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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when a teacher is trying to reach a parent, they find that the contact information available in the school database is out of date.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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Thanksgiving Lessons for Kids

November 11, 2013

By Amelia Orozco

Thanksgiving Lessons for Kids

New learning opportunities for your children abound on a typical day, but when a special holiday approaches, it can be one of the most memorable ways to teach some of life’s greatest lessons. A holiday such as Thanksgiving can provide abundant ways to learn. From teaching its origin through stories and activities to developing emotional and social activities that, in time, become cherished lifelong traditions, you can use this time to connect with your child in meaningful ways.

If your family or your children were not born or raised in the United States, it is a great way to learn Thanksgiving facts and traditions. Appreciating the intricate details of history makes for a greater understanding of your immediate community and the world.

Here are some ideas of Thanksgiving activities for you and your child to enjoy together: 

Tell Stories
Share the story of the first Thanksgiving dinner with the original English settlers and Native Americans. This story can help even your youngest child remember the true meaning of the holiday. Use words like “exploration,” “feast,” “celebration,” “families,” “neighbors,” and “sharing” when discussing the story. In my family, we pause before each meal, whether it is a holiday or not, to reflect on what we have, which makes it a more natural practice at Thanksgiving. See National Geographic Kids for a brief story, which includes photos of people and artifacts.

Give Thanks with Notes
As the holiday approaches, hide thank you notes for other members of your family to find, and encourage your children to do the same. These notes can say anything from, “Thank you for taking out the trash,” to “Thank you for being a good listener.”  

Draw Pictures
If your children cannot read or write yet, they can still participate by creating a special picture by tracing leaves and then coloring the shapes in. You can leave them notes with smiley faces. These will remind him or her how much you appreciate them. Read this inspiring article of how writing shapes your child in more ways than you may think.

Donate to Charity
It is also a wonderful time of year to make a list of local charities. Your children can help organize a drive for food, toys, or clothing at their school or playgroup. Inspiring them to take action will make them conscientious citizens who aspire to help others. It is exciting to see how these activities awaken a desire to ask more questions.

Share the Cooking Process
Making a list of ingredients, shopping, and finally, preparing a favorite Thanksgiving recipe will give you together time, a learning opportunity, and unforgettable memories. 

Memories are made through these emotional and social activities, but they are most remembered by the hands-on activities during the holidays. By using age-appropriate tasks, everyone in the family can feel they have contributed to the Thanksgiving feast, and when the food is finally served, it will have taken on a much deeper significance.


Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago. A mother of three, Amelia also maintains an active role in her community and church by working with youth and promoting education and diversity through her writing and volunteer efforts.

 

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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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Author of YOU: Your Child's First Teacher Sunny P. Chico

November 5, 2013

Sunny P. Chico’s life has been shaped by two passions: family and education. A daughter and granddaughter of school teachers, she was born in Cuba, but immigrated to the United States with her family at a young age. Throughout her career, from special education teacher to federal director, Chico has worked to empower parents to be active partners in the education of their children. This commitment, along with her experience, expertise, and passion for helping families, culminated in creating the series YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher, an unprecedented parent empowerment program that guides parents as they lay a foundation for their child’s success in school and in life.

Prior to writing the YOU series, Chico served as the Assistant to the Lieutenant Governor for Education for the State of Illinois, where she led the state’s School-to-Work effort. She was later appointed the Regional Secretary of Education in the Midwest for the U.S. Department of Education before launching SPC Educational Solutions.

Chico continues to be an active member of the community, serving as a commissioner on the State of Illinois Executive Ethics Commission, and as a board member of many organizations including the DePaul University School of Education Dean’s Advisory Council, Mujeres Latinas en Acción, and the Illinois Literacy Foundation.

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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.

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