out their mistakes or praise the final product. Avoid words and phrases such as “genius” or “you’re so smart.” This can make children believe that they have to be those things. When you focus on how hard a child worked vs. how smart they are, you are helping them develop a growth mindset. They start to realize they can accomplish hard things by persevering. It can open up a whole new world for children.
3. Distinguish between things that are ok being messy and things that should be neater or requires more effort. Sometimes kids cannot distinguish between the two, and with us pointing it out, they can begin to see when they need to put more time into a project and when they don’t. Not every single assignment or project requires students to go above and beyond.
4. Read biographies of people who made mistakes or failed multiple times, and who still made a difference in our world.The Who Was Series is a great biographical series for kids to help them see that people that we really look up to made mistakes in order to accomplish great things.
5. Give them chances to fail. Let your child experience failure. Enroll them in a new sport, instrument, or STEM class. Play games with them where they lose and fail. More experience with the feelings of failure will be helpful to them.
6. Tell them how much you love them and care for them even when they make mistakes. You might think they know this, but sometimes they don’t. We are not our work and It’s important that children understand their work doesn’t make them more or less valued. Their capabilities don’t make them more or less valued.
When you notice that a student or child is showing signs of perfectionism, it is important to give them strategies to deal with it. Perfectionism in childhood can lead to more severe things later in life like social anxiety, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder.
This week we wanted to offer some tips that we have used in our classes to build confidence in children. Every school year we have students who struggle with confidence. This low confidence in themselves can affect their ability to learn and complete their assignments. Not because of their ability, but because they are less likely to attempt problems on their own, problem solve, or give up easily. We work very hard throughout the year to build these students’ confidence in themselves, and it makes us so happy to see them gain confidence and become more independent.
This topic relates to last week’s post on independence. While confidence is interconnected with independence, and we touched a little bit on it last week, we wanted to elaborate more on simple techniques you can use to help build or restore your child’s confidence.
Before we do that, we want to clarify the difference between confidence and arrogance. The two often walk a fine line, and it can be a little tricky to distinguish between the two.
Confidence comes from being secure with who you are and what you can do.
Arrogance comes from insecurities and the need to feel better than other people.
We want to teach kids to work hard, develop skills that will help them follow through with projects and goals, and be resilient when things go wrong. Developing confidence doesn’t mean they get a trophy for every little thing, have unrealistic ideas of what they are capable of, or make others feel less than. It means internally they are able to take risks and not be overly concerned with what others think.
Below are five ways to build children’s confidence that are easy to incorporate into your parenting style. These are things we do on a daily basis in our class to help our students feel confident and proud of themselves.
You will hear us say making mistakes is the answer to so many things. Because it is! “Mistakes are proof that you are trying” is our motto! Letting kids know that making mistakes is ok, normal, something everyone does, and that they should not feel bad about making them will help them internalize that mistakes are part of the process and they don’t define who they are. Being confident means you can make mistakes and understand that it’s how you handle the mistake that matters.
2. Avoid Comparison
We need to teach kids to compare themselves to who they were yesterday not to other children. It starts by modeling this behavior. As adults, we shouldn’t be comparing kids (especially siblings) OR ourselves to others. We should always set realistic goals for ourselves, but not base them on those around us. There is a difference between getting inspired by someone and wanting to be better than someone.
Keep a healthy balance with encouragement and not overly praising children. With too much praise, children start to rely on your constant approval. When school work comes home focus on what they did right and how much they have improved in an area, try not to zoom in on mistakes or grades. If you notice your child always asking if you “like” something they did, turn it back to them to see if they like it, or ask them to tell you how they thought of it. But of course recognize when your child has been working hard at something!
When kids know they can do something on their own, it helps build confidence. Age appropriate choices, chores, and responsibilities are great confidence builders. See our previous post for more tips on how to build independence.
5. Teach Empathy
Find ways to help other people. There are so many children who are making the world better, and helping our children see that they can too will not only build their confidence but make them feel good on the inside. It could be having your child go through their toys to donate to a cause, or getting involved in a local community service project. It is empowering for kids to know that they can make a difference. Check out this TedTalk or the books of Kids Who are Changing the World (and You Should Meet) and Kids Who are Changing the World Who are Changing the World and share it with your child to inspire them to get started.
Our jobs as parents and teachers is to teach our children independence. This sounds easier than what it is because from the moment that babies and children come into our lives they are dependent on us. In our roles as caretakers, who love our children, we often forget that our charges will grow up, and they must be able to think, regulate emotions, overcome challenges, and do things for themselves. It is uncomfortable to see children struggle or be in any sort of discomfort. Yet it is only through personal trial and error and processing the uncomfortable emotions that they will gain the skills necessary to be independent.
Fortunately there are a few things we can do to help build independent skills
1. Try not to always answer their questions
If you think they can answer it themselves, you should let them. Kids have a million questions a day and most of them are questions that with a little thought and a little problem solving, they can arrive at the answer on their own. By letting them figure things out, you are helping them grow and giving them confidence.
2. At the park allow them to climb and play on their own without your help
When you go to the park allow your child to explore without you right behind them. Watch from a safe distance and give them the space to explore and play on their own. Let them climb, run, and play independently. By doing so, they know you are close, but that they have to figure out the play structure themselves.
3. Allow them to walk into their school or classroom alone
Children as young as kindergarteners should carry their own backpacks and walk into their classrooms independently. They do not need your help to unpack or complete the morning routines of the classroom. Letting them know that school is their space early on in their schooling will set them up to be independent scholars.
4. Let them do their homework alone
Children need a space in the house where they can do their homework independently. Children do not have a teacher sitting next to them at school. We monitor the class and help students as needed. They are very capable of doing the same at home. It is their responsibility to complete their homework, not yours.
5. If they say they can’t, don’t swoop in and do it for them
There will be times when things will be challenging for kids. This can be as simple as eating a new food to more complex things such as STEM projects. Of course we aren’t saying NEVER help your kids. We are saying they should be pushed to try things that they think they can’t do. One of the best things to witness in child development is when a child realizes they can do something that they thought they couldn’t.
6. Give them chores
Chores help give kids responsibility which builds independence. Kids can and should contribute to the household. It can be easy as picking up toys, helping set the table, making their bed, sorting the laundry, or feeding the pets. As they grow and they learn more skills their chores can become more age appropriate. Children love knowing they can do something to help and it will help build life skills that they will need.
7. Have them help with lunches and breakfast
With a little direction, kids can help put together their lunches and help make their breakfast. Teach them how to use the toaster, pour cereal, put a step stool in your kitchen so they can access bowls and plates. Most children by age 12 are completely capable of using the oven and stove.
8. Let them walk to school or to the store on their own
The National Center for Safe Routes to School is working hard to help create ways for communities to make it safer for kids to walk in communities on their own. While it might be scary to allow your child to walk somewhere on their own, a 2012 study from Safe Kids USA reported that streets are safer now than they were in 1995. Letting them walk by themselves forces them to use and practice all the safety precautions you have taught them.
9. Give them time and space to solve social struggles on their own
Having challenges with friends is normal. It is part of development and a huge part of life. Kids need to learn how to navigate relationships. If you want to help your child, give them the tools or suggestions on how to deal with specific situations. It really does not help for a parent to confront another child and try to solve the problem for them. It is always good to remember that there is a big difference between social conflict and bullying. For more on this check out this article from verywellfamily.
10. Let them make mistakes
They are more likely to try new things and take risks when they know they can make mistakes and learn from them. If you try to avoid and save them from making mistakes you are taking away a very important part of development. Mistakes can be uncomfortable, but they need to learn how to be uncomfortable sometimes.
“It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings.”
We know that once teachers go back to school for planning week and the first days of school our To-Do lists seem to never end. Back to school for teachers is a very busy time of year.
There is so much to do to get ready and then the students arrive and there is so much to do. Let’s be honest, it’s what our lives are like all school year long. Too much to do and so little time.
Over the years we have had relatively easy transitions into school, somewhat stressful transitions, and incredibly anxious transitions back to school. Often times there are many things that are out of our control that can cause stress. A construction site that has not been completed at the school, a new partner you have never met, an unorganized administration, a mandatory change in classrooms, too many meetings and zero classroom prep during planning week, are all things that can cause teachers so much stress and anxiety. We know! We have been there!
We have some suggestions for a smooth and less stressful transition into a new school year:
1) Go into your classroom before planning week If your school lets you go to your class before planning week, try to go in a couple of days. Honestly, doing this has been a life saver for us. Not only do you get to catch up with the office staff before everyone else, but you can turn up the music and clean, organize, make lists, and set up. Doing this lets you cross some things off your to do list before you are at the will of admin, parents, and students.
2) Do not compare your classroom to Pinterest or Instagram classrooms It is really hard to see perfectly beautiful classrooms on social media and think that we are not doing enough because ours do not look like that. Know that it is ok. Your classroom will be perfect for your students because you prepared and worked so hard on it. You can take some inspiration from classrooms and set ups from social media, but know that your students will love their classroom and it doesn’t have to be perfect.
3) Try your best, but know it’s ok to not be or feel 100% ready Don’t feel like you have to have the whole year planned out by day one. Take it a month, a week, or a day at a time. And if your classroom is a work in progress, that is okay too. No one knows what you didn’t put up except for you.
4) The first few days of school should be about getting to know your students and routines and procedures of the classroom The best thing is to spend time getting to know your students and letting them know what systems are in place and finding out what you can do to set your students up for success. One piece of advice to try to form your own opinions about students. Even if a previous teacher had some challenges, be open to getting to know each and every student.
5) Email parents to let them know how their child has transitioned into the classroom within the first week of school Even if it is just a quick line to tell them how their child made new friends, or is showing enthusiasm for the new school year. It is great to stay positive at the beginning and try to find good things to say about each child.
7) If you see issues with students setup a meeting sooner rather than later If a child is having a rough transition, it is best to meet with parents early on so you can develop a support plan. Let the parent know that you are on their side and want to partner with them to help support the child.
8) Have fun and be flexible Try to have fun with your students, even if you are feeling the stresses of the start of school. Your plans might change and just go with it, be flexible. There are so many opportunities to model flexibility in our classrooms. Often times a lesson, technology, or project will not go the way you planned it. It’s great to point out to kids when things go wrong, and model how to overcome challenges.
9) Self Care What we must all remember is that we can only do our best, and if things do not get done, that is ok. Teachers often feel that we must give and sacrifice ourselves for our classrooms. But guess what? That is not sustainable. The most important thing is to prioritize and find a BALANCE!
Back to school can be an exciting time for parents! After busy summers of mom camps, dad camps, crafts, park play dates, swimming, and adventuring it could be a relief to get back to the school year routine.
We have some great tips and reminders to help parents ease back into the school year and help develop a great partnership with your child’s teacher.
Respect boundaries of the classroom. It is important to learn what rules your child’s teacher sets up to help run a smooth class. Each teacher has their own rules routines and procedures, and the ones that applied last year might not be the same this year. This could include how to set up conferences, volunteering, email, pick up and drop off. Some routines and procedures are school wide, some are grade level, and others are individual teacher’s. While we are sure that most teachers (unless it is not allowed at their school) welcome parents to volunteer to be part of the classroom community, it’s important to follow protocol. It can be disruptive to the lessons and work being done in the classroom to have parents dropping in every morning or during unplanned times throughout the day without having prior knowledge of it.
We would like to pay special attention to the fact that it is so incredibly important for the development of your child to have their own space and place. Children as young as kindergarten can and should walk into their classrooms independently while carrying their own supplies. The sense of responsibility that they gain from this small act alone is HUGE. If you are itching to get into the classroom, find out the appropriate volunteer times and sign up or email the teacher to ask when the best time to stop by and look at the projects or bulletin boards would be.
Find out the best way to communicate with your child’s teacher and follow that. Many times teachers are juggling many things at once and if a parent has “one quick thing” to tell you right as you are greeting your students, teaching a lesson, or supervising children at dismissal, it can be very overwhelming. Teachers always want to give parents their full attention and when kids are present, they are our top priority. It is always best to find out the best way to communicate and follow that protocol. Typically it is sending an email, or setting up a meeting if you have something you want to discuss. Finally, remember that teachers are usually teaching or preparing to teach all day, they often do not have the luxury of time to respond to emails immediately, so try to give them at least 24 hours to respond to you.
Hold your child accountable for remembering homework, sweatshirts, lunches, and projects. Do your best to not jump in and save them everytime they forget something. Children will learn more from the natural consequences of forgetting something, than they will if you bring what they have forgotten to them. It will give you some relief too, to know that you aren’t responsible for midday drop offs to your child. Of course if it is an emergency, it is completely understandable, but it should be the exception, not the rule. The learning experience of forgetting something and not having it, holds a lot more value.
Let your child experience discomfort when they make a mistake at school. If your child does something that is out of character, try your best not to make excuses for them. Hold them responsible for the mistake and move on. Making an excuse for your child will not help them learn, it will help justify their actions. Every child makes mistakes. It is a healthy part of development. We always tell parents that school is not just a place to learn math, reading, and writing. School is where children learn how to be members of society. If your child never learns about consequences and accountability, it could create bigger problems later. The most important part about making mistakes is how it is dealt with after the fact.
We hope that the transition from summer into a new school year is a smooth one for both you and your child. However if it isn’t, remember that children need to experience discomfort in order to learn how to deal with things that will come up in their life. Talking to your child’s teacher to come up with a plan for your child will help everyone be on the same page and help your child transition into a new school year.
