Archive | August, 2013

Back to School Night and Home-School Partnerships

28 Aug

We had our back to school night last night, and I always appreciate how many parents show up to sit in 4th grade sized chairs, in 80 degree heat, and listen me talk for an hour.  I tell the class this is parental homework, a way for them to experience and empathize with what the kids go through everyday.  It’s mostly a joke, but I do think BTSN is something most parents think is important, but few probably enjoy.

A few years ago I started to tweak back to school night a little, as I began to think about the purpose.  Early on, I had spent time talking about a lot of the technicalities of the year, like what curriculum program we used in math.  Some parents are interested, but for most, BTSN is a way to get a handle on what their child’s teacher is like, what the expectations are of the year, and how they can help at home.

The last is a big one.  Since we want to promote a parent-school partnership, BTSN seems like a golden opportunity to discuss ways parents can support their children to succeed.  For example, in reading, this slide piggy-backs on the information about the reading rate of proficient readers that I share with parents.

Screen Shot 2013-08-28 at 6.36.23 AM

One important idea is for parents to use the information from BTSN to support and encourage students.  We’d love them to monitor their child’s reading log, for example, but we want the log to be a tool to start a conversation about his or her reading life, not to punish or control.

Similar tidbits appear in the BTSN packet about writing and math:

Screen Shot 2013-08-28 at 6.43.34 AM Screen Shot 2013-08-28 at 6.43.40 AM

The tips are small, but they help to guide families in how to support children, and they’ll feed into our goal setting conferences later in the year.  What kinds of things do you do to support your families and draw them in during BTSN?

School’s Starting…Come on and Get Happy :)

14 Aug

Kids come in 5 days, but we officially started professional development today in my district, and most teachers I know have been in their classroom yesterday or last week (or never left.)  That’s not to count the scores of “had the worst back-to-school-nightmare-yet!” popping up on facebook from all of my teacher friends.

The beginning of the year brings equal parts hopeful anticipation and doom and gloom.  We’re so excited to see our kids and reconnect with colleagues…and we’re so bummed to have to be setting the alarm and thinking about our homework policies.

What’s a teacher to do?  We could stand around and do the B-word all day (bemoan, according to a 5th grade teaching colleague.  They’re always using such great vocabulary words in 5th grade).  Or we could try to proactively add a little positivity into our lives.

This article, titled 10 Simple Things You Can Do Today That Will Make You Happier, Back by Science popped up on my facebook feed today.  I recognize many of the suggestions from other happiness research (exercise, sleep more, etc) one of them stood out to me.

Number 4 is about spending more time with friends and family.  It goes on to say that the basis of what makes people happy is all about relationships, so if you think taking vacations makes you happy, what you might really mean is that spending time with friends and family or meeting new people makes you happy.  Or if a promotion makes you happy (in the long run) it’s probably because you like the people you work with.


Relationships have been getting a lot of press recently, from the importance in the student-teacher relationship, to their importance in spreading ideas, even to their role in staving off dementia.  If we want to work on strengthening one thing in our lives, our interactions with other people would be a good one to pick.


Teachers work on relationships with their students all the time, but relationships with each other can be just as important.  And not just for collaboration and improving our practice.  Good relationships with colleagues blunts some of the isolation inherent in teaching–it can actually make you happier.  And while I don’t have scientific evidence to back this up, a happier teacher must be a better teacher.

So go ahead and cluster in the hallway or pop by a friends room for a few minutes.  Those extra moments do lengthen our day, but small chats help change the school from just a job to a community.  And really, who else is going to appreciate your 150th story of what Timmy pulled off today quite like your teammates?


A world of film, a house of stuff.

Literacy Changes Everything!

Teaching and Parenting as a Dedicated Reader and Writer

To Make a Prairie

A blog about reading, writing, teaching and the joys of a literate life

sunday cummins

Experience Nonfiction

Shanahan on Literacy

Literacy in Education


A meeting place for a world of reflective writers.

The Quick and the Ed

Literacy in Education

Shanker Blog


Free Technology for Teachers

Literacy in Education


Smarter Charts from Marjorie Martinelli & Kristine Mraz

%d bloggers like this: