30 November 2010

An exciting announcement!!

Hey there, loyal readers of the BlazeBlog, today we are excited to announce that we have partnered (and by "partnered" I mean, "we signed up") with our friends at twitter to create a feed of ridiculous things we've over-heard at lunch.

It will be just as good as you think. To prove it, click here

29 November 2010

I Renew My War Against Charter Schools.

Hello, dear reader, and welcome back to the "Dirty Dozen"; a list of the problems that I see facing American education, and occasionally a suggestion for how to fix it.
Today, I renew my clarion call against charter schools. But before I do, a little explanation about my background, and the background of charter schools, in case you are unfamiliar with either one.
I have spent the last decade nine years of my life teaching in public schools. When I started in public schools I didn't do it for any great philosophical reason, but because that was who offered me a paying position and benefits. At the time, especially in Indiana, charter schools were largely a non-issue. In my time in public schools, I have come to value that they are the bedrock of American democracy. Public schools, at their best and worst, provide equal opportunity for their students. This is the value that Americans value above most others; that we all have an equal opportunity to succeed or fail based on our own efforts.

Charter schools have risen in demand for "better" schools. They began as a movement to allow parents and teachers who were frustrated with mostly urban public schools to leave and start their own schools. These schools, unlike private schools, would be granted charters, and would operate as "public". This means that they received public funding, and had to admit students regardless of race, gender, creed, or color. However, they could do many things that "regular" public schools could not. For example, they could place a hard cap on enrollment, allowing them to turn students away if too many students wanted to enroll. These schools have been gaining popularity and are growing across the nation, despite the fact that their results are the same as the public schools which they are an alternative to. (check out this story, about 1/4 of the way down).

Anyway, I've gone on at great length about charter schools before (read here, if you haven't before), so I'll try to avoid repeating that rant. Why? Because I have a new rant.

A new rant? But how? I work in education, there's always material for a new rant.

I'm currently on the warpath against online schools. Sure, I don't like charter schools, with their playing by different rules, and their touting results produced with different rules. I don't like how they segregate society by who's parents care. I don't like that people see them as a solution, instead of working within the system to affect change for all students. But "brick-and-mortar" charter schools seem like bastions of educational sanity compared to online schools. 

Online schools are charter schools which, by and large, offer classes statewide, and allow students to complete their learning at home, in a self-directed manner. (full disclosure: I am good friends with several people who work for online schools, and I don't hate them as people. But I also know that they could do better. I'm just saying, ladies.......)

You might be wondering why these schools would do this. For the money. You see, every student in a state carries with them money from the state. Online schools claim this money for those students whom they enroll. However, in general, online schools have much lower overhead costs, since they tend to not have much in the way of buildings or staff, since the learning is self-directed and on the Internet. Thus, they are money makers. Some other time, I'll let loose on how schools shouldn't make money, but should try their hardest to just break even.

Now, I'm not going to spend my evening writing a scathing critique of the academic achievement records of these schools, because it has already been done for me . Instead, I plan to attack them for the one thing they generally fail at more than teaching kids. Socializing kids.

For a moment, let us be honest. School was full of embarrassment. I, for one, made tragic hair decisions from about 1992-1999. For those keeping track, that was when I was in middle and high school. I'm sure many of you can also remember / regret choices you made socially while you were in school. Your peers probably made you suffer for it. That's a good thing. Wait, what? Suffering is good? Yes.

I know that no one wants their child to be picked on. No one wants suffering. In fact, suffering, on occasion, creates great tragedy. Ask anyone who attended school or taught in Colorado post-Columbine. 

However, in the vast majority of cases, the suffering leads to some tears, maybe a fight. And learning. Oh yes, learning. No, this isn't on any test, but it's learning. It's social learning. And social learning is one of those untested things that schools provide which is so important. You see, by allowing our children to make low-impact bad choices, and suffer socially in a pretty safe social environment, they grow, and society continues to have people who can interact with one another.