Summer is coming to an end and it is time for back to school! Heading back to school after summer can bring a mix of emotions for children. Some feel excited, some feel happy, some feel anxious, and some feel dread. It’s normal for children to have different emotions around change and the unknown that a new teacher, classroom, and school year brings with it. No matter how your child is feeling, there are many things you can do to help support a positive start to the school year.
If you got out of the normal bedtime routine, try to get back on track a few days or a week before school is set to start so that your child gets used to going to bed and waking up early. It could be a rude awakening on the first day of school if they have become accustomed to staying up or sleeping in late for weeks and months and suddenly have to change their routine. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that school age children (6-13) should get anywhere from 9 to 11 hours of sleep per night. Sleepiness does not make it conducive for student learning, so making sure that they are well-rested for school is important.
Creating a morning routine is especially important because it can set the tone for the day. We are all hurried in the morning, and having a morning routine checklist can help teach your child how to be more independent and help with consistency. We found some great free printables here.
Creating a school spot at home at the beginning of the school year will help with misplaced items and aid in developing routine and consistency. At school, students have a specific spot to put their belongings. Having that at home, where they can place their backpacks, water bottles, lunch bags, and any other school supplies, will help foster responsibility and independence.
With a new school year comes new teachers and new classmates. For many children this usually brings with it a feeling of happiness and excitement. However, if you or your child are feeling less than excited about placement, try to be positive.
Each year is a fresh start. If they are anxious about a student in the class remind your child that everyone is working on something and even if they weren’t friends with a classmate last year it doesn’t mean that they won’t become friends this year. Teach your child to be open to new experiences and new people.
The same could be said for teacher placement. Your child could have a very different experience than someone else’s child had with that teacher. Different kids need different things, and your child could thrive in that teacher’s classroom. If it turns out to be a more arduous teacher or class, try to remember what we have written in previous posts, sometimes the lesson could be that your child learns to thrive in a less than ideal situation. Because one day they will have to deal with a boss they don’t love, people they don’t agree with, or an incredibly difficult and challenging project in the real world.
It’s always best to try to base your opinion of a child or a teacher on your own experience and not what you hear about them from others. In addition, try not to speak negatively of teachers in front of your child. Children need to respect all people, and sometimes it is hard to do if they hear their parents saying negative things about them. Kids hear more than we think, and they most definitely will repeat what they hear.
If your child is feeling anxious about the new year, reassure them that on the first day of school, it is everyone’s first day. Many others are also feeling the beginning of the school year jitters. Including the teachers!
Books are wonderful conversation starters, help to justify feelings, and they often help to reassure that they are not alone and that they will be ok.
These are some suggestions of books to read with your child if they are feeling anxious about a new school year.
Remember children look to the adults in their lives and how they react to situations as a model for how they should react. If you are dreading the end of summer break, the start of a new school year, a new teacher or a variety of other things, and you are voicing these feelings aloud, your child will too. However, if you are calm, positive, happy, excited to pick up a few school supplies, and exude through your actions and words how awesome a new school year will be, then chances are that your child will too.
Summer vacation is winding down and it seems that back to school is seen on the horizon. However, we know that for some there are still a few more weeks of summer break left.
With these long days of summer still upon us, we understand that children might need some extra activities or things to play with.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Research demonstrates that developmentally appropriate play with parents and peers is a singular opportunity to promote the social-emotional, cognitive, language, and self-regulation skills that build executive function and a prosocial brain.”
Play is a fundamental aspect of learning for children. There are a lot of options for toys and games that are available for children today. In our classrooms, we have educational toys and games that our students absolutely adore playing with during free time. And we believe it is important to schedule in free play for kids. This is a great time to allow for choices on what games they are interested in. Games are good for imaginative play, reviewing concepts taught, pre-teaching, practicing skills . . . and for FUN.
Below are some educational toys that we recommend for children to play with. Many of these games we have or would love to have in our classrooms.
Games and play are essential for development. It is important to make time for play at home and in the classroom. At times we may prioritize more structured learning, but as we love to bring up, it is all about balance. This type of development is just as important!
Projects that incorporate science, technology, engineering, arts, and math are not only good for children’s development, but they can be so much fun.
We have noticed in our classrooms how much our students love these projects and how they allow them to have more ownership over their own learning. We often connect lessons and standards with STEM or STEAM projects. These help them develop a love for learning, helps with problem solving skills, and gets them to express their creativity.
Summer is a great time to do some STEM and STEAM projects with your child. With more time on our hands and less stress, these projects are one way to enrich learning over the summer. You can go beyond the practice sheets and get your child really interested in learning through hands on activities.
Checkout some more great STEAM projects we found for summer!
A great way to integrate STEAM projects is through literature. You are all aware by now how important we believe reading to be for a child. You can read a book together with them or have your child read the book to you. After the reading portion, challenge them with a STEAM project.
Like these, there are many other books that connect literature to STEAM. After you have done one of these projects, you can extend the learning by having your child reflect in writing on their process. What would they do different? What would they do the same? What worked? What did not work? Did they enjoy the project and why or why not? This allows them to practice their writing skills and reflect on what they did.
Summer review does not have to be all worksheets. Through STEM and STEAM projects, children can practice academic skills and enjoy themselves while doing it, after all learning should be fun. And what better time for fun learning than summer time?
A huge thing right now is monthly subscription boxes. If you are looking to make these projects a regular occurrence around your house, we found a list of STEAM boxes here for kids that would be a hit in any house.
Summer days are some of the most wonderful days of the year. Parents and children alike are not stressed about school, projects, homework, or getting to after school activities on time. Summer days run on their own time, and we tend to have more time to sit and eat with our families. Whether it is watermelon, berries, or a cooling ice cream, we have time to stop and enjoy it.
As we wrote a few weeks ago, learning can be incorporated through a variety of summer activities. This week, we thought we would write about food. More specifically, healthy food activities that you can do with your children during summer.
We often write about balance because we believe we all need it. Food plays an important part in our lives, teaching and modeling balance when it comes to food will help children develop healthy habits. While we LOVE treats, we need to balance that with nutritious and healthy foods too. We can’t eat pizza and ice cream for lunch everyday. Modeling healthy eating habits for children will expose them to foods that they will learn to love.
During the summer you can take your child to a farmers market. There they can explore and sample summer fruits and veggies. They can talk to vendors about how these crops grow, and they can practice counting money to pay for their selections. This simple activity incorporates conversation skills, science, and math, all the while you are spending quality time with your child and buying healthy foods to prepare together.
The lessons can continue at home as you prepare healthy delicious recipes with your child. After preparation, it is also important to take the time to sit down to dinner together. While we understand that during the school year, it isn’t always possible, the simple act of sitting together and talking with each other is important for development.
Research has found that families that consistently have meals together have children that do better in school, and develop positive behavior patterns. Family meal time is a great time for children to develop narrative and explanatory talk and learn how to take turns during conversation. Along with developing language skills, if families regularly eat together at home, it helps promote healthy habits. They tend to consume more fruits and vegetables when they aren’t eating on the go.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that by 1 year of age, children can and should be eating meals with the family and following the same diet. There might be small modifications like cutting up foods from the parents plate so the child can handle it.
Some of our favorite kid friendly summer recipes are:
In our last post, we shared some of our favorite books that relate to inclusivity and equity. This week we wanted to include even more that relate specifically to girl empowerment.
Giving young girls of all backgrounds mirrors to see themselves in the books they read is incredibly powerful and empowers them as they grow up. We feel it will give them confidence to navigate and breakdown the inequities that are a part of society.
As educators and women, we feel that it is important to educate young girls (in age appropriate ways) on some of the things they will encounter in the world. Our hope is that through literature girls will gain the knowledge and tools to overcome adversity and change the systems that exclude people.
Here are some of our favorite books to empower young girls:
Providing young girls with both fiction and non-fiction books that they can relate to can be such a powerful tool. When a girl can see herself in a story, it can change her life in a beautiful way. Now, more than ever, we need to empower our girls and let them know that they can fight for what they want.
Last week we offered suggestions for summer reading for children of different ages. This week we wanted to continue our book talk by focusing on diverse and inclusive books for your child. As we wrote last week, summer break offers a nice time to explore and read books with children.
Diverse books are important for children of all ages. “Multicultural literature serves as a powerful tool in enabling students to gain a better understanding of both their own culture and the cultures of others.” (The importance of multicultural literature)
In our classrooms, we learn about and celebrate a variety of cultures, and we often find that our students are incredibly curious and so happy to learn about cultures from all over the world.
Representation matters. This is especially true for children. When they see themselves in the books that they read, they understand that they matter too. When we see people like ourselves in the media, including in fiction, we get a glimpse of who we might become, and we feel validated. We can gain role models and inspiration through literature (Why Children’s Books that Teach Diversity are More Important than Ever). Reading more diverse books is a great way to open the world up for our children.
“Multicultural literature can help students develop global awareness by introducing them to current cultural issues” (The importance of multicultural literature). Reading books with our children about things that are happening in the world with appropriate content is good for them. Adults often think that children cannot handle or understand what is happening in our world, but from what we have seen with our students, they can and their thoughts on these matters are usually incredibly insightful.
In recent years, as more diverse books have been published, we have seen a shift in our classrooms toward more inclusivity and equity among our students. The more we read, talk about, and expose our children to inclusive and diverse books, the more this amazing and wonderful trend will continue to grow.
Below are some recommendations of inclusive and diverse books for children:
When parents ask us, what students can be working on during the summer, our answer is always the same: READ, READ, READ! As we have said in previous posts summer should be relaxing and fun for kids. Summer offers a great opportunity to teach kids that reading can be relaxing and fun! You just have to find the right books that interest your child. Kids sometimes need help finding books that they enjoy. Once they find it, you will have trouble pulling them away.
Reading is the best thing for students. Vocabulary, spelling, reading comprehension, and writing skills are all developed and strengthened the more a child reads. Our most curious students and the ones that seem to thrive academically are students who are avid readers. If you want to help your child academically, encouraging reading and helping them find books of interest would be the most helpful thing.
Summer vacation is the perfect time to practice reading with children and help them develop a love and curiosity for books. Below we have a list of books that are good for children of different ages. These recommendations are based on themes and trends that we have noticed in education and in our classroom.
Reading can also be very social for your child. Some ideas would be taking a trip to the public library on a playdate, or even doing a book exchange with friends or neighbors. One thing to always remember is that reading should be treated as a privilege not a punishment. If your child isn’t enjoying it, don’t force it. Take some more time to try to find what books your child might be interested in reading for fun.
If you haven’t heard of Brené Brown, google her (after you are done reading this of course). She is a shame researcher who has a famous TED talk, has written several books, and recently released a Netflix special. One of the things that she discusses is shame that parents experience. Parent shaming is a real thing and it has to stop. We see parent shaming online, we see it in our schools, we see it at the grocery store, we see it on planes, and we see it in restaurants. There are many parenting styles and you don’t have to agree with all of them, but can we stop judging each other for every little thing?
While we love to give advice and tips on specific areas of raising balanced children in the 21st century, we never want to come off like we are shaming people. Our main advice is always balance. Balance means you do what you can when you can. We find that along with shame are judgment and comparison. Neither of these are good for your health or your family’s health.
Let’s start off by talking about judgement. It is easy to judge other people. Especially if you don’t know what their day has been like. If a child is throwing a tantrum in a store, most people will immediately judge the parent for it. However, we do not know what the situation is. Perhaps the child missed their nap, maybe they are sick, or just maybe they are a child with special needs. Kids also have a mind of their own and can sometimes be unpredictable. We do not know, so we must not judge.
Shaming a parent is when you put your judgment into action and decide you want to give a parent a look, a piece of your mind, make passive aggressive comments, or even talking behind their back. Your intention is to make them feel like they are doing a bad job, being a bad parent, or have something to be ashamed of.
Before judging a parent (or anyone really) ask yourself these questions:
Do I know them or their situation?
Am I trying to help them or shame them?
Does it affect me?
Do I have good intentions?
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
The other side of judgement and shame is comparing yourself to other people. In the age of social media, we are all bombarded on a daily basis by perfection. People most often will post and share the perfect moments in their lives. The idyllic family hike, the children baking, or siblings playing happily. What is not seen are the fights, the mess, the arguments and struggles that are a part of real life. And yet, the perfection is what we compare our lives to. We feel less than because our house is a mess, we aren’t hiking, and the cake is store bought.
If you are feeling less than, then perhaps take time away from social media. Take your family to the park to play, order a pizza and have a family night in, or have game night with your children. Remind yourself that “This too shall pass,” that the messy, crazy, and hard parts of parenting are only temporary, that no family is perfect, and that all of it is okay.
We as a society have to take the mantel for ending parent shaming and judgement. It is up to us to model for our children to respect and accept others.
This post goes out to teachers everywhere! Congrats on another year in the classroom. Whether it is your first year teaching or your 20th year, you deserve great appreciation for a year spent teaching and encouraging children. It is no easy task to be responsible for the learning and well being of other people’s children. Thank you for all you do!
The end of the year brings many things, including end of the year gratitude from parents and students. Take in that gratitude, it is well earned and well deserved! You might even want to save some of these cards and words of encouragement to take out and read when you are having a tough day as a reminder of why you continue to teach. You may realize that a child or parent that seemed to be really challenging throughout the year, really is grateful for all you have done. That is the best feeling when you know you have reached someone.
We have some advice for when you finish closing out yet another school year: ENJOY YOUR SUMMER!!! You have definitely earned it.
