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Monday, September 06, 2010

Odds and Ends

I was reading the Washington Post Answer sheet (about education) and the question was ask, "What's the number one thing parents can do to help teachers?" The answer was, in an admittedly small survey, make sure your child gets adequate sleep. I was a little surprised, not because it isn't important, but that it would be the main thing that teachers thought of as an answer. Teachers, what do you think?

On the subject of parenting, I read this article in the September O Magazine with suggestions from a teenager about how to talk to teens. It's useful info but with some cavets:
  • "When I talk, please turn off the tv, phone, computer - it's frustrating to have to compete for your attention."
  • "Bring up dicey subjects in a natural way; don't interrupt breakfast to ask if I'm taking drugs."
  • "Because I said so' isn't helpful; if I don't know why I shouldn't do it. I'll probably do it again."
  • "Yes, teenagers are reckless but that doesn't mean I am. You've known me forever - trust that you still do."
On the first point, I've seen several news articles about this issue of parents paying attention to their kids. There are worries that moms/dads pushing strollers and talking on the cell phone or texting are not interacting with their babies and toddlers as they should. (There was a very funny post at the Stranger Slog about a guy walking towards a mom and her young daughter. Mom's busy on the phone and the child spots a $5 bill on the ground and tries to get mom's attention. She can't so the guy takes it and the child watches him the whole time. Is he a bad person or should the mom have been listening to her child?)

On the second point, bringing up delicate subjects, I would add to not do it as they are walking out the door either. I find that if you are doing something together - taking a walk, cleaning out the car - it makes it easier to talk. (Of course, if you are talking delicate subjects, be prepared with the answer to "Did you do X when you were a teenager?")

On the third point, well, most parents don't start off with "because I said so". That usually comes at the end of a long discussion and you get so annoyed you pull rank. (Enough with the discussing, just please don't do it.) Sometimes it helps to say why they should do something, followed by possible bad outcomes that you may or may not save them from.

Yes, teenagers can be reckless and you may think you have the one exception at home...and then you don't. It's is their job to push boundaries and explore and be able to run home and be safe. I think with teenagers it's the old Reagan "trust but verify". If something strikes you as wrong, it probably is. Again, what are the outcomes to this behavior and what will be your reaction to that behavior? If they know that upfront, it might change what they do.

One last thing was from the Seattle Public Library newsletter where they note that the Friends of the Library gave $8,000 work of books free to Seattle public school teachers in the last two SPL book sales. The Friends applied for a grant for $2K that later got increased to $6k. This was for teachers at schools serving a majority of F/RL students. Teachers picked books at the book sales up to 100 on the Saturday or 200 on the Sunday. Sixty SPS teachers participated.

The Friends of the Library plan to continue the Books for Teachers. Thank you Friends for being a friend to our SPS teachers.

33 comments:

karyn king said...

"The answer was, in an admittedly small survey, make sure your child gets adequate sleep."
I think it depends on the age of the student. For primary grades, sleep is probably a good answer. But in intermediate and secondary, I think it is just, if not more, important to set the space, time and expectation for homework. I am constantly amazed how many of my friends schedule so many extra curricular things that their kids get home at 9 or 10 to start their homework.
We ask to see their work and/or ask what they did, what was difficult, etc. This sends the message that the work is important and shows that you care and are available to help, if needed.

seattle citizen said...

I agree with Karyn about space, and would add that it, and sleep, and discussion about work, are part of a larger overall picture: parent/guardians setting parameters around, and supporting, a life of balance between "work" and "play," and being actively involved in discussion about both.

My "most important thing" parents could do to support teachers is to spend time, a LOT of time, with their student/children discussing things. Model rational thinking and argument, model inquiry into ideas and questions, model listening to a variety of viewpoints and articulating responses to them.

Yes, sleep = good, depending on age, etc. Yes, a balanced and healthy schedule = good, but academically, students need to be involved outside of school with deep and intricate discussions about various things in order to form the neural networks necessary for doing this in school and in "college and work."

