A Simple List System for Managing Time and Assignments

Many of my students have trouble managing their time. They come to school without their homework and especially long term assignments they have known about for a long time. All of them have digital calendars, apps on their phones, and planners provided by the school. Despite these tools, managing their “to do” list is still a problem. I think the problem might be they have too many tools to use, and they don’t use any of them well. They need something easier.

Since I am good at juggling a lot of deadlines and details, I thought students might be able to benefit from my strategy. Here is what I do.

  • In a small journal that goes with me everywhere, I jot down a few words to remind me of each task I need to do. For example, if a student asks me for another copy of our syllabus, I write “Mary-syllabus” in my journal where I keep a running list of everything I need to do. A student in science class can simply write “science.” Later, when doing homework, she will see that she does have science homework to do. (This assumes that she has a syllabus or online source with the details of what is due for science.)
  • When I get a few minutes to go over my list, I do everything I can do quickly right then and check it off the list. If a task will take some time, I enter a deadline when it needs to be completed into my calendar app with a reminder that pops up several days ahead of time.
  • At the end of the day, I spend just a few minutes going over the list to see if there is something important I need to do before stopping for the day. I start a new page for the next day by copying remaining tasks onto that page.

If your child has difficulty managing his time, this simple strategy might work for him. Combine this with an organized notebook system, and he just might be able to get his work turned in on time! It does require diligence to do it every single day, but since it requires less time than other strategies, he may be more willing to give it a try.

Continue reading
  4024 Hits
4024 Hits

Ease the Transition From Middle to Upper School

Transitioning from middle to upper school is difficult for many students. In my area of the country, 9th grade is considered upper school. Often students are not aware that grades in upper school are more important than they were before. They are used to calculate the GPA that colleges use to decide acceptances, and prospective employers may look at the GPA to determine the best candidates for their open positions. School suddenly becomes more serious, and this is scary for some kids. Here are some things to discuss with your child regarding the move to upper school.

  • It is important to seek help quickly when things are not going well. Your child should not put off asking for help until he has gotten so far behind that it is impossible to get caught up. Many concepts build upon earlier concepts, so the sooner he meets with his teacher to get clarification, the better.
  • Certain grades are more important than others. In many school districts, the semester and year-end grades are the ones that factor into the GPA. Therefore, if your child has a low grade for the first marking period, she still has time to raise it before the semester ends.
  • Exams can be helpful in raising grades. Types of exams, which classes give exams, and the weighting of exams in the final grade vary from school to school. In schools where exams make up a significant percentage of the semester or year-end grade, doing well on exams can raise the grade up a whole letter grade, at times.
  • One bad semester (or even year) does not mean college is out of the question. Colleges look at the big picture. If your child has one bad year followed by three much better ones, they will be impressed that she turned it around.

If your child is moving into high school now, encourage him to focus on working hard. Remind him that success in school and life is nearly always the result of a strong work ethic rather than being the smartest person in the class.

Continue reading
  4306 Hits
4306 Hits

Help Students Set Reasonable Goals

Children need to learn how to set reasonable goals for themselves. In the last few weeks, I have worked with several students who were disappointed in themselves and truly upset about how their final grades turned out. Their reactions ranged from tears, to anger, to blaming someone else. After each of us met to discuss their concerns, the bottom line turned out to be that they had set unrealistic expectations for themselves.

In one case, the student wanted to get the highest grades in every subject even though she knew that she was gifted in math and science and not as much so in language arts. Regardless, she was determined that she would also get excellent grades in English. She struggled to interpret the symbolism in the literature, and she placed the blame for that on the teacher and the other students for being too noisy in class. When she got an average grade on the tests and exam, she was angry. When I offered to sit down with her and her English teacher to discuss strategies for next year, she confessed, “I’m not really mad at her, I’m just mad that I didn’t get an A. I have a terrible time understanding the literature, and I really don’t care about it.”

Another student decided that he wanted to move into all honors level classes the following year in the hopes of raising his grade point average. In order to qualify for the higher-level classes, he needed to maintain above average grades in each class. While he was able to do that in some classes, he was not able to do it in all. He was extremely disappointed in himself and felt like he had let others down.

These children had both set themselves up by setting unrealistic goals for themselves. Fortunately, we were able together to see that they had actually accomplished a lot this year, and what they were seeing as huge failures, were not really that bad. In both cases, their grades were really good overall.

