Homework, Homework, Homework


It’s unreal how fast time goes by. It’s also extremely funny how life constantly repeats itself, or at least come full circle.  As an educator for almost 20 years I’ve been involved in my fair share of home work controversies.  Either too much, or too little… not clear enough directions or not enough time to complete.  As an elementary schiol principal I see how some homework policies of the past are outdated and as a parent I see how there is a need for more clarity around what is expected from the children and what is expected from the parents.

Homework these days is a controversial topic.  It’s like politics, no matter the side you’re on, you vehemently disagree with the other.  As an educator I have read pages of research, fevoeeed surveys and observed and reviewed my own teachers’ homework expectations, assignments and procedures.  I believe homework should be designed to emphasize quality tasks aligned with curricular objectives, have a clear academic purpose, and be relevant and engaging to students.  It shouldn’t be busy work and definitely shouldn’t be a chore for parents, or cause stress or anxiety to the students.

As a parent of child with particular strengths and areas of particular need I completely understand the why it’s so important to create assignments that allow for accommodation of varying student needs and how providing the appropriate resources is vital for student success.  Homework, even for my little three year old should be differentiated, as it should be for all learners with variety and choice.

The big piece for me… something I feel is crucial to making homework an effective keening tool is the “feedback and use of the homework as an assessment of and/or for leaning.  Is what my so  is being asked to do going to support his goals and objectives and also support his growth and development towards mastering grade level standards as homework should be designed as means to assess on going learning.

The Roles of Parents/ Guardians has spawned conversations in educational board rooms and social media platforms for years.  For ages, parents have questioned how they are supposed to balance unstructured time with their children when they work all day, go to sports practice, piano lessons and then still have hours of homework. But honestly what should the role of a parent be in the homework process.  I always tell my parents at school, “let us do the heavy lifting. Let us do the teaching during the day. We want you to just enjoy your time with your child.  Spend time together and love reading.” I want  parents to serve as a support to students and not have to  teach new skills.

As learning styles and needs vary between students, so should that of what we ask our students to do for homework. Teachers should be purposely planning their assignments including the accommodation of varying student needs and resources as well as their current academic strengths and areas of need.  This includes assignments that are differentiated for all learners with variety and choice with the expectation that teachers are using homework as means to assess on going learning and that students are receiving feedback will be timely and specific.

With that in mind, I was exciting to work on Jackson’s first homework assignment/project.  As the students are working on communication skills and the identification of “self” Jackson was asked to create a sign that depicts the things he likes.  (I may or may not have broken a few rules and done a few parts of the project myself)… but then again he’s three… he can’t hold scissors yet let alone cut with them.  I think his poster shows off his varying likes and also is a good support for him when he is communicating those likes to others.  Hopefully, homework assignments in the future are as fun as this was to do!

First Day of PREK 3

As I walk downstairs, still dark and quiet in the house, I see the little setup for Jackson’s big day. I can’t help But struggle between a smile and tears. To think that he is beginning his first full year of preschool is both scary and satisfying. It represents such an accomplishment for this little guy. The growth he has shown in his development is a mark of his determination and ability to overcome any obstacle in his way. 

I can’t help but think of some of the difficulties we have faced over the past three years and how hard he’s worked to continue to be better each day at whatever he does. As an educator I remind myself it’s not about being the best at everything, but more importantly about the growth and development that our children show every day.

Good luck on your first day of preschool… I know you’re going to do great things.  

Dad’s 1st day and Jax’ first day:

First day bookbags

⭐️ A Star Is Born ⭐️

The time has finally come. That time that every parent fears: their child’s school performance/play. I’ve seen so many of them as a teacher and principal and they, from that side are amazing. An opportunity to see 300 students whom you work with each day, who’ve you’ve seen grow abs improve each day, put it all together and show off their growth.  