This aspect is lost in an online charter school. Since students are self-directed, they are free to be as odd and off as they want to be, with no social ramifications. In some cases, their only face-to-face interactions will be with their immediate family. If you've read my manifesto on parents, you know that I'm not sure that is all that healthy. ( MANIFESTO ).

So, now, you've got an entire group of students, who probably need the social interaction more than most students, in a school with very little social interaction.

Well, that seems like a good plan.

And now, to reward you for getting to the end, a mini u-boat.

Q: Why did the missionary Narcissa Whitman go into the west?
A: To spread her face to the Indians.

23 November 2010

Friday U-boat, ed. 5 (on a Tuesday)

Editor's note:

This u-boat, like all u-boats that were mean-spirited have been removed by request of the management

18 November 2010

Inquiry Based Learning and the Inquisition.

I've been in public education long enough to know that everything old will be new again. Once you've been in public schools for about 5 years, you've seen and heard about pretty much every educational innovation as long as you've managed to stay awake during inservices.

In the last inservice that my school hosted, we talked about inquiry based learning. To be honest, I didn't go, because I was recovering from riding on a bus with a marching band for 10 hours. If you're not familiar with Inquiry Based Learning, here's a brief synopsis.

For those of you too lazy to read through that fine website from some company who wants to sell you some thing, I'll summarize:

Advocates of Inquiry Based Learning say that by letting students investigate topics which are somewhat open, on their own. The theory goes that students investigating topics they like, and drawing their own conclusions are more engaged and are building more durable knowledge.

I don't disagree

I think that Inquiry Based Learning, or IBL as Dr. Dick Johncock would declare it, does all of those things. I even think that those things are important. I believe that a student who can't think critically in society is a far bigger failure than a student who can't pass a crummy standardized test.

So, why am I here, on my soapbox, ready to talk about IBL? Am I going to sing it's praises? Will this be the first positive post in the history of the BlazeBlog? In short; no. I'm on the BlazeBox because I think that IBL is dangerous.

Dangerous? Why?

It's dangerous for the same reason that people going to conferences are dangerous, because some people think that it will be a cure all. It won't be. And if schools force teachers to spend more and more time developing and teaching IBL strategies, teachers will spend less time on traditional learning strategies. And that would be fine, if the entire goal of schools was to "teach students to learn".

But that's not why schools exist. Indeed, schools exist for several historical reasons. Now, since I'm a history teacher, I feel qualified to explain those reasons to you.

Originally, public schools were financed in the Northwest Ordinance of 1785. This was because, in a fledgling democracy, the founders were very aware that schools were needed, because an uneducated populous would never work in the world's first modern democracy. If "the people" were to have a serious voice in government, "the people" needed at least to have basic skills so that they could make decisions on their own. So, the government financed some of the first truly "public" schools in the world. At this point, I'm tempted to rail against charter schools again, but that's a post for another day. Instead, I'll jump forward in history about 75 years to the second reason that public schools teach more than "how to learn"

In the mid 19th Century, as waves of immigrants moved into the crowded metropolises of the fledgling United States, the established citizens realized that those immigrants needed to be assimilated into the nation. It became clear that the easiest way to do this would be through their children. So, their children were taught hygiene, and the language, and a common U.S. History. This gave them, and by extension their parents, a common, shared history. This is why History stands still today as a core subject in the state standards of all 50 states. (in fact, U.S. History was the first set of national standards, which set off a fire-storm of controversy at the time)

History and English are taught because it is important that students have a common base of knowledge, so that all citizens are "singing from the same hymnbook," as it were. If we become to married to IBL, and letting students pick their own courses of study, instead of simply presenting some knowledge as non-negotiable, we produce students who are very good at reasoning their way out of a problem. However, they will often be arguing with false facts, and drawing conclusions which are false. Their arguments will make sense, unless you have knowledge of what they're saying; in which case you'll think of them as well-reasoned baboons. 

In short, they'll all be FoxNews anchors.

(See what I did with the last line and the title? I thought it was clever.) 