People go through phases of brain development, building these neural networks and then sloughing off the pieces of the network that aren't being used. We can build inquiry into children, only to have those pathes of inquiry in the brain be lost through disuse. Parent/guardians could help teachers by learning about brain development and actively engaging the parts (and pathways) of the brain that will be a) useful to the student, and b) wonderous and beautiful.

Talking on the cell phone whilst perambulating with your toddler is not such a technique. Nor is allowing your student to "plug in" to the various pre-manufactured networks available at any and all hours of the day. These preformed "networks" (google; facebook; games et al) supply ready-made connectivity without developing the neural pathways so critical to academic success and understanding of the world.

WV would, tho', tell students that 2:00am is pasturr bedtime!

LouiseM said...
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Unknown said...

I think the question is oddly phrased, if the answer is "make sure your child gets adequate sleep." The question should be, "what's the number one thing parents can do to help their children succeed in school?" The teacher and the child are not one fused object. Would you say, "The best way to help your doctor is to eat healthy food?" Strange.

Anyway, I agree with karyn that one of the most important things you can do to help your child succeed in school is to establish the homework habit (in elementary school) by providing a regular time and place to do homework. And be there to help them through it without tears or tension. Do whatever you have to do to make it enjoyable. Your attitude will mean a lot. And if they say they have no homework, use that time to play games: Scrabble, Monopoly, card games, pretty much anything that gets the brain working.

If they're in the habit of doing homework in this way, they'll be way ahead of the curve in middle and high school.

Maureen said...

I wonder if we blog types might tend to undervalue the importance of sleep even in younger kids. I remember helping a third grader to do his math homework (during recess since he didn't do it at home), and he literally couldn't keep his eyes open. I asked him about it and he told me he often stayed up most of the night playing video games with his brothers.


Sadly, the number one thing teachers might need us parents to do is just parent.

Bird said...

I'm not surprised "make sure they get sleep" is the top answer for this question.

If you think of the question more as "what is the biggest barrier to a kid learning in your class?" then falling asleep in class would certainly be very high on the list. I suppose not showing up would be worse, but I suppose when kids start failing to show up the problem quickly becomes something outside of the domain of the individual classroom teacher.

Maybe your kids and the other kids at their school don't have problems with falling asleep in class, but I remember it as quite a notable problem back when I was a high schooler (admittedly a long time ago in a not at all affluent school).

Kids would go from decent students to classroom nappers quite quickly, usually as a result of some new low wage job they had taken on. All of this was very sad to watch I remember.

curious said...

I have to say that I help out quite often in my son's classroom and I am pretty shocked at how sleepy some of his classmates are. These are kids who are eating organic food, getting no screen time, etc. but they apparently have no bedtime. One of them told me his bedtime was ten. Second grade!!

ttln said...

OMG. Please read to your kids from early ages on. It's never too late to start... The active reading skills I have to teach are those parents could be doing while reading to their kids- There are direct correlations to reading homelife and academic success.

Oh, ya, don't text them during class/school day or have an expectation that they reply during that time. Call the office- I know it's old school, but it supports our policies on electronics. Kids w/phones in class use them for various purposes, very few, if any, have to do with academics.- barring cheating, I guess that relates in a way...

Sahila said...

We turn up late at school every day because I will not wake my child... kids sleep because they are tired... what use is a sleepy grumpy child in class?

Thankfully his pediatrician agrees with me and we have a medical certificate that gives us a 9.30am start time...

the administrators at school hate it, but his teacher last year and this year have been fine with it...

Jennifer said...

Sahlia,
Can't you just put your son to bed earlier and not be disruptive to the entire class? There are of course exceptions for medical reasons, but that seems like entitlement that ends up effecting a class full of children and an caring teacher. I am an adult who does need more sleep then most and despite a long work day I go to bed at between 7-8 pm on weekdays. I don't ask my school to start later to accommodate. A parent can say that the late night soccer game is important enough for their child to play and entitle them to be allowed to attend school late, the same could be said for a favorite old movie that keeps a 6 year old up until 11 on a school night. Where do we draw the line?

Sahila said...

Its nothing to do with my child's bedtime AbbyG - he goes to bed at a reasonable hour... he just needs sleep...

Jennifer said...