Growth mindset, that’s what it’s all about as an educator. But as a parent. We want to see the end product. We want to see an end product from start to finish and then get the heck out of there. I don’t want to watch everyone else’s kids spin around in circles, or cry on stage. It’s uncomfortable for everyone. You feel bad for the teachers who have to don the kindergarten Three Little Pigs costume and be the only ones up on the stage to know the lyrics and Dane moves. There’s the parents who are standing just off to the side yelling stage directions to their child who they feel should be acting on the next Nick Jr. Hit show and you as the parent who’s just happy your kid hasn’t run off stage and peed in the bushes.  

Then there is the fact that you’ve worked a full day and have nothing in your stomach but a granola bar and three cups of coffee. All you want is every performance to last just long enough to snap a few pictures to stick on Instagram and time it so perfectly that it looks like your child knew every part of the play. Then you can set it as your profile picture on Facebook so it looks like you have the next Robert Deniro on your hands. The worst part though… the transition time in between class performances. Class A runs around the stage, the poor teachers looking like Rocky chasing that chicken. They might as well be herding cats. Poor Class B is having kids who are screaming and crying dragged onto stage so their parents can clap and wave. It’s painful to watch as 17 hours pass in between songs when all the audience wants is a smooths and quick transition like when Netflix only makes you only wait five seconds to watch the next episode. No time wasted, no one hurt, one class off… the next one on… everyone’s happy.  

However, there’s always that one child. The show-stealer, the ray of light, the savior. You know right away that they are meant to be on that stage… to bring entertainment to the masses. To bring joy and happiness to the masses as soon he/she takes the stage. It usually happens after a lull in the show. Maybe a few classes performed a nursery rhyme or too… maybe they just stood still and smiled. But then it happens… a child comes from the clouds and struts his stuff right to center stage. You can tell from that twinkle in their eyes that something special is about to happen. Then you hear the intro. The beat drops like your at an old school Notorious BIG concert. It’s the Lion King… you instantaneously know that child is going to put on a show like no other. “I just can’t wait to be king…” the perfect metaphor for what is about to go down. The king of the Pre-School Play is about to dominate the make shift stage in the center of the parking lot. 

… and that’s just what happens. It just so happens that the new king of the stage was my little boy. Jackson “Fred Astaire” Fragola. It started off slowly, and I could hear the crowd starting to chat amongst themselves. Then it happened, Jax sensing the crowd was in need of something to cheer for, stepped forward and put on a show for the ages. 


The slow clap to get the crowd going, followed by the slow spin into the toe-tap (trip over his own feet) was stunning. The crowd began to buzz and you could see the adrenaline coursing through our new star’s veins. Our savior was here. The clouds parted. The bass seemed to get louder and the energy in the crowd was equal to a stadium full of tween girls at a Justin Bieber concert. 

A few more moves brought ohhhs and ahhhs… and then it happened. The half turn, the look-back smile… and the then… THE RUMP SHAKER! It was over, right then and there. He had officially taken over. The crowd lost their collective minds. It was pandemonium… 

…And then… just as quickly as it started, it all came to an end. With Jazz Hands and a smile… it was at that moment a true star was born. 

Jax First Day of “School”

  
Here I am. Here we are. Your first day of school (daycare) is today. I’ve spent the past 20 months doing everything, but thinking about not having you in the care of your mom, myself or gram during the day. I took for granted the fact that you never had to leave our family ever. Until today…  

I spent forever worrying about you going to school and how to keep you safe when you weren’t with me and writing about that, that I didn’t see how fast the time was actually going!

When we started looking for daycare sites over the summer, I was a little nervous, but thought it would be good for both you, mom and I because, I figured it would make our hectic schedules a bit easier to navigate… you know get some errands done and even be able to stay a bit later at work some nights to get things finished up. As much as I’d like to relish in the free time I’ll now have since my little guy, wait, I mean, I guess I have to say my big boy, is headed to school– Its more so of feeling empty inside with a tinge of guilt.

Did I spend as much time as I wanted to with you?

Did I savor all the precious moments?

Will I regret wishing some of the days away?

Where did the time go?

