gossip girl

When my son was in preschool he came home with this mantra one day, “Secrets, secrets are not nice… even for little mice.” When he came home with this little gem, I thought about my own secret keeping skills. But the more I thought about this little chant the more I thought, “This is SO wrong!” The leading sentence should be updated to: “Gossip, gossip, is not nice…” It’s not the secret that causes the problem but rather the spreading of secrets that does.

Gossip runs rampant in a school community. Amongst students, gossip is a behavior we try to abolish through education about empathy, open-mindedness, perspectives, and compassion. But gossip amongst the parent community can have detrimental effects on a school community and schools have limited ways to curb the tempers that ensue.

In my years of teaching, I’ve had a number of parents talk to me (as a teacher and parent) about other students in their child’s classroom community: “Can you believe that Ethan* has not been suspended from school after he kicked Janice on the playground?” or “I think Mrs. Smith lets that boy get away with anything he wants to in class” or ” We won’t be inviting her to our daughter’s birthday party because she is such a naughty child.”

The truth of the matter is–we all only know half of the story. And even if you were a participant in the event that has lead to the story that is being spread, you have your own perspective that can skew the story.

So here are my 4 best tips for curbing gossip:

  1. Avoid. Don’t participate in it! It’s as simple as that. If you hear someone start gossiping about a student, parent, or colleague you need to take control of your behavior and say something, change the subject, or walk away.
  2. Pause. Take a minute to reflect on why you are listening to the gossip. If you choose to  listen and/or spread gossip, consider what it say about you and your character.
  3. Empathize. Think back to a time when someone gossiped about you. How did it feel? Were you mad at the gossip creator or the one(s) spreading it? So why are you part of that same cycle?
  4. Speak up. I can tell you, this is the tip I find most challenging (as a parent) but quite easy as a teacher. When parents come to me as an educator, I sort of have the upper hand and can tell them that I need to listen to all sides of the story with an open mind. As a parent, I find that gossip is so pervasive at birthday parties and social events that it’s hard to avoid and even harder to quash. As often as I feel confident, I try to speak up and say something of value about the person they are gossiping about. Defending the person at the crux of the story often stops the gossipers in their tracks as people often gossip when they feel that their audience has a sense of disdain for the person being talked about. A compliment skews their perception of me and gives the person a good quality–and it’s hard to gossip about people who are good.

As a teacher, I would add one additional thought I’d like you to consider: If you are listening to parents talking about how that “Mean girl hits other students” keep in mind, you and your child may be the next target of such gossip.

What will you do differently tomorrow?

*Names have been changed for child protection.

Angela

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reading is fun

I enjoy reading in many forms: from a book, a magazine, a blog, or audio book… it doesn’t matter how I’m doing it, but that I’m doing it that’s important.

No matter how many years I’ve taught, what grade I’m teaching, what school I’m at, or what country I’m in, there is always a debate about the reading log. So why are so many teachers/schools/districts pushing “The Reading Log”?

As a parent and teacher, I’ve tried an array of reading logs: monthly minutes, daily reading, parent signature required, comprehension questions, pages read, reading journals, charts, calendars, author/title, weekly recording sheets, rewards, sticker charts… you name it, I’ve probably seen it, tried it, and/or required my students to complete it.

As a teacher, I printed them, sent them home for homework, and marked responses with stickers and smiley faces because that’s what the school required.

As a parent, I loathed the nagging required to get my children to complete the reading tasks set forth by their teacher. Ugh.

But as I sit at my dining room table typing up this blog, I look at the couch where both of my teens are reading and think to myself, “I did all right!” My daughter is nose-deep in the latest of a series of YA fiction suggested to her by the school librarian and my son is on his laptop reading the blog of a YouTuber he admires.

But they are not logging a gosh darn thing!

Without reading logs, my children are more avid, excited, and enthusiastic about reading. So how do you get around the parental torture of a reading log? Here’s my teacher pro-tip: let the kids read what they WANT to read. 

  • If they like to cook, then have them read a recipe while you two make dinner together.
  • A fan of comics and comic books? Grab a magazine or subscribe to an online newspaper and discuss the real-world satire the comic is commenting on.
  • If you live far away from family and friends, get your parents or in-laws to write regular emails to your child which they can respond to. This idea helps kill two birds with one stone as you also get your children to practice writing too!
  • Tap in to their interest by finding a blog they can follow: like LEGOs, outer space, or animal rescue.

If your child’s teacher sends home the dreaded log, I’m sorry to say, you won’t be able to avoid the torture of tracking minutes or signing a sheet to say you saw your kid reading. But you will help build the habit of reading. And that is more important than anything.

