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Here's How Being a Father is Changing Me as a Teacher

Some of all y'all might know that the thing I love the most in life is my beautiful four-year old daughter Reece Penelope.

She's equal parts princess and punisher, ready to jump off the back of the couch in her Tinkerbell dress to land in the center of your chest while shouting "I'm Bringing the Justice" without warning.  Tickle or be tickled is her creed and bugs -- caterpillars, ants, spiders, butterflies -- are her passion.  Better yet, she's a comedian with an incredible sense of timing who always finds a way to make the people around her laugh.

#mygirl

Reece currently goes to preschool at a five-star day care that's costing me an arm and a leg -- and while we can barely afford to pay the $1,200 bill each month, she's learning a ton.  Every night before bed, she tells me about the things she's studying and we watch follow-up videos on YouTube together.  Just in the last week, we've studied the animals of the Plains, the Amazon Rain Forest and the life cycle of Monarch Butterflies -- and yes, she knows what a chrysalis is.

What I realized the other day, though, is that I'M learning a ton as Reece goes through school, too.  Here are three lessons that I hope to better translate into my teaching practice:

Parents WANT to know what their kids are learning about in school.

My daughter's teachers use a tool called LifeCubby to communicate with parents about the topics that their children are studying and the progress that their children are making in school -- and it's nothing short of remarkable.  Not only do they fill out regular developmental checklists and reports on Reece that I can see instantly, they also upload pictures of her working in stations to tackle individual tasks.

As a dad, I'm addicted to checking LifeCubby.  Knowing what she is studying helps me to start conversations with her that reinforce and extend what she is learning.  Just as importantly, however, seeing tangible evidence of the progress -- or lack thereof -- that she is making as a learner helps me to better understand just what she knows and can do.

What does this mean for me as a teacher?

I have to remain committed to sharing as much as I can with the parents of my students.  Whether it's through our team website where I try to give parents a general sense for what we're studying each week or through the unit overview sheets that my students use to track their own mastery of essential outcomes, keeping parents up-to-date is a role that I have to fill well.

Parents NEED to hear positive words about their kids.

Last year was a difficult year for Reece at school.  Because she's not your typical quiet, passive little girl ready to play dress-up and sing songs in circle time, she doesn't ALWAYS fit the mold that teachers are hoping that she'll fit.  Turns out that not EVERYONE celebrates caterpillar collecting comedians who would rather jump off of a table than sit at one.

#whoknew

The results were disastrous.  Every day, I'd go to pick her up and her teachers would have negative reports for me.  "Reece didn't have a good day today, Daddy," they'd say.  "She's not being a very good listener at all."  And every day, I'd have to have "a talk" with Reece about what "being a good girl" was all about.  It got to the point where I dreaded picking her up each day -- and where she dreaded going to school.

In September, though, she was assigned to a new classroom with two AMAZING teachers who really do love everything that makes my daughter unique.  They've given her a new definition of what "being a good girl" means -- and that definition includes all of the things that make my kid stand apart from her peers.

Now, picking Reece up from school is a celebration!  Almost every day, she hears her teachers tell her that she's had a great day -- and she smiles the minute she hears it.  The results have been remarkable:  She's confident and happy when she gets to school because she knows that her teachers are happy to see her in all her Reece Penelope Glory.

What does this mean for me as a teacher?

Parents -- particularly of the quirky kids in my classroom -- need to hear positive words about their children, too.  Those words literally sustain them, no matter how hard being a parent of a quirky kid can sometimes feel.  I need to find more ways to let the parents of my students -- all 140 of them -- know what it is that I admire about their children.

Parents CAN'T always provide solutions for the challenges that kids are having in schools:

What has frustrated me the most in the two-and-a-half years that Reece has been in school was the feeling of helplessness that came over me every time that her teachers told me that she wasn't "being a good girl" in class last year.  Not only did I struggle to understand exactly what her teachers believed "being a good girl" actually meant, I have absolutely NO experience working with 3 and 4 year olds.

That meant I had absolutely NO ideas how to change her behaviors in the way that her teachers wanted her behaviors to change.  I didn't know if I was supposed to yell at Reece every day when we got home, supposed to take television privileges away from her, or supposed to create some kind of point chart to reward her for being good.