But if he needs sleep cant he just go to bed earlier? not picking a fight just trying to understand.

seattle said...
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seattle said...

" One of them told me his bedtime was ten. Second grade!! "

My kids went to bed at 8P when they were that young, but really with most neighborhood elementary schools starting at 9:25, if a child went to bed at 10P and woke at 8A, that's 10 hours of sleep. The recommended amount of sleep for children age 7-12 is 10-11 hours, so they would be in the average/normal range.

From age 12-18 (6th and up) the recommended amount of sleep drops to 8-9 hours per night. With school starting at 8A for most middle and high school students, even if they went to bed at 11PM and woke at 7A, they would get their 8 hours in.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Rabbit, if you could get teens in bed and asleep by 11, it would be a minor miracle. They are not wired to fall asleep like they used to. My son used to toss and turn if he tried going to sleep then. You'd have to live pretty close to a high school to get up, shower, eat, collect items and get to school by 8 if you got up at 7.

hschinske said...

I don't think 11 PM is such an odd bedtime for a teen (certainly not a young teen). When I was in high school I had the luxury of a relatively late starting time by today's standards (caught a bus at something like 8:05 or 8:15), and I still got to bed by 11 most nights (actually went to bed at 10 or 10:30 and read for a while).

Helen Schinske

Sahila said...
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Sahila said...
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Sahila said...

abbyG - lots of things going on here...

1: he's 7, goes to bed by 8pm... still doesnt wake most days until 7.45ish, sometimes 8.30am... rare occasions, wakes around 6.30...

2: he had sleep apnoeia for much of his life and so (still) has a sleep deficit to make up

3: his elder half sister (now 30) cant go to bed later than 10pm cos she needs 9-10 hours sleep per night - otherwise she's wreck

4: I choose to live life according to my own rhythm, not adjust my biorhythms to suit the 'system' - worked crazy hours that had me up at 3.30am for a 4am start as a radio news editor/reader for years, or on a split shift that started at 4am - 9.30am and then back at 4pm finishing at 2am...

I'd find myself having arrived home and not remembering how I got there...

the human brain and body are not wired to operate under these conditions - we collectively are stupid to agree to these conditions (just as we collectively are stupid to try to go to work in snow or gale force winds for example - nature is saying its time for humans to seek shelter at those times, not be out and about - and the world wont stop spinning on its axis, nor will the sky fall if we dont go to work for a couple of days, or a couple of weeks or however long it takes...

and teenagers are not wired to got to sleep early and wake early ready to learn - posted a link to that the other day. So why are we stupidly expecting them to show up at school at 7 or 8am and to work and learn? We're setting most of them up for failure at the worst, and huge stress and pressure at the least - its cruel...

I wont aid and abet a dysfunctional system that treats human beings as machines, tied to an artificial, clock, that doesnt recognise individuality but forces unique beings to conform for the sake of efficiency and cost savings...

And I wont force my son into the required mould just to fit in with an arbitrary factory sense of time...

Education is not life in a factory, clocking in and clocking out and being penalised for being sick or late or absent because there are more important things, other opportunities, happening in our lives sometimes...

the system should be infinitely adjustable to suit us, not we being infinitely adjustable to suit the system...

rules are for fools, guidelines are for the wise...

Sahila said...
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seattle said...

Melissa I have a 16 YO who rarely stays up past 11PM, even during the summer. We don't enforce a "bed time" but we do have a rule in our family that all electronics need to be off by 9PM - that may help??

seattle said...

Whenever I think about asking that an exception be made for myself or one of my children, I think about what it would be like if everyone asked for the same entitlement or liberty.

As much as I'd love to let my little honey sleep in until 830A or 9A when I think about the impact that would have on the classroom and teacher I wouldn't do it. I think about what it would look like if everyone brought their child to school at whatever time they woke up. There would be kids wandering into the classroom at all hours of the morning, and I doubt a teacher could offer a morning lesson as he/she wouldn't know who would be there. It seems that would be extremely chaotic and disruptive.

Jennifer said...