Dear teachers, as best as you can, leave school work aside this summer, put your long to-do list on hold, it will still be there in August. You need this time to rejuvenate and do all the things you don’t have time for during the school year.
Our Advice for a Successful Summer:
Do what you want
Put yourself first
Spend time with people that lift you up
Read for fun
Go on a trip
Go to the beach
Explore your city
Meet friends for lunch
Do something creative
Go to a comedy show
Visit a museum
However you choose to spend your time this summer, just know that your value is not tied to how productive you are. Remember that when you start to feel bad about spending all day at the beach, by a pool, or with a good book in hand. Remember that when your mind is telling you, you aren’t a good teacher if you don’t completely have your next school year planned out before school even begins. Give yourself this time to be you, do you, focus on you. Taking time for yourself this summer will ultimately lead to a better, more balanced person, and teacher. Give yourself permission to just enjoy the beautiful moments that summer brings!
It is easy to think that because teachers have summer vacation off, that they don’t work hard. It should be highlighted that educators need the summer to recharge in order to do all that they do with love and enthusiasm for their students.
There has been a recent trend of parents proclaiming their child as their best friend. These parents will proudly call their child their bestie or best friend and post about it on social media. While we understand the underlying sentiment that is being conveyed, we do not believe that the parent and child relationship should be friend like.
Your child is your child. You love them, enjoy spending time with them, and have a blast creating memories with them. However, it should always be remembered that this relationship is not on equal footing. As the parent, you should have the power in the relationship. The parents job is to set boundaries, because as a developing child, they do not know what is best for them. They need guidance and support as they mature and develop. The adult knows what’s best for them, and as such they are in charge. Unlike what friendships are like, this relationship is not equitable.
Telling a child that you are friends confuses them. Children have friends at daycare, school, or around the neighborhood. Within these social groups the power dynamics is often shared between the children. No one child is in charge of the group, setting boundaries, or telling others what to do. Children can choose to not play along, or to not listen to what their friend tells them to do. They have the power in their social groups to choose and do as they please. However, if a parent asks a child to brush their teeth or pick up their toys, a child usually does not have the power or ability to disagree and not complete the task. A child cannot interact or react with their parent like they might with their friends. If parents are constantly calling their child their friend, then when it comes time to dictate a rule or set a boundary children will not understand why they have to do it. While at first it might be cute, in the long run this will create challenges for the parents as the child grows up.
This type of adult-child relationship sets up confusing expectations at school for children too. Teachers are not their students’ friend. In an elementary school classroom, the teacher is in charge of the classroom and the students. While they might have fun together, it is very clear that that authority figure is the teacher. There is no bargaining with the expectation that the teacher sets for his or her classroom. When the directions are to work on an assignment, line up, or clean up students must follow the directions. Students who have the idea that they are friends with the adult in the room have a challenge at school where the power dynamic is not equal.
At the end of the day, remember, your child will grow up, and eventually the parent-child relationship will evolve into more of a friendship. When children grow into adulthood they are more equipped to understand and share in certain conversations and responsibilities that are common among friend-like relationships. But when they are young and developing, you are in charge. You are the parent. You are not equal to your child, and they need to know that.
That does not mean that you can’t hang out, talk with, and experience things with your child like you would with your friends. All of these moments will add up to a close and long lasting friendship with them when they do grow up.
Last week we wrote about what academics you could review with your child over summer vacation. We thought we would follow that up with activities you could do with your child that are both fun and educational. Often times the learning that children remember the most are the ones that are hands on and fun. Summer vacation is a great time to do things with your child to engage them and create long lasting memories. Below are some of the activities that you could do with your child over summer vacation.
FUN, EDUCATIONAL, and HEALTHY things to do:
1) Visit Museums- Children love museums because they are curious about the world around them. Museums also offer a nice cool place to visit during the hot summer days. Most museums have kid sections and/or activities. You could bring notebooks and pencils and have children sketch or take notes at different exhibits. Many museums offer free tickets for children, we suggest you call and ask or check their websites.
2) Volunteer- Teaching children to give back to their community is important. Children absolutely love helping others, and volunteering their time is the perfect activity for children. Volunteer Match helps match you with different organizations that need volunteers nearby. Habitat for Humanity has opportunities for children of all ages to volunteer. If your child is an animal lover then The Human Society is a great organization to look into for volunteer opportunities.
3) Use Chalk or Bubbles- It does not matter how old children are, from kindergarten to 5th grade, children love bubbles and chalk. We’ve made soapy bubble water with dish detergent in a bucket and used ropes to make huge bubbles. It was a hit with our classes, and the children did not want to stop making huge bubbles. Using chalk to draw, spell words, or make a game is another great activity to do on summer days. You could practice sight words, math facts, or just let them be creative.
3) Visit the Library- Most libraries have a children’s area with picture and chapter books. They usually also have story time where the librarian reads books to children. If you or your child are at a loss about what to read during the summer, the librarians might also have suggested summer reading lists based on grades or ages. Reading is one of the most important thing that you can do with your child to promote fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension, so going to the library and checking out books is a really good idea.
4) Go on a Nature Walk- This can be a local hike, park, beach, or even just a walk around the block. You can have your child collect leaves, rocks, sticks or petals and then have them create a collage, sketch them out, or write descriptively about what they collected.
5) Visit a Beach, River, or Lake- This one might be easier for those of us who live near a body of water, but if you are able to find a beach, river, or lake then you could learn about landforms first, and then go and enjoy a day at one of them.
6) Cook a meal together- Cooking with your child can promote health, togetherness, and also can incorporate math and science. During the school year cooking together might be more difficult between homework, practices, and work. During summer, this is a great way to engage your child’s senses and get them to be more adventurous about food.
7) Visit Nature Centers- Check out your local nature centers. They are usually free and might offer a nearby hike.
8) Have Lunch Outdoors at a Park- This is a great, inexpensive way to get out of the house and spend the afternoon in nature. This is also something you can do last minute. Pack a lunch and find a local park! Bring books to read, games to play, or just sit and enjoy nature.
9) Go Camping- while this takes a little more planning and organizing, it is a great way to spend a long weekend. Put down the screens and spend some time disconnected. According to the Child Mind Institute, the average American child spends 4 to 7 minutes having unstructured play outside while they spend over 7 hours on a screen. If your child learns to appreciate nature early on, we believe they will become more balanced.
10) Go on Bike Rides- this can be something that is done as a family. Instead of sitting around the TV after dinner, grab your bikes and go for a quick family bike ride. You can even ride your bike to grab an ice cream, or ride to a local restaurant.
We understand that not every single hour of the day will be filled with one of these things. Kids need to learn to be bored, how to entertain themselves, and the adults in their lives don’t need to feel obligated to spend every waking hour entertaining their children. Parents have a lot to do, and they need balance too. We do believe that providing space for children to participate in these types of activities will help them become more balanced and want to make healthier choices when they do have free time.
Some of these activities cost money and some are free. Most cities have events pages as well that you can find free events happening in your city. If you live the Los Angeles are here are some resources to find local events:
With summer vacation quickly approaching, this is the time of year when we tend to get many questions from parents about what academics should be done over the summer. We are big proponents of letting summer time be a time for play, fun, relaxation, and exploration. This can be a great opportunity for kids to explore new things, discover a passion, focus on another interest or develop a talent.
If a child is struggling and needs more support in a particular subject, we would suggest doing some academics. However the only time we would suggest getting any kind of tutoring is only when it is actually needed. There should be no rush or pressure to be ahead in school. Depending on the child, it might actually take the joy out of learning and that would be a shame.
If a child ends up being ahead naturally and is really interested in a particular subject, that’s great. You can definitely support them in this area without pushing them or MAKING them do extra work they do not want or have to do. In this case, the child should be driving it and you are either letting them do their thing or finding ways to support their curiosity.
There are things that kids can do to practice skills that are fun and rewarding for them. The key is to keep it light so that it doesn’t seem like work.
Summer is a great time for kids to discover new interests, and reading is a great place to discover new passions. Kids should learn early on that reading isn’t only for school. Reading for pleasure can be a wonderful, and good for the soul, free time activity. Going to the library and checking out books with your child is a great way to promote reading during the summer. Checking one out for yourself to read will demonstrate to your child that reading is fun, not a chore.
It is great for kids to learn how to journal at a young age. They can write about their summer adventures, add in pictures, illustrations, or make it into a scrapbook. Not only will they learn to and begin to reflect on their day, but it allows them to practice their writing skills. While you should tell them to just write and not worry about spelling and punctuation, the more practice they get with writing the more they will grow as a writer.
Writing letters to family members that live in another place could be a fun activity, especially if they were expecting a letter back in the mail. If you go on vacation, you can have them write postcards to their friends or teachers. Again this is a fun way to promote, support, and build writing skills.
Things you can do in moderation
Practice Multiplication Facts
Multiplication facts are often introduced in 2nd and 3rd grade. It is helpful for children to practice multiplication facts during the summer so that they do not forget them and to keep the momentum going as they transition into the next grade. There are a variety of ways to help children practice and memorize multiplication facts. Practicing with flashcards a couple of times a week is one way, but there are also apps that make it more game like. Keep in mind that it is easier and more fun to practice these for 15 minutes a day than for 1 hour once a week.
A little practice of more complex mathematical concepts, such as long division, multiplication, or fractions, whose algorithm is new to students or consists of multiple steps might be beneficial for students for whom these proved to be challenging during the school year. We only ever recommend it as a way to strengthen their math skills and return to school in September with better understanding and more self confidence in math.
Overall, summer should be about rest and relaxation. While a little bit of practice here and there is a good idea, if your child is having a blast at summer camp, a relatives house, at the beach, or anywhere your family decides to spend summer, do not stress about academic summer work.
Our big motto is that everyone should strive for balance. Summer brings great balance to children. The school year is long and full of lots of learning, responsibilities, sport games and practices, and projects. Let children have the summer to be children, eat ice cream, dig holes, swim, play and climb. Those are the main homework assignments we assign our students at the end of the year, and that is what they need to be doing during summer.
It’s that time again where school is wrapping up and summer is knocking on the front door. Don’t let the end of school year panic get you! The end of the school year is full of exciting events such as open houses, field day, yearbook signing and graduations or promotions. It is also a time for transition. Transitions can be a scary time for some. Feelings of uncertainty and anxiety can arise when the unknown is upon us.
These feeling are true for both students and parents. You have become accustomed to the teacher, classroom, and routines of the grade, and in a few months you will have a new teacher with all the newness that comes along with a new grade. It is often around this time of year that teachers will begin receiving emails from parents asking for a meeting to discuss the next year.
Questions parents often have:
Is my child ready for the next grade?
Were they challenged enough this year?
Should I get tutoring over the summer?
What camp should I send them to?
Will they have friends in their class next year?
Who will be their teacher next year?
How did the year go by so fast?
How will I keep my child engaged this summer?
If you find these questions start popping up in your mind, that is normal. Transitions can leave you feeling powerless because you don’t have all the answers. We’re here to say that it is all going to be okay!
If you find these questions start popping up in your mind, that is normal. Transitions can leave you feeling powerless because you don’t have all the answers. Parents and guardians want the best for their children. They want to make sure that they will be able to transition an have a successful year. We’re here to say that it is all going to be okay!
As teachers we have the opportunity to see children transition into new grades every year. We’ve been in education long enough now to have the pleasure and opportunity to see our past students grow up, transition into high school, and even enter and graduate from college. We have seen a many children in our classrooms with a variety of learning styles, challenges, and successes and every single one of them have transitioned, matured, grown up, and learned in school. And while we cannot say that these students road was 100% perfect, we can say that they are doing well and thriving in their own unique ways. Which is why we would like to say to parents of elementary school age children, “Everything is going to be ok!”
We’d like to offer some advice for parents and guardians, in case you begin to feel anxious about the end of the year and transition into the next grade.
What to do:
Let your child be where they are. Had there been any challenges or issues their teacher would have already met with you about it.
Be proud that your child learned so much in another school year.
Look at the maturity and growth of the whole child that occurred during the whole year, not just academics
Ask the teacher if there is anything that your child should review over summer. This could something simple, but it could also be nothing at all and that is totally fine too.
Enjoy the rest and relaxation that comes with summer vacation.
What not to do:
DON’T wait till the end of the year to bring up a year long issue for the first time
DON’T put your child in summer tutoring unless it is actually needed or it is a passion for them
DON’T compare your child’s progress to others
DON’T gossip about which teachers are “good” or “bad”
DON’T believe other people’s experience with a certain teacher, you might have a completely different one
Endings and transitions can be anxiety provoking. The end of a school year panic is real, and we completely understand these feelings. However, as parents and guardian try to trust that the teachers and the school have your child’s best interest in mind. While you have a sun-filled summer vacation, the school and faculty will make sure that the transition into the following year is smooth and successful!
This week is Teacher Appreciation week! Appreciation of the hard work that teachers do every day is near and dear to our hearts. Teachers are doing very important work in society, and often can feel undervalued and overwhelmed. While it would be ideal to appreciate teachers all year long, it is nice to have a reminder and an entire week dedicated to appreciating teachers.
Ultimately the best way that society can appreciate teachers is with:
1) Support for students
2) Respectable compensation
2) Smaller class sizes
3) Resources and supplies for classes
4) Societal respect
These are our hopes and dreams for the teaching profession! We understand that these might be a bit difficult to accomplish this week, but a teacher can dream! We hope that one day teachers all over the country have these things.