So our family got caught in a never-ending cycle of misery:  I'd pick Reece up.  Her teachers would tell me she'd been bad, expecting me to do something about the behavior at home.  I'd go home and try to pull some kind of rabbit out of my parenting hat.  We'd go back to school the next day only to have her "be bad" all over again.

What does this mean for me as a teacher?

I need to stop expecting that the parents of the struggling students in my classroom are going to have the answers to fixing their kids.  No parent wants to see their child in trouble -- either academically or socially -- every day, y'all.  If they COULD have solved whatever problems their child has, they WOULD have done so a long time ago.

So instead of dumping responsibility for intervening on behalf of the struggling students in my class into the laps of their parents, I need to do a better job tapping into the professional resources and expertise in my building.  When a child's behavior is disruptive to his/her own learning or the learning of others, I need to turn to the guidance counselor or social worker in my building.  When a child can't grasp a concept that I'm trying to teach, I need to turn to the peers on my hallway for help.

Being a parent doesn't automatically mean that moms and dads are better prepared than I am to address the academic, social and emotional challenges that their children are facing. While parents will always play an important role in supporting the work we are doing in our building, to expect them to play a leadership role in addressing unproductive behaviors is a recipe for failure.

Long story short:  Being a father is changing me as a teacher -- and that's a REALLY good thing.  Anyone else had the same experience?

_________________________

Related Radical Reads:

Welcoming the Newest Radical!

Can the Quirky Kid Thrive?

My Middle Schoolers Love Our Unit Overview Sheets

 

28 Comments

Renee Moore commented on August 10, 2013 at 1:04pm:

What Really Counts

This is one of the most beautiful pieces I've ever read. You've captured some powerful truths that resonate with my own experiences as a mother and grandmother. Needs to be widely shared.

Bill Ferriter Bill Ferriter commented on August 11, 2013 at 8:35am:

Thanks, Renee!

Hey Pal, 

Thanks for your kind words!  It certainly is easier to write beautiful pieces about your own kids, right?  I'm glad that I'm blogging my way through her school career.  My guess is that there will be more than a few Reece inspired pieces along the way!

Hope you are well, 

Bill

Dan Winters commented on August 12, 2013 at 12:55am:

Did you just say Reece's

Did you just say Reece's Pieces?

 

Brilliant!

Bill Ferriter Bill Ferriter commented on August 12, 2013 at 6:03pm:

Yup!  Reece Piecey is a

Yup!  Reece Piecey is a nickname that Reece gets all the time!  

Even though the spelling is off by a letter, she still giggles every time she hears it.  

#makesmesmile

Bill

Tom Wandrum @tommytude commented on August 10, 2013 at 1:04pm:

Being a father is changing me too.

Wow Bill!  I really needed to read that.  I'm so glad your little girl finally found teachers that would make school the special place it should be.  We all need to do that and I'm going to try harder to make sure I do. 

Bill Ferriter Bill Ferriter commented on August 11, 2013 at 8:39am:

How Can We Match Teachers and Students Better?

Hey Tom, 

Glad the piece resonated with you!

And you're right:  Finding the RIGHT teachers made all the difference for Reece -- which has me wondering about the way that we place kids in classes in our schools.  In our building, the class lists are computer generated.  Everything from student demographics to academic ability is considered.  The factor not considered is the unqiue personalities of the kids and the classroom teachers.

That means I'm going to serve some students better than others this year -- and that's a shame.

I wonder if it would be possible to be more intentional in student placements for every child without opening an impossible logistical nightmare.

Bill

Jon Hanbury commented on August 10, 2013 at 9:48pm:

the parent in the teacher

bill,

has it been four years already????  i recall the "virtual shower" that the TLN folks gave you when Reece first arrived on the scene!  it's great to know that she is thriving!

in response to your thoughts, my mantra during our meet and greet open house each fall has always been, "i'll give to your children what i hope someone is giving to mine!"  every child is unique; every child has a gift.  it's finding that gift and nuturing it that may provide the avenue for us to link the mandated curriculum that we as teachers must present to the children.  