Rabbit: I think I agree with you. While I hear Sahila's point and like I said I go to bed between 7-8 on weeknights, I do worry what "rules are for fools, guidelines are for the wise..." means to society as a whole. There are many rules that need to be broken, but one of the guidelines I feel strongly about is teaching kids to not only advocate for themselves but also realize how one’s own actions affect others. People do what they needs too, Sahila's family chooses to not attend school until later in the morning, but think about/acknowledge that it does affect others.

Anonymous said...

If I could not get my child to school when school started and felt that "I wont aid and abet a dysfunctional system that treats human beings as machines," and that "rules are for fools", etc. I don't believe I'd be a part of said system, I'd be homeschooling. That way I could do whatever I like with my kid and his upbringing to beleive that no one needs concern themselves with his impact on others' trying to learn (or work, apparently).

Honestly, I don't get why someone who hates "the system" and feels no need to teach her child to consider others, and feels the same herself (why bother showing up for work on time or at all?) even tries to be IN greater society. Surely there are other options.

Jan said...

Agibean: I don't know how I would feel about this if I were Sahila's child's teacher -- but I am not, so I will defend Sahila at least a little here.
This obviously bothers you a lot, but I think you overreach when you say that Sahila "feels no need to teach her child to consider others, and feels the same herself (why bother showing up for work on time or at all"
For all we know, she spends a great deal of time teaching her child empathy and consideration for feelings in many other contexts. On this one issue (and maybe there are others, but this is the one under discussion), she has sort of taken a "civil disobedience" stance, based on the principle that public schools (which are a monopoly, but are also a public right available to all children, including hers) need to be more customer centered, and less about doing what is most convenient, and cheapest, for the adults who run them. I don't see her saying that she has no respect for time and doesn't bother going to work on time. I think that, whether we agree with her emphasis on this or not, she feels very strongly about the deleterious effects of trying to force children to learn on too little sleep, or before their body clocks allow them to function well. This is not really a big issue with me (though maybe it should be -- I don't think I give sleep its proper due in either my or my children's lives, but I am trying to do better), but it IS a big deal for Sahila. We have how many elementary schools -- and yet not ONE can accommodate a child like Sahila's, who needs to start at 9:30? Not one? Not a single alt or other elementary school that structures its mornings so that children can arrive at 9:30, or at varying times as late as 9:30, and still have a reasonable learning experience?

Anonymous said...

Jan,

I was not the only poster who thought it was inconsiderate of Sahila (or any parent) to ignore the needs of the group. It doesn't BOTHER me-I don't have a kid in her class. But she's pointed out many times that she doesn't think she needs, or her kid needs, to follow the rules-and it doesn't seem to matter that other kids are affected.

Shrug-I DID homeschool my older kids when I lived some place that didn't offer all they needed in a school. I DID walk the walk rather than just bitch and complain about how everything available was just not good enough.

But I never toook it to the level of saying "rules are for fools". Most people in the real world have to punch clocks and work well with others. Even in my homeschool we followed rules and had the occassional deadline...

seattle said...
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seattle said...

In reference to school start times Jan said "need to be more customer centered, and less about doing what is most convenient, and cheapest, for the adults who run them."

There is no one start time that would make everyone happy. If school started at 10A, Sahila would be ecstatic, but working parents would be outraged that their children would have no supervision in the early AM, and parents of children who play after school sports wouldn't be happy either with sunset happening at 430P in the winter.

The NSAP brought less choice and a return to neighborhood schools. It seems reasonable to me that start times should be moderate (not to early or to late). Currently our elementary schools start at 925A which seems reasonable to me.

That said, it's a shame that some of our alts couldn't have different (later, earler, or staggered) start times than the neighborhood schools do. That might work for those whose kids can't seem to adjust, or whose families have unique work schedules.

Sahila said...

Rabbit - sudbury and summerhill schools do exactly that, and kids thrive and learn in the "chaos"...

http://www.sudval.com/01_abou_02.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sudbury_school

http://www.summerhillschool.co.uk/pages/index.html

and thank you Jan for the support...

One of the reasons why I take the stand I do, is because it grieves me to see how we basically imprison our children in our schools, force them to adjust to a very rigid structure that is completely opposed and oppositional to their natural state and we do this to 'socialise', 'civilise', 'educate' them... when we are basically killing the magic in them, and that killing of the magic creates the dysfunction we all experience as adults...

