Parents! What You Need to Know About Your Role in Education: PART 2

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Do you remember rotary dial phones?  Do you remember VCRs?  Do you remember cassette tapes? 


If you used dial-up on AOL, then you are as old or older than I am!  If you think a modern classroom is like that old, quaint technology, then you are mistaken!  Parents need to stop comparing today's classroom to the classroom of when they were in elementary school or middle school or high school.  Just as things have changed in the classroom, things have also changed dramatically for the parent's role in education.  Parents no longer have the option of just "hanging back" or letting the school do it all.  Parents are now an integral part of the education equation for success.

In this second part, I will show you some more considerations for parents and guardians in this new era of learning and instruction.  But first, let's recap!

In Part 1, I explained that today more than ever we need your support, especially when your child is experiencing behavioral or academic issues at school.  Today's teachers are teaching on afterburners all day long not only because of the demands and rigor of the new curriculum, but because there are many more children in our classroom with ADHD.  Additionally, parents need to understand how important starting the school day with breakfast is to learning in the classroom.  It's also important to teach your child how to listen and be patient.



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THE INTERNET HAS COME A LONG WAY!


I like to tell my students that I was born BEFORE the internet was invented.  I didn't have the internet growing up.  I didn't even use the internet as a college student.  But today, the internet is pervasive.  Everything is connected.  Many school districts are becoming 1:1 districts.  That means all students (or particular grade levels) have access to a device such as a tablet or a computer ON THEIR DESK.  We're not talking about a computer lab.  In my district, each 3rd -5th grade uses a Chromebook (an internet connected cloud laptop).  We use it DAILY, though NOT all day long.  

Students access assignments on their devices through Google Classroom, which is essentially a virtual classroom in which a teacher can post assignments, asks questions, grade and return assignments, provide students with feedback and yet, not one single piece of paper is needed.  It's all done in the cloud.  The internet is a necessity!  It is not to say we have abandoned books, paper, and pencils.  But now with the internet, we have instant access to the latest information at our fingertips.  How do parents fit into this picture?



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Parents need to provide internet access at home!  And a device, such as a tablet or a computer to access it.  Nope, a phone won't cut it.  The screen is too small to do what's needed.  If you are not able to get internet access at home for whatever reason, consider using the local public library.  They offer FREE internet access to all library patrons.  If a teacher is assigning a project or homework and posting resources such as videos, documents, or assignment questions via Google Classroom, the only way to access them is through the internet.   If you have to, be creative about it!  Is there a relative, friend or neighbor who might let your child do their homework using their internet access in return for your child doing some chores?  

The internet is not a fad and will not go away.  More and more classrooms will go digital and the idea of writing on paper and physically turning in an assignment will eventually be a smaller part of classroom learning.  The digital age is HERE NOW.  Get internet access NOW!


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I HAVE INTERNET ACCESS, NOW WHAT?


Now that you have internet access, it's important as a parent or guardian to monitor its use!  At school, the students must abide by a district's Acceptable Use Policy.  Every district has one, and though similar, they do have specific dos and don'ts each child and staff member must abide by in order to use district equipment and the district network.  Violate the policy, and the child may be banned from using the technology.  Staff members can be disciplined or even terminated for violating the Acceptable Use Policy. 

Using the internet at school is very controlled.  Most districts use a web filter to block out ads and objectionable material and sites.  Email is limited to within the district only.  Teachers have control about which students can access which websites.  Any violation of the Acceptable Use Policy is easily traced to the user through an individual email address, username, and password.  In California, we are also obligated to teach your child about cyber security.  In other words, being a good digital citizen and being safe when using the internet.

At home, however, unless you have specific hardware or software to filter, limit or block your child from accessing the ENTIRE internet, your child is free to explore it all, including the good and the bad.  