in addition, i have always considered myself a "boy teacher" -- meaning that i enjoy the curiosity, the energy, the questioning nature, and the activity that boys bring to the classroom.  i have never tried to harness that enthusiasm by demanding that the children sit in their seats, beome passive learners, and conform to the structures of the school that is all too familiar to all of us.  i was the exception to the rule while teaching kindergarten years ago.  i recall a time when my younger son's preschool teacher said that he did not know his numbers.  (by the way, he is now an engineer!)  knowing that he had helped me punch in 3 digit numbers into the risograph when we volunteered at my older son's school, i asked how she had assessed his knowledge.  she told me that she had provided a cut and paste activity in which the children were to glue blocks of ice with a number on an igloo to blocks of ice with a set of objects to correspond with that number.  my conclusion, my son had no desire to cut and paste!

thus my suggestion to you, my friend, is to meet with the principal of the school and share the strengths, talents, and learning style of your daughter.  express your interest in having her matched with the teachers who will build upon these characteristics.  it's imperative that our younger students receive the inspiration they need in their early years; otherwise, they check out and consider themselves bad or failures and as a result, they hate school.  should you encounter a teacher who finds your daughter "difficult" and/or "bad", i suggests that you probe for specific......timely, descriptive feedback......that will give you a better understanding of where the problem lies.  is it the teacher or is it my child.

having raised two boys, i know that there were many times when i needed to support the teacher in discipling them for their actions.  but likewise, there were many times i needed to consider the source and assist my child with navigating the system.  as parents, we need to advocate for our children!!!  and yet we as teachers cannot pretend that our children are not capable of making mistakes.  parenting, while teaching, is a tricky business.

i commend you for reminding us in the classroom of what it's like to teach and parent.  

ps......i'd love to have reece in my classroom!!!!

Bill Ferriter Bill Ferriter commented on August 11, 2013 at 8:46am:

Wishing EVERY Teacher was a "BOY" Teacher

Jon wrote:

in addition, i have always considered myself a "boy teacher" -- meaning that i enjoy the curiosity, the energy, the questioning nature, and the activity that boys bring to the classroom

- - - - - - - 

Hey Jon -- it really HAS been four years since our virtual shower!  Pretty amazing, isn't it?  Makes me miss the early days when I could hold my little spark plug in one hand sometimes.

And thanks for all your parenting advice.  I'm definitely going to have to pull out my "meet with the principal" card in the future.  While it stinks that other parents won't have the same juice, I'm going to have to be systematic about looking out for my girl otherwise the wheels of the machine are going to chew her up and spit her out.

Finally, your comment about being a "boy teacher" hits home for me simply because so much about what "being good" means in schools fits our stereotypes about what traditional expectations for girls have always been.  AT LEAST once a year, I have a student that I COMPLETELY DIG who COMPLETELY FRUSTRATES a teacher colleague simply because they aren't sitting and quiet and polite and organized and neat.  To them, the kid is "bad" because they aren't "quiet."  To me, the kid is "creative" and "innovative" and "passionate."  

And the sad truth is that there aren't many teachers who really value the traits that you and I see as positives.  Those kids might have a good year when they stumble across someone like you and I -- but for the most part, school will never be a place where they thrive.

Makes me mad.

Bill

Diane Main commented on August 10, 2013 at 11:08pm:

Mom the Teacher

I was already teaching for a decade when I had my son.  I have to say, teaching that long before having a kid taught me a lot about being a parent, focusing on what's important, and picking my battles.  And in the past decade, being a parent has transformed me as an educator.

My son is not perfect.  But he is amazing. Fantastic. Wonderful.  How could anyone else on the planet not see him this way too?

Well, for starters, his handwriting isn't great and he doesn't use time well.  He'll talk your ear off about his interests, but if you ask him to write it, you'll get the bare minimum.  Or less.  And you'll get it well after the deadline.  Or not at all.

He'll make up all kinds of stories with his toys, and he'll dance in front of us or even a gym full of teachers who are Mom's friends.  But when it comes to school assignments, he lacks imagination in his writing (again, the task itself is painful), and when it comes to school performances, he's the painfully out-of-step kid with a major dose of stage fright.

It's not that school brings out the worst in my kid, it's that it squelches his best.  And had I not been an educator for such a long time before his birth, I doubt I would have recognized why. He's super sweet and well-behaved and polite, but he just doesn't "get" school much of the time.  He's highly sensitive (like his mother, as it turns out), and being his Mom has made me realize that I wasn't such a great teacher those first ten years after all.  At least, not for ALL my students.  I could have done so much better by those kids who are like my son.

