Monday, November 26, 2018

Confessions of an Educational Advocate

When I graduated with my MA my favorite job was working in a program as an educational advocate for children who were wards of the state of Missouri. Once trained by the state. I oversaw the education of 40 children for a period of three years. Half of the children were early childhood age and were enrolled in our on-site program, a local Easter Seals program, and an early intervention program run by the local school district. The other 20 were school age and attended the local public school, a magnet school, or were transferred out to the district they came from to maintain some level of consistency. As the children’s advocate I spent many days in the schools.   I want to share with you what I did that I feel made me successful as an educational advocate.

First, I contacted school personnel before school started. This included each child’s teacher for the year and all of the other professional staff including: Principal, School Secretary, the Ancillary teachers PE, Art, Music and Title I, Nurse, School Social Worker, the Psychologist, Librarian, School Chef, and the head Janitor. I gave each of them a business card and told them the best way to reach me was via telephone; on the back of each card were the names of the children.

Secondly, I kept in touch with the teacher regularly. For me as an advocate that was weekly. However for the average parent bi-monthly should suffice.  I also let teachers know if something was happening that could cause mental, emotional, or physical distress to the child in their class. These things could include that the child was worried about something, the house pet was sick at the Vet, or a visit with their family went badly or did not happen. This gives teachers a heads up that something is wrong and helps them to meet needs they otherwise may  not have anticipated.

Thirdly. I helped supervise homework time. As an educator I realize that a child’s time in school is not so much about learning as it is about instruction. Learning actually takes place as children take the instruction and put it into practice on their own which is the purpose of homework. I set up with my fellow co-workers a set homework time that stayed consistent. They and I would move around the room and help children to process what the teacher had instructed them on in class. We did this by asking open ended  questions such as:” What are the steps the teacher talked about in class today?”. This helped children to tie what they did in school back to what they were doing then.

Lastly, I attended Parent-Teacher Conferences. I approached these conferences as a chance for the teacher and I to get on the same page when it came to the children’s expectations.  I knew what homework had be hardest for them so I sought information on how to help them to process better. I came with a list of five questions I wanted answered about that particular child’s classroom performance, peer interactions, and overall school well-being. Then I took notes regarding our discussion and used these notes to inform my co-workers of the school progress of each child. We then worked as a team to help each child with their areas of challenge and weakness. This helped both homework and school progress improve.

Educational advocacy is all about being supportive of both your child and the teacher. Teachers are your team members. It is their job to instruct the children. As parents and caregivers it is our job to ensure children are learning what the teachers are laying out for them. It is also our job to ensure the educators are doing a good job making sure their instruction is meeting the needs of the children. Parents need to work hard not to take sides between children and teachers but, instead find a way to mediate.

I loved my time as an educational advocate and I hope these steps help you to feel confident as you advocate for your children. Please let me know what you think of this article and the steps that are outlined here.

Belie e in Parenting

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Sunday, November 18, 2018

Focusing November 22 on Thanksgiving, Joy, and Fun

Here in Atlanta every Sunday Morning on our most popular talk radio station WSB 750 there is a show called the Monica Matthews show. She talks about faith, life. and politics. This week her show was about envy and this being the real reason for the climate in today's American climate. I think she has a valid point.
So, I wanted to write a post to encourage everyone to put down strife, contention, arguments, and any other thing which could get in the way of making this November 22 a true focus on Thanksgiving. A thanksgiving which is full of love, peace, and joy for your family.

Focus the Family on  Being Thankful

One way to do this is to have everyone who comes into the house write on a piece of paper one thing they are grateful for since the last Thanksgiving and put them into a basket. Later in the evening pull out the basket and play a game to see who can guess which person wrote this thanks. Entourage that person to then share the story behind the comment. Or you could choose to do this throughout the day it will help keep everyone focused on gratitude. 

Another suggestion is to ask people to come in and as they say hi also share a gratitude moment from the last month they can share. This will organically get people to think about what they are thankful for which has happened recently.

Finally, as a take home gift this year have journals for folks to take home so they can start a gratitude journal. The Dollar Store sells journals, you can also use composition book these are sold in most places where school supplies are sold.

Family and Football

As Americans most of us recognize that Thanksgiving is synonymous with the gridiron. So, there are several ways to make football a fun part of your day; beyond watching the games. When people come into the house have clothespins which signify the colors of the game most important to you and your guests, one color for each team. Then. do a crossing game when one person from the red team catches a person from the blue team crossing arms, legs, ankles etc that team loses a pin. By the end of the game the team which has the most pins, wins gets a fun prize. (You can go to a local restaurant and get cpupons for lunches.)

Create a mascot and team matching game. Choose 10 football teams and put their names on a page on one side and mix up the mascots on the other and give a prize to the person who get the most matches correct.

Have a betting pool using a favorite hard candy. When people come in they each get five pieces of candy. Before the game starts people have to write on a card which team will win and by how many points then put their candy in the bowl one piece per each bet. After the game the person who is cloest to the actual score takes home the candy.

Food and Conversation

It is fun to do place cards around the table to get folks to mingle with others they may not usually sit with and talk. One way to make this easier is to include a conversation starter on each place card. So, here is a list to get you started.

The best book I read this year..
The best movie I saw...
The funniest commercial...
Tue most moving thing I observed...
What gave me the most joy...
The most interesting person I met...
Tue most surprising result...
My most treasured memory for this year...
The thing I am most looking forward to the holiday season...
Three things I want to accomplish in 2019...

I hope this list gets you thinking about conversations to have around the table to keep everyone focused on happy uplifting and joyful things to think about and be grateful for this year. The key to having a joyful and peace filled holiday is found in Phillip ans 4:8-9.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. 

I wish you a great day on November 22 filled with love, joy, peace and thanksgiving!

Believe in Parenting

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