If your child needs to access the internet at home for school, here are some tips for making sure your child is safe while surfing the net:
  1. Whatever device your child uses to access the internet whether it's a tablet or computer or video game console, the device should be located in the family area with the screen easily seen by anyone in the room.  Someone should be in the room monitoring.  Your child should ask for permission to access the internet.
  2. Teach your child to spot suspicious activity like pop-up windows from strangers.
  3. Do NOT let your child go to chat rooms unless you are monitoring the chat and you know the person your child is chatting with.
  4. There are age limits for signing up for social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram.  Make sure you are aware of these.  On Facebook, friend your child's account so you can monitor it.  On Instagram, be a follower on your child's account so you can monitor.
  5. Check the browser history a few times a week to see what sites your child has opened.  Make sure your child knows that he/she is NOT to erase browser history.
  6. Make sure you have all the passwords to all your child's accounts (schools can provide your the username and password of district issued accounts).
  7. Talk to your child about how the internet is forever.  In other words, anything you post on the internet will remain there, even if your delete it.  How?  Google saves a cached version of all web pages.  Anyone can take a screenshot of what you posted.  Anyone can download pictures you post.
  8. Understand that posting personal pictures carries risk.  Today's phones and digital cameras automatically geotag your pictures.  In other words, each picture has a digital code which shows the EXACT GPS location where the picture was taken.  This is easily accessible which means they can find YOU.  Turn off geotagging on your phone, webcams, and digital cameras if you want to post personal pictures.
  9. Families should have time limits for using the internet.  A set amount of time to do school work and another set amount of time for personal use.  Just like television, it should not be ON all the time.
  10. Talk to your child's teacher if your not sure what are kid-friendly and family friendly websites. Your child's teacher can provide you with links or a list.  Be involved in your child's education by asking about school work and assignments.  Sometimes the internet is NOT needed to do school work.  

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LIMIT TECHNOLOGY USE!


Here are some more considerations about the use of technology by children. Children under the age of four should NOT be using technology such as tablets or mommy's or daddy's phone.  Pediatricians have warned that children under two should not be watching television and children under four should have very limited or no technology use.  Why?

The brain of a child grows the fastest and the most neuron connections are actually formed from birth through age three!  Children under four need to interact with the physical world and use their senses to make sense of their world and learn basic concepts.  None of that is learned through a static TV display or virtual world on a tablet.  

Language learning is also delayed with too much technology use.  Children need to interact with other adults or children to develop language.  A child staring at and swiping a tablet or phone will not develop his or her language!  Our brains are hardwired to quickly develop a listening vocabulary and then a speaking vocabulary. This is developed naturally in children through constant conversations with others.

For older children, too much technology use during the day creates a psychological dependency.  It's like an addiction.  Once a teenager gets a cell phone, trying getting the teenager to put it down!  Too much technology use also rewires the brain making it harder to learn in a classroom.  That is why when we do use technology in the classroom, it is for short periods of time and then we put it away for later again during the day.  In the classroom, we want to make technology a tool to use, not something we become totally dependent on for every task.



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BAKE SALES, FUNDRAISERS, JOG-A-THONS AND FESTIVALS


All public schools receive funding from state governments with supplemental funds coming from the Federal government.  But is it enough to cover the actual costs of education a child? No.  That is why schools must turn to fundraising and donations.  ONE bus for a field trip can easily cost a school $500.  Then there's an entrance fee per child for admittance into a museum or attraction.  It all adds up, especially when you account for a typical school which has 20 classrooms.  Think about the cost of all those computers, the network, and the storage carts to ensure that all students have access to technology.  It adds up.  

Districts can ask for bonds or a special levy to be passed in order to raise funds, but we all know that those are hard to pass because voters think that schools already have enough money.  But the budgeted money goes to paying salaries (education is labor intensive), maintenance, utilities, school supplies, textbooks, toner and paper for the copy machine, office supplies, cafeteria lunches, insurance, pensions, and even repairing vandalism.  You must also understand that money that comes from the federal government, state government or local government comes with strings attached.  Those funds are always earmarked for specific purposes and can not be used for anything else.

That is why schools and PTAs and PTOs turn to fundraisers.  These fundraisers are needed to fund field trips, more school supplies (we never have enough to last an entire school year), playground equipment, assemblies, awards for students, etc.  Parents, that's why we need your help with the fundraising.  Schools do not have the "extra" funds for these things and the only way to raise that money is through fundraisers.