I'm much better now.  I recognize that I need to get to know each student as the unique person he or she is.  I need to take the time to see each student's particular combination of gifts and talents.  I need to see each student as somebody's child.  And now that I have one of my own -- especially given that his gifts are counterbalanced by some learning challenges -- I understand better how to be patient with parents, like me, who are doing the best they can.  And most of them have never been educators, and may not have the insights I've gotten over the years from all those other people's kids.

Thanks, Bill, for writing this.  You said very eloquently what I've come to realize over this past years watching my son navigate school.

Bill Ferriter Bill Ferriter commented on August 11, 2013 at 5:20pm:

You're just as eloquent, Diane!

Diane -- in the middle of an AMAZINGLY ELOQUENT comment -- wrote:

It's not that school brings out the worst in my kid, it's that it squelches his best.

 

- - - - - - - -

First, Diane, thanks for a beautiful comment of your own.  It made me smile the whole way through, that's for sure. 

The line that struck me the most was the one above, though.  Isn't it amazing that schools can squelch anything about our kids?  Shouldn't we be creating places where every kid thrives -- not just those who can sit still and listen in traditional ways?

Still more proof that standardization isn't what we should be shooting for in schools?

You've got me thinking..

Bill

Pernille Ripp commented on August 11, 2013 at 7:31am:

Thank you Bill.  My Thea

Thank you Bill.  My Thea sounds much lie yur daughter and I dread what the wrong kind of school environment will do to her her energy and her creativity.  I, like you, have come up short when she fails to meet others' expectation s for whatever's should act like and it leads me to feel like a parenting failure.  This post and finding the right teachers has affirmed me in my own decision to be a teacher that embraces all personalities and not just those that fit my definition of right.

 

Bill Ferriter Bill Ferriter commented on August 11, 2013 at 5:24pm:

Pernille wrote:

Pernille wrote:

my own decision to be a teacher that embraces all personalities and not just those that fit my definition of right.

- - - - - - -

What a powerful line, Pernille.  No matter who we are as teachers, we DO have our own definitions of what "right" looks like in action.  As a guy who loves the active, goofy princess punisher that I'm raising, I have to be careful to find ways to recognize and celebrate the quiet introverts sitting in my room, don't I?

That's why I'm completely hung up on the notion that we should be doing more to pair teachers and students together in a more intentional way.  At least in the middle school, that doesn't happen at all.  Too many kids would probably be the reason given if I pushed it. 

But it seems so worth it.  Can you imagine if every kid had a teacher who saw their amazingness every day?  That would be a powerful place for learning to happen.

Bill

Karen janowski commented on August 11, 2013 at 8:24am:

Great insights to share. Many

Great insights to share. Many respect your wisdom and this is an excellent piece (coming from someone whose children are now adults and who learned a great deal from them).

You may be interested to read The Behavior Code, not for Reece, but to be better prepared for all types of learners in your classroom.

Renee Moore commented on August 11, 2013 at 7:31pm:

Lessons from our children

I see this piece is touching many of us, and rightfully so. It irks me sometimes when critics of education refer to teachers and parents as if we were two totally separate groups of stakeholders. Most of the teachers I know are parents, and it absolutely affects our work--sometimes directly.  I've taught my two oldest children when they were in high school.  What I've seen in my own household has certainly informed how I teach, especially my view that each child is a unique personality and learner.

Bill Ferriter Bill Ferriter commented on August 12, 2013 at 6:09pm:

Renee wrote:

Renee wrote:

 

It irks me sometimes when critics of education refer to teachers and parents as if we were two totally separate groups of stakeholders. 

- - - - - - - - -

Me too, Pal!  And it irks me even more when critics refer to teachers and taxpayers as if we were two totally separate groups of stakeholders!  If anything, we're the most informed taxpayers that there are.  

I get the worry that we might be biased, out for protecting our own positions, but most of the teachers that I know are pragmatic, intelligent folks with insights that policymakers should embrace.

Bill

Tia commented on August 12, 2013 at 1:59am:

Amazing post!

Hi Bill!

