Still Time To Give Thanks

Still Time to Give Thanks

If you haven’t been properly thankful this November (and there could be a lot of reasons for that), I can solve your problem.  My solution deftly combines November’s two important holidays:  Veterans Day and Thanksgiving.  My solution is a way to say thank-you to our nation’s military families, whose loved ones are serving away from home during this month when the rest of us can be together.

It will take you only a few minutes to go to the website for United Through Reading and see what I am talking about.  UTR is a nonprofit organization that has figured out a simple, but powerful, way to keep military families better connected during a mother’s or father’s long deployment.  At 262 locations around the world last year, UTR set up the technical facilities to record videos of military service members as they read books aloud to their kids at home.  Once recorded, the videos were emailed or mailed home.

What could make more sense and be any easier or cheaper to do?  While everyone knows intuitively that this idea would absolutely work, here are some statements about the program’s impact, as quoted from UTR’s website:

Children’s anxieties fade.
Service members become part of daily life at home.
Spouses are supported because parenting is shared.
Homecomings begin with children welcoming a familiar parent, not a stranger.
Children learn to love books and reading.

And, in case you were wondering, UTR is the recipient of the 2016 Community Service Hero Award from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and the 2015 American Prize of the Library of Congress Literacy Awards Program.  So, UTR is doing something right.

Parents of kids of all ages:  If you are thankful that your family was together on Thanksgiving, if you are grateful that there are military service members following in a long tradition of protecting and preserving, if you are proud that you had a family member in the military, or if you believe that hearing a bedtime story from a faraway parent is something that all kids deserve, then go to UTR’s website.

First, watch a video or two of families telling about their own experiences with UTR, if you need any more persuading.  Then, donate.  I did—in honor of my mother and father, my father-in-law, my uncle, and my cousin, who served with honor.  This is one great way to give thanks before November ends.

Bulletin Boards—Really?

Bulletin Boards—Really? on ParentChat with ReginaBulletin boards are a topic I have no patience for. You might recall that last week I ranted about dioramas. The case of dioramas pales beside my feelings about bulletin boards. Reader, beware.

In the December 28–January 10 issue of New York Magazine (one of the best-written magazines anywhere, in case you wanted my opinion), I was reading with interest Andrew Rice’s excellent piece on New York City’s mayor: “How Are You Enjoying the de Blasio Revolution?” Since taking office, Mayor Bill de Blasio has been making a fair number of moves on the public education front—at least some of which seem to be successful, perhaps most notably his impressively speedy implementation of universal pre-K.

One thing de Blasio did, as any incoming mayor would do, was appoint a new chancellor to lead the public schools. His choice was Carmen Fariña, a former New York City Department of Education teacher, principal, district superintendent, and deputy chancellor. She seemed like a reasonable choice.

In writing his article, Rice said that he asked Fariña “—who usually visits six schools a week—how she could tell a good one from a bad one.” Here is what Rice wrote next:

‘No. 1, I look for a welcoming lobby,’ she said. ‘Is there evidence that the school has pride, that there are bulletin boards that have kids’ work on them?’ Word about the chancellor’s aesthetic eye has filtered downward. ‘[Expletive deleted] bulletin boards!’ says an acquaintance of mine who taught math at a Brooklyn high school. She told me that last year she was barraged with emails from the principal reminding teachers to keep their boards well decorated, lest they fail a central-office pop test. (quoted from the article)

Like it or not, I cannot blame Fariña for the bulletin board fixation—though I can and do blame her for not ending it. When we opened our Early College high school in New York City in 2009, we were subject to the administrative system then in place that called for district superintendents to lead a relatively intensive site visit of individual schools to judge each school’s strengths and weaknesses. During the site visit, many constituents were interviewed—students, parents, college staff at our cooperating City University campus, business partners on our Advisory Board, and more—and classrooms were observed. All of which seemed reasonable to me. But one major directive in getting prepared for these site visits was always about our bulletin boards.

Now, let me say again that we were a high school. And we were an Early College school (we sent our kids to college classes after two years with us, and we graduated them after just three years with us). And we were a career and technical education school, with an active Advisory Board of business and industry and higher education representatives. We were all about college and careers—even before that became today’s popular mantra. Some of my colleagues and I truly felt that bulletin boards with kids’ work on them seemed out of place in our school culture.

To our credit, our hallways were decorated with very large college banners. Some bulletin boards had college information on them. One was dedicated to our Advisory Board and the businesses they represented. One was dedicated to our career-related after-school engineering clubs. We thought these were fine. We just didn’t see the point of putting kids’ essays from English class, for example, on a bulletin board—like bulletin boards you might see in an elementary school.

We were the first Early College career and technical education high school in New York City. We were a demonstration school for the State of New York. As such, we had lots of important visitors. Colleges don’t have student work on bulletin boards in their hallways, we argued. Corporations don’t have bulletin boards of employees’ work in their hallways, we continued. We got nowhere.

I think the idea that bulletin boards—in school hallways and even in school classrooms—should have students’ work on them might work for an elementary school, but has no place in a high school and probably no place in a middle school, either. My guess is that teenagers find that practice a bit childish. But why not ask them?

I won’t end with my usual advice to go ask the school board whether there is a policy on bulletin board displays in your district—though I can imagine there should be one and would even like to write a good one, if any school board is interested. Instead, talk to your principal about the bulletin boards in your child’s school. Are they appropriate for the school level—elementary, middle, or high school? Are they interesting for students and for visitors? What would students like to see on bulletin boards? I bet they have an idea—and I bet it is better than Fariña’s.

ParentChat with Regina: Getting a Handle on What Matters in #Education #parents

Welcome to the How To Find the Right College Blog Tour!

Marie Segares and I are now embarking on a blog tour for the book that we co-authored this past summer—How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students. As I hope you all already know, the book is a readable, easy-to-use guide for parents who are not as familiar with the wide range of college options as they need to be in order to help their teenager find a college that is a good fit.

How To Find The Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students by Regina H. Paul and Marie G. SegaresThe book grew out of the free weekly podcast—NYCollegeChat—that we have been doing since last September. After working in the world of K–12 and higher education for a combined total of more than 50 years, we still learn new things every time we prepare for an episode. Our goal is to help parents who don’t have our 50 years of experience.

Now, I have never done a blog tour, so I am not entirely sure what to expect. I hope it will give us a chance to reach parents who might not otherwise have heard about our book and our podcast. I hope it will help parents make better—even life-changing—decisions with their teenagers.

Please join us at one of these stops and help me figure out what a blog tour is all about:

How To Find the Right College Blog Tour Schedule

November 2: ParentChat with Regina

November 4: The College Money Maze

November 5: Parents’ Guide to the College Puzzle

November 6: Mission: Authors Talk About It

November 11: Together with Family

November 12: NYCollegeChat

November 13: The Staten Island Family

November 16: Road2College

November 18: Viva Fifty

November 19: Paying For College 101 Facebook group

November 20: Underground Crafter

Goodreads Book Giveaway

How To Find the Right College by Regina H. Paul

How To Find the Right College

by Regina H. Paul

Giveaway ends November 30, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

How To Find the Right College is now available for sale as a Kindle ebook or as a paperback workbook on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.