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Parents as Involved Partners

November 11, 2013

By Dr. Bruce Marchiafava

Parents as Involved Partners

Parent involvement is an essential element in a contemporary, up-to-date school today. In all kinds of schools, from public to private and in between, principals, teachers and administrators devote much time and energy to involving parents in their children’s schools. Parents are recruited to help in classrooms, to lend a hand in the front office, to organize fundraisers, and to chaperone field trips and prom dances. Some parents serve on school committees and on the PTA.

These parents are clearly involved. The problem is that they are involved in helping the school but not their own children. A recent book by journalist Amanda Ripley, The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way, looks at the implications of this kind of parent involvement. She spent a year studying schooling in several countries and found that the results of a 2009 study in 13 countries were true: the children of parents who volunteered in their school performed worse in reading than children whose parents did not.

The explanation is fairly simple: most parents today have limited free time. The hours parents devote to helping the school operate could be better spent helping their children at home.

Dr. Herbert J. Walberg has calculated that from birth to age 19, the average child spends 8 percent of his or her time in school and 92 percent at home. Whether we choose to or not, our children will learn from us. This learning begins at birth and continues right up to kindergarten. During these years children acquire an amazing amount of knowledge. They learn to walk, run, and play games and sports. They acquire a language (sometimes two), they learn to read, and they develop social skills. They explore their world, starting with what they see in their cribs and continuing through their home and neighborhood. 

This is quite a curriculum. It can be very challenging for many parents. Unfortunately, most schools don’t become involved with these children until they are officially enrolled in school. So parents need to seek help in being the first teachers from social agencies, formal and informal groups of parents, family members and whatever help books and videos they can find.

Once the child enters school, the parent is largely relieved of the responsibility for formal education; the professional teachers take over. The parent’s role shifts to two major responsibilities: supporting the child in learning what is taught at school and advocating for the child with the school.

Supporting learning at home involves such activities as:

Readiness
Insuring good health, seeing that the child eats properly and sleeps enough, making sure the backpack has the required books, pencils, assignments due, etc.

An Environment for Learning
This environment can be a room or a desk in a corner or the kitchen table. It must be free from TV, music, phones, and other distractions. Multitasking rarely works for studying.

Homework
Parents should guide and supervise a child’s homework but not do it. Know the assignment and the due date and check to see what grade the teacher gives.

Communicate
Speak with the teacher on a regular basis, not just when there’s a problem. Advocating for one’s child may require intervening when grades are suffering or if a behavior problem has occurred. This doesn’t mean a confrontation with the teacher or the principal. Most issues can be resolved if the parent and the teacher or principal work together.

Parental involvement shouldn’t be about parents helping the school. Rather, the parents should be helping their children succeed in school as involved partners.

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Teach Your College Student to Embrace Diversity

November 11, 2013

By Jessica Vician 

Teach Your College Student to Embrace Diversity

Racial and ethnic diversity is a great strength of American colleges and universities, as young adults are exposed to people from many different backgrounds and learn about other cultures. They will take these lessons with them through school and careers all the way into retirement. However, for some teens, this instant exposure to people from different backgrounds can create a culture clash. 

I grew up in a moderate-sized Indiana town about an hour from Chicago. Despite its close proximity to a large city, my elementary and high schools did not have much diversity, nor did we have a lot of people move to our town from outside the Midwest. 

When I went to college at a large state school, I met a lot of students from another part of the country who happened to associate with a different religion from the one I was raised. I found that many of those students stuck out from the other Midwesterners because they were rude, loud, and unfriendly toward others. At the time, my friends and I associated that behavior with their religion and I failed to realize that my perception of their behavior was merely a culture clash between two very different geographic regions of the United States.

We blamed these students’ religion for their behavior, failing to realize that first, their religion did not make them behave negatively; and second, their behavior wasn’t necessarily rude—they just didn’t express themselves the same way we did. We inappropriately judged a group of people because they acted differently from us. 

I am sharing this story not because I am proud of it—instead I’m terribly ashamed—but so you can learn from my mistake and take the opportunity to teach your teen not only tolerance but to embrace other cultures. When your child returns from school for the Thanksgiving holiday, talk about how he or she is coping with culture clash.

Here are a few talking points:

  • Ask your teen about the different students he or she has met. Where are they from, and what differences have your teen noticed? If your teen seems to dislike certain groups, ask why and try to give him or her a greater perspective about that group or culture. For example, people raised in cities might behave differently than people raised in small towns.
  • If your teen has met someone from a different country, encourage him or her to ask questions about the country’s political system, culture, food, etc. It’s a great opportunity to learn!
  • Remind your teen that exposure to diversity prepares him or her for a future job. Today it’s more common to work for international companies that have their own work ethic and customs. 
  • Talk to your teen about his or her perspective on other cultures. Encouraging a greater perspective fosters self-knowledge, which will help your teen make informed decisions about professional and academic issues.
  • If your teen is part of a minority in college, he or she might feel like an outsider. Suggest that he or she use this cultural distinction as a chance to educate others and engage in discussions about diversity. Part of the college adventure is being exposed to different ideas and ways of life in classrooms, dorms, cafeterias, and in general campus life activities.

