Recently, my daughter ran for student body president. Her challenge was to convince over 800 kids that she should be their champion and leader in the student government. Although she ran a really impressive, thoughtful, and mature campaign, she lost to an opponent that she didn’t even anticipate having a chance. She learned valuable lessons about having a gimmick, ignoring the exit polls, and never counting anyone out. But besides that, she learned a valuable lesson about how citizens go through the process to access power to make change. She learned how to run for office.
My mother-in-law is a matriarch who has spent her entire life caring for family members- her parents, her siblings, her children, nieces and nephews and even friends. She has a heart of gold and is willing to provide for those she holds closest to her heart. A decade ago she moved in with us to help when I was pregnant with my second child. Her help with our young kids and cooking meals was the reason our family stayed afloat and I could go to grad school. Over time, I thought about how I could ever pay her back. She has since moved out on her own, but I try to make certain I extend myself when she is in need. For a woman in her seventies, she’s extremely independent and self sufficient, so it’s hard to label myself a traditional caregiver. But when it comes down to it, I think she and my family see me in that role.
We’ve all had a moment when we read a headline that made us raise an eyebrow; heard an advertisement that was stretched beyond truthful; or listened to a politician or news anchor that was completely biased. We throw around fake news so readily when we don’t believe information online. But do we know what the term “fake news” really means? Is it news we don’t agree with or news that spreads false information or is it parody? In this era, the news never sleeps. Since online information is available everywhere all the time, how can we decipher between news and information that is valuable and that which is not?
The problem isn’t just the sheer amount of news and information coming at us. It is that much of what we see online we want to believe it. Media that gains the most traction is entertaining or creates a visceral reaction and we consume that media in good faith. When news and information sites use their platforms to stretch the truth or spread blatantly false information it is hard to determine what is truthful and what is not. The fake news ecosystem preys on some of our deepest human instincts, which encourages us to make decisions against our best interests, believe false information about groups of people, and allows us to perpetuate our own ignorant biases.
I spend a large portion of my time caring for, looking after, and maintaining the health and wellbeing of others. Amidst all of the scheduling of my work life and the kids' respective social lives, the hours of my day quickly evaporate into vague memories of daily routine. Not once do I stop and think about myself, my health and often my own needs. And why should I? Like all "good" mothers, my needs come second to theirs, right?
Why is it important for children to activate a growth mindset when learning new skills?
My daughter is learning a new musical instrument. And unfortunately for her, I’ve passed down my amazing character trait of expecting to be a virtuoso at everything you touch. As she stood in our living room making failed attempts at musical sounds I could see the frustration begin to surface into a desire to quit. This was when I stopped her...
Sometimes all you need is a glimpse into the future to let you know that things are going to be alright. It was a solid five months of career and professional uncertainty for me. I’d been thinking heavily about the hamster wheel I’d been running on for what seemed to be the last two years. Where was I going? What am I even doing? Should I pursue something else? I’m in my mid thirties and all of the dreams and aspirations I’d worked for in my twenties had not come to fruition yet. These thoughts subsided when I blamed my lack of “success” on having kids, being married, or not reaching out to the right people at the right time, but deep down inside I knew this was not completely true. Knowing there are no shortcuts to success, it still felt like my mantra of “hard work clears the path” was getting me nowhere.
I have always been enthusiastic about being an older woman because it looked like so much fun. I grew up on shows like The Golden Girls, 227, and Murder She Wrote (reruns). The main characters in these shows were women above 50 living their best lives. Watching my grandmothers have successful careers, amazingly vibrant family lives, while remaining active and fit, was reassurance to me that growing in grace and good health was a potential birthright. The problem was that I believed that this time in my life was really far off in the distance. But on my 36th birthday, I was overcome by the misnomer that if I were to live to at least 70, my life was now half over.
Digital Citizenship Week is an opportunity for parents, educators, and students to educate themselves on issues concerning youth online activity. Online activity includes: cyberbullying, cyber predators, media literacy, social media use, games and apps marketed to kids, digital footprints, plagiarism, and more.
I’m a shameless advocate of parent-teacher partnerships. It’s not because I was a teacher or was raised by teacher, but because I understand the power of parent-teacher cooperation. It takes a village and your child’s teacher should definitely be one adult advocate in your child’s tribe. Trusting an “outsider” with your child’s growth and development can be a challenge for some to overcome, but the trade off for doing so is immeasurable when it works.
Communication is a vitally important component to parent-teacher relationships. I want my children’s teachers to understand that I’m not here to judge them or tell them what to do; my goal is to partner with them to make sure we get the most out of our 180 plus school days together. In advocating for my child I ask myself: What can I do to keep the learning going at home? What are my child’s weakest areas? How can I motivate my child to ensure that she is a good citizen in the classroom? After reflecting on what I know about my child, I ask my child’s teacher these same questions.
Here are three reasons why I value partnership with each of my children’s teachers:
I woke up to the sounds of YouTube videos in the background. I really wanted it to stop, but it didn’t. As I rolled over and came to, I heard the low baritone of my husband’s voice pointing out a variety of musical nuances that only a well trained ear or a complete music wonk would understand. As he flipped from video to video, explaining which artist influenced whom and when this band jammed together with these people on a bus, I came to this sudden realization… He was teaching his daughters a very important lesson about happiness and lifelong learning.
Communication today is instantaneous. We write emails, send chat requests on social media, and send GIFs and emojis via text messages. We know how people feel, where they are, and what they’re up to at any moment in time just by looking at a timeline or feed of information. Party invitations, wedding announcements, and other celebratory life events are now also shared via mobile and online communications. With communication becoming bite-sized and immediate, I wonder if we are losing the art of thoughtfully exchanging of ideas with others. Are we becoming less human when we engage less personally? Are we losing out as we become more efficient?
When was the last time you sat down, penned a letter, and put it in the mail? For many of us, the idea of visiting the post office or using an envelope and stamp is an awkward experience. Why write a letter if you can Skype or FaceTime or direct message? The idea of writing a physical letter might be an archaic concept, but it’s a skill worth cultivating in our children. Letter writing is a great way to improve writing and communication skills. It allows the sender to organize their thoughts into a story, think about their recipient and what they’d like to learn from the other person, practice their writing style and voice, as well as, practice handwriting coordination. Despite the many benefits of digitization, the experience of letter writing can be a great way to substitute a creative writing exercise that also helps social emotional development.
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working in edtech. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.