Monthly Archives: November 2008

Parents, Stay “In Touch”

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A few weeks ago my school held Parents-in-Touch night.  I have a 150 students.  I only met with 22 parents.  In my seven years of teaching, I’ve come to find that many parents are really not “in touch” with their children.  They are quite clueless as to who their children are.  Anything revealed at a conference should not be news to the parent.

Some of the parents I conferenced with had no idea that their child was failing one or more classes.  One memorable parent staunchly defended her son’s poor work and study habits.  She informed me that it was my job to call her when he missed an assignment.  “He know I’m crazy!” (I didn’t disagree with her on that self-assessment), she passionately cried to explain why his low grade had to be my fault.

I attempted to show her his many zeros, but she was not very interested.  Apparently I was more to blame than he.  She never mentioned the fact that I had contacted her earlier in the school year to warn her that he was not doing any work.  Or that midterms serve as a warning as well.  Nevermind the talking to your child part.

Part of our job as parents is to know the kids we are raising.  By knowing them, we are staying in touch with them.  When you know them, you don’t waste valuable time playing the blame game because you already know the score.

I even wonder from time to time if the parent and I are referencing the same child.  Teachers often see a side to children that the parents might not necessarily see.  Not because of bad parenting per say because it could be a myraid of things.

Last year Nicholas gave me a note from his teacher that said he was playing in the bathroom with another student.  After reading it, I asked him why he was playing around.  Intially he attempted to say that he was not.  But because I know my child, I knew well enough that he was.  Nicholas can be too playful at times.  And sometimes that’s just what nine-year-olds do.  Had I had the attitude “my child can do no wrong” I would have lost a valuable teaching moment to remind him about how he is to behave at school.

Teachers do not enjoy being the bearer of bad news, trust me.  If we could report only good news about your child, we would!

Here are a few ways that parents can stay in touch with their children and have a productive parent/teacher conference:

Spend real time with your kids: This might sound like a no brainer, but it isn’t always easy to do.  I am often with Nicholas, but not really spending time with him for various reasons.  Therefore I try to incorporate him into things such as helping me cook.  In this time I am able to kill two birds with one stone by doing something I have to do (cooking) with something that I love to do (spending time with Nicholas).  Sometimes I will even have him read the newspaper to me while I fold laundry or load the dishwasher.  These times make for interesting conversation.

Get to know their friends:  Nicholas loves to see me interact with his friends and their parents.  It might not be for an extended period of time, but it shows him that I care about who is interested in.  I think this also helps him choose freinds wisely because he knows that we are paying attention.

Realize that all kids have strengths and weaknesses:  As much as we love our little ones, they are still human.  I know that Nicholas can be very talkative, is a bit immature at times, and will rush through his work if not monitored.  On the otherhand, he is extremely articulate, fun-loving, and always in pursuit of adventure.  Notice that these are the same traits just worded differently.  I never tell him that he talks too much because I want him to use that skill in a more positive light.  But nevertheless, I am aware of his limitations.

Volunteer at their school:  Almost everyone at Nicholas’ school knows me as “Nicholas’ mom or Mrs. Morocco.”  When I have time off of work I make sure to pop in for a visit or to volunteer for a few hours.   I try to do most of my “volunteering” at home because of my work hours.  I collect box tops, donate for school events, and help organize field trips.  When Ethan’s science class conducted an experiment using Diet Coke, I happily contributed.  I am currently saving paper towel rolls for a future project for that particular class.

Show support: One simple way to do this is by attending school functions.  Even if your children are not involved in a particular sport or activity, you can still attend school events to express your school spirit as a parent and help foster your child’s.  Next week we have a Math Family Night that we are all looking forward to attending at Nicholas’ school.

Be aware of academic ability:  It’s important for you to know your child’s academic strengths and weaknesses.  I have always been very strong in English and very weak in math.  Fortunately Nicholas is balanced in all areas.  However, if you know this ahead of time, you can suppplement the weak areas with tutoring, extra practice, or monitoring the progress being made in that particular subject area.  It’s true, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 

Teach Good Study Habits:  Because Nicholas makes excellent grades he feels that this exempts him from studying.  Therefore, I have spent a lot of time teaching him the importance of having good study skills.  I try to point out that he won’t know everything all of the time.  I have also taught him how to break studying down into more digestable parts.  Cramming is such a bad, bad practice!

Work with, not against: In most cases issues with the teacher can be resolved.  If you receive bad news about your child, don’t immediatedly get defensive.  I like when parents are proactive and ask what we (student, parent, teacher) can do to remedy the situation.  It makes no sense to report a problem without brainstorming a soluton.  We are not the enemy or out to “get” your child.  Working together works.

Teach Self-advocacy:  Many students are afraid to ask questions when they are confused about the material and they shouldn’t be!  Encourage your children to speak up for themselves.  I like to tell my kids that I have many talents but mind reading is not one of them!  I can’t always look at a child and immediatedly know if they need help–especially so when you ask and they decline.  Let your children know that it is perfectly okay to need assistance!

Obama Mama

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When Nicholas was in the third grade he had to select a famous Black American to represent in a “living history museum” for Black History month.  He wanted to do Colin Powell…again. 

I had just finished reading Dreams From My Father by Senator Barack Obama and was really impressed with his candor and eloquence.   I suggested him. 

After doing the research Nicholas was impressed as well.  His presentation was a big hit.  Later his teacher pulled me aside and expressed her curiousity about how Nicholas came to present him.  I told her that I recommended him after reading his autobiography.

I am excited about Obama coming to office.  I believe he is truly dedicated to the job of making America better for us all.  This simple act of Americans joining together to vote him as president shows that anything is possible.  I know that he will be under a lot of scutiny, but I believe he can handle the pressure.  He deserves the same opportunity as anyone else to do the job.