 

I absolutely love this post!  Your insights as a dad with a child in school really resonated with me. When you wrote how your daughter was now celebrated in her new class, I literally sprung a HUGE smile on my face and said, "Yes!" My husband looked at me a little strange and asked why I was raising my arm in the air in victory.  hahaha. I will be sharing this post with my staff I our weekly blog this year.  This post is what it is all about. We need to remember that kids (and parents) are doing the best they can. They really are, whether we want to believe it or not. They need our support, encouragement, and care. 

 

I am so glad your daughter has great teachers this year! These teachers will make he love learning again. And for that, I a truly grateful.  

 

I, too, worry about my kids and how they will be in school. Not sure how to deal with all that, but to take it as it comes.

 

My question to you now, though, is, if you had to do last year over, would you do anything differently? If you would, what would you do?

 

Thanks for the great post!

 

Tia

 

Bill Ferriter Bill Ferriter commented on August 12, 2013 at 6:18pm:

Tia asked:

Tia asked:

My question to you now, though, is, if you had to do last year over, would you do anything differently? If you would, what would you do?

- - - - - - - 

First, Tia -- thanks for stopping by!  It makes me smile every time I see your name in my digital stream!  I totally wish we could work together more often, that's for sure.

Second, I'm not sure what I'd do differently -- and that actually scares me.  A part of me likes to think I would have kicked the doors in, knocked a few heads and pushed for my daughter's quirks to be better embraced and accepted.  But another part of me realizes that taking stronger action could literally have put my daughter in a WORSE place.

Heck, even when I picked her up today, I was worried that people at her school might have read my post and been angry about what I'd written -- and worried that, as a result, they'd treat her differently.

That's crazy isn't it?  Even as a parent who is a knowledgeable, strong advocate for both kids and schools, I am not confident about approaching the school when I have a concern.  Imagine how hard that must make things for parents with less social juice or experience navigating our systems.

#scary

Bill

Mike Readman commented on August 12, 2013 at 2:57am:

Needing to join in . . .

Your article really hit home with me today and the comments that followed added to the impact of your initial thoughts.  It's too bad that we don't all see the importance of stepping back and thinking carefully about the impact that our actions can have on kids despite our best intentions.  I'm happy that your daughter has a classroom where her teacher sees her for who she is and encourages her to express herself.  

As a teacher and now as a principal, I have struggled with my own misgivings about the placement of my two boys, now graduated, and how a bad experience can have a lasting impact.  I work hard to encourage teachers to see the potential in even our most challenging students, knowing that the right attitude and an occasional pat on the back can make a difference.

Thank you for reminding us of this.

 

Bill Ferriter Bill Ferriter commented on August 12, 2013 at 6:20pm:

Mike wrote:

Mike wrote:

 

As a teacher and now as a principal, I have struggled with my own misgivings about the placement of my two boys, now graduated, and how a bad experience can have a lasting impact.

- - - - - 

So Mike -- as a principal, are there things you can do to make the placement process different than the process that didn't serve your own sons well?

I'm really hung up right now on the notion that we need to do a better job matching students with the teachers who will serve them the best -- I'm just not experienced enough to know if that's even possible.

Bill

Melissa Rasberry commented on August 13, 2013 at 1:27am:

Beautiful piece, Bill!

So exciting to see you on this "daddy" journey, my friend! Like Jon, I remember the virtual retreat like it was yesterday. Cannot believe it's been four years already. 

It doesn't surprise me at all that your Reece has turned out to be such a fun-loving, inquisitive spirit. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, right? :-)

Though I'm no longer in the classroom, I wonder what advice you would give to teachers without children (like I was). What can they do to better support children and their parents? You've given some great starter ideas. Anything else you'd add to the list? 

Bill Ferriter Bill Ferriter commented on August 13, 2013 at 7:11pm:

Mel wrote:

Mel wrote:

Though I'm no longer in the classroom, I wonder what advice you would give to teachers without children (like I was). What can they do to better support children and their parents?

- - - - - - 

Thanks for the kind words, Pal. 

Want to know a secret:  If Reece grows up to be just like you, I'd be a happy man!  Your fun-loving, sharp, assertive personality is what I want to see out of her.  When I look for role models who represent my hopes for her, you're one of them.