But seriously, we thought we would offer some realistic ways to appreciate the teacher in your life this week.
1) A handwritten card from students
2) Small treats to keep in the desk
3) Coffee or tea
4) Flowers for their desks
5) Verbal affirmation or a positive email
6) A positive email to their supervisor
7) A bottle of wine
These are all little things that go a long way in making a teacher feel appreciated and supported. While we keep fighting for the top four, it is good to feel like we have people supporting and appreciating the work we do! We also found this great resource with everything you need to appreciate your teachers or even plan events to appreciate teachers at your school!
It is common for most schools to send home some sort of report card to parents. The question many parents have asked us over the years is: Should I share this report card with my child? Ultimately that is going to be a personal preference. Depending on the student’s age, understanding of report cards, and their social emotional development, there are appropriate things to share with your child. However, what we feel is more important is HOW you talk to your children about report cards.
We want to give some helpful ways on how to talk about report cards with your child. As we wrote last week, report cards aren’t the end all be all. They are one form of communication. Report cards show one snapshot of your child as a student. Teachers all know kids are more than a grade!
Don’t Compare Your Child to Others
All children are different. They have their own unique sets of strengths and challenges. If your oldest child excelled in reading and your youngest has found it to be challenging that is ok because they are two different people. Parents should not assume that a child will earn or receive the same grade or report as a sibling. It is not a good idea to compare them. Every child is different and as such, their grades and report cards will be and should be different. Focus on each child’s unique set of strengths and challenges.
Ask Your Child’s Perspective on their Strengths and Challenges
By third grade most students have an understanding of report cards or grades. They know that teachers report to the parents their strengths and challenges and that sometimes this is in a form of grades or a narrative. Asking them what they think they’ve excelled at and what they need to work on would be beneficial. Some children may be too harsh on themselves or have an overly positive idea of themselves, but most of the time students will know that they need to work on spelling, reading, math, or focusing in class. Asking them their thoughts could lead to a conversation about ways they can improve in areas and how proud you are of their efforts.
Discuss Strategies for Improvement
If you decide to share the report card with your child, it would be helpful to discuss with them ways to help them grow and improve in the areas that they might need to work on. This could include strategies like a tally chart on desk, emailing the teacher on Fridays, sticker charts, reminders in their folders, or extra practice. Getting them involved in this strategy development allows them to take ownership of their own growth and have more investment in the plan. Children, especially in the middle elementary years, are better able to understand and communicate their thoughts and opinions about what helps them the best, therefore we believe it is a smart idea to include them in the conversation.
Focus on Progress and Growth Mindset
We like to say “practice makes progress,” in our classrooms. No one is perfect and everyone has something they are working on, and that is OKAY. The most important thing is that when the going gets tough we have grit and a growth mindset. The power of “yet,” is very helpful for children. Using these phrases and ideas might be helpful when discussing their report cards.
Tell Them You are Proud of Them
At the end of the day, each and every elementary school child needs to know and believe that grades are not the most important thing. Their effort and growth in school and on the playground with their friends, and being a kind respectful person are the most important things. Letting them know the areas that they have done well in or that they have improved on gives children a sense of pride and accomplishment. It fills their bucket, so that they build up a sense that they can indeed persevere. Gaining self confidence will help them throughout their educational careers.
What are some things you have found to be helpful when talking to kids about report cards?
We are headed into the last 2 months of school, and along with field day, open house, graduation, and all the other fun activities of the last few weeks of school, writing report cards is something that teachers need to complete as they wrap up the school year. Whether you give out letter grades, numbers, or narrative report cards are one way to communicate with parents about how their child has grown throughout the school year.
In our opinion, report cards should not be the end all be all. We need to create intrinsic motivation in our students and focus on progress and the learning process. The focus should not necessarily be on an end grade. To us, report cards should be looked at as a more formal way of communicating to parents all the things we have already been communicating throughout the school year.
Report cards should reflect progress, strengths, and challenges. They should help give both teachers and parents an idea of how they can better support and encourage students. It should also reflect the things that really interest the student.
When writing report cards here are some things to consider:
When a parent receives a report card, they should not be surprised by anything on it. Surprising parents with a student’s struggles on a report card when you are not present, and cannot elaborate and talk through plans to support the student is never a good idea. If a student is having a challenge academically, behaviorally, or socially parents should be notified early on to develop a partnership and to come up with a plan on how to help the child succeed. Report cards should not be the first time a parent is hearing about a concern. This has been one of the best pieces of advice that our mentor and administrator told us as novice teachers, and it is something that we continue to follow and pass on to new teachers.
Start with the Positive
Find positive things to say about the student. Every subject or category should have an honest and positive statement for the student. These could include comments on engagement, participation, perseverance, growth mindset, collaboration, or final projects amongst other things. Highlighting the positives is just as important as highlighting the challenges because it paints a picture of the whole child, and that is what parents want and need to see.
Choose Your Words Wisely
Remember, that while this might be an elementary report card, it is an official document. Therefore always think through what you are writing and trying to say about the student. Try to avoid words like “but” or “although.” You can usually replace those words with “and” or start a new sentence and get the same message across without negating all the positives you started with. Some positive language includes “we look forward to guiding,” “it would be beneficial,” “this student will grow further by,” or “supporting.”
If you are asking parents for support at home, give specific strategies that will help the student. This is especially important as a student transitions from one grade to another and they might need some extra help in certain subjects. Summer vacation is a good time for parents to support a child at home, so giving them exact subjects and strategies to work on are perfect to convey on a report card. However, keep in mind that a report card might not be enough room to detail all of this, so a parent conference might be helpful to set up with the parents or guardians to further explain student support.
Parents of students who are “high flyers” often want to know how their child is being challenged and supported in the classroom. If a student is meeting or surpassing all the expectations in your class, it would be helpful for parents if you communicated how they are being challenged and engaged in class. This again gives a whole child picture for parents and it gives them ideas about how the can continue to support and engage their child at home.
The most important thing to remember is that we are placing our own personal judgements on other people’s most valued treasures. Every kid is different and has strengths and challenges. As history has continued to show us, a grade or a number doesn’t always reflect a child’s success. Report cards should not be used as a weapon to shame or punish kids. Rather, they should be used as another form of communication that is a guide and tool to help kids grow and develop.
Disclaimer: Here at Dreaming Teachers we want to create a space where both teachers and parents feel like they can read and share our posts. The last few weeks we have been writing on topics related to parenting styles and providing tips on how to develop balanced healthy adults. In no way are we trying to shame parents for wanting to be there for their children. We want that and we completely understand it. We simply are here to provide research on how to help kids grow into resilient, balanced adults.
In the last decade, we have seen shifts in parenting styles. Today, gone are the helicopter parents who just hover over their child and monitor the situation. What many are seeing today are parents who, with good intentions, try to make everything perfect for their child. This is all done with the intention of wanting them to have a perfect future where nothing will stand in the way of their success. Experts have coined this as snow plow or lawnmower parenting. These parents clear the road of life for children so that it is perfect without bumps or ice. They want their child to be happy and always thriving, and to accomplish this they remove any sort of impediment in the road of life that might be a hinderance or cause any negative feeling.
We do think this is done with good intentions and parents that choose this form of parenting most likely felt like they were left to fend for themselves as children. Or maybe they experienced this form of parenting to some degree. Either way, we know the intention is to provide the best life for their child. However, what we do or don’t do to help children when they are young has a major effect on how they develop. We can’t think of these learning moments as one-off situations, they have long lasting effects.
In The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt write, “Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child.” This is an incredibly powerful quote. Often times parents want to clear the road to make it easier and more pleasant for their children. They don’t want them to feel any discomfort or pain. But when we clear out all the roadblocks for our children, we are taking away their learning and development as well. We are taking away so many important learning opportunities that will help them develop and grow the skills they need to become functional in society and adulthood.
According to experts, children who are being raised by snowplow parents “won’t be able to handle failure or solve problems independently. Kids of snowplow parents may quit something instead of settling for second best. (Today’s Parent) In addition, children who are products of over protective parent often lack self confidence or feel inadequate when doing anything. (Psychology Today).
It is unrealistic for your child to always be happy and to always be successful. There will always be things that go wrong that are out of our control. Learning coping mechanisms for disappointment and sadness at early ages, will help children develop skills to conquer the adversity that life brings. If they do not learn these coping mechanisms early on, we are setting them up for major challenges in adulthood. All of a sudden they are exposed to the real world where things go wrong all the time and it is a shock. They are left with a feeling they have never felt and no way of processing. This leads to depression, anxiety, addiction, blaming others for your problems, and not a real sense of reality.
When people are able to navigate adversity and make it out on the other side, there is a sense of confidence that you are able to manage whatever comes your way. When you look back at your life and think of things you have been through, you remember all of the things you learned from the challenges you encountered and how you persevered and worked through a challenge. If you never learn how to face challenges because they have strategically been removed from your life, how will you learn to deal with them when they eventually sneak their way in?
As parents and teachers of course there are situations that need our involvement. What we are talking about is age appropriate setbacks that help kids in development. These include things like losing a science fair, working through typical social dynamics, playing in the backyard without constant adult supervision, falling down and getting up, or not getting the lead in the school play. However, if something comes up that needs intervening, such as your child being repeatedly targeted or their needs not being met, it is our job to step in and support them.
We just can’t jump in and clear out every road block for our children because they will never learn. It is one of life’s greatest challenges to watch people experience setbacks, discomfort, and struggles without trying to solve all of their problems for them. Just know that you are going to be fine. And so is your child! These challenging moments are fleeting but the experiences and lessons of overcoming adversity will carry on into adulthood.
Unlike any other time in history, parents have access to so much information on parenting and children. They want to make sure that they are doing a good job as parents and that their children are thriving. To do so, many parents are incredibly involved in every aspect of their child’s life. Some researchers call this style of parenting “intensive parenting,” and it is a common form of parenting among upper-middle-class households. According to an article in The Atlantic, intensive parenting includes “Supervised, enriching playtime. Frequent conversations about thoughts and feelings. Patient, well-reasoned explanations of household rules. And extracurriculars. Lots and lots of extracurriculars.”
There does seem to be some positives in this style of parenting, and we understand why many aspire to achieve this level of involvement in parenting. However, as we have written in previous posts before, our jobs as parents and teachers is to raise and educate children who will grow up to be strong, resilient, balanced, well adjusted adults. As you can probably imagine, living a life where your parents constantly step in to solve all troubles, problems, or issues as a child causes some trouble as children grow into adulthood.
This level of parental involvement has begun to reach the business sector as young adults begin their careers. In the New York Times Article When Helicopter Parents Hover, Even at Work, “Within that group of employers, more than 30 percent reported parents submitting a résumé for their children; 15 percent reported fielding complaints from a parent when the company didn’t hire their child; and nearly 10 percent said parents had insinuate themselves into salary and benefit negotiations.” These parents are submitting resumes for, sitting in on interviews, and calling employers on behalf of their adult child to negotiate salaries and promotions. It sounds absurd, but it is happening today.Adults have to be responsible for a variety of things and life is full of surprises, conflicts, and obstacles that they have to navigate and work with. Unless children learn how to deal with and work through the bumps in the road then they will not know how to do this as adults. Thus they will have to rely on parents to continue to solve issues for them.
During childhood, intensive parenting includes constant communication with teachers, yearning to know every little thing that happens in class, supervising all recreational activities, scheduling and attending all extra curricular activities, and wanting to control every social situation that their child encounters. Again, we wholeheartedly understand why this appeals to parents. Parents are charged with caring for and raising someone who is quite literally the sun and the moon to them. We get it. They want to make sure that their child is doing fine, is happy, and thriving across all situations. But if an adult is always present in the life of a child doing everything for them, solving all their conflicts, and speaking on their behalf, then how will the child learn conflict resolution, coping mechanisms, responsibility, and independence that they will need as adults? Children will grow up, and it is up to us to teach them the tools to use when they reach adulthood. If we, as parents and teachers don’t do this, then we have failed them.
Here are a few things we can do as parents and teachers to help our children develop the tools they will need as adults.
1) Let children attempt to solve their social conflicts
Social dynamics are hard for everyone. Children will struggle with friendships and collaboration. That is normal. Before you step in and take charge of a situation, allow your child to try to talk it out with their peers. Children are very good about speaking about their feelings with others, listening to each other, and mediating conflicts. They might need a mediator, so you can let the teacher, coach, or counselor know in case they are needed. Letting children talk, and figure out social dynamics with their friends on their own might be uncomfortable for them, but it’ll help them gain the experience to be able to navigate social dynamics as they grow into adulthood. Not all relationships are perfect, and they need to learn how to navigate them.
2) Give children free unplanned time
21st century children are constantly being stimulated by technology, intensive reading programs, flash cards, and many extracurricular classes. This is so much so, that many children often struggle with being bored. They do not know what to do when they have nothing to do. Sometimes it is good to not have a schedule, plan, or device readily available. Giving children some time to do whatever they want will help develop their creativity and bring balance in their life. We highly recommend it!
3) Teach children to talk to the teacher themselves
Children as young as 5 can, and should, speak up for themselves. If there is an issue in the classroom, let your child talk to the teacher. If they have a question about an assignment, don’t understand a concept, would like to discuss their grade, or would like to share a thought or opinion, encourage them to speak to their teacher. If they are on the younger side, we recommend an email before hand or as a follow up to make sure that they did indeed speak to the teacher and what the conversation yielded. However, having children stand up for themselves allows them to learn how to speak to authority figures. So that when they grow up, they are able able to speak, negotiate, and stand up for themselves in the workforce.