17 November 2010

Hey! Experts Agree with me!

According to this story in the Wall Street Journal, a panel composed of experts from the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (Dr. Johncock is a member of this prestigious organization) has suggested making teacher education, and I cannot make this up, "more like medical training"

Hmm, where have I heard that before?

Oh, that's right, here, on the BlazeBlog!


12 November 2010

Friday U-boat, ed. 4

Editor's note:

This u-boat, like all u-boats that were mean-spirited have been removed by request of the management

08 November 2010

The Seven Most Dangerous Words In Education

Sometimes, an educator will get sent to a conference. They'll go somewhere sunny and wonderful, like Omaha, and when they come back, the school will want to see a return on the money they spent.

Their co-workers, wondering why there was an elderly woman reading mystery novels in the class next door while children ran crazy, will ask the educator where they've been. The educator will respond with:

"I just got back from a conference"

These are the Seven Most Dangerous words in Education. Why? Because when an educator goes to a conference, they go away from school. While away from school, all things seem possible. You can go to the bathroom whenever you want. You can have free coffee and fruit.

At many conferences, there is AN HOUR for lunch. 60 whole minutes. Most educators can't even begin to imagine 60 minutes for lunch. And so, overwhelmed by this world that they don't understand, educators write everything down, and come back, ready to change the world, convinced that what they learned today really is the magic bullet.

Because someone at the conference has BRAND NEW IDEAS. And now, your school is going to implement those ideas. However, we don't have the funding to bring in the expert from the conference (Dr. Dick Johncock is actually available! Email him for details Seriously!) So, the person who went to the conference is going to lead an inservice, and we're going to implement this.

So, on the inservice day, the kids go home at lunch, you get lunch and meet in the library. At this point, a PowerPoint is projected, apologies are made for the small text, we watch a movie, get three handouts stolen from the Internet, and people walk away confused. Meanwhile, new jargon has been added to our educational lexicon. Because more jargon = better learning.

Seriously, I was once in a curriculum map planning meeting, and the leader (love you!), wanted us to develop a Vision Statement for Social Studies. I suggested that we put it in the "Random Educational Catchphrase Generator" and see what it spat out. Here's an example:

We will empower students, through experiential and differentiated lessons, to become masters of their education in an ever-changing world. Students will be supported by norms based, standards referenced, horizontally and vertically aligned, real-world applied, and community created lessons.

Far too often, administrators really buy into this stuff. They're looking for ways to improve test scores RIGHT FREAKING NOW, and these lessons from conferences seem like the real deal. That leads to administrators basing everything on jargon that teachers got exposed to for 2 hours at the end of the day in the library. (Honestly, the teachers probably graded and did the crossword, so they're just as much to blame in this deal)

You know what? The Internet is better at explaining this rant than I am.

Here's a video, it does a better job than I ever could:

So, are conferences bad, and are they hurting education? No, probably not. the problem is that the conference gets people all excited, and then they come back to school full of piss and vinegar, but that enthusiasm doesn't translate to us mere mortals. Indeed, there's even jargon for this. It's a "lack of buy-in".

What can we do about it? First, lets all calm down. Rome wasn't built in a day, and the problems of American education, as I think I've shown, are largely systemic, and won't be fixed by the ideas you're bringing back from the conference. Now that we're all calm, lets go ahead and implement these good ideas, in moderation. We don't need to reinvent the wheel every 10 months with a new set of acronyms and discipline plans. In fact, we might be well served to self-asses, or use that conference registration fee to bring in someone from outside to evaluate how we're doing.

But if we did that, no one would get to go to Omaha.

07 November 2010

Hi, I'm a Student Teacher, er, Teaching Candidate, er......

I work at a school which has a partnership with a local university. The university sends us what they call teaching candidates. These are students near the end of their university education in education. They come to us and observe for 16 weeks. Actually, they observe for 8 weeks with us, and 8 weeks in a middle school in our district. They do this in the fall. In the spring, they receive an assignment and become "student teachers".