As to your question, I think the biggest thing that teachers without children can do to better understand both their students and their parents is be WAY more patient and forgiving than you think you need to be.  The kid that rolls into your room without his homework isn't automatically lazy and his/her parents aren't automatically failures.  A TON of stuff happens between 3 PM and 8 AM that I'm not sure that teachers without kids can really understand.

An example:  I had a royally crappy day yesterday. I'm not feeling well, work -- both school and my part time job which I have to work in order to pay the bills -- isn't going well, and my car is on the fritz.  If Reece had homework to do last night, it wouldn't have gotten done because I'm barely surviving -- and I'm in a WAY better place than kids who are coming from disadvantaged communities.

Often, teachers without kids don't realize that.  Instead, they make assumptions about the intentions of parents and kids when things don't go as they expected without realizing that when you have a child, NOTHING goes as expected!

Does this make sense?

Bill

PS: I only know the thinking of teachers without kids because I WAS ONE for 16 years.  I made the same assumptions and judgments time and again about kids and parents.  Kind of ashamed to admit that.  

Melissa Rasberry commented on August 13, 2013 at 11:26pm:

Now that I've stopped tearing up...

Wow, Bill. You just made me cry! I have every confidence that Miss Reece will grow up to be a fireball that takes the world by storm. If she ever needs a pep talk, just let me know ;-)

I couldn't agree more with your advice. Though I've never had to deal with the stress of being a parent, I always did my best to understand that life happens. As you said, there's likely a reason why that homework isn't done. To borrow the sage advice of our friend, Susan Graham, assume good intentions. Don't assume the worst. Try to find out what's going on.

Can't wait to read more as Reece grows up! Keep on sharing (and bring her by sometime to say hello...)

Bill Ivey commented on August 13, 2013 at 11:44am:

Great blog - and discussion!

Thanks for writing this incredibly beautiful piece, and for your role in the discussion it is engendering. My son is about to turn 20, entering his sophomore year of college, and watching him navigate school along with my wife has most decidedly shaped who I am (we are) as a teacher. Of course, when he was in middle school, it created a particularly active connection with the parents of my students - we were quite literally in the same boat.

I take your three suggestions about teaching practice and apply them to my school, and I think we're actually doing relatively well - we're at least on the right track. We might not share the kinds of running narratives that I so loved when my son was in pre-school, but we do send out a pretty detailed newsletter every two weeks in which teachers detail what has been going on in their classes (and often, the why behind it as well) and I add in pieces about the non-academic things we're doing. We stress the importance of getting in contact with parents early on in the year with friendly, supportive, positive messages about their kids, and never ever leading with a negative when one arises but always putting it in a positive context - and trying to finish on a positive note as well. And finally, I think we try - sometimes with more success than others - to cultivate the notion of parents as partners. I'll often say, "Here's what I'm seeing. What are you hearing at home?" when trying to work with parents to solve a particuarly knotty problem. Once we've agreed on an approach, we'll also agree to check in down the line and see how that aproach is working out. Again, sometimes this works better than others - but we are trying.

As a girls school teacher (and one who has sometimes been "read female" at that), I have to react to the concept of wishing every teacher was a boy teacher. As you may have guessed I would! :-) The words jon used to describe what boys bring to the classroom - curiosity, energy, questioning nature, activity - are words I often use to describe my own students. As both you and jon were saying deep down, it's about embracing the nature of all the kids in our classrooms. Diane's point about schools squelching the best of kids is really well taken here. My school talks about "her own best self" and I think that's what we're all trying for (or should be). As free of gender (and other!) stereotypes as possible.

Do you know the Rachel Simmons book Curse of the Good Girl? It's an amazing resource for parents and teachers of girls. She has information on it at http://www.rachelsimmons.com/books-and-articles/curse-of-the-good-girl/

Thanks again for this post!

Bill Ferriter Bill Ferriter commented on August 13, 2013 at 7:05pm:

Bill wrote:

Bill wrote:

As you may have guessed I would! :-) The words jon used to describe what boys bring to the classroom - curiosity, energy, questioning nature, activity - are words I often use to describe my own students. 

- - - - - - - - 

This is a GREAT point, Bill -- and you're right:  Schools SHOULD be gender-neutral places that favor EVERY kid no matter what their personal styles and personalities and passions are.