"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free." -- Goethe

we enslave our children....

So what I do to 'buck' the system and insist that my child be treated as a unique individual with unique needs that must be honoured (as I would fight for every other child to be so treated) is to fight the enslavement and to encourage other parents to do the same...

Our kids will grow up to be happy and 'successful' even if you make a pain in the arse of yourself fighting the 'system' every step of the way... in fact, they will grow up happier and healthier if you do that, than if you dont...

And I think that I am doing more to make my child aware and considerate of the needs of others in this, than if I would simply 'conform'... at least he is learning that everyone is different and that our differences ought to be validated and accepted and celebrated rather than labelled and punished...

A system only exists if enough people enable it to exist... it is in fact infinitely malleable but people seem to think its something permanent, living they ought to bow down to, rather than having it be our servant, meeting our needs rather than we meeting its dictates...

contrary to what some would wish, we are not machines, born to live a factory life, and anything I can do to undermine that perception/manipulation, I will...

Sahila said...

Rules are for fools and guidelines are for the wise is not a statement of arrogance.

Rather, it relates to the ridiculousness of the idea that any situation is black and white, and that there is any common sense in even having rules - there will always be differences in situations which create exceptions to the rule...

Life is not about black and white - its infinite shades of grey...

should I stop at a red light if I have a passenger in the car having a heart attack?

thou shalt not kill - but in many states, we reserve the right to kill you and we also as a country reserve the right to send you overseas with guns and instructions to kill other people, people who you have never met, dont know their names and often dont know if they did anything against you or your own people to justify killing them...

thou shalt not steal - even if thy family is starving ...

thou shalt work for thy daily bread - even if the work you do doesnt pay enough money to feed and house your family

thou shalt do well at school and go on to university, taking out huge loans to pay for the tuition and your living expenses, even if that ties you to the wheel of debt for the rest of your life, you cant find a job in your field of expertise and you are reduced to working for your daily bread at two or more jobs that dont pay enough to feed and house your family...

rules are for fools (cos they're often made to keep us subservient to the system) and guidelines are for the wise...

I have a fridge magnet that shows a child with his hands over his ears, not listening to an adult towering over him...

the magnet says:

"Think for yourself, while its still not illegal"

Sahila said...

OOPs = wrote a post for Rabbit, with links to the Sudbury and Summerhill school models, which show kids happy and learning in what she calls "chaos"...

http://www.summerhillschool.co.uk/pages/index.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sudbury_school

http://www.sudval.org/ ...

and if I feel this strongly, why dont I put my child in private school or homeschool him? Because I think this is what all kids need and public education should be like this...

thanks Jan for the support - the post also detailed why I do what I do - cant recreate cos I have to be somewhere else, but it was about honouring individuality, about not letting the system treat us all as numbers, machines, about enslaving children and killing the magic in them...

about showing caring and concern for others by honouring their indivduality and unique needs...

about fighting for my own child's needs as I would fight for other childrens' needs...

about showing other parents that kids will be fine, even if you make yourself a pain in the arse every day of their school life, making sure they're being treated as human beings and that they can have a happy and 'successful' life without needing to conform to the demands of a system that is after all, not a living thing, is infinitely malleable IF people remember that it only exists because WE enable its existence...

I think I am showing my child, other children and other parents that you do not have to be an acquiescent, co-operative cog in the machine when the machine really doesnt care about you and your welfare....

As You Think, So It Is...Your Beliefs Shape Your Reality
If your reality isn't working for you, create a new one!

Sahila said...

posts keep disappearing...

I've written the same post twice now, for Rabbit, giving links to the sudbury and summerhill school models and some other remarks relating to consideration, unique individuals, schools=enslavement, killing the magic in kids...

but they've disappeared after a minute or so on the blog and i wont try again...

If this makes it there, I hope people go check out these other types of schools - there is no reason we cant have them in the public education system (AS#! was modelled on Summerhill in its heyday) and they work wonderfully ....

Sahila said...

http://dailycensored.com/2010/09/07/critical-thinking-what-the-ruling-class-fears-most-3/