Encourage your teen to use the university experience not only to obtain academic knowledge, but also to hone social and cultural skills. Remind him or her that college offers a unique chance to connect with both people with similar mindsets and with those from different backgrounds.

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We Need YOU: Parental Engagement Tips from a Teacher

November 11, 2013

By Kevin Rutter

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As a teacher, I have found that successful students need engaged parents to support them. Parents, as the school year is well underway, I would like to request your continued support of your child’s education. The school year is a marathon and every child needs a strong network of adults to make it through the race to the next grade and eventually to college. Through increased parental engagement, you can help make this school year successful for your child. Here are some tips to get started:

  • Update your information. Sometimes, when a teacher is trying to reach a parent, they find that the contact information available in the school database is out of date. If you have moved or changed phone numbers, please contact your school’s attendance office and provide the new information. Having the correct contact information creates the right environment for a timely communication flow between the school and home.
  • Take advantage of technology. All schools have undergone a technological revolution in the past ten years. There are many more tools available to parents to monitor what is happening with their student at school. Your child’s grades and attendance data should be accessible for review via the Internet at all times now. These systems can also send you text messages if your child cuts class or his or her grade dips below an acceptable level. Technology allows parents to be a much more active participant in their child’s education. Please contact your school’s main office to learn how to connect with these applications.
  • Attend an open house or parent-teacher conference. In November, most schools have just completed the first quarter grades and will host an open house or parent-teacher conference night. Please make a point to attend. It demonstrates to your child that you care about his or her education and provides an opportunity to meet the teachers and staff that work with your child everyday. Schools also use these events to showcase programs and services that are available for parents to help boost their engagement in their child’s education.

Keep communication lines open with your child’s school by providing updated contact information, using educational technology, and meeting with your child’s teachers and school staff. By following these tips, you will get the most out of your engagement and increase your child’s success in school.

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Helping Your Child Choose a College

November 11, 2013

By Kevin Rutter

Helping Your Child Choose a College

Every year I work to support my students in finding the right college or university for their future studies. The most important thing I try to emphasize is that it is a process. It requires a great deal of planning, determination, and adult encouragement. In other words, we need you!

There are three areas in the college application process that cause the most trouble for students and provide the greatest opportunity for parents to assist.

Personal Statements 
A personal statement is a short and focused essay where a student writes about who he or she is and where he or she wants to be. These statements are often required as part of the application to a college or scholarship to help the selection committee "see" whom the student is. It is a great chance for the student to showcase who he or she is beyond what is shown in his or her transcripts. Writing a good personal statement is also a process that needs plenty of time for thinking, writing, editing, peer review, teacher feedback, more writing, and more revision.

Parents, get your student to write a personal statement when he or she is a junior in high school. Writing about yourself can be very difficult and I often have students who have no idea what to write about. As a parent, you are uniquely qualified to help define your child’s best qualities and provide a story or two where you have seen your child using his or her positive characteristics.

FAFSA 
FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is the most important part of the college process because it will determine how much grant money will be available to your child. A grant is the amount of money a child can receive toward their educational expenses without having to pay it back. There is a limited amount of government grant money and it operates on a first come, first serve basis. If you submit the application too late, the money will be gone.

Parents, you have a critical role in completing the FAFSA. The forms will require you to provide evidence of your family’s income by using your tax documents, W-2 and 1040 forms. You will be able to submit the FAFSA sooner if you have this information available. All schools offer free services to parents to help prepare these documents, so take advantage of them.

Comparison Shop
Students have no idea about how much things cost and often fall in love with a school or program without regard to the price tag. Shop around! For example, community colleges sometimes offer the same certifications at a very discounted price.

Parents, I need you to help your child look at every option before deciding which school to attend and have a serious discussion with your parenting partner and child about costs. Taking these first steps should help get your child on the right path to choosing a college and financing his or her education.

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2010 Illinois Teacher of the Year Kevin Rutter

November 5, 2013

Kevin Rutter has been teaching for 15 years, currently serving as the department chair for Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs at Carl Schurz High School, where he teaches economics and business courses.

In 2010, the Illinois State Board of Education named Rutter the Illinois Teacher of the Year and the Chicago Public Schools named him the Exemplary CTE Teacher. He was also honored as the Chicago Bears/Symetra Financial Hero of the Classroom in 2011.

As Illinois Teacher of the Year, Rutter acts an ambassador for the teaching profession and plays an active role in shaping educational policy in Illinois.

Rutter is currently pursuing an Ed.D in Instructional Technology from Northern Illinois University. His previous education includes an M.A. in Teacher Leadership from the University of Illinois at Springfield, an M.A. in Chicago Studies from Loyola University, and a B.A. in Social Science from Eastern Illinois University.

Tags :  Kevin Ruttereducation
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