Maybe I’m not ready to send you off into the world — just yet.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that I woke up on the most uncomfortable faux leather recliner ever constructed when I realized that my life would never be the same… in a good way? I sat, slightly scared, but mostly in awe of the most beautiful little boy I’d ever seen. I was looking into your eyes for the first time and making a promise that I’d always take care of you, and love you unconditionally. You squeezed my finger, just my pointer, with your entire tiny hand. You held it like it was the only thing holding you from floating away. I laughed like crazy when you would laugh, and helped you up each time you fell when learning to walk.

Now, here I am walking you into your first classroom. Saying hello to your first teacher, telling you I love you and That I would miss you all day. Has it really been almost two years since I told Uncle Dupree that Steph had a stomach ache and we were going to the walk-in clinic down the road (meaning you were about to be born)? How did this happen, already?

I tiptoed into your room early this morning and there were so many things I wanted to say to you. Things I know I’ve probably whispered to you a million times while I rocked you to sleep and  already covered in the many blogs I’ve written leading up to this day, but by this point you know me and you know there isn’t a chance I would let this moment go by with out telling you again.  Just incase you’re anything like me and need things repeated 15 times before you “really” hear them. 

1. It sucks being the new kid (even if you’re to young to care).  I know what it’s like trying to fit in… So don’t try to fit in.  Be you.  Be a leader NOT a follower. 

2.  You are going to struggle… A LOT! We’ve done everything for you. Sometimes to a fault. You are going to have to try to do things for yourself and it’s going to be hard.  You ARE going to fail. But when you do, pick yourself back up and try again. Don’t ever give up on yourself.  

3. This is all going to be new, and scary and unfamiliar. That’s normal. That’s the circle of life.  But each day you will become more comfortable in your surroundings. And when you are finally comfortable… look to help the next new person.  You have no idea how much a smile and helping hand means to someone.  

4. I want to tell you how torn I am between wanting to keep you close to me ⭐️⭐️⭐️ALWAYS⭐️⭐️⭐️. Torn between keeping you so close that I know you can never be hurt… and wanting you to have new experiences and see the diversity the world has to offer, because I can’t provide you with that by myself.

5. I want to tell you how I prayed last night that everyone who meets you, teachers, parents and peers will see you as your mother and I see you… Intelligent, caring, inquisitive, funny and creative.  I hope you always see yourself as I do too.  
Most importantly… I wanted to say: I love you… And… Please stop growing up so fast. 

————————————
1st Day was a success!   
    
    

 
    

Daycare Don’t Care

  

Little man at his day care intake. (Anyone else get the feeling that this picture is previewing some Godfather type stuff!?!!  He looks like he’s checking in with his cappos.). #GrahamCrackersForDays #SnackTime #SnackTimeAllTheTime #DayCare​ #DaycareGodfather #JacksonSoprano

I guess it was inevitable… Day care starts in a few weeks.  Today was his “entrance interview.”  He had fun… The teachers were nice, and the graham crackers were tasty. Guess my little guy isn’t so little anymore.  

   
 

Home Bio-Contamination Unit 

Steph and I getting ready to enter Jax bedroom

 
So it’s that time of year again… That time that makes teachers and parents cringe… We’ve got lice going around lately at my school and It makes me want to barf.  

As a teacher I never really was worried about myself, but now as a parent it’s different.  Anytime I see my kid go near his head… It doesn’t even have to be to scratch it, even if he just touches his head I want to take him out in the front yard and shave his head. Just buzz it all off.

I feel like I need to be medically hosed off before I enter my own house these days like in ET. Maybe I can convince Steph to put a hold on the bathroom remodeling project and instal a bio-contamination unit in our garage… I think we’re going to need it.  

The ABCs of Kindergarten

As an elementary school administrator a lot of people ask for advice related to school, especially on how to approach the first few years… I thought it would be helpful to put together a comprehensive list of what to expect/look for…

The’s  ABCs of Kindergarten

A

Allergies:  Always let your child’s teacher know about any allergies that your child may have and if he/she takes medication to treat those allergies.

Arrival:  The beginning of the day is so important, morning meetings and greetings take place and expectations are set make sure your child arrives on time each day.