My only pushback, though, is that most schools AREN'T places where active, inquisitive, curious, engergetic kids succeed no matter WHO they are -- and because a lot of boys trend in that direction, traditional buildings and traditional teachers fail boys far more often than they fail girls.  

That's not meant as a slight to girls at all.  And it's not meant to push stereotypes to an unhealthy place. It's just a reflection on what I've seen over and over again in the mixed gender buildings that I've worked in.  Boys who are inquisitive and curious are labeled as disruptive and in need of medication at an alarming rate.  

Any of this make sense?

Bill

Bill Ivey commented on August 13, 2013 at 9:30pm:

reality vs. the ideal

Point well taken, Bill, and thanks for taking the time to make it. It all makes sense - well, it's a fair representation of dynamics we see all too often in schools as a result of stereotyping and an antiquated educational model maintained in place despite our increased understanding of the actual needs of actual kids. I'm not sure the model itself, nor the application thereof, actually make sense. But your words do. If you see what I mean!

I would just say, then, I still don't wish every teacher was a boy teacher. Nor for that matter do I wish every teacher was a girl teacher. We all have our own styles, whatever gender we might be. And all our kids have their own styles, whatever gender they are. And that's okay, because it's simply our nature. The key to match nurture to nature without judgment and enable the best possible experiences for all our kids. And the other, far trickier, key is how to get there! And I think you and I are 100% in agreement on that point. And I also think that ties back to the main theme of your blog - how being a parent can inform our teaching.

Does that make sense?

Brianna Crowley commented on August 18, 2013 at 9:43pm:

Amazing Discussion--want it to continue

Bill,

I have to confess that I have been a long-time hold-out to the "keep the parents at bay"  and "I-wish-parents-would-support-learning" camp. I teach both the phenominally advantaged high school students (Read: helicopter parents) and the chronically disadvantaged high school students (Read: invisible) in my small, affluent district. With the range of dynamics possible for including parents, I have often taken the "less-is-better" approach--telling myself that I was fostering student independence and self-advocacy. 

To a degree, I still hold to this idea--students need to take ownership of their own learning despite or in addition to whatever ownership their parent's have for their child's education. But my view has been evolving--especially the past 2 years. I have seen the incredible, untapped potential of some parents who COULD be our best advocates in the community, and are just waiting to be asked. Likewise, I've seen the glimpses of the parents who are desperate to feel involved in thier student's academic success, but feel intimidated by the walls (both figurative and literal) of the classroom. 

All of this has prompted me to make parents front and center of my strategy this year. I want to use technology (Edmodo, QR codes, good ol' email) to reach out to them. I want them to use technology (Edmodod, Twitter, Skype) to offer their expertise to my classroom. Your piece about the LifeCubby helped galvanize my committment to using technology to engage parents. 

Thanks for your writing and the discussion it prompts. 

PS--I also cross-posted this @Good to hopefully bring even more voices to this dynamic discussion. Link below

http://www.good.is/posts/how-being-a-father-changes-me-as-a-teacher

Marsha Ratzel commented on August 18, 2013 at 12:42pm:

The gift my 3 children gave me

Like everyone has said before me, my own children (now 31, 29 and 27) gave me was huge.

My oldest daughter taught me what fun it was to have a rule follower, a teacher-pleaser, and introverted rebel.  She looked compliant on the outside and was internally compliant if you were a kind, smart teacher.  She didn't tolerate fools well and when her senior English teacher focused on notecards and outlines as the primary thing of their yearlong paper project and insisted on 3x5 notecards, not 5x7 or digital notecards, with the source written on every single one....well she waged her own war of ridulousness.  This teacher had a thing about the window curtain being perfectly level...and my daughter made sure it was just off a little bit every couple of days.  Just enough to really bug that teacher the same way she bugged my daugher for having such an insane requirement.  Eventually she went to earn an PhD in biochemistry.

My middle daughter was the opposite because she was so bright that she was bored to tears pretty much from the 2nd grade on up.  She really tried to find alternative things to do in the free time she had after her class assignments were finished...suggested she could create and publish a class newsletter in 3rd grade (no thanks), put up bulletin boards for other grade levels (she went home when she finished and had leftover time, watching the clock and came back precisely when she was no longer on loan to the other grade level teacher), and pushed the high school to allow her compact English classes which she hated into one semester.  Thank goodness for the debate team....it channeled and allowed her to hangout with likeminded students, have a place to belong where it was cool to be smart and want to be smarter, and she got to legally miss a bunch of school while they traveled to tournament.  I don't think she would have graduated HS without debate.  She eventually earned a BS in Applied Math (acutuarial science)...hated college too but you can take an extra heavy load and graduate in 3 years.

