More Columns and Articles
THE BIGGEST MISTAKE WE MAKE IN LIFE ...
"A few days ago, in an act of unspeakable savagery, 19 children were slain at Robb Elementary School in Texas. As this is essentially an advice column, I will do my best to help parents as they try to process and put meaning to this tragedy. Please forgive me if it comes out all wrong. I’m trying to process it, too."
MARIJUANA'S HOSTILE TAKEOVER
"Marijuana has invaded schools in ways I’ve never seen. I don’t just mean it’s more prevalent; I mean it’s present in novel ways. If you think the problem is hippie potheads behind the gym smoking joints, you’re living in another era."
YOU'VE CREATED A MONSTER. NOW WHAT?
"The least effective parents refuse to even consider that their misguided overindulgence may have helped program their tiny devil. Acknowledging that the only thing which can transform your child’s behavior is changing your own means you are headed in the right direction. So what now?"
SHOULD SCHOOL LIBRARIES CARRY INAPPROPRIATE BOOKS?
"Somewhere between 'anything goes' and tyrannical censorship is a middle ground called 'responsibility.' That’s what children need from us most."
KIDS DON'T NEED RELATIONSHIPS TO LEARN
"When I think back to the classes in which I learned a lot, I realize that those teachers did possess qualities that other teachers didn’t, but having significant relationships wasn’t necessarily among them."
WHY DON'T DISTRICTS TEACH ENGLISH TO FOREIGN STUDENTS?
"I was recently shocked to discover that when students who cannot speak English enroll in American schools, some school districts make no effort to systematically teach them our language. It’s alarming because being able to communicate with each other is fundamental to a community. Little else that schools teach matters without it."
DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY ARE RISING. ARE PARENTS TO BLAME?
"In the last 12 years, the number of high school students who feel persistently sad or hopeless has risen from 26 to 44 percent, the highest level ever recorded. Statistics on anxiety and suicide are equally unnerving. It’s difficult to state the precise causes, but there’s little question that parental choices have contributed."
IS IT WRONG FOR PARENTS TO YELL?
"Unless you’re from the planet Vulcan, when your kids make you angry, you’re going to raise your voice. It’s a natural emotional reaction. That’s actually one reason it can help kids more than 'quiet reasoning.' Nearly all children of any age understand emotion. "
IS WALKING SINGLE FILE REALLY NECESSARY?
"When kids — especially young kids — are given the latitude to walk wherever and however they please, they tend to walk wherever and however they please. And what pleases them is pushing, crossing lines of traffic, administering 'flat tires,' standing still mid-stream, taking unnecessary detours, and not paying any attention whatsoever to where they’re going."
TEACHERS AT RISK FROM SPECIAL NEEDS STUDENTS
"Most special education students are harmless kids who need extra attention. A small percentage, however, possess severe behavioral disorders, and the way federal law restricts managing their behavior is pushing teachers and parents away from public schools."
FOOD IN THE CLASSROOM
"There’s nothing wrong with the occasional brief party to celebrate a special occasion, but teachers who regularly utilize food in their classrooms — let’s call them food-ucators — are making a mistake. What’s wrong with it? Let me count the ways."
BEING THE BIGGER PERSON
"Being the 'bigger person' is a quality that doesn’t come naturally to children. Jesus, whose teaching influenced Martin Luther King and Gandhi to historic gain, articulated it like this: 'If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other cheek also.'"
"JUST GOOGLE IT!" PREVENTS LEARNING
"They believe they're freeing children by breaking the bonds of memorization and study. In fact, they are enslaving children by making them perpetually dependent on phones and search engines, requiring them to outsource the simplest of life’s problems to the anonymous ghosts in their machines."
OPEN-NOTE TESTS DO NOT CHALLENGE STUDENTS
"In most cases, teachers who give open-note tests are simply making it easier for the students to pass. If the student is ambitious enough to take notes in the first place (hardly a certainty), it’s likely to work, but beware: there will be consequences."
SHOULD SCHOOL BOARD ELECTIONS BE PARTISAN?
"I used to think it was a terrible idea. I’m an idealist by nature, and in a perfect world, none of our elections would be partisan. Then the Real World tapped me on the shoulder."
STUDENTS WANT AN EDUCATION FREE FROM THE FEAR OF VIOLENCE
"On February 4, a group of students walked out of Columbia, South Carolina’s Irmo High School. It was one of the most eventful wake-up calls for education officials in decades. The students weren’t demanding more parking or better cafeteria food. They were marching for their own safety."
THE RISKS AND REWARDS OF GROUPING
"There are clear educational benefits to grouping students of similar abilities. If you’re a fourth-grade student who has already mastered addition and subtraction, the teacher won’t have to waste precious time reteaching them to you. You can move on to more sophisticated skills, like how to multiply using weird little boxes. On the other hand, grouping involves risks..."
"SHOULD I LET MY CHILD CHEAT?"
"True morality does not submit to majority rule. So even if people choose to twist right and wrong to suit themselves, it will always be wrong to lie, steal, and cheat — and buying or selling a paper for the purposes of academic deception is a giant greaseball of all three."
THE ABC'S OF WHY TEACHERS STAY OR LEAVE
"Why is it so much harder for teachers to teach at some schools than others? There are a lot of factors, but item number one is the students. Teachers will slog through low pay, lack of supplies, and poor administration ... if they have teachable students."