They spend their spring paying to "teach". In reality, they'll get about two weeks of really flying free, and even then, the licensed teacher can step in at any point. As education programs go, this one is pretty good. Candidates observe in classrooms that are the same subject as that which they will one day teach. They watch for a long time before they teach.

It's still a terrible program. "Wait, what?", you're asking; you said this was a pretty good program. I did. As teacher ed programs go, this one is pretty good, but it's still pretty terrible. Teacher education in this nation is abhorrent. When I student taught, I taught for 8 weeks, was observed by my cooperating teacher daily, and by my university supervisor 3 times. Together, they decided that I was ok, and I got an A. I ended up interviewing against my university supervisor for jobs. I had superior qualifications to teach economics than the teacher who was my "mentor" in that class. All in all, I sank or swam on my own. Very rarely did I learn anything from the adults who were supposed to teach me. I learned mostly from experience, who is a bitch of a teacher.

I think we need to blow up the teacher education model we cling to in this nation. If we, as a society, want to pay more than lip service to the importance of teaching, we need to treat aspiring teachers, and their preparation, more like the way we teach another group of young people who get practice prior to their license, but after they get their degree; doctors.

That's right, I want teachers to be trained like doctors. Before I even explain, let me address the concerns that have immediately sprung to your agile minds.

1. You're worried that teachers will have debt comparable to doctors, without the upside of big pay later. This is true, but my plan attempts to address this problem. (we could just pay teachers like doctors, but that's crazy talk!)

2. You're worried that these "interns / residents" will need supervision in the schools, and that means more staffing. Ah, read on, I've come up with a clever solution, I think.

3. You're worried you'll be eaten by zombies. I can't help, but will remind you that zombies lead an active lifestyle, so cardio is important

Ok, on to the plan

I think that we should keep what we have now, observation, followed by "student teaching". Those student teachers that discovered that teaching was too hard / not what they expected / early in the morning / whatever, could get their degree and quit. They could go sell insurance. However, if you wanted to get a license to teach, you would apply to "teaching schools" which would operate like teaching hospitals. Teachers; selected by peers, or administration or the University (or a combination of the three) as master teachers would be in charge of a "resident teacher"

(These master teachers would not be selected by level of education, since a masters from the University of North Nowheresville's Online Masters in Instructional Modelling has never made someone a more effective teacher. More pay, yes, better in the classroom, no).

Now, I teach in a school with 8 hours, which makes this plan work. It would need some changes for those schools teaching in the straight 7, or the trimester, or the straight block. But, we run a modified alternating block, so this is what we would do:

1. In a year, a department of 8 people couldn't have more than one student teacher and one resident teacher. This prevents the school from being overrun by novices.

2. The resident teacher would get 3/4 of a normal load (right now, I teach 6 of 8 as a regular teacher. In this system, the resident teacher would teach 4 of 8). However, the resident teacher would also be required to complete reflections, observe teachers in other classes and disciplines, observe administrators, shadow the support staff, and be engaged in an extra-curricular activity. This would help them to experience the school culture.

3. There would be a master teacher (to keep with the medical analogy, an attending teacher). This teacher would also work 4 of 8 (though I would accept 5 of 8 to placate the schools and unions). The schedules of these teachers would be such that the attending would have planning hours during the resident teacher's classes, and would be required to observe, and to mentor this teacher.

4. As the department of Health and Human Services finances much of the salaries of residents in teaching hospitals, perhaps we could use some of that Race to the Top money to pay for resident teachers. They would receive a 3/4 salary and still be eligible for student loans and grants. Also, the University would waive all or most of the tuition for administering the program. 

For what it's worth, my first year teaching, I made less than the average medical resident in the United States, so I hope we can find money for 75% of that. Perhaps the Department of Education could do something useful and support this financially. In reality, the best we could hope for is probably going halfsies with the feds and the districts.

5. Once they finished their "residency", these teachers, now with a year of real-world teaching; the total experience, the hours, the grading, the extra stuff which student teachers are often excluded from like coaching, these people would have a true feeling of what teaching is and takes.

