It’s been a while…Here’s why.

Hi friends.

It has been a long while since I posted here.

I hadn’t anticipated taking such a long sabbatical, but after a busy work season this past spring, I needed a break. More than that, I needed some quiet.

The truth is, it’s getting awfully loud around here. And when I say, “around here,” I mean the worldwide web.

It makes me weary.

It’s like a traffic jam in hot weather…horns are honking and drivers are jockeying for position.

I’m weary of the competition and one upsmanship.
I’m weary of the bullying.
I’m tired of the barrage of promotions.
I’m sick of the rat-race that has overtaken the information super-highway.
(It requires too much merging. And anyone who knows me knows that highway merging makes me very, very nervous.)

Make no mistake…I love the internet! The convenience alone makes life so much better…I tried to explain to my kids how I used to do research. You remember…Reference books. Journals. Microfiche. (They stared blankly, as though I was recounting life in another millennium. Which, of course, it was.)

Because of Facebook, I’m in touch with “old friends” more often; those friendships aren’t punctuated only by Christmas cards and reunions. We’re all a little more connected. I love seeing vacation photos and celebrating birthdays, new jobs, graduations, touchdowns and lead roles.

I worry, though, that by being so connected, we’re getting a little disconnected. Our memories and experiences are boxed into pithy hashtags while our touch screens have gotten us decidedly out of touch with each other. Life has become a caricature of itself as we clamor for attention and laughs and time on the virtual soapbox.

My wise grandfather, for whom my son is named, greatly appreciated architecture, science and technology. If he were here, Papa Bill would likely marvel at the speed and efficiency of the internet, and he’d love the richness of the information. But he’d also urge moderation. And, most certainly, he’d invoke one of his favorite quotes from Shakespeare: “To thine own self be true.” A gentleman, my grandfather always maintained his integrity and stood firm in his beliefs, without humiliating or belittling others…without having to have the last word.

Those are good standards for merging into the worldwide web.mitziecar

I’m searching, I think, not for an internet super-highway, but rather, a virtual Route 66. Slower. Kinder. Friendlier.
Quieter.

And I want my vehicle here (my blog!) to be like my minivan…In real life, I drive a dented, 10 year-old minivan, with fraying upholstery, and a CD player that works…sometimes. But it’s comfortable and reliable, and it holds lots of people. It gets us safely from A to B.

I still have research to do, stories to tell and articles to write. As I do, I want to respect the other “drivers,” even though some might pass me by or even bump into me from time to time. I know I’ll make some mistakes, too. I might cut someone off or slow somebody down. If I do, I’ll try to apologize…or at least wave politely.  No one’s perfect…least of all, me. I’ll be prepared, though, and I will choose my route carefully and be sure my mind and heart are headed in the right direction.

It’s pretty unrealistic to think that the whole internet can suddenly become a safer, smoother, more genteel place. But I can certainly make THIS part of the internet better. I hope you’ll come with me…Hop in. Buckle your safety belt. Roll down the windows.

And don’t worry…if the CD player isn’t working…

We’ll sing.

 

 

You are So Much More Than Just a Score

This is a letter to every student who has taken a standardized test, from a teacher (and a mom), who wants you to know the truth.

washingtonpost.com

washingtonpost.com

Dear Students,

Much has been made about the state of our educational system these days…and the news hasn’t been good. We’re not keeping up with other countries. We’re lagging in our adoption of technology, and we haven’t mastered the math and science concepts necessary to win the nauseating, never-ending Race To Nowhere.

To solve this, policy-makers have decided that testing is necessary to monitor not only your progress, but that of your teachers and administrators, too.

They are partly right.

If you graduate from high school, and you’re not able to read, write, and understand math concepts capably, then we have utterly failed you. You deserve to go to school in a safe place where you can grow and learn. Schools need to be accountable, so that when you cross the stage in cap and gown, the diploma you grasp really, truly means something. It should be a symbol that you have met the standards set for you, and a testimony to the dedication of your teachers (and parents!) who guided you through the process.