It is important to help students set goals that can be reasonably accomplished and to clearly determine what steps they need to take in order to reach their goals. Help them determine what they need to do in order to reach their potential. For example, perhaps they need to more carefully complete each homework assignment, make appointments with teachers, or ask more questions in class. By taking these steps, they may be able to raise their grades and have something to be proud of. Trying to raise a grade up a letter grade is much more reasonable than trying to get all A’s. When their goals are reasonable, the end of the school year will be something to celebrate.

Continue reading
  7266 Hits
7266 Hits

10 Things New Graduates Should Know

The class of 2014 has now graduated. I always have mixed emotions when students leave after several years of working together. I remember all the struggles along the way, and how they made it through those struggles to graduation day. Most are elated to be leaving and look forward to a new life free from the boundaries of school. It is hard for parents and teachers to let them go, but it is time.

Here is some of what I hope my students learned from their parents, other teachers, and me as we worked together.

  • It is not always the smartest people who are the most successful in life; it is the ones who work the hardest.
  • Always tell the truth, even when you really mess up, because it takes years to build trust and only seconds to lose it.
  • Be passionate about something, for it will be the source of joy in your life.
  • You don’t have to be good at everything, but don’t sell yourself short just because something is hard for you. Some things take years to truly understand.
  • All life is interconnected. It is up to you to take care of the environment.
  • Every person has potential.
  • Listen to the viewpoint of those who disagree with you, for there is truth in both sides of every issue.
  • Friends are important. You need them, and they need you.
  • Be who you are, not who someone else wants you to be. (In other words, it’s OK to say no to a friend.)
  • Say thank you to those who helped you get where you are. These people are still there for you even after high school.

To the class of 2014—I wish you well. Call your parents often; let your teachers know what you are doing and how you are. You will be missed.

Continue reading
  5246 Hits
5246 Hits

Preparing Young High Schoolers for College Success

College planning is certainly not my specialty area, but I do listen when our college counselor talks to students and families. Here are some key points I have heard her say many times.

Ninth grade matters. In most schools, the grade point average is calculated beginning in 9th grade. In some schools, certain 8th grade classes such as Algebra II might be counted in the GPA. Most 9th graders are not thinking much about their GPA and how important their grades are in upper school. It is important to help them understand how a GPA is calculated and what it means.

Extracurricular activities are important. Not only is it important to participate in things like band, drama, art, or sports, but it is also important to stick with it for the long term. If your son plays basketball in 9th grade and does well, he should continue through high school. Colleges pay attention to whether an applicant has interests outside the classroom and has the fortitude to stick with them for the long haul.

Take challenging courses. Your child does not have to take all advanced placement courses, but it is impressive if she chooses a discipline such as history or science and takes all the classes available in that track. For example, she might take honors world studies courses, AP US History, and AP Government to finish out the social studies track at the highest level possible in her school. When admissions offices look at her transcript, they will evaluate whether she is willing to challenge herself or whether she tends to take the easy path.

Do community service. Colleges also like to see that your child demonstrates an ethic of caring for others. Serving food at the local food bank or coaching younger students in the Special Olympics shows that he not only cares, but he is also willing to work to make a difference in the world.

Moving from 8th grade into 9th is a big change. It is important to discuss with your young high schooler the importance of working hard and doing her best. Seek advice from the college guidance counselor to help choose appropriate courses and to make sure she is doing all the right things to get ready for success in college.

Continue reading
  4317 Hits
4317 Hits

Adolescence: A Time of Change and Self-Doubt

Most adolescent students have doubts about themselves. Your child may feel that everyone around him is smarter, has more friends, looks better, or is a better athlete. He might think he doesn’t have much chance of succeeding in life. You can help him learn how to handle these feelings and gain more control over what happens to him.

Adolescence is a time of change. It is when your children change from being dependent on parents or guardians to being self-reliant. It is difficult, and often teens feel inadequate. But even though they feel awkward and ugly, others see them quite differently. This is a time when parents can be most helpful, yet teens often do not talk about their concerns. Parents can initiate this discussion and can assure their teens that their feelings are normal.

I have written many times about success in school and life. If your child is willing to work hard, study, and turn in all the work she owes, it is very likely that she will do well in school. It is important that she accepts responsibility for her actions and acknowledges when she makes a mistake. If her first thought is "My teacher didn't tell me," then she needs to give some thought to what determines success. Parents can help her to understand the importance of a good work ethic. Parents should also allow her to suffer the consequences of her actions by not rescuing her from failure. The same is true whether talking about success in academics, sports, art, music, or even friendship. (On the other hand, if your child is working hard but still not succeeding, then it may be time to seek help.)