As a teacher, I can tell you (and I have receipts to prove it) that I spend at least $1,000 a year for my classroom buying more school supplies, folders, books and other materials that I need but the school can not purchase for lack of funds.  Most teachers do this because we care about our students and doing the best possible job.  That is why we also ask for donations of tissue boxes, wipes, and even glue sticks! 

That is why TODAY more than ever, parents need to get involved and help promote these fundraisers.  The PTA and PTO always need volunteers and help!  Call the school and get involved now!


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YOU NEED A PENCIL? WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT THAT PROBLEM?


Do you know how many times teachers get asked this silly question every day by students!  When I was a kid in school, I always had an extra pencil inside my desk. If I didn't have one, I turned to a friend to borrow one.  Problem solved.  What teachers are finding today is that most children can not solve simple problems like this on their own.  They are waiting for others to solve it for them.  How does this happen?  Simple, we don't teach children how to take responsibility and solve their own problems.  When I say problems, I'm talking about everyday common sense problems.  Of course, we want children to come to adults when they do have a serious problem.  

I have actually had a student who sat at his desk for ten minutes doing NOTHING while the class was working on an assignment and I was helping another student.  Why is the child not working? He didn't get a copy of the paper.  So for ten minutes the child just sat there until I noticed.  It never occurred to the child to raise his hand to ask for one.  Yes, it has gotten this bad.  

How do parents fit into this part?  Problem-solving begins at home.  Let your child attempt to do things on his/her own.  Let your child make mistakes.  Making mistakes is the biggest teacher in life.  It is how humans naturally learn what works and what doesn't.  Children learn from mistakes. Shielding them from this only produces adults that still expect mommy and daddy to solve problems for them.  Teachers are seeing more and more of this every day in our students.  Students who will say:  My mom forgot to put MY homework folder in my backpack.   Shouldn't that be the CHILD'S responsibility to put folders in the backpack and be prepared for school?  I'm always hearing about how mommy or daddy didn't (fill in the blank).  STOP! Mommy and daddy are NOT in my class, you are.  I do not let my students shirk responsibilities with these kinds of excuses.  I let them know that they will need to figure out a way to make sure that it doesn't happen again.  And for the most part, they do.   Let children figure it out.  Of course, you can and should give guidance and advice, but not do it for them.



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TALK ABOUT COLLEGE NOW!


When I was growing up, I didn't really start thinking about college until I was a junior in high school.  Then it was just thinking about what my major would be.  As a senior, I then started applying for colleges and taking the SAT.  Back then, the competition to get into a college was not so intense.

Today, it is very different!  You must understand that planning for college begins NOW.  Start talking to your child about what it means to go to college.  Doing well in school means that it will put you on a path to college.  In order to get the classes one needs to fulfill college entrance requirements, means impressing on your the need to always do well in school, even starting from kindergarten!  Why is this?

Do you know that thousands of foreign students come to the United States for college?  So many in fact that it is crowding out resident students!  Foreign and out of state students will compete with your child for space at a university whether public or private.  Universities are crowded.  Space is limited.  Many students have to turn to Community Colleges to get started.  Community College is a great option to start with if your child is uncertain about a major or career path.  College is an investment in the future.  College graduates on average can earn more than one million dollars in wages over a lifetime when compared to non-college graduates.  

Do you also know that the jobs and careers that most of our children will have in the future have not even been invented yet!  Your child will have to compete for those jobs with others from China and India.  Your child will have to continuously upgrade his/her skills in order to compete with the rest of the world because the pace of change is more rapid than in any time in our history.  One hundred years ago, an 8th-grade education would have gotten you into the workforce.  Today, a Master's Degree is needed.  Specialized skills are needed that need to be continuously updated.  Your child will be competing in a global job market, not just a local one.

My final piece of advice.  Stay involved.  When your child knows that you care about education, then he or she will care.  A motivated child becomes a fast learner.  Doing well in school provides intrinsic or internal satisfaction and more motivation.  That leads to a confident child that will blossom in a confident adult.  Thank you for all your support!

If you have any questions, let me know through the comments below!
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