So, kids…testing IS necessary. However, just like your grandma says, you CAN have too much of a good thing. We have descended to a place where testing is everything. And sadly, it seems we may be headed to an abyss where testing is the ONLY thing. Many of you are beginning to wonder if your test scores are the most important information about you. And,students, if you believe that, we’ve failed you again.

Who you are, and who you will become, cannot be captured in scaled scores or percentiles…

bill-annie-2004

You are creative, and funny, and insightful.

You’re an actor. A lacrosse player. An artist. An entrepreneur.

When you’re faced with a tough assignment, you persist, even when it feels like you’ll never finish.

And when you saw the child  alone on the swings, you invited her to play foursquare with you and your friends. No one ever asked her to play before that moment. Did you know that?

A test can’t measure sensitivity.
Or determination
Or grace.

No test can quantify the richness of your soul or the lyrical melody of your contagious giggles. No standardized measure can predict your ability to find joy in the midst of pain, or your willingness to show love to those who seem unlovable.

And even though we’ve armed you with No. 2 pencils, and calculators and response books, the tools you’ll really need to succeed are within you…

Leadership
Wisdom
Kindness
Faith

So take heart, students…and take courage. You DO have what it takes. Sit up straight. Keep your eyes on your own paper. Do your best job. Check your work.
And then remember this most important truth:
You are so much more than just a score.

 

What Should I Take to the IEP Meeting?

It’s a question I get every year…

Parents, wanting  to set the stage for a positive, productive planning session, will ask, “Should I take cookies to the IEP* meeting?”

My answer? “Sure…if you feel like baking or stopping by the market to get a treat for the team…”

And then I tell them some things they’ll really need…
Parent_Teacher_Conference

Take a picture of your child. Some of the staff  may not have met your son or daughter…and even if they have, it’s easier to discuss goals and objectives when we remember that we’re talking, not about policies, but about a person.

Take information from your child’s doctor or therapist. Many parents tell me that they don’t want the school to know their child is getting therapy to address behavior concerns or taking medicine for a mental health issue. In most cases, though, the teachers can better understand and help when they have ALL the information. It feels risky, but sharing this information can result in better continuity of care for your child.

Take a calendar. Planning often requires follow-up. Take your calendar with you to schedule future meetings or remind yourself to follow through on anything the school has asked of you.

Take your dreams. At the beginning of the meeting, the team will begin to discuss future plans for your child.  Share your hopes…and be willing to accept feedback on realistic ways to help your child achieve these long-range goals.

Take your fears. When a child needs special education services, many parents experience tremendous anxiety, as new questions bubble to the surface…”Will my child be able to read? Will he have any friends? Will she be able to get a job someday?” Sharing those fears with the school team can make you feel vulnerable, but it helps  them understand some of your reasons for wanting certain services.

Take your tears. So many parents tell me, “I read a bunch of articles, so I know that I DEFINITELY shouldn’t cry…I’m afraid I’ll break down, though…” I’m not sure why this has become standard advice; in my estimation, it lacks wisdom. No one likes to cry at a meeting, (and some folks just aren’t criers. That’s okay!) If you do get teary, know this:  Those tears  help you release and communicate grief, anger, and sorrow. Let them flow. They’re born of a great love for your child.

Take a friend. Or your spouse, or an advocate. It’s hard to listen to everything when you’re nervous.  Having someone accompany you allows you to process what happened after the meeting is over. (Be sure to tell the school ahead of time if you’re inviting a guest…it’s just good manners.)

Take your front teeth. You might need them to bite your tongue, if someone says something inaccurate or insensitive. Also take phrases like, “Can you help me understand why you would say that?” or “Would you care to put that in writing so that I can reflect on that later?” Those phrases can help to refocus the meeting. (And, as a back-up, take your humility…because you might say something you wish you hadn’t, too.)

parentteacherconf

Take your heart and head. Your love for and knowledge of your child is a tremendous asset. Don’t underestimate your ability to convey how your child’s unique strengths can be valued.

Take your faith. As you plan, remember that your child was created for a purpose by a King whose love will never, ever fail.

So, there you have it…Those are the things you’ll need for your meeting.
They’ll go great with the cookies.

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*Individualized Education Plan
Photo credits: thechristianacademy.org;engagenkcschools.com