When you hear your child say disparaging things about herself, encourage her by explaining that her feelings are quite normal and a part of adolescence. Help her to be her very best and encourage her to take charge of her life and work. Help her to connect her hard work to success by praising her efforts rather than her intellect. In this way, she will be successful now in school and later in life after school. She will gradually feel better about herself and realize how special she is to many people.

Continue reading
  5736 Hits
5736 Hits

Help Your Child Prepare for Exams

The fact is, most students do not know how to prepare to take exams. For example, many do not understand that it is much better to study in many short blocks of time instead of trying to cram everything in the night before an exam. This takes some planning and discipline that many students don’t know how to do. Here is a suggested schedule.

  • About three weeks before an exam, take time to organize everything. Your child needs to look for every test, review guide, and important handout she received since the beginning of the semester. If there is a test she did poorly on (or lost), she needs to find out from her teacher an acceptable way to get a replacement. (Personally, I tell my students to ask a friend who did well on it if they will let them have a copy of theirs. But some teachers might not allow this.) If she isn’t sure what tests she had, she might be able to look at the teacher’s online grade book to see how many test grades she had throughout the semester. Another strategy might be to compare her tests to a friend’s. Hopefully, between the two of them, they will have all of them.
  • By the time exams roll around, your child might already know most of what is on them. She doesn’t need to spend a lot of time studying what she already knows. The trick is to figure out what she knows and what she doesn’t. She should start by very slowly reading through her notes. As she reads, she should stop and think about each concept. If she feels she knows it, she should keep moving. If she is confused, she should mark it with a highlighter or red pen. She should do the same for the tests and review guides—mark anything she feels he might not know.
  • The next step is to figure out how to learn the highlighted material. Is this something she needs to meet with her teacher about? Would a study group with friends be enough? Is it possible to learn the concepts by rereading the textbook or working the problems again? Does she need to make flash cards or a study chart?
  • The final step is to set up a calendar with study times for each class. Remember that it’s best to study 15-20 minutes on each subject spaced out over several nights than to study the same amount of time all at once.

Exams are a great time to change learning from temporary into permanent. The time students spend studying really improves long-term memory of those concepts. Remind your child that the above steps need to be done for each class she is taking. That’s why this process takes several weeks. As parents, you can help your child by planning for quiet, stay-at-home weekends before exam week starts. With proper exam prep, there will be cause to celebrate the weekend after they are all finished! 

The printable handout "Preparing To Take Exams" contains more helpful tips.

Continue reading
  5502 Hits
5502 Hits

Alternatives to Flash Cards for Studying

Most teachers teach their students how to use flash cards for studying facts or vocabulary. Flash cards are a great tool for many students, but there are some kids who need a different strategy. Students who are creative and who tend to think in pictures instead of words might benefit from trying strategies that rely more on visual cues. You might be able to tell whether your child falls into this category.

Ask your child what his favorite toy was when he was little. If he names a toy like Legos or Lincoln Logs, it is likely that he is a three-dimensional thinker who visualizes concepts rather than puts them into words. Another clue is to ask what happens inside his head when he reads. If she says that she see pictures of the scenes and can actually visualize herself walking through the set, then she is another candidate for a study strategy that uses more pictures than words.

Here are some ideas that might help. When beginning to study for a test, have your child draw pictures in his notes as a way to annotate them. He should think back to what he did when he was studying the concept and draw pictures of those activities. It is a good idea to use some color in the drawings, because color can help him remember the pictures later. Another idea is to make a folded study guide as described in my earlier blog Using Pictures To Aid Vocabulary Memorization=Better Results. A third strategy for creative, visual thinkers is to make a web or mind-map of the unit. For help with how to do that, read my blog Using Webbing To Study for a Test.

If your child says that studying doesn’t help, perhaps she needs a new way to study. Read this blog together and talk about how she thinks. Maybe a visual, creative study strategy will be the answer.

Continue reading
  9160 Hits
9160 Hits

Explain Everything: A Low-Cost App for Creative Presentations

Last week, I was invited to the middle school where I work to hear student presentations. Their assignment was to create a project using Explain Everything that had several slides. The purpose of the presentation was to introduce themselves to one another and their guests (their new principal and me). I enjoyed their presentations a lot. The students did a wonderful job and were proud of what they created. I was also intrigued by the app they used to create their presentations.