6. Obviously this puts huge pressure and responsibility on "attending" teachers. We would need to develop a program to help select and teach these people. They would need to be impeccably qualified, and would have to be passionate about both teaching, and teaching teachers. These people exist. I can name 10 in my building. They would have to be talked into it, but that extra planning time would help.

There are a myriad of benefits for a program like this. Since this is a post full of numbered lists, let me introduce another:

1. We increase the number of sections offered from 6 to 8 at a minimal cost to the district (Because the attending teacher would have had 6, but now the attending + the resident offer 8, or 9 if you force the attending to teach 5 of 8).

2. Teachers are better prepared, having actually honed their craft for a year under the supervision of people who have experience in the field.

3. With increased sections, class sizes shrink, which is shown over and over to improve test scores. It also, anecdotal evidence suggests, increases learning.

4. There are more adults to supervise, and to shine as role models for students. Different types of teachers reach different students, so the more types of teachers you have (and young teachers often connect very well with students), the more possible engagement. The more engagement, the more students learn.

5. New teachers, operating as peers bring the newest ideas to the classroom. This rubs off on older teachers. Student teachers are overwhelmed by being short-term visitors. Residents would, one hopes, feel like members of the team, and would share their knowledge with the permanent staff. This would lead to professional growth for all.

To be perfectly frank, I think that a system like this could, for minimal effort, make a fundamental change in both the quality of teachers we produce and the quality of the schools they work in. It would happen not just for the empirical reasons stated above, but for the much more subtle message sent by making it harder to get a teacher's license than it is to get a hairdressers license.

If we say to people, that to teach, you will spend a year of your life teaching, and being evaluated on that teaching, and then you may get your license, we have sent a powerful signal that we only want the best and the best qualified to teach. 

People will live up to that expectation.

01 November 2010

A diatribe on parents. And squirrels.

And so begins what may be the hardest post that I've ever composed.

Why, you ask? Because this is the long-awaited post on the problems presented by parents. Ok, so you're writing about parents, why is that so hard, you ask (in a second question, which is kind of irritating, honestly). Because I'm going to say inflammatory things. And I'm going to be guilty of generalizing. I'm going to talk about parents in 7 categories, and 6 of those are not flattering, parent of the year categories. I'm going to mock and deride parents. I'm going to be meanish.

And I feel bad because most parents don't deserve the scorn of educators. But the ones that do, really do. So, I'm going to write a massive missive on parents.

If you're a parent, then please don't take offense. I'm just trying to explain another of the 12 reasons that I think education is hurting, and then try to offer a solution. It's not personal. Unless you're the parent I describe in section 6, in which case, it is absolutely personal, you hack.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, lets get to talking turkey. I prefer white meat. Ok, now let's explore the damage done to education every day by bad parents.

I think it's important that I underscore that the parents I'm talking about in this post aren't abusive, or mean spirited. In fact, you probably know some of these people, and think that they're good parents. They advocate for their kids. They're involved. You see them at school. Hell, you might think that they're better parents than you are, since they always seem to be emailing, calling, and meeting with their kids' teachers. By the standards of involvement, these parents are "good". However, they're doing long term damage. They are, as someone clever called them,

1) Helicopter Parents:

I'm hardly the first person to write about the dangers of helicopter parents. In fact, you can check out this post on another blogspot page about the dangers of parents who are all over their kids. I could restate the arguments from SunShineParenting, but that would be redundant. Instead, I'm going to break down the two most damaging types of Helicopter Parents:

1A) The Attack Chopper:

When I say "attack chopper" you probably see images of the Governator flashing across your retinas ( gratuitous youtube link! ). However, I'm thinking about that parent who is constantly hovering, just out of sight, waiting for a perceived attack or slight against their child. Then, they're immediately calling the school, emailing, demanding meetings, where they can call into question you, your character, and the goals of the school. They'll threaten litigation, to enroll in a charter school, and to go to the school board. Maybe the teacher made a mistake, maybe the kid is being less than completely honest (insert sarcastic gasp here). Doesn't matter, this parent is coming to school, yelling at everyone they can find, preferably with child in tow, to prove their love, and then vanishing, with a wake of destruction behind them.