Of course we are firm believers in balance. Although children need to learn the tools to collaborate, resolve conflicts, speak up for themselves, and be independent by trying, and possibly failing, with using different techniques, they will still need parent and teacher support to guide them. We also understand that children need support from the caregivers in their lives. Parents can always communicate to teachers and let them know that they want to partner with them to help support their child in learning independence and responsibility. Teachers are always willing to partner in this endeavor, as it is their goal too.
It’s time to talk about raising more independent kids! Teachers and parents need to work together to develop a sense of independence in our children. It is essential for their development and their future. We need to remember that children will grow up, and it is our job, as parents and teachers, to help them become independent and successful adults. Independence gives them a sense of purpose and responsibility and will help them grow into a more balanced child and will make them better prepared for the real world. Not only that, it will free up some of your time as a parent and some of our time as teachers.
We currently live in a time where it is becoming more common for kids to rely on adults to make every decision for them, to speak up for them if a challenge arises, and to save them from every mistake. Or even worse, not even allow them to make mistakes. Adults inherently want to protect children from all the harm that we conceive there is in the world, however by protecting them from everything and doing everything for them, we are taking away their sense of responsibility, problem solving skills, and independence. The very things that that will set them up for success in the real world.
According to Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Stanford Dean, overparenting leaves kids unprepared for college. We happen to agree, and moreover we feel overparenting can leave kids underprepared for elementary school too. We see it in our classrooms on a daily basis with students not carrying their own backpacks, parents unpacking them for them, parents turning in their homework, forgotten items constantly dropped off throughout the school day, and never ending emails from parents to do and tell children a variety of things. Parents have constant access to their child throughout the day and it is playing a role in delayed independence in kids.
Children start to naturally develop independence at two years old.The National Association for the Education of Young Children give tips on how you can start that development at a very young age. It takes time and effort, but will pay off immensely when it is time to send your child to school. If slowly each year you continue to give your child more responsibility, your child will become increasingly more independent.
We understand that it is difficult seeing your baby grow and become more independent. Sometimes it feels like it happens too fast and we try to hold onto the idea of our children as the babies they once were. However, if we continue to do this, we set them up for failure, so here are some recommendations to help your child be more independent at home and at school.
Drop your child off at school, and let them walk into their classrooms on their own. Starting in kindergarten they are capable of walking into their classes independently and following the morning procedures. By allowing them the autonomy to do this, children begin to feel responsible and capable. Over the years, we have seen many stressful morning drop offs whereupon the child cries and the parents coddle them in attempt to soothe the child. This often heightens the situation and does the opposite of what is intended. We promise that once you drop off your child, she or he will calm down and join in on the fun of school. Usually within five minutes.
Backpacks and Supplies
Let your child carry their own backpack. We see many parents continue to carry the backpacks of older kids. Let’s set them up early on to carry their own things. They can do it, and again it makes them feel empowered to be able to do it.
Unpacking and Packing
Put the responsibility on your child to unpack and pack their own backpack. If you develop a routine and have a school spot at home, this will save a lot of time and headache in the long run. Have a basket where they can place school papers for you to look through or have a special time when you go through it together. Items that go into the backpack should only be placed by the child. If they didn’t put it in, they most likely won’t know or remember it is there. We understand that it takes longer for parents to ask their children to put things in their backpack, and by doing it for them, you are saving time in the short term. Something that takes longer now, will set them up for success in the future.
Homework and Projects
Let your child do their homework and projects on their own. Of course you can assist them when they have a question or help them if they need an extra hand putting a project together. Don’t let a little hand become a takeover. Projects should be their ideas and their hard work. When we do our children’s work for them, we are sending a message that they hear loud and clear: yours isn’t good enough. This has a major effect on their confidence and risk taking and they will fear doing things independently.
Having chores at home is a classic way to develop responsibility and independence in children. They are capable of much more than we think and in the younger years, they actually really love to be a helper. For more information on age appropriate chores check out House Wife How-Tos: Chores That Kids Can Do.
At 4 and 5 years old children can start to get themselves dressed with limited parent involvement. A skill that is easily taught and goes a long way, is how to turn an article of clothing that is inside out to right side in. We would think that this would be second nature, but it is a skill that needs to be taught to school age kids. Imagine 20 kids trying to get one teacher to help them put on their jackets in the winter. That’s when we stop the main curriculum and have a “how to put on your jacket tutorial.”
These skills are really important for development and should not fall by the wayside. We already know that academics are important, but again kids need a balance. These skills are essential to help your children in the real world. And these are just some ways to help develop more independent kids. Certainly, there are many more ways to teach independence to children, and every child is unique. We understand that if your child has any special needs that not all of these things will work for your family and you have to do what works for your personal situation. We are also not trying to shame anyone or say that you need to be perfectly doing these things all the time. We want to help educate and partner with you to help raise more balanced and independent kids in this very busy, ever changing world we live in. When studies show that kids are increasingly more dependent, not developing basic responsibility, and unprepared for the basic rigors of life after high school, we need to take a step back, get to the cause, and make some changes. Even if it feels like these changes are going back to a simpler time, they are skills that hold strong in society today.
21st Century children have never known a world without smartphones, the internet, tablets, or social media. When we first began teaching, a little over a decade ago, we had to teach children how to use a mouse, navigate on a computer, and introduce tablets. We no longer have to do that. Many toddlers know how to turn on smartphones or tablets, and open to the home screen. They can even navigate Youtube to look for cartoons or videos of other children opening toys. Most, if not all, of our students come into our classes with the knowledge of how to use technology. Often times, it is second nature to them. Devices and social networks are changing childhood in extreme ways and we need to find strategies to help our children develop into healthy and balanced individuals.
The students that come into our classrooms are vastly different than the students we taught at the beginning of our careers. We have noticed that many children today are use to constant visual stimulation and instant gratification. They are not sure what to do with themselves when they do not have a device and many feel uncomfortable being bored. Their social emotional skills are underdeveloped because kids are spending more time on devices and less time playing and interacting with other children.
We are not doctors or psychologists (yet) and we cannot diagnose or treat people. And while there may be a variety of reasons for this shift in children, we believe that the biggest factor in this drastic and rapid change in our children is technology. It is our responsibility to find ways to both educate kids on healthy technology use and offset the effects of this digital revolution.
Now this post is not about how horrible technology is. In fact, we love technology, we use it in our classrooms to augment and enhance lessons, look up information for the class, and connect our students to the world. Yet, we also incorporate cutting, glueing, writing with pencils, cursive, coloring, dancing, performing, and most importantly playing and social skills. This is because there has to be balance in our classroom between technology and real world experiences. Our big theme is balance for children. We advocate balance for children, and the area of technology is no exception in and out of the classroom.
According to Dr. Tovah Klein, an expert on early childhood development, the more you use a device to calm your kids down, the less they are able to do it for themselves because they do not learn that skill. If devices are used all the time by children, they will not actually learn how to socialize, how to behave in different places and with a variety of people. They will not learn how to be bored and they will not be able to figure out a way to entertain themselves. If they have constant access to everything on the internet, they will not learn how to be creative themselves. They will not learn inventive play because they won’t have to. We need to make sure we are creating the space for them to do these things because it doesn’t organically happen like it did when we were kids.
What we can do as parents and teachers:
Limit Screen time
Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving
Find media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms
Model device free for them
Do not use devices in restaurants and stores
Let your child be bored so that they can play and develop social skills and creativity
Teach proper device use
Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.
When they use a device, interact with them. Educational apps are great, we use them!
What society can do:
Stop judging parents over a crying child
Stop giving dirty looks to parents and families on airplanes
Stop expecting kids to be silent at restaurants and in public places
There is an immense amount of pressure put on parents today to know it all, do it all, and to have the perfect happy family. Kids have emotions and no matter what we do, we can’t control when they throw a fit, are feeling sad, have an outburst in a restaurant or make a scene in a grocery store. When kids are not quiet and perfect, parents are judged by society. It has become routine to throw a device at a child to keep them quiet in a public space. Let’s work together to make it okay for kids to make noise and be kids. Let’s not be so judgmental when we see a struggling parent or a misbehaving child. We don’t know the full story. What we do know is that these devices that we use to keep our kids quiet are having a real strain on our children and society as a whole. We all play a role whether we have children, are in education, work in the tech industry, or are a childless bystander. We all have an obligation to help kids navigate a world that has been revolutionized by digital media.
It doesn’t matter what age or grade you teach. Teaching is NOT cute. Please do not refer to someone’s profession as cute. It is insulting and demeaning. We can’t even count how many times someone has asked us what we do, and this is their response when we tell them we are educators. We understand that they are not intentionally trying to insult teachers. And really it’s not even their fault. Society has painted teachers in a very specific way. Teachers are often portrayed as these loving “mother-like” characters who play and color with children all day. This is NOT what teachers do. Which is why we would like to change how people and society view teachers and the education field in general.
Teachers work very hard to become teachers. Many have advanced degrees, certificates, various credentials, and participate in ongoing professional development to understand the latest trends and best practices. Most teachers become teachers because they want to have an influence on society. Teachers understand that kids are our best hope for a better future. They don’t become a teacher because they couldn’t have done something else. Can we go ahead and throw out that idea? Even if that might be the case for a handful of teachers, that’s the exception not the rule.
We understand that sometimes people don’t actually understand what teaching is like because they have never done it, they don’t have kids, or they can’t remember what their teachers did in school. “That’s so cute!” Seems like an automatic response to people that just don’t know what else to say. If someone tells you that they are a teacher, here are some alternative things you can say:
Society doesn’t do enough for teachers.
Wow, teaching seems really hard.
Seems like you have a lot to juggle.
I had a teacher that really helped me, I bet you are that person for many.
What is teaching like?
What kind of school do you teach at?
How long have you been teaching?
What are you working on with your students now?
We are not saying that at times the kids we teach don’t do or say cute things. There are many moments between planning lessons, meeting with parents, assessing, writing IEPs, meeting with administrators, dealing with behavior issues, attending PD, collaborating with therapists, responding to emails and all the other things we balance throughout our days, when our students will do cute things. These moments are incredibly fun and brighten up our day. However, the teaching profession should not be thought of as cute simply because of those moments.
You would never tell a parent that it’s so cute they decided to have kids because parenting is challenging yet rewarding. You would never tell a pediatrician that their job is cute simply because they treat children. You would never tell a firefighter or police officer that their job is cute because they have sirens on their vehicles. You would never tell a person in sales, or communications, or media, or politics, or really any professional job that their job is cute. It is honestly not appropriate to tell any hard working professional that their job is cute.
Teaching is not cute. Teaching is a profession that many people work really, really hard at. Let’s work together to change the way people perceive teachers. Teachers are professionals that deserve respect and acknowledgement that they have an important job. A job that is both challenging and so incredibly important for our society.
Help us spread the word! Share your stories on Instagram and tag Dreaming Teachers or Teaching is Not Cute. Use the hashtag #teachingisnotcute for the chance to be featured.
It seems that more and more we are reading articles and seeing in media reports that teachers are leaving the teaching profession more than ever before. According to the Wall Street Journal, teachers are quitting at record numbers. In the span of a year, one million teachers made the decision to leave the classroom. We are personally seeing and feeling this along with our colleagues.
The question often asked is why is this happening? We will tell you why we think this is happening. The teaching profession in the 21st century burns you out quickly. It does not matter whether you work in a public, charter, or independent school, teaching is hard and the demands and expectations placed on teachers coupled with low pay and lack of respect makes different professions more appealing.
The astounding thing about this recent trend in teachers leaving the profession in high numbers and early on in their careers, is that it seems to be a rather new phenomenon. Think back to your school days, we would guess that you probably had teachers whom had been teaching 15, 20, maybe even 25 years. Even as far back as when we began our careers, our mentors had been educators at the same school for 15-20 years. These experienced educators, whom we learned so much from, were tired and ready for retirement, but they did not appear to have the exhausted burnt out feeling that many teachers feel today. They and their counterparts were not leaving teaching at the rates of today.
So, the real question is: what is so different today than teaching in the recent past?
We asked a few of our teacher friends, and this is what they said:
Out of touch administrators
Administrators who value parents over teachers
Constant internal communication and no action
Not asking teachers for their opinions before implementing new policies or curriculum
No priorities, just long to-do lists
Unrealistic responsibilities placed on teachers
No support in the classroom with behavior issues
Lack of school psychologist or therapists
Large class sizes
Limited Prep Time
No breaks during the day
Possibility of being laid off
Leadership tends to be reactive rather than proactive
Pressure to teach to the test
Lack of autonomy
Over involved parents (AKA Lawn Mower Parents)
Constant access to teachers through email
Mean emails from parents
The effects of technology on this generation of children
Disrespect from students
Other things to consider
Lack of respect from society
Emotional stress that never leaves us
Teachers have always had to balance students, their parents, and administration. However, it use to feel that the accountability was placed on the child if a challenge came up at school. Teachers, parents, and administrators would work together to come up with a plan to support students with their challenges. These days it feels like there has been a shift in this dynamic and much of the accountability is placed on teachers. This shift has left teachers in a position to constantly try to please parents, even if it means going against what we know is right for our students. While many parents are supportive and truly want to partner with teachers, the over involved parents can make it very challenging and unpleasant. Relationships with parents can make or break a school year for a teacher.