My focus is not so much on him being the first Black president.  That fact is the cherry on top and it makes his victory much more sweeter.  However, I am more buoyed by his poise, plans for America, intelligence, and great potential to lead the country.

Nicholas attends a school in which there is not a single person of color on the teaching or administrative staff.  In fact, there are only two Black women in non-licensed positions that work there.  The student body is very diverse, so it seems that the staff would mirror this.  It seems strange to me that in this day and age that places/schools/attitudes like this still exist.  I often wonder what message this sends to my son and the rest of the kids? 

I feel fortunate that my son has the opportunity to witness someone such as Barack having the opportunity to be president.  I have always told Nicholas that he could be anything he wanted to be.  Now I know he can!  This morning his was elated by the knowledge of Barack’s win.  So was I.

I Told You So

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I knew that Eliza would find  a way to make the court order our fault.  Her brother left a gruff message on my cell phone demanding that my husband give him a call ASAP.  Of course, my husband did not return his call and does not plan to.  He is not going to answer to him about anything regarding his kids.  He is not a concerned uncle, he is a dangerous goon with a terrible attitude and a notorious reputation. 

I can only imagine what Eliza told her brother.  I’m sure she told him that we have been telling the therapist bad things about her which is why she (the therapist) wrote the letter to the court.  I know she failed to mention how she intiated the court order with her letter. 

It wouldn’t matter anyhow.  Her brother is a male version of her—only worse.  When Eliza was first jailed she did not want us to have the boys.  She wanted them to stay with her family.  Needless to say, my husband wanted his children. Her brother refused to surrender the kids and spent  a lot of time threatening us for trying to get them. After two months he literally dropped them off at our doorstep because his girlfriend couldn’t handle caring for the boys.

However, that does not stop him from attempting to interfere on her behalf whenever she directs him to do so.  We have had our home phone number changed and had our alarm system upgraded since he has forced his way into our lives.  Many of our friends, relatives, coworkers, and the staff at the boys’ schools (he has been banned from both Ethan and Evan’s school and was actually arrested at Ethan’s for trepassing and demanding information) know how much he has harassed us. I like to let people know in case something happens to us the police will know exactly where to go. 

I am afraid that he might just show up at our doorstep.  Being that my husband works late, the odds are it would only be me and the kids at home.  If he shows up, we have decided that I should immediatedly call the police.  I am not going to waste my time explaining anything to him.  He is not welcome at our home under any circumstances.

I really wish that Eliza and her family would let us be.  But I am afraid that will never happen…

Go Tigers!

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Today was Nicholas’ final game for the championship.  The Tigers started off strong.  However, they ended up losing the game by a touchdown and a field goal.

The final score

The final score

Understandably the kids were crushed.  They still managed to do their rallying cry “Who has fire in the belly? We do!” after their defeat.  A few of the kids had tears in their eyes, my son included.

After the loss

After the loss

I really wanted the boys to win.  They had a great team and only lost one game their entire season.  They made it to the very end.  I was glad to see the coaches and us parents reinforcing that they were still winners regardless.  The head coach had a celebration for the boys at his house afterwards. 

But there was a lesson in this loss.  It showed the kids that it is not always possible to win for whatever reason.  Learning this concept early on is a good thing.  I never want my son to be shattered by a loss of any kind.  It’s okay to be disappointed but not depressed.  I hope we are cultivating this attitude in Nicholas. 

I was proud at how we all came together to remind the boys of the importance of maintaining a winning attitude.  I went around congratulating both teams.  One player’s mom had her arm around Nicholas as she reminded him that they still had next year.  He smiled at this thought and it was a beautiful thing.

Go Tigers!!!!

One-Day Holiday

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On Friday I took a personal day.  Nicholas was also on Fall Break and I wanted to spend some time with just him and I.  We started our day off by having breakfast at Steak and Shake.  Next we headed to the ortodontist so that I could have my permanent retainer put back in.  All of the doctors were dressed in Halloween costumes.  My doctor was a Russian peasant.  I thought he was one of the Beastie Boys.

We have an exhibit in town at our downtown mall called Bodies…what a perfect Halloween treat or trick, eh?  I caught it while in New York last autumn and it was quite an experience.  I needed to stop at the mall for a few things and I thought Nicholas might be interested in seeing it.  Surprisingly, he declined saying he does not like those type of things.  Our downtown is splattered with advertisements for this attraction and he would shudder everytime we passed one.

My first mission was to find Nic a pair of shoes.  Of course, he didn’t like what I liked and vice versa.  It turns out the shoes I was seeking were only sold at another mall.  I finally found a reasonably priced pair of grey pumps that I needed.  Nicholas spent his allowance on a Clone Troopers game.

I had to force myself to leave Gap kids.  Their fall line for girls is soooooo adorable!!!  I had to remind myself that I recently spent a mini fortune on clothes for Jazmine.

We had an hour to kill before going to see Beverly Hills Chihuaha.  In this time I throughly cleaned the bathroom and gathered clothes to take to the cleaners while Nicholas played his new game.

The movie did not sound very interesting to me but my son really wanted to see it.  I assumed it would be corny and silly with lots of bad acting.  However,  I must say that it was awesome!  It was funny and heartwarming.  At the end I had tears in my eyes.  The animal actors were better than their human counter parts!  I plan to buy it once it is released on DVD.

I was all set to have lunch at a nice restaurant but Nicholas wanted me to fix lunch!  So I did.  Ethan was home by that time so I fixed him a snack as well. 

Shortly afterwards I picked Jazmine up from the sitter’s and we ended the evening by raking a few bags of leaves.  Jazmine “helped” by jumping into the piles and sneaking sips from my coke.

It was nice to be able to get away from work for the day! Even though I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary; I really enjoyed my day.