Posts Tagged ‘responsibility’

Another school year is beginning, for some it already has. I am in my 9th year of teaching, not counting two years of subbing, student teaching, and several years of teaching classes at The Henry Ford. It’s safe to say that I’ve been working with kids for a long time. There are some things I’ve learned along the way to help you and your kid have a successful school year. I’m not trying to be harsh, but I hate sugarcoating so here we go.

  1. Make reading a priority in your home. I have SO many kids who do not come from a reading background and it shows. Read to your kids when they’re small and continue it as they get older. Reading is so incredibly important in school, so put the electronics away and make them read. Start small and gradually increase the time they spend on a book, it doesn’t matter what the genre is an show them that you read, too. Your example is the most important thing.
  2. Help them improve their attention span. I have middle schoolers who can’t focus for more than a couple of minutes on a daily basis. Do they have ADHD? No, they’ve just never been taught to stick with something. Now, I do have kids with ADD and ADHD who legitimately have trouble focusing, but a lot of the kids I teach don’t have an attention span because they’ve never been taught to have a work ethic. Give them jobs at home that they have to complete until the end, until they get the job done. Life skill.
  3. Teach them to respect. We teachers can handle a lot of things. Your child is struggling in English, math, science, social studies? We can handle that, it’s our job. It’s what we do. But when we have kids who routinely curse us out, I’m talking daily, openly talk back in class for no reason, and shamelessly lie, it makes our job ridiculously difficult. If you allow your child to be disrespectful to you at home and or to other people, they will be disrespectful at school.  Please, please, please teach your child how to speak and act respectfully, not just to adults, but to everyone, including you. I don’t mean that you should teach them to be a submissive little mouse, but if I had a dollar for every time a child openly challenged me at school, I’d be a rich woman. Learning how to treat others and situations with respect is a HUGE life skill. Look, kids are going to test limits, we teachers know that, but when you don’t back us up or worse, you take your kid’s side when he or she has been an absolute brat, you are teaching them that it’s okay to abuse people. Chances are, by the time we call you, we’ve already tried a lot of strategies. I’ve actually had parents tell their children, right in front of me, that they believe their child over anything I had to say and that’s true for a lot of my colleagues, too. That only teaches your kids that they have the power to behave any way they want and won’t receive any consequences. The trouble with that is a boss or, God forbid, a judge won’t see it the same way. Actions have consequences, good and bad.
  4. Don’t blame the teacher for your child’s shortcomings. I had a kid one time, 5th grade, who did not turn in any homework. When his parents came in to see the principal and me about his Es, his father rifled through the mess under his desk, fished out a paper, shook it in the air and said, “All she had to do was look here!” No. One hundred million percent not okay. Students are responsible for turning in their own work. Period. Responsibility is a life skill; teach your kid to own their mistakes. Again, life skill.
  5. Let. Them. Fail. It’s not the end of the world if Junior forgets their homework or forgets to study for the test. It will be okay, they will learn. Stop saving them; it will help them stand on their own two feet. Don’t make excuses for them. I once had a dad who caved and did his 5th grader’s homework for him because he cried if he didn’t understand it. I asked him if he would be doing his child’s calculus in high school. On the other hand, do encourage them! Ask them about school, what projects they have, tests, grades. Ask them about their day. Do you have a kid who won’t talk about it? Email the teacher! We’ll be happy to fill you in.
  6. Don’t take a phone call from your gynecologist and have a conversation about vaginal suppositories during a Parent-Teacher Conference. Seriously. I cannot scrub that from my brain and it’s been about eight years. Just… no. Not kidding.

We know your kids aren’t perfect, mine definitely aren’t. Youngest and Middle Child had some “fun” school moments last year, oy, but we learned from it. In my case, I need to check ParentConnect more often. Teachers don’t expect kids to be little angels, but for a child to have a successful year, we need the cooperation and help from you, the parents. It’s a partnership.

It’s more important than you’ll ever know.

Have a great school year!


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Youngest Child wants a phone. Badly. How do I know that? He wrote a 12-page manifesto on Post-It notes a few weeks back, explaining all of the reasons why he should be allowed to have one. Some of the reasons were quite good, such as he wants to be able to contact us in an emergency. I get that. He also doesn’t want to look uncool in front of his friends, which kind of makes me mad at parents who buy expensive cell phones for 7th graders. What 12-year-old needs an iPhone, really? It’s like those parents whose Tooth Fairy gives out $20.00 or more for a tooth. Seriously? Topic for another blog.