My youngest was compliant, smart and kind.  Until he suffered a closed brain injury and suffered several strokes during his 7th grade year.  In addition he had to have multiple heart surgeries to correct a cogential defect so he missed most of his middle school years...he had to learn to read again, walk again and completely re-centered his life away from being a jock into something else.  His school years taught me to never drop off worksheet packets to a student in intensive care and to let students who can't walk without a cane eat lunch in my room b/c they can't make it down and back to lunch room in alloted time so they don't eat!  I also learned what an amazing SPED teacher can do to help a kid rehab his life to the point he could do marching band and graduate with honors.  She taught him to read back up to his old speed (even if he has to whisper the words aloud now), write again and years of math tutoring allowed him to finish HS math thru Calculus 1.  He went on to earn his master's degree in philosophy.

Three different kids and mostly I found school to be filled with amazing teachers laboring under terrible circumstances and too many pressures.   My kids also taught me that group work can be a horrific experience if you're the one who everyone always counts on to do all the work -----  I will tell you that they've tried to find jobs where the team aspect is minimized---a scientist, a mathmatician and a financial analyst.  Mostly because school burned them out of group work.

 I also think my own kids taught me that most teachers don't have time to give to you if you're smart.  They assume you can learn it on your own because you can.  And that gives them time to help the kids that can't learn.  While I get that...and use that strategy myself....smart kids would love to have attention too.  I think it's a crime that we shove the smart kids off to the side again and again and again.

My classroom strategies that come from my own three:

  1. If you have a better way to do something, tell me and we can pretty much always work out a deal.
  2. Tiered assignments are a must.  Make sure everyone has the basics and then let smart kids fly with higher tiers of assignments.
  3. If you're bored, tell me.  If you can demonstrate learning, we'll create a contract where you can learn something related in my room.
  4. Physical disabilities are obvious and easier to compensate for.  Brain injuries are invisible so compassionate for those students----who don't get better fast and have residual side-effects for a long, long time---don't get over it.  There's nothing wrong with being someone's advocate.
  5. I keep an eye out for the smart kids that might not be identified or who have that quirky personality that bugs teachers.  I can be their friend and advocate for them within the system.....I know we don't have case managers to assign to these kids but it seems to me that they should have just as much leeway as the kids with paperwork (504s and IEPs) because they just grow up to be our brain surgeons or rocket scientists.

We learned as a family....and I embellish and augmented what a teacher can do in a classroom.  For our family, school was just the basics and we tried to make it into soemthing more....every night they had to discuss with everyone what they'd learned that day. I know the school didn't have the ability to go to museums, plays, theatre, concerts or read a lot.  So we did it at home.  At dinner everyone had to teach us a lesson if you will.   They got pretty good at explaining and clearly communicating their ideas.   And we shared the best and worst moments of the day...and then brainstormed social skills and strategies to flourish.  Sometimes we'd cry and sometimes we'd roll on the floor laughing (like when my youngest had to stay after school for a week for standing on the lunchroom table and yelling "Elvis is Still Alive" when he was in 3rd grade).  Funny but not appropriate.

Thank you my 3 sweeties....I think I'm more tolerate, more watchful and realize most parents are doing the best they can.

Justin Minkel commented on September 7, 2013 at 1:05pm:

Thanks from a grateful teacher-parent

Bill, this piece is incredible.  You have a gift, my friend--as a father, a teacher, a writer, and a thinker.  I'm going to share this piece with every parent, teacher, and parent-teacher I know.

My mom is a play therapist who works with "quirky" kids.  She once attended a conference that broke her heart, where she asked the child's teachers to talk about one of his strengths during a meeting with his mom.  The teachers couldn't think of a single one.  The mother was devastated.

Thanks for this reminder about seeing the strengths in each child.  If you haven't read it yet, check out the picture book Eduardo, the Horriblest Boy in the World--your daughter would have liked it for a little bibliotherapy during that rough year you describe.

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