"BRAINWASHING" A CHILD TO CHANGE
"Traits, as opposed to behaviors, aren’t easily fixed with punishment or praise, if they can be 'fixed' at all. To improve such flaws, we have to be able to recognize and replace — recognize we’re making a mistake in our thinking, and replace it with something better."
EDUCATION HAS CREATED TWO DIFFERENT WORLDS
"From K through 12, we’ve created two separate realms for our children, each one virtually unrecognizable to occupants of the other. Our kids are educated on the same planet, but too often in entirely different worlds."
A SUPERINTENDENT'S LEGACY
"I’m no sycophant. There are plenty of things about which I disagree with the former Charleston superintendent. Nevertheless, Dr. Postlewait has done more for teachers in CCSD than anyone since I’ve been in this profession, and that may be her lasting legacy."
WHEN TEACHERS ARE ABSENT TOO MUCH
"Did your parents ever tell you it was wrong to falsely pull an alarm because you might send the fire department in the opposite direction of an actual disaster? A similar thing can happen when teachers unnecessarily call in absent. "
FIVE PHRASES TO OVERCOME PARENTAL PITFALLS
"We Are Teachers has aggregated a list of 50 common 'teacher phrases': pithy admonishments teachers continually give their students. Their utility has a long expiration date, and a lot of them can apply not just to students but parents, too. Here are five expressions that can help overcome a few parental pitfalls you might encounter in the new year."
DO ELVES BELONG IN THE CLASSROOM?
"Unless I’ve missed its secret subversive intention, the Elf myth is simply a fresh droplet in the pixie fog of childhood fantasy, joining the likes of Santa Claus, flying reindeer, and anthropomorphic snowmen. Good. Our children need more of that. Less 'stuff' and more imagination, I say."
SHOULD STUDENTS GET LOWER GRADES FOR FAILING TO DRESS OUT IN P.E.?
"The justification for lowering a student’s grade for failing to dress out, then, is quite simple: if you don’t wear the proper clothes, you cannot participate in the activities. If you do not participate, you cannot get credit for the course."
ADULTS SHOULD STOP MAKING EXCUSES FOR STUDENTS' BAD BEHAVIOR
"Adults are putting more effort into creating pretenses for poor behavior than actually dealing with it. If there’s always some mitigating excuse why the child bullied a classmate or spat on the bus driver, he will never learn to be responsible for his own behavior, and he will never have any reason to change it."
IS THIS TRIP TO THE NURSE REALLY NECESSARY?
"The fact is a lot of trips to the school nurse are unnecessary, and many of those that aren’t certainly don’t constitute emergencies. Even the nurses don’t want kids coming to the clinic for every mild inconvenience. They’re nurses, not nursemaids."
A POTPOURRI OF QUESTIONS
This week, I tackle three different questions: "Why is the teacher annoyed about my child's appointment?" "When is it best for kids to start school?" And "Why don't teachers give more subjective assignments?"
IS IT THE CURRICULUM OR THE CLIMATE?
"In too many homes and schools, students are accountable for nothing. They get good grades without working, are passed on without learning, and gain privileges for bad behavior. It doesn’t matter how much you alter the curriculum when kids don’t have to pay attention to it anyway."
DISCIPLINE IS BETTER THAN MOTIVATION
"You can't motivate your child to succeed in school? Stop trying. Motivation in academics is an overrated tool. What your child needs is discipline, which is something very different."
DO KIDS NEED PRESCHOOL?
"Kids are like trees. It’s not how fast they grow that matters. It’s how strong they are once they get there. And the best arborists tend to be those who love their trees the most."
WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
"Adults are supposed to do what is best for kids. We often have to protect them from themselves. We make their bedtimes; they don’t. We say when they’re old enough to drive; not them."
CHEATING HAS CONSEQUENCES
"Because cheating is common does not mean it is insignificant. If permitted to take root, the seeds that allow it to occur in grade school can sprout into a barbed bramble of selfish, entitled, and unethical behavior in adulthood."
HOW NOT TO SPOIL A CHILD
"It’s a cinch for teachers to spot a spoiled child. Based on the glaring symptoms, it’s also fairly easy to diagnose what’s gone wrong. Here are some ideas on how parents can avoid common traps that lead to spoilage."
REMEMBER THE NAME
"Don’t assume that because a teacher has trouble remembering a name that the teacher doesn’t care about your child. Teachers care, but we’re only human, so be patient."
THE DEVIOUS LICKS OF TIKTOK
"Be warned: if you don’t want to do what it takes to instill in your kids important values, there are 2.5 million online strangers who are willing to do it for you."
SHOULD KIDS BE MADE TO HUG THEIR RELATIVES?
"Teaching children to accept their relative’s physical affection is teaching them that they’re part of a family. That’s one of the greatest gifts you can give a child. Why rob them of it?"
IS THE SCHOOL-TO-PRISON PIPELINE REAL AFTER ALL?
I've previously argued in my regular column that the school-to-prison pipeline is a myth. But might changing times lend credence to the questionable hypothesis? That's the subject of my article for Chalkboard Review.
A LACK OF CIVILITY IS HURTING EDUCATION
As a result of harassment from both students and parents, 83 percent of teachers considered abandoning the profession. How can it improve?