All the attack chopper parent is doing for their child is teaching them that if you complain, someone bigger and badder will come and intimidate your problem away. That's a lesson that will serve them well when the parents send kiddo off to school, or better yet, run into a confident, competent teacher. Then, it's two gunships blazing away. Those meetings rule

1B The fire-fighting chopper

This parent appears on the scene after a grade card comes home without acceptable grades. Suddenly, a parent who wouldn't bother to return an email 2 weeks ago wants to know why you the teacher haven't replied to that request for 95 missing assignments RIGHT FREAKING NOW. Their kid is the most important, and you must stop everything you're doing to "help" them fix their child's grade. Just like a fire-fighting chopper, they weren't around when the problem was caused, and just like the chopper, they'll only stick around until the fire is out. Then, they'll be gone. What does their child learn? To procrastinate, to do shabby work late, to depend on the coverage that mom/dad/guardian provides.

How can we fix this problem? Well, honestly it's a societal problem, which requires societal change. Parents need to allow their kids to fail. But that's hard. Failure is painful, and parents don't like to see their children hurt. I get that. It's admirable. But (and I will make this point over and over today), it's not good for kids. They need to fail in the safety of the home, so that they can fix their mistakes and deficiencies before they gain independence, where the cost of failure is much higher.

2) The Over-Expector

If you have kids, you think that they're special. Technically, you're correct. They are unique in the universe. But are they more special than all the other kids? Probably not. So, despite all of that baby Einstein, and the fact that his poop once made a perfect smiley face, your kid is probably average. And that's ok. Lots of average people have done spectacular things in their lives.

The over-expector is a parent who not only thinks that their child is extra special, but also that their kid will achieve great things, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. To whit: I was once in an IEP meeting with a Special Ed student. The kid did so little work it was almost impossible to determine his abilities. I'll even say he was lazy, because I believe that he was. His parents were convinced he was going to BYU. BYU is not an easy school to get into, even for bright students. This kid once turned in a guided reading worksheet (the kind where the words are taken straight from book, with blanks in key places) by saying that:"The Nazis came to power using guns and fire." The correct answer? Propaganda and fear. Well, I'm sure BYU won't mind that he can't tell the difference between fire and fear, right?

3) The Ray Lewis

Because you're good Americans, I'm going to assume that you're familiar with Ray Lewis. No? Ok, well, he's a NFL player famous for doing a ridiculous dance at the beginning of the game, and talking a lot of trash (it really is foolish). So how does this buffoon relate to an entire category of bad parents? There are parents out there, and I know you'll be shocked by this, who are the Ray Lewis of discipline.

Oh yeah, you call, or have a meeting, and these parents are going to go home, kick ass, chew ass, chew bubble gum, ground people, sell X Boxes, and smash cell phones with hammers. They are Ray Lewis in his intro. But once they get home, they turn into Ray in the game. Average, at best. No behavior changes. The kid still has a cell phone, and still no homework gets done.

I'll just assume you can understand why promising punishment, and never delivering is bad for kids.

4. The Over-due Bill

This parent was Ray Lewis for years. They never really disciplined the kids. Maybe they're divorced, and trying to win favor or custody. Perhaps they thought the behaviors were cute, and by the time they realized their error, their child was out of control. These parents will regularly lament to teachers that they "just don't know what to do".

Why do I call them over-due bills? Because just like a bill that didn't get paid, their is a penalty for this long-term lack of discipline. Their child is incorrigible. Perhaps this parent is attempting to reign in their child. It doesn't matter, without the history of respect, the child won't respond to discipline. Often even draconian measures fail, because the child is conditioned to ignore the pain. These children often lie, to parents, teachers and administrators. 