If schools want to retain great teachers, we need strong administrators who believe in balance and boundaries. We need strong leaders that have experience being teachers themselves. We need them to set clear expectations for teachers and have boundaries with parents. We need to have office hours so there isn’t constant access through email on nights and weekends. We need administrators who trust us and support us when a challenge comes up. We need to have priorities rather than a never ending to-do list. We need to have realistic expectations and fair compensation.
Teaching has always been a hard job. However, in the 21st century the demands placed on teachers without the respect or economic compensation that equates the immense and most important work done by teachers is too much. Unless there is a paradigm shift in society in regards to teachers, we are going to continue to lose wonderful educators in our classrooms.
Parent-teacher conferences are an important piece in the communication between teachers and parents. Meeting face to face is an excellent way to connect and continue to foster a positive relationship. Conferences are intended to give space for teachers to discuss goals and growths that they have seen in the student that year AND it is a way for parents to tell about what they have seen in their child’s growth as well. Over the years we have had many different experiences with parent-teacher conferences. We have had wonderful ones that left both parents and teachers validated and valued. We have also had some on the other end that didn’t go quite as planned. We came up with some great things to consider for a productive parent-teacher conference.
Teachers are on Your Side
Teachers genuinely care about the children they teach. Especially the ones that are struggling. It is never easy to point out challenges, weaknesses, or concerns that we have. Just know that we aren’t judging you or your child in a negative way. We are on your side, we want what is best for your child. A big part of our job is to set each and every child up for success. We don’t expect every child to be perfect and we understand that everyone is working on something. If your child is having difficulty with reading, that is not your fault. Nor is it your fault if they need extra support in math. It simply means that your child might need a different learning plan. If a teacher takes the time to do this, it means they see your child and understand what they need to be successful.
Arrive on Time and Respect the Time Limit
Most parent-teacher conferences have an allotted time. They can be anywhere from 10-30 minutes. When you have a scheduled conference it is important to be on time. If you are running late, be sure to stick to the allotted time schedule. If you need more time, it is perfectly okay to reschedule another meeting. Typically teachers are meeting with over 20 sets of parents and often conferences are scheduled back to back, so it is important to not run into the next meeting. When conferences go over, it puts the teacher in an awkward position with the following conference. No one wants to start off a meeting with bad juju!
Ask About Social Questions
Often times, the bulk of a conference is related directly to academics. Of course it is important to know reading level, math assessments, writing goals and if your child knows how to spell challenging words. Academics is what is associated with school, but school is also the place where children are learning how to socialize with others. It is where they test things out and explore different friendship dynamics. Children might need support socially, and knowing the answers to these questions could help you support your children and help them grow. Here are some great questions to ask your child’s teachers:
How does my child work in groups?
Are they collaborative?
Do they share with others?
Are they respectful towards adults?
Do they have friends?
Ask if Your Child is Happy
Elementary school should be a fun and engaging place. If your child is not happy, then you need to figure out why. There will come a point in your child’s life where school will become difficult and challenging (in a good way). In order to help them develop the skills to persevere and overcome these challenges, they need to have a foundation where they believe that education is important and fun. They need to understand the value of school. Having this foundation will help them when the going gets tough.
Communicate any Struggles you See at Home
If your child is struggling with something at home, it is important to communicate that to your child’s teacher. It is likely that these struggles are also showing up in the classroom. If you work together to tackle the challenge, it will make a huge difference. Understanding your child’s struggles will give you the knowledge and power to support them where they need it. Sharing that responsibility will create a village of people to support your child.
If for some reason you are not on the same page as your child’s teacher and the meeting is no longer productive, take a break and reschedule at a later time. It can be hard to get your point across when you are angry or upset. Gather your thoughts, make a list, try to get to the bottom of why you are upset. If you feel that your child is not being seen or understood, it is okay to express that in a respectful way.
Even if you don’t always agree with your child’s teacher, always be kind to them. They show up everyday to teach other people’s children. Regardless of differing views, you should never talk poorly about a teacher to a child. It is equally important to respect them in front of your children. If a child is hearing and seeing negative behavior toward a teacher, they will sure enough model that behavior at school. At the end of the day, you aren’t going to be in love with every single one of your child’s teachers. Being able to get along with a teacher that you don’t always agree with is going to teach your child a greater lesson about life. It will teach them to be respectful to all people. And you never know, maybe a teacher that seemed to be hard on your child at first, could turn out to be just what they needed to help them grow.
What are some things that you have found helpful during Parent-Teacher Conferences?
We all began our journeys in education as assistant teachers. It was a great way to get our feet wet, experience a real classroom, and understand what teaching was really like. Our experience in this position was absolutely wonderful. Not just because it gave us the passion for teaching, but because we were learning from master teachers for a few years before we became lead teachers. When the time came for us to take charge of our own class, we were more prepared for the challenges of teaching because of our mentors. We were lucky enough to be surrounded by teachers who had decades of experience and still had the passion and spark for teaching. They showed us that they also respected us as educators and believed that we too had something to offer.
Always remember that it is okay to ask for help, to not have all the answers, and to seek advice from others. You don’t get an award or a bonus at the end of each year that states you “did it all alone.” Just as we encourage our students to learn and grow from each other, it is just as beneficial to learn and grow from your mentors and colleagues. It is essential as a teacher to seek knowledge and growth. To do it often and without hesitation will benefit you as a teacher and person and will also benefit all the students you teach.
Quite often it is easy to disregard older or more experienced teachers, as outdated and old fashioned. While we are sure that there are some teachers that are, for the most part, experienced teachers have a wealth of knowledge and experience that a novice teacher can benefit from. These are the people that have already walked the path that you are in. Chances are they have dealt with that student behavior, given that assessment, or had that challenging parent. They have experienced many administrators and can advice you on how to deal with a challenging one. They know what to expect and they can give you advice on how to deal with challenges that arise. Our mentors never disregarded us as inexperienced and naive and that made it all the more comfortable to go to them when we needed advice or wanted to bounce an idea off of them.
Teachers with a lot of experience also have great project ideas that they have done in their classes over the years. We still use some of the projects that our mentors createdand left to us to use in our own classrooms. Some have been updated for 21st century skills, and they are still engaging and relevant. Both parents and students love them. Experienced teachers also have classroom management systems that they have been developing and perfecting for years. Use these! One of the best things is having systems in your classroom that really work. Why spend time creating everything from scratch, when you know great people that have great systems? Of course you will think of great things too along your teaching journey that you can pass along to others.
At this point in our career, we are now considered experienced teachers. Something that we still cannot believe! However, we absolutely love helping and mentoring new teachers. We try to make ourselves available to new teachers, support them, advise them, and sometimes even console them.
Teaching is a wonderful and challenging career, and having someone who has walked in your shoes is so incredibly helpful. We will never forget all the teachers who mentored us, even today in our classes, we feel their energy and continue to share their ideas with our students. Find great mentors and never let go!
A few weeks ago, we posted a blog on Balanced Children. We want to revisit this idea with a specific focus on how to teach self care to children. Just as parents and teachers need to practice self care for their own benefit, we also need to teach kids how to CONSISTENTLY and INTENTIONALLY engage in self care activities. Teaching kids how to take care of themselves now, will equip them with the tools they need later. Kids need to learn how to manage stress in healthy ways.
Encourage movement any chance you get! You don’t need to put your child in every after school sport for them to get exercise. You can encourage and model exercise in ways that don’t cost anything. Take walks, ride bikes, go on a hike. Encourage kids to dance, jump rope, roller skate, and hula-hoop. They also have free websites that encourage movement like GoNoodle and plenty of free kids movement videos on YouTube. Modeling the fun in exercise and movement for children will set them up to continue the practice as they grow up.
Find every opportunity to laugh with your children. Laugh when things are great, but also try to find laughter when things go wrong. Children are going to make mistakes and if you laugh with them when they make simple mistakes like accidently spilling their milk, they will be less stressed about always having to get everything right and will be more open to taking different risks.
Encourage them to play fun games that make them laugh. Here is a great list of games that encourage laughter from Deep Fun. We also found a great list of board game that the entire family can enjoy from Toy Notes.
Help your children find books that they enjoy. Of course we want our kids to read “educational” books too. However, finding a book, an author, or series that your child enjoys to read for pleasure is wonderful for children. If your child is reading something that they are interested in, then it is making them feel good. Reading for fun is a great way to help kids manage stress. It is pretty easy to setup a little cozy reading space with pillows, blankets and some of their favorite stuffed animals. There is nothing like forgetting the stressors of the day by getting lost in a good book.
There has been a big buzz around this word “mindfulness” in education and business recently. Mindfulness helps teach kids how to regulate their emotions. It can improve their ability to pay attention, can help them calm down when they are upset, and can help them make better choices. There are apps and websites that lead you through short mindful moments. Head Space is one of those options. They even have a series for kids. We have used these in the classroom, and students and teachers alike enjoy the mindful moments.
Mindfulness isn’t something you should force and definitely shouldn’t be used to punish kids when they have done something negative. Our advice is to keep it simple and help your children develop an awareness of thoughts, how their body is feeling, and what is happening around them at different moments. Often times, it seems like we (not just kids) are always wanting to focus on what is coming next. It is important to teach kids an awareness of what is happening right now.
Another component of mindfulness that is really wonderful in teaching self care to kids, is to focus on gratitude. This is really easy because you can do this anytime. It could be part of your bedtime ritual, dinner time talk, or you can encourage a gratitude journal. They have some excellent gratitude journals for kids on Amazon!
Get your kidsoutdoors! Spending time outdoors helps with the obvious, like getting sun exposure which gives us essential vitamins, and it encourages exercise, which we discussed earlier. But these aren’t the only benefits. According to the Harvard Health Blog, spending time outdoors also helps kids develop executive functioning skills, encourages risk taking, promotes socialization, and gives children an appreciation for nature. There is space for kids in nature to get in touch with their creativity. They build forts with sticks, play hide and seek, climb trees and rocks, or if the weather allows it, have snowball fights. This generation of children are over scheduled and plugged in since infancy. Spending free time outdoors is essential for development and will fuel adventure and creativity in kids.
Last week we wrote about our Teacher Tribe, and how cultivating a group of people who understand and support you can enhance your life. Friendships are important for children too, feeling a part of a community or group gives children self esteem and people to talk about their feelings to, other than their parents and teachers. This is especially important as they reach the upper elementary grades, where adolescence is on the precipes. You can ask your child’s teacher about who your child is playing with, or any recommendations about children with whom they might have a connection with. Setting up play dates and times outside of school where your child can make connections with other children is important to foster these friendships.
Manage Screen Time
This is probably one of the most difficult self care tools for parents to manage and model. We live in a world, where devices are in our hands and surrounding us all day. Everywhere your child goes, they see people staring into their devices, and this has been their world since birth. By around 1 year old a baby knows to slide to unlock a phone, by 2 or 3 they know apps and can get onto Youtube to find the videos they like. Devices are fun, they are a distraction from the real world, however, as teachers, we cannot stress enough, how important it is to manage screen time for your child.
“Kids and teens age 8 to 18 spend an average of more than seven hours a day looking at screens. The new warning from the AHA recommends parents limit screen time for kids to a maximum of just two hours per day. For younger children, age 2 to 5, the recommended limit is one hour per day.” (CBC News) The best way you can do this is by modeling for your child. Put your own devices down and talk, read, play, or exercise together. Engage them in other activities that do not involve devices.
Sleep and mental health have a close connection. We are all guilty of scrolling instagram at bedtime, but more and more studies are showing that to improve sleep you should stop using a device up to two hours before bed. If you can’t swing that, even 30 minutes to 1 hour will help improve sleep. Having a device box or a location where kids put their devices at a certain time, will help set an expectation for the family that can help improve sleep for everyone.
All of these things that we are talking about seem very basic and obvious. And most of these things naturally took place when we were kids. We didn’t have devices and we were always outside playing. We didn’t call it self care for kids, we just called it being kids. As our world continues to evolve and advance, we need to take steps to ensure that we are aware of the effects that these changes have on our kids. Many studies are showing kids and teens are depressed and stressed and unable to handle normal things that life throws at them. We need to take a step back and make sure we are giving our 21st century kids the basic skills they need to manage stress and practice self care in this ever changing world.
No one will understand the daily life like another teacher. There is an instant bond, a connection, that is felt when teachers meet. You see the gleam in each other’s eye. It is part love of school and part absolute exhaustion. You understand that as a teacher you are teaching 20-40 students in your class, you are expected to differentiate, create project based learning, collect data, grade, manage the class, document, communicate with 40-80 parents, and a plethora of other things. No one really gets the excitement and happiness of teaching nor do they understand the exhaustion and frustrations in teaching. That is why having a teacher tribe is the most amazing thing you can cultivate at your school.
We all met each other when we were assistant teachers. We became friends and supported each other through graduate school and credential programs, and we were lucky enough to become lead teachers at the same school around the same time. To say that we love and are there for each other would be an understatement. We have not only supported each other professionally, but we have been through major life events such as moving, buying houses, engagements, dating, marriages, births, and deaths.
When you spend your days with children, like we do, it is essential that you find the time to connect with other adults throughout the day. No matter how busy we were in the classroom, we always made time for lunch in the teacher’s lounge. For teachers, lunch isn’t just a time to eat. This is our time to connect, laugh, vent, complain and share. It can also be a time to escape from work to talk about everything BUT work. Your tribe can be a good group to unload, unplug and recharge. Being able to have lunch with your tribe everyday makes the tough stuff so much better.