I’ve been a kid, I understand the desire to fit in with your friends, but I’m not sure if I want to go down this road this early. When he first approached us, Marty Man and I gave him the same answer we gave his brothers: he can have a phone when he has a job and a girlfriend. (The girlfriend was Marty Man’s idea. His reasoning is why else would you need a phone?) We think that our kids shouldn’t have everything handed to them. If they want something as expensive as a cell phone, they’re going to have to pay for it and the bill. I know so many kids who are extremely privileged, have no chores, and are routinely handed expensive things just as a way of life. They have no concept of a work ethic or what it takes to actually earn something and I don’t want our kids turning out that way. I don’t want anything just handed to them, or to still be supporting them when they’re thirty. They’ve always had chores and allowance as soon as they were old enough. When the older two got their jobs, they bought their own phones and refill their accounts every month, the same as Marty Man and I do. They are responsible for keeping them up and both have done a fabulous job. Youngest Child can’t get a job yet, but he has been saving his allowance and birthday money, a remarkable accomplishment for him. Money usually burns a hole in his pocket, the closet full of Legos and Pokémon cards attest to that, but since he’s had this phone idea in his head, he has barely spent a dime, which is a good thing.

Impressed with his self-control, I began looking around online for phones, with no promises to him, and that’s where I hit a sticky point. I wanted one that could be programmed with certain numbers that he could call and receive, but no data. No twelve-year-old needs to have unsupervised access to the internet. Have you seen the internet? One wrong search word and there are things that one can never unsee, and therein lies my problem. I cannot find a phone plan that does not include access to wifi. Marty Man and I don’t have data, we’re not huge phone people, although I have gotten rather used to using my phone for pictures and for checking in on Facebook and mail. Before our smartphones, we had the same prehistoric cell phone for almost ten years. We also don’t buy new cars, preferring to run ours into the ground and to keep home appliances going for as long as we possibly can. (I admittedly cave before he does, though. Current case in point, our stupid upstairs toilet that is CLEARLY on its last legs, but Marty Man keeps making adjustments to it. I keep threatening to just go to Lowe’s and buy a new one,) Anyway, the point is that if Youngest Child is to have a phone at twelve, it would be to call and/or text us and other numbers we approve, not to surf the internet.

This is new parenting territory. Most people reading this will have grown up the same way Marty Man and I did: there were no cell phones. If you were a teenager in any decade earlier than the 2000s, you probably contacted your parents on a payphone. There are still payphones around, but they are few and far between. I remember trying to find the right change to call home, $ 0.20 when I was in high school and I was mad when it jumped to $0.25 when I was in college. I have no idea how much it costs these days. Anyway, we didn’t have direct access to our parents anytime we needed it. They didn’t have cell phones, either, and yet, somehow, we survived. I know it’s a different world today, as Youngest Child’s manifesto reminds me, but is this just another way of helicopter parenting? I must admit, it makes me feel better to know that my older boys have a way to contact me immediately if something happens, but on the other hand, I want them to be able to solve their own problems. I had to, and I learned. I worry that if I give Youngest Child his own phone, he will rely on calling us too much for small things and expecting us to rescue him. that he won’t develop a good sense of self-preservation. (Mine was honed to perfection by Ericka Osen and Rob Martin. Ask them sometime.) Today’s kids are in no more danger than we were. Violent crime, with the exception of school shootings, is actually much less than when we were in school. The dangers that today’s kids face are much less than when their parents were growing up. Mainly it’s a matter of convenience. I want my children to have a sense of self-reliance.

At this point, I am still undecided, torn, actually. Youngest Child has shown some maturity in this decision and I want to encourage that, but I don’t want to give too much. And if anyone out there knows of a cell phone plan that does not include data, could you pass that on, please? In the meantime, I’ll keep looking.

A presto…

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Miley Cyrus is all over the news this week, poor girl. I’m not a celebrity follower, but I teach young girls; some of them are fans of hers. That’s probably why watching her implode on a public stage has really been on my mind lately.

I was never much of a Miley Cyrus fan. It wasn’t that I hated her show, Hannah Montana, but I have three boys and we were knee-deep in Star Wars and the Wiggles when it was popular. Hannah Montana was barely on our radar. My niece watched the show and loved it, but other than buying her a blonde wig for Christmas, I really didn’t follow it. I knew who Miley’s dad was. Billy Ray Cyrus was hugely popular when I was in high school. Our family went to Tennessee the summer that “Achy Breaky Heart” was at its peak. Every pick-up truck with a dog in the back was blaring it down the crowded streets of Pigeon Forge. Not my style, but you would have had to have been dead to not know who he was. When his daughter burst in on the Disney scene, she was all over the news. The media all talked about what a well-adjusted girl she was and how great of a role model she was to the tween set and younger who watched her show. Then something happened.