There's no solution to the over-due bill, unless you can get that DeLorean to 88 MPH, and get Mr. Fusion to generate 1.21 gigawatts. I thought about explaining that joke, but decided against it.

5. The Public Defender

Closely related to the Attack Chopper, the Public Defender has no doubt that something bad happened, and that their child was there, but their child is clearly not guilty, your honor.

Kid had a pound of weed in his locker? Someone else put it there. Stolen ipod in his pocket? An friend (who he won't name, because he's not a snitch) asked him to hold it. Bullying comments on a facebook page? She couldn't possibly do it, I don't let her have facebook.

This parent, I would guess because of experience, is very familiar with school law and board policy. There's not an appeal they won't exhaust. I think these parents exist because they don't want to be the villain. They don't want to "hurt" their child. They want the best. Sometimes, they cross-breed with the over-expector, and are convinced that this smirch on their child's permanent record will keep them out of Harvard and Yale.

This problem parent is best solved by having an administrator with a spine of titanium. If a principal is willing to stick to their guns, to weather the storm of criticism and obscenity, then this child will be disciplined, and the parent will be, for the short term, shut up.

6. The Educational Philosopher

I'd been teaching for 5 years when I got my first complaint from a parent about content. It shocked me. I was a civics teacher, and had sent home a simple survey about political beliefs. It did contain questions about abortion and marijuana, but fell well within the school's guidelines for the teaching of controversial topics, as well as the curriculum for teaching civics.

A parent replied, indignant that I would include such topics in a freshman level class. (here's the redacted complaint). I really enjoyed the fact that she thought I would give a low grade based on the responses. Also, she somehow is upset that the topics are age-inappropriate, but also that the questions are the extreme liberal and conservative, a good way to engage freshmen, since they often don't "get" nuanced questions. I responded with a well-researched and, I thought, calm reply. (here's the redacted response). She shot back more non-sense, I offered to meet with her and my supervisor, she stopped emailing me.

She mentions in a follow-up email that she's just gotten done with 15 years in the Air Force. That's great. I salute and appreciate her service. But she's not an educational expert. The vast majority of parents aren't experts in pedagogy or content. If they were, they'd be in the classroom, and would understand why we do things. But some parents are "experts". They teach elementary school. (ok, fine, if you're an elementary teacher, you hate it when high school teachers do this too, I get it.) There is a vast difference in content and delivery between high school and elementary school. I won't harass the pedagogy of elementary teachers, and they shouldn't harass me.

You're a something. I don't come to work and ask you why you put the mayo on before the pickle. That's not my place.But I've made this argument before, so I'll stop. What, you want to hear it? ( ok, here it is)

Now, you might think that I hate all parents. Not true. In fact, most parents are good. But maybe, just maybe, you've seen today some behaviors that you occasionally exhibit. You want to know how to be a "good" parent.

Here's what good parents do:

They might not do all of these things all of the time, but when parents are at their best, these are the things they're doing:

1. They're involved, but not showy or pushy. They let children make mistakes, and they trust teachers to be experts.

2. They listen to their child, but trust the adults. Kids lie, especially when they're in trouble. Sometimes kids don't realize what they've done was wrong. Sometimes, they don't think adults have proof, so they go all Nixon and deny deny deny.

3. They allow their child to succeed or fail on their own merit. Good parents don't do homework for their kids, and they don't ask for unreasonable accommodations when students don't do the work. In short, they let a child learn after they fail, as opposed to protecting their child from failing.

4. They hold their child accountable for the child's actions. They listen to explanations, but not to excuses.

5. They celebrate successes appropriately. Your kid is the best swimmer in the state. Awesome, have a party, go crazy. Your kid got a 100% on a spelling test. Maybe a sticker or extra dessert is more appropriate. You child learns from the way you celebrate. When little successes are over-blown, the child becomes used to it, and expects it. When the celebrations stop, the child becomes less willing to work.

In short, good parents know that there are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going, for them or their children.

And now, for reading to the end, a picture of a squirrel in a party hat. Enjoy.