Attendance:  Attendance is very important in Kindergarten.  Each day is essential to your child’s overall academic success and social development.  Please make every effort to have your child at school each day.

B

Birthdays:  Your child may celebrate his/her birthday with the class by having a “special snack”.  For health and safety reasons schools ask that anything shared at school be store-bought with the ingredients label still attached.

Book bags:  Your child will need to bring his/her book bag to school EVERYDAY.  Book bags help children stay organized.  Please check your child’s book bag nightly for important information and completed projects.

C

Change of Clothes: Please send a complete change of seasonal clothing for your child to leave at school should your child have a spill or an accident.

Cooking:  Occasionally we may complete a recipe as a class.  Donations of cooking items are always appreciated.

Conferences: Parent teacher conferences are vital to communicating about your child’s academic, social and behavioral progress.  Make every attempt to attend the conferences in person.

Contact Information: Always update all contact information for your child.  Please make us aware of any changes as soon as possible, including phone numbers, addresses or pick up and/or emergency pick ups.

D

Dismissal:  Dismissal for students can be hectic.  Make sure to let your child’s teacher know if you are picking up early.

E-F

Field Trips:  Let your child’s teacher know if you can chaperone field trips.

Folder:  Identify a folder for home school communication.  This is a folder that should be checked every day and will help you and your child stay organized.

G-H

Hand washing:   Please remind your child to wash his/her hand upon entering the classroom each day.

I-L

Independence: Independence is an important concept in K.  Help your child build his/her independence by having them practice the following skills:  buttoning and zipping clothing and outerwear; tying shoes; writing his/her name; blowing/wiping his/her nose; sneezing and coughing into their elbows.

Labels: Please label EVERYTHING your child wears to school. Many children have the same lunch bags, backpacks and sweaters. It is easier to identify your child’s belongings if they are labeled.

Lunch:  Your child may bring a lunchbox to school or sign up for a school lunch. All schools have a lunch program which also includes free and reduces lunch.  Check in with your child’s school to see if you qualify for any of these programs.  Please send in any lunch money in a sealed envelope labeled with your child’s name and how many lunches you will purchase.

M

Medication: The school nurse or designee will administer all medications. Please see the nurse if you have any questions.  DO NOT EVER send medication in with you child.

 

N-P

Newsletters:  Many teachers will send home a Class Newsletter; if they do not, check to see if the school sends out a Whole School Newsletter.  The newsletter informs you of what we are learning in our classroom, special events, volunteer opportunities and school news.

Parent Teacher Communication Log:  This is helpful to send in with your child, usually putting in the home school folder is a good idea.  The Communication Log will be used to send small notes to and from school.

Q-R

Rules:  Classroom rules are put in place to keep everyone safe. Please help your child understand these common kindergarten rules by reviewing them at home.

  • Raise your hand and wait for a teacher to call on you. This prevents everybody from talking at once and allows you to be heard.
  • Stay in your seat unless you have permission from a teacher. This keeps you safe and organized.
  • Keep your body parts to yourself. Even “play” touching can bother somebody.
  • You are in charge of your things! This will help you develop organizational skills and personal responsibility.

S-T

Snack:  Many schools are doing away with “unhealthy” snacks.  Healthy snacks include fruit, fruit snacks, graham crackers and animal crackers.  Please make sure the fruit is pre-peeled or sliced.  Allergies are much more common now than ever.  Please do not send in food with nuts of any kind or chocolate as some students may be allergic to them.

U-V

Volunteers: Classroom volunteers are always welcome in schools; however with schools focusing on safety more than ever, it is always necessary to contact the teacher and/or main office to arrange your visit.

W-Z

Website:  All schools will have some sort of website, whether it’s school or district based.  Use these sites to help familiarize yourself with the basics of the school.

Winter Gear:  Make sure your child to school with appropriate winter gear (hats, gloves, snow pants and boots). We will go outdoors daily – even in cold weather!

 

All schools and classrooms will differ, but this A-Z list of basics should help guide you and your child as you ready for the amazing adventure in front of you… Kindergarten!