I didn’t watch the VMAs the other night. I haven’t ever. MTV turns me off with its shock-culture and low-grade shows that do nothing except show younger people how to behave badly. I don’t allow the boys to watch it, either. I’m under no illusions that they could probably see it somewhere else, but it’s not a part of our family. Garbage in, garbage out, right? Anyway, I didn’t even know they had been on until the next morning when Facebook erupted with Miley Cyrus postings. I watched it online then and no matter how much I try, I won’t be able to un-see that.

Now, even before the fiasco of the other night, Miley had been in the news for some other Lindsay Lohan-esque behavior: proudly twerking on camera (basically shaking one’s hindquarters/cellulite in the faces of others. Ew.), radically changing her look, and praising the drug “Molly”, a type of ecstasy that is popular in concert venues. Even I, someone who doesn’t follow tabloids, was a bit shocked by how quickly she was trying to shed her good-girl image. It’s not as if others haven’t struggled with that transition before. Going from a teen star to hopefully being taken seriously has derailed a lot of Hollywood’s babies on a path of self-destruction. All of the kids from Diff’rent Strokes, some of the Brady Bunch crew, Britney Spears, and, of course, the aforementioned Lindsay Lohan, have made some bad choices about how to be seen as valid once they’ve turned 18. Others have done well, but it seems as if the majority have a tendency to self-destruct.

Now, I don’t know any of these people personally. Probably no one reading this blog does, but this I do know. I don’t have daughters, but I have beautiful, wonderful nieces and cousins. The oldest of them is going to be eleven pretty soon and heading for that age where choices about being a girl become more difficult. Boys have difficult choices, too, but since I was a teenage girl many years ago, I know a bit more about that. Girls walk a tricky line between wanting to be admired by boys (or other girls) and being independent. It makes it really difficult when celebrity women have so little respect for themselves that they are masturbating with foam fingers in front of both a live and a television audience. That’s NOT what our young, impressionable girls need to be seeing! Hell, I don’t want to see it! That kind of thing goes back to Madonna, but it doesn’t make it right.

I’ve seen the rebuttal that her performance was “art”. Bull. One hundred percent bull. Art is not cheap. Art does not degrade oneself or others. On the Today Show, I watched Robin Thicke’s wife call his uncensored video for his song “Blurred Lines” “art”. I’m not a prude, but having beautiful naked women dancing around and hang all over you while you sing about them “wanting it” not only disgusts me, it creeps me out. Isn’t that what a lot of rapists and abusers say? “She wanted it”?  It’s not art; it’s the same thing that it’s always been: the old boys’ club that exploits women.

If I ever saw one of my beautiful nieces or students doing what Miley Cyrus did the other night, my heart would break, not that I’m worried about that happening. Their parents would kill them if it did and they’re not being raised like that anyway. But it does make me wonder. What part of her upbringing makes that behavior okay? Why did dancing like that ever seem like a good idea? Why does she feel the need to leave nothing to the imagination? It makes me very sad for her. It really does. I feel like she was failed by people in her life and, as a result, these are the kinds of choices that she makes. I see those same choices in some of the girls at the high school and even the middle school. They’re allowed to leave the house wearing booty shorts and sheer tops with lacy bras showing through. These are 12- and 13-year-old girls. Why don’t their parents say, “NO!”? That’s something I don’t understand. Parents are afraid to tell their children, especially teenage children, no and it shows. Not all of them turn out to  be hot messes, but why risk that? I want my kids to be aware that their actions have consequences, that how they portray themselves creates their reputation, boys or girls. I want my boys to not take women for granted, to respect them and to be respected in turn. It’s kind of hard to respect someone who calls herself an adult yet runs around like she’s high with giant teddy bears, stroking a married man between his legs with a foam finger. You might be able to see the same thing in the clubs down on Michigan Avenue.

I really don’t even know where I was going with this, just that I was really  upset about seeing that whole thing. I wish the best for young Miley and for the girls who are now confused about what happened to her. I pray for the parents who have to find some way to explain this to their kids, including me, and that Miley somehow understands that what she’s done didn’t help her career any. The End.

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