Some alternative ways to complete reading log goals:

  • blogs
  • recipes
  • letters/emails
  • newspaper/magazines
  • directions
  • maps
  • audio books
  • home language books

Ultimately, the most important thing we parents and teachers can do is read by example. We can’t expect our kids to do something we are not willing to do ourselves. So, grab a novel, download an audio book, join a Book Club, open a magazine, or cuddle with the kids on the couch–it doesn’t matter how you’re doing it just that you’re doing it.

Angela

new year, new routines

Every December 31st, people around the globe write a list of resolutions that will help them be the best version of themselves in the year ahead. Unfortunately, by the end of January, most people have failed themselves by neglecting their resolutions. But if you have school-aged kids, you’re lucky… you get to reboot every September.

Each school year rings in “newness:” New teachers, new clothes, new school supplies, and new routines. So here are my top 5 routine busters to help you and your child(ren) get (and stay) organized.

calendarize your life: Calendars help people see what’s happening next. This, in turn, helps limit tantrums (from the kids and adults alike)! Depending on the age of your child and the chaos in your life, you’ll need a different type of calendar. For little ones, I always loved Melissa & Doug’s magnetic calendars because they allow kids to begin developing a mathematical understanding of numbers, months, and holidays. For older kids, a fridge calendar may be just what need to see the days’ events at a glance (our family’s calendar is color coded and added to as events come up). For tech-savvy families, create and share a Google Calendar. The events will be visible to all family members and will automatically update when someone makes a change.

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get everyone to pitch in: There is no rule in child-rearing that states that the adults have to do it all. Why do think the word “chores” was invented? That said, everyone has got to pitch in. It doesn’t mean the work load will be equitable, but each family member should pitch in and help in an age-appropriate manner. What is age-appropriate you ask? Well, you know your kids best so you decide. But Your Modern Family has some great ideas to help you get the ball rolling. With our older children, we discussed the chores that need to get done each day and then we divided them accordingly (keeping in mind the kids’ schedules). At our teens’ age, we decided to compensate with money which helps build about financial independence.

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stay connected: During the school year, days quickly turn in to weeks, weeks turn in to months, and, before you know it, we’re back around at summer again. Don’t let the time get away from you. Step away from the hectic reality of life (and the glow of your devices) to make contact with your child(ren), your partner, and your tribe! Go beyond the “How was your day?” gibberish because, really, there is no good answer to that question. Dig a little deeper and ask more meaningful questions. My favorites are:

  • What did you do to make someone smile today?
  • If you could do today all over again, what would you have changed?
  • What is one thing you want to remember about today?

I haven’t cornered the market on great thought-provoking queries as I sometimes find myself asking the banal, “What did you learn today?” question. …And I’m not sure these moms have figured it out much better than I have, but they’ve got some prompts that might help you get started (though I would avoid any “tattle-type” questions myself). [Questions from Motherly and FabulesslyFrugal]

Here’s a bonus idea for staying connected with tweens. This idea directly correlates with the calendarize suggestions mentioned above: keep each other in the loop. Back in “little kid” days, my husband or I would be asked to “Bring the family ’round for dinner.” “Sure, no problem” we’d respond with the assumption that kids would enjoy the night out.  We’d load up the kids, grab a bottle of wine, and be on our way. But that is not the way to do it with tweens and teens. They’ve got their own agendas. So I suggest you start a family chat to help with those “I was just invited…” plans that come up at school and work. We’ve observed that the chat has alleviated a lot of stress because everyone knows what is coming (“We are going out to dinner with the Smith’s on Friday”) and reduces the inevitable parental taxi strain (“Can you drop us off at the movies at 7? Her mom will pick us up!”).

set up a lunch line: With the invention of refrigerators, lunch-making has never been easier. But I’m shocked at how many parents I catch complaining about having to wake up early to put together the day’s lunches. Stop it. There is a better way! Get everyone involved in making their own lunch. We started getting our kids to make their own lunches when they were 3 years-old. My husband would cut up stacks of veggies (and the kids would pick two different kinds) while I helped the kids slop mayo, mustard, and veggies on bread. The kids would fill reusable containers with yogurt, fruit salad, and/or fruit juice and they’d toss in some cutlery. Done! Now that they are teens, it’s even easier. I make the salads (for the adults) while one kid makes sandwiches or portions out leftovers (for the kids). My husband is still on veggie duty, and the other kid helps where needed: fruit duty, extra protein on sport’s days, or a bonus treat from the weekend’s baking extravaganza.

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The main reason my family keeps me around–I’m the only one who can Tetris the fridge so a week’s worth of shopping, pre-cooked dinners, and all of our lunches fit inside.

don’t sweat the small stuff: It’s OK if the laundry doesn’t get done tonight. The memory of cuddling up with your child and reading a favorite book, drawing a picture for grandma, or listening to them play an instrument (no matter how good or bad) is far more important in the grand scheme of things. Choose to live the best life in the moment and let the rest go!

Angela