When you have a teacher tribe, you can pop into their classes, share ideas, ask them to proofread emails, ask for advice about a kid, and support each other. You can send your students as messengers into their classrooms and they will do the same. They will watch your class when you need to run to the bathroom or make a quick copy. You can share ideas without judgement or competition. You are excited for their success and they support you in yours.
You see, we can laugh and commiserate with other teachers because we understand each other. We have all had the lawnmower parent, the new trendy educational tool pushed our way, the child who will not listen, and the administrator who is not supportive. We have felt the frustrations, anxiety, and sleepless nights associated with teaching. We get each other like no one else can.
Your teacher tribe is an important part of your arsenal of support. They become your friends and your family away from home. We spend so much of our waking time away from home, caring and educating other people’s children. Having another or a group of teachers be a part of your tribe can help make rough days sweeter. There are days when you may have (or will) question your career choice, as everyone does. Knowing that you have support at work who has had those days and will listen to your rants and raves can help lighten the load of the day. But beware! A good tribe will help you focus on the positive aspects of your day. Try not to fall into a blackhole of misery and self criticism. The foundation of your tribe should center on the positive aspects of education and learning. It is very easy to get carried away by our emotions. But our job, and our tribe’s job is to support each other and help each other refocus on why we went into the education field in the first place.
We are all at different schools now, but that didn’t break up our tribe. We make time to skype, message, meet up, and remain an active part of each others lives. Find your teacher tribe, and never let go. They are the ones who will keep you sane and happy when the teaching gets tough.
Many times when you are taking care of children, your own needs might get pushed aside. Whether you are a parent and have kids of your own, or you are a teacher and spend your days taking care of other people’s children, it is essential to carve out time for yourself. If you are both a TEACHER and a PARENT it is even more important to prioritize some time for self care. Sometimes it may feel impossible, so we wanted to share some helpful tips when creating space to take care of you!
Spending Time Away From the Kids
If you are a teacher and don’t have kids, your time out of the classroom is your time to take care of you. Don’t feel bad taking those personal days, or calling in sick once in a while. Your class will be okay. As we mentioned in our post about balance, you will always have work to do, so try to limit your school work at home. A teacher’s to do list is never ending, you don’t have to work every single weekend and evening. Take your home time to rejuvenate. Your students will benefit from you taking care of yourself.
If you are a parent of school age children, your time is when your kids are at school. It is really important that you know that it is okay to plan adult only activities on nights and weekends sometimes too. You might miss your children, but they will be okay without you for a weekend or evening.
If you are both a teacher and a parent, you need to get really creative to find some time for yourself. Guilt can be a persistent unwanted visitor. Unfortunately in this case, it surfaces in both arenas: at home and in school. There could be guilt for leaving your sick child with a caretaker while you are at work, or guilt for leaving your students with a sub. Think of it this way: you’re watching the Superbowl. You need to use the restroom. Should you miss the game play or the commercials? IT DOESN’T MATTER, BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO GO! You need to be confident that whatever decision you choose to make is the best decision FOR ALL. Teaching and parenting both call for selfless thinking, but you have to remember that making yourself feel rested, relaxed and rejuvenated is a necessity. If that means finally using that floating holiday while your child is in daycare to walk the tempting aisles of Target for hours on end, do it.
Asking for Help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your family and friends. Many parents feel guilty about asking or taking help from family and friends. They feel that they must do it all and do it alone. Until very recently child rearing was a communal affair. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, and other extended family members helped parents raise their children. The next time a friend, grandparent, or uncle asks you if you need help or if they could babysit, say yes! Take the time to do something for yourself. We promise they are not judging you, they just genuinely want to spend time with your children and help you in anyway that they can.
Much like parents, teachers should also not feel guilty about asking or accepting help from others. As veteran teachers we love helping newer teachers. Not in a condescending “I know better than you,” sort of way, but rather in a “What can I do to help you?” way. However, all teachers should ask for help. Teaching is an all encompassing and overwhelming profession, if you do not advocate for yourself and your needs in the classroom, then no one else will. It is important to remember that your needs are your students’ needs.
Part of self care is maintaining balance as we wrote about in our previous posts. Taking care of you might mean saying no to the endless events that come up on the weekends. People might get offended, feelings might get hurt, but it is okay to say no. You don’t need to have plans to say no to something. And you shouldn’t feel the need to come up with an excuse. People who know and love you won’t make you feel guilty about not attending every little thing.
For teachers this includes school functions. Teachers often feel the pressure to attend all the plays, festivals, dinners, picnics, and fundraisers for their schools. However, after a long day of teaching, sometimes a teacher just needs to go home and rest. There are a plethora of ways teachers are able to show their support for the school. The number one support we give as educators is the amount of time and energy we spend to make sure each student’s academic and social needs are addressed under our care. Your administrators, coworkers, students, and parents will understand.
Exercising is a great form of self care. It helps improve physical and mental health. When you choose to exercise all the stressors of the day go away, and afterward they do not seem to be as bad as they were. “Exercise may actually help ward off depression and anxiety by enhancing the body’s ability to respond to stressors.” [Why Endorphins (and Exercise) Make You Happy, by Kristen Domonell.] If you can’t get away to do it on your own, it can be done as a family. Take a hike, a walk, or put on a fun exercise video. The kids can be included and then you are modeling self care and healthy habits.
Time with Friends
Whether you are a teacher, parent, or both, it is extremely important to connect to other adults. It is a great way to model friendship to your children and students in your class. You can spend time with other adults with or without your children. If your friends have kids, great! Make it a party. If they don’t that’s okay too. These friends are happy to take you away from your responsibilities and give you a break. MANY people without kids WANT to spend time with their friends kids, mini versions of the people they love!
Connecting with a Partner
If you have a partner, self care could be done together with a night out, spa day, or a weekend away. Even if you plan a night to stay in and cook together without the kids, it is important to connect and check in with each other. Especially if you are parents, it is important that you take the time to figure out how you can support each other in self care. Allowing each other time away and sharing in the responsibilities will help maintain a balance.
It is so important to not lose ourselves in the busyness of caring for others. When you take the time for yourself you will be able to better show up and be present for others. When you regularly practice self care, you will be less stressed, happier, and won’t be harboring feelings of resentment.
We all want what is best for our children. We want what will serve them well presently and in the future. This way of thinking and the countless other pressures within the child rearing community lead us to think about the importance of getting children involved in after school activities, get tutoring on the weekends to get ahead, and have every moment of the day scheduled.
Now, more than ever, “home life” is dwindling. As adults, there is an urgency to spend nights and weekends “getting ready” for something: after a party is finished, there is another one to start thinking about; when a project has finally passed and all the preparations have paid off, there is the next project for another client; once the lasagna has been prepped for the week, it is time to start thinking about next week’s meal prep. All this has created a culture that spends a lot of time thinking ahead, but not enough time living in the moment. It has created a schedule that puts an individual more on the go, and less inside the home.
Unfortunately, this ideology is popping up sooner in life. How many times are three-year-olds signed up for soccer, ballet, or early coding “to help find their passion?” HINT: A child should be signed up for these activities because they can’t stop kicking any movable object at home, is twirling and moving to every kind of music, or are at least five years of age to truly start any valuable computer interactions. Children should dictate any extracurricular activity because passions are found through self-discovery.
Every year during parent conferences, parents convey the pressure they feel to sign their kids up for extra classes after school and on the weekends because they hear other parents doing it. Unfortunately, an afterthought when planning extracurricular activities is the transition from one to another. Students come to school exhausted and unprepared to face the rigors of academia because they have spent 2.5 hours in traffic to get to their after-school activities the day before. Downtime is only actually relaxing when it occurs in a comfortable space. Parents of sleep-training children might remember that a nap in the car seat in between errands is not the same as a nap in the crib. Resting in the car in between activities is not and should not count as “down time” for school-aged children.
Our advice is always the same: if your child does not actually need extra support, let them spend their extra time on something that makes them happy. Or better yet: let them figure out what to do with their own time. Some parents feel the pressure to be ahead in certain academic subjects, but what’s the rush? Kids are growing up way too fast and need more balance.
It might seem logical to think that your child will get an upper hand by being enrolled in any of the many tutoring programs that promise precious 1:1 time with your little one. However, in a culture that values the ability to effectively collaborate as a strong suit, your child will probably benefit more from spending his free time reading or playing by himself and bringing his discoveries to playdates with his peers. When children are genuinely interested in something, they have elaborate discussions about the topic with their peers, even more so compared to structured discussions in class. They recall events from books they have read or listened to or movies they watched, and dissect them with their friends. They might identify and enumerate all the spells from Harry Potter, discover patterns in the Percy Jackson series, or debate over which superhero has the best super powers. How many times have we seen children play house, where the parent takes care of the babies and the babies act extremely needy, wanting the constant attention of their mommy?
A child’s unstructured time entertains the possibilities of organically thinking through depth and complexity. Children who are given ample opportunities to “kick the can” make these valuable discoveries on their own. They might label and identify their thinking with icons in class, but we need to remember that these are prompts that naturally occur in the way children spend their free time–whether they are working on their own or interacting with their friends and family. It is important for children to receive information, whether it is from school, a walk around the museum, or a family trip to Yosemite. However, it is equally important for them to have time to digest all the information and interpret it internally or with their peers. This is when their curiosity peers through and new discoveries are made.
Home is a safe space for children where they can rest, eat, play, and rejuvenate. Enjoy this time at home where you’re not rushing off to the next activity. Our children need this time to remain balanced. Find days when you don’t ever leave the house, stay in your pajamas all day, or have a movie marathon. Time when everyone is just reading for fun, or engaged in a board game with the whole family. This time is important for family units to connect in a fun, relaxed way.
It is equally important to have unstructured time at home and is a necessity for developing healthy kids. It fosters independence and responsibility. They need this time to be creative, to play, to go outside and explore. This is when they discover their passions. We have to give our kids the opportunity to just be children. We have to teach them balance by modeling balance. You can model hobbies by also spending time doing things you are passionate about. Now is the time to bake, woodwork, sew, or pursue something that will allow you to model for your child happiness and balance at home. Don’t be afraid to let your children be bored. They are smart, and they will realize the value of unstructured time.
Keeping a balance at school is just as important. School needs to be a place where kids develop a love for learning. It should be a joyous place where they can feel connected and part of a community. Yes, it is important to get through the curriculum so students are learning the academics and social emotional learning necessary for development. It is also extremely important for students to have unstructured time at school, time for choice, time for play, time for brain breaks, and time for passion projects. These things keep kids motivated and will create space for discovery, inspire creativity, and connection among peers.
We have to be aware that kids are at school 7 or 8 hours a day. Some even longer if they have working parents who drop them off early or need to send them to after school care. We need to be aware of how our students are feeling day to day and we need to create the balance they need to be successful and productive.
Students are doing school work all day long. It is important to keep homework to a minimum. If you do assign homework, make sure it is relevant and not just busy work. According to the National PTA “homework has the potential to negatively impact family and child interactions, and high quantities of homework not only add to stress, but do not necessarily lead to higher achievement outcomes.” They recommend only 10-20 minutes per night in the first grade and add 10 minutes of homework in each grade after.
Today more than ever, kids are growing up way too fast. We are raising kids who are stressed and depressed. It is our job as parents and teachers to help them create more balance and give them the space to be kids. We might only see our children or students for part of the day, but we need to make sure we are accounting for the entire day. Let’s all slow down, live in the moment, and stop rushing our kids through their childhood.
Teaching has always been a multi disciplinary job. Because teachers are working with young people, teachers throughout history have not only taught lessons on content, but they have been psychologists, nurses, advertisers, friends, and so much more. The teaching profession has always been a stressful career. However, today more than ever, the expectations placed on teachers are astronomical.
In addition to what teachers have traditionally done, in recent years teachers have had a multitude of new responsibilities added to their already metaphorically overflowing cups.
With the advent of technology, parents all over the world are granted constant communication about their child. This generation of children have grown up since birth with apps that communicate with parents. When children go off to school, many parents expect and want constant communication from their child’s teacher. So, teachers have to take a plethora of photos, run class social media accounts for their class, update a classroom website, write weekly blogs about what they are doing in the classroom, manage individual student blogs, monitor student email accounts, use several applications to send data home to parents, along with teaching, grading papers, reporting for recess or lunch duty, assessing and collecting data, writing report cards, emailing parents, differentiating lessons, planning field trips, making copies, and so much more. We absolutely love the new and wonderful ways to share and communicate with parents their child’s growth, however it seems that many new things have been added to the teacher’s plate, and nothing has been taken away.
With so much to do, in so little time, teachers oftentimes feel like they cannot take a breath. It is an overwhelming and depleting feeling. We feel that we are failing the most important people, our students. Teaching is not just about tests, data, photos, and grades. The most important aspect of teaching is the connections and relationships that we build with our students. As elementary school teachers we know that students will not remember the grammar or spelling lessons we teach, but they will remember the way we make them feel. If teachers are overworked and stressed, then their students feel that too.
When teachers feel the need to do it all, they get burnt out. According to the National Education Association, more than 40% of teachers leave the profession within 5 years! If you want to remain a teacher for the long haul, take care of yourself and keep a work life balance. It is okay to say no, especially when your cup is already overflowing.
For teachers to have a balanced life and a balanced classroom, they must prioritize. Because there is such a high expectation placed on teachers, you have to learn that you will not be able to do everything. Pick the most important things for “right now” and leave the rest for later. You have to get comfortable always having a to-do list. As a teacher you will never have that moment of being “done.” Education practices are always changing and by nature, we are lifelong learners. Our schools and classrooms change every year. So even at the end of the school year, teachers are planning for their next group of students. Honestly, there will be things that you won’t EVER get to. And you know what? That’s okay. Most likely it won’t change a thing in your class and no one will know except for you. So be kind to yourself and make sure you maintain a balance for yourself.
Flexibility is one of the most important tools in the classroom. If we are not flexible, then the kids will not be flexible. Real life in the classroom is not how it is portrayed in the media. A real classroom is messy, loud, and not perfect. We plan lessons and projects, but things do not always go as planned. When the smart board doesn’t work, the internet is down, the copies you made were the key, and not the actual student worksheet (It happens!) students look to us and see how we react. Teachers need to remember that there is a solution to every problem, no matter how great. The solution might not present itself in the moment, but that is when we say “Oh well,” and do something else in the class. When teachers are stressed, students are stressed too. Being flexible and more importantly modeling flexibility to our students is important.
We remember the feeling of wanting to please everyone when we were new teachers. When you are in charge of educating young minds there are a lot of people with high expectations of you. In our first years of teaching we wanted our classrooms to be Pinterest perfect all the time and we wanted to be liked by everyone. With experience, we learned that neither of these were attainable all the time. Our classrooms will not be perfect all the time, you will not agree with everything that administration says or does, parents might not like you. Guess what? It is okay! As long as you are showing up for your kids every school day and giving each of those students not only the academic content they need, but you are seeing them for who they are and loving them for it, then you are doing an amazing job. Teaching is one of the hardest professions there is, and we are all doing the best we can for our children.
Why do Children Need Balanced Teachers?
When teachers aren’t balanced, their students aren’t getting what they deserve. Lessons are thrown together, the grading piles up and everything gets rushed because the teacher is just trying to survive each day. When you feel like you don’t have enough time, it is time to practice the things above: prioritizing and flexibility. Children need balanced teachers because they need people that are showing up everyday that want to be there. Overworked, unbalanced teachers end up resenting their job. They are tired, irritable, and impatient. Teachers that are balanced want to show up and be present for their students.
It’s important that teachers get the time they need to plan meaningful lessons for the students. It’s important that this time not be taken up by extra meetings, conferences, and a quick PD to teach this brand new program that administration decides needs to be implemented mid-year. Time to plan meaningful lessons should be a sacred time for teachers. When this time is mis-managed by administration, we are letting down our students. They are the ones that suffer.
Balanced teachers have the time and energy to run a functioning, healthy class. They have the energy to support that struggling student. They have the time to connect with that student who often falls under the radar. They have the spirit to tell jokes, have brain breaks, connect as a class community and make their class a joyous place to learn and grow.
Bringing balance to our lives and to our children isn’t always easy. We have to be mindful, make choices to let go of certain expectations, possibly change routines, and most importantly be aware that we can’t and shouldn’t do it all.
Children Mimic Us As educators, we spend most of our days getting to know our students at school. We become familiar with their personalities. By the end of September each year, we can confidently identify if a child is going to have a fantastic day, or if one might need extra high fives and check-ins. As educators and curious observers of the world around us, it has always been so interesting to meet parents after becoming so familiar with our students. We recognize where a student might get their long eyelashes from, their cleft chin, or that one curl that has a mind of its own. We hear familiar giggles, expressions and sense of humor. It is so exciting to recognize ourselves in our children. What an astounding feat it is, to leave an imprint of ourselves for generations to come!
Apart from the genetic and biological aspect of human development, children learn by observing their parents. Parents are their first exposure to human behavior, relationships and language. There is no one so perfect and so right in our children’s eyes than their caretakers. Think of the times when children are learning to speak or walk. Before they even begin the actual act of making sounds, they hear it; before they try to figure out how to use their legs, they have been observing their parents amble around all day. This observe and do pattern does not stop! It continues long after they have moved out of the nest.
Now, you may not want to, but imagine one of those extra busy mornings. One where you feel rushed and anxious. You have to get yourself ready for work, get the children ready for school or daycare. Not to mention make and eat breakfast, make sure that everyone has a lunch, and make it to school on time for drop off. If you have ever experienced this stress and anxiety, then there is a possibility that your child was experiencing this with you. Children are very good at identifying and taking in the energy of grownups. When you are unbalanced, anxious, stressed, overworked, and have nothing left to give, they feel and exhibit that too.
When life is catching up with you and you are starting to feel this way, it is time to slow down. If there is too much on your plate, you need to prioritize the most important things and let go of other things. On those mornings, hours, or days when you are feeling overly stressed and frustrated, stop, take a breath and know that everything and everyone will be fine. If you have a partner, it will help to share your stressors with them and come up with a game plan together. It also helps to talk to other parents that are also feeling these same stressors. Find your community of like minded parents and don’t let go. Remember raising kids is a series of stages, however overwhelmed you are feeling at that moment, know that it will pass.
Focusing on Flexibility The most important life lesson that should be visited and revisited in the classroom and at home is flexibility. Assemblies do not always follow the schedule. Dad can’t always do preschool drop off. Things do not go the way they are planned. This is an illusion that we tell ourselves when things are going well. In fact, plans work because of the wiggle room that accompanied it. In the classroom when the technology does not work, we copied the wrong papers, or the glue bottles dried up, we often say “C’est la vie.” Such is life. There are things that are out of our control in our classrooms and in our homes. Feeling frustration and anger is normal, but understanding that that frustration and anger will not fix the problem is incredibly important for our children to learn. Being flexible, regrouping, and figuring out how to move on is a skill that parents and teachers need to model for children.
Benefits of Balance Parents that are balanced have balanced children. If you and your household are unbalanced, then your child will be too. We have had students that continuously forget their homework, misplace their workbooks or folders, have 7 water bottles in their cubbies, come to school without any of their supplies, or have big emotional reactions when things do not go the way they wanted or thought they would go. There are times when learning differences and special needs are the reason for such emotions. However, being around parents that are over worked, spread out too thin, and stressed out plays a big factor into any child’s daily performance. These emotions and behaviors manifest themselves in children too.
On the other hand, students who have parents that have a work-life balance, take on challenges with a positive attitude, and are present in the moment, often thrive in our classrooms. They tackle challenges calmly and cooly, they have better resilience, and a stronger sense of self. These students do well in our classrooms, the school yard, and with friends.
There is no way that stresses can be eliminated in our lives. We deal with different kinds of stressors all day long. However you deal with these pressures in your life, always take the time to talk to your children about it. This, after all, is talking about balance. It is OK for your child to see you frustrated or irritated. These are all very real emotions that they will encounter and feel in their lifetime. What is important is that you address it with them before they take these observations elsewhere. Just as you would walk through each step of what your doing with an infant to expose them to language, walk your child through your thought process when you reacted so emotionally to an unsavory event. Get them involved by asking them how they thought the reaction helped or hurt the situation. It shows them that it is OK to react to frustrations and reflect on better ways to deal with these unexpected situations.
Being a parent is an all day every day job without any sick or vacation days. Everyone is doing the best they can. If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and unbalanced, sometimes it’s nice to have a reminder that it is okay to slow down, cancel plans, and just take some time to get things back in order. It will make a more balanced life for you and for your children. The key is to not be perfect all the time, but to have an awareness when you need to create more balance.
Sooner or later something will come up where a child faces a challenge. It is a healthy part of growth and development. A child underperforms in class, is bossy around his friends, cannot stay focused during structured periods, or is unable to complete her task as she navigates through “perfectionism” presenting itself as a hindrance to her success.
TEACHER: Oh, no! I need to contact one of my parents.
PARENT: Oh, no! I have a message from my child’s teacher.
Surprise, surprise! People who care about their children WILL have similar reactions to the situations presented above, whether the relationship is biological or honed in the classroom. This could be the reason why teachers lovingly refer to their students as “my kids.” This is not being said to appeal to any kind of emotion from the parents’ side. It is exactly what it is. For that school year, the students in our classes are our kids.
As we kick off this new blog, and this new year, we wanted to talk about something that is near and dear to our hearts. The Parent-Teacher Partnership. This partnership is integral for parent, teacher and student success. We want to offer some points to consider for both teachers and parents. Ultimately, we are in this together and at times, we feel that very important fact is forgotten.
Teachers become teachers because they love children, and they want to see them grow and learn. They design lessons, projects, activities, and field trips that will help their students learn and develop a love for learning. Look up #teachersofinstagram on your Instagram, and your screen will showcase teachers from all over the world demonstrating a deep love for their students and their passion to make their classrooms conducive to learning. Teachers truly want what is BEST for each child in their classrooms.
As a teacher, one thinks about the overall well-being of each student: there are the encouraging remarks while students go through challenging assignments, the creation of flexible curriculum that goes with the whole group flow but also addresses individual needs, and the endless questioning of the effectiveness of the application of tested and current pedagogy to the development of the students in the class. But it doesn’t stop there. There are also gentle nudges to finish their snack and stay hydrated while having an internal battle over keeping the students inside the air conditioned classroom during a California heat wave (in the middle of January), but also remembering that the class has been cooped up in the classroom the last three days due to the elusive California storms.
Parents are invested in their child’s best interest starting in utero. Soon to be parents will change diets, move to a better school district, listen to classical music, attend birthing classes, and the list goes on even before their child is born! They read all the books, make their own baby foods, and do everything in their power to make their children’s lives the best it can be. When it comes time for school, parents research options, tour schools, weigh out public vs. private schools, attend admissions or welcoming events, and then make the best decision they see fit for their child. Parents around the world want what is BEST for their children.
There are many factors that need to be considered to build a positive partnership. The most important thing is to focus on what is BEST for the child and to always be child-centered. The best part of this idea is that both parties want the best for the child already. If both parties want what is best for the child, we would suppose that the parent-teacher relationship would always be a strong partnership. After all, they are both on the same side and have the same interest. However, like any relationship sometimes the parent-teacher relationship is not productive. Today we want to adress how parents and teachers form strong, balanced, child centered relationships.
1. Put the child first
Focus on what is going to help the child succeed long term. Not just a quick fix to make the child “happy.” Happiness is not something that can be created for them (All Joy and No Fun, J. Senior.) A child might need extra support, an evaluation, or help from an outside expert. Putting the child first means that we remove our egos and ideas of perfectionism, and get the child the help and support they need for the long term.
2. Keep the line of communication open
Reach out in a positive productive way. Don’t wait for challenges to escalate. Better to reach out early and often if you see a pattern. We recommend never emailing when you are angry. If something very serious has come up, best to set up an in person meeting. This will also give time and space to think about a productive way to approach the situation. Teachers should also pick up the phone and have a conversation with parents. It’s often better to have a conversation about difficult topics than it is to read it over an email.
3. Mutual respect
Approach challenges from the lense of being a productive problem solver and wanting to understand a situation rather than accusing and blaming. Assume the teacher or parent has good intentions. We love the saying, “I’ll believe 50% of what your child says about you, if you believe 50% of what your child says about me.” Remember the source, children are extremely clever. As much as we love our children and students, they know how to play the game. OR depending on their age, they might not always remember things correctly or be able to accurately assess all the facts.
4. Take responsibility when you make a mistake
Parenting and teaching are both incredibly hard jobs. It’s okay to make mistakes. Mistakes make us human and help us grow. Let’s model for our children so they can learn how to overcome, learn, and forgive mistakes. Remember that little ears are always listening. Even if you don’t agree with a teacher or a parent, try to stay positive in front of the children.
Oftentimes, teaching is not a one-person job. It really “takes a village” to raise balanced children. If something is working at home with your child let the teacher know, so that they can implement the vocabulary or strategy in the class. Teachers should also let parents know what they are working on in the classroom, so that parents can use the same or similar strategies at home. Consistency and collaboration are the keys.
6. Be a united front
The best thing for a child is knowing that their teacher and their parents talk and that they are on the same team. We love the moment when a child realizes you know about their home life. They ask, “How do you know that?” And we respond “Yes, I talk with your parents!”
At the end of the day, raising these little people is the most wonderful and funnest part of our lives, both as parents and as teachers. Enjoy the silly giggles, jokes, funny drawings, messes, and playtimes with the children because they grow up really quickly, and what seems so incredibly important today, is not what you are going to remember. It’s going to be the laughs you had with your child and the village that helped you raise them.
Throughout our careers, we have all had parent-teacher relationships that have been productive and positive, and others that, put quite simply, have not. There is no perfect equation that will work for every situation but we have found that in general, these tips will help make for a more positive partnership.
We would love to hear your thoughts! What are some things that have worked for you?
Hello! We are Stephanie and Jennifer and we dream of helping parents and teachers raise children in the 21st century
We are teachers who dream of making a difference. We are educators who dream of children reaching their fullest potential. We are leaders in the field of education who dream of a world where teachers are supported. We are lifelong learners who dream of better and easily accessible information for parents. We are for balanced and fun classrooms full of engaged learning. We are friends who support and love each other in and out of the classroom.
Together we have over 20 years experience in education, and we have taught over 1000 children. Throughout our careers we have observed many different patterns and behaviors with our students and their parents. However, one thing has stayed the constant. Balanced children have balanced parents.
Partnering as advocates for our children is an integral part of their growth. We are united by our main focus: to raise children who are resilient, well-rounded, empathetic, and ready to make meaningful contributions to our world.
Our goal in starting this blog is to create a space where we can write about meaningful topics and to share resources to help parents and teachers. In partnership with our readers, we sincerely hope to have a positive influence on the paradigm of teaching and parenting in the 21st century.