Explain Everything is available for iPad and Android for $2.99. You can watch a video about it on their website. What I liked about it the most is that it is simple to learn to use, yet a very powerful tool for creative minds. Students can write text, annotate, illustrate by drawing, import videos or photos, create movies, and much more. Their work is automatically saved as they work. It can be played back in presentation mode, or exported into a variety of formats to share with others.

There are so many free or inexpensive apps available that it is hard to wade through them all to find really good ones. I would be interested to hear from you if you have found educational apps that your child likes to use. Please comment! You might be interested in these other blogs about apps that I use with students:

Creative Ways To Make and Use Flash Cards
Voice-to-Text Software = Great Homework Tool for Kids Who Have Difficulty Writing
Technology Solutions for Reading and Writing Difficulties

Continue reading
  6562 Hits
6562 Hits

Middle and High School: Helping Teens Solve Their Own Problems

This guest blog post is by Erika Cook, a high school administrator who works directly with parents and students.

Help Teens Solve Their Own ProblemsWhen your teen has a problem at school, what should you do? Perhaps your child has a streak of missing assignments, feels the teacher made a grading error, or just plain doesn’t get along with the teacher. It was easy in elementary school because it was natural just to call the teacher. However, once your child reaches middle school, it is harder to know when to get involved as a parent and when you should encourage your child to speak up for himself at school.

Oftentimes, your teen can see his teacher outside of class to review a grade, discuss learning needs, or schedule good old-fashioned help, which should solve most issues. Most teachers promote the idea of teens depending on themselves for their learning; it’s seen as an important life skill.

When talking to your teen about seeing her teacher, a few of these possible talking points might be nice conversation-starters. (Remind her not to forget to use “please” and “thank you.”)

  • Will you review the important causes of the Civil War?
  • Is it possible to go over the quiz questions so I can learn from my mistakes?
  • Since I have a hard time taking notes, do you have any graphic organizers I could use?
  • I am missing multiple-choice test questions; what advice do you have?
  • Would you look at my paper and give me some feedback on how to improve C-level writing?
  • How would you suggest I study for the test on Hamlet?
  • How do I improve my performance during tryouts next season?
  • What should be my next step to keep improving in this sport?
  • What resources are available for me to get help in biology?

When and where should your child approach the teacher? You might want to brainstorm with your teen about a good time to talk to the teacher. Encourage your child to see her teacher during the teacher’s designated preparation periods or before or after school. Students don’t always realize that their teachers are very busy right before and after class. And help your child figure out where the teacher might be at the right time. Sometimes it isn’t as easy as one classroom; a lot of teachers travel from room to room and have a desk in a shared office.

To help your child practice in advance how the conversation will go, you can role-play and pretend to be the teacher. This could help build up your child’s confidence to address the situation. One important aspect for your teen to remember is to focus on the problem and not skirt the issue.

Ask your child whether he has tried talking to anyone else at school about the problem. This might include a counselor, social worker, resource teacher, or administrator. If it makes sense, you should encourage your teen to make a “friend” at the school to help with this and future issues.

These tips for guiding your teens to solve their own problems, while understanding when and how you should get involved, will hopefully help you and your child solve school issues. Just remember, teachers and parents are on the same team; everyone wants your student to succeed. If you use respect, gratitude, and kindness with teachers, you and your teen should have excellent results.

Erika Cook

Erika Cook holds a PhD in educational policy and leadership and an MA in curriculum. She serves as an associate principal at one of America’s top-ranked high schools, and she spends her days educating parents and students about the high school world. She has taught in classrooms ranging from special needs to Advanced Placement and was the recipient of two Fulbright scholarships.

Continue reading
  8363 Hits
  1 Comment
8363 Hits
1 Comment

Helping Your Teen Through the Tough Times

Adolescence is a difficult time of life. I frequently hear my students complain about their family, their parents, and life in general. Many adolescents feel that their parents do not love them. From my perspective, many of them have a great life, and there really isn’t anything to be upset about. I know for sure that their parents care tremendously about them. But the truth is that it doesn’t matter what I think—it’s how they feel that matters. They are not happy. But parents may be able to help.

Some parents give their teens things like a new computer or electronic gadgets to cheer them up. Or they give them extra money to spend however they want. This can bring temporary “happiness” and immediate attention from friends. But it doesn’t take long for that happiness to wear off.

What teens really need is a sense of purpose in life. They need to know that they are important, loved, and respected by their friends and family. They should participate in family business that affects them such as preparing meals, planning events, maintaining the home, or selecting what to buy. They feel like you respect them when you include them this way. They know that their purpose is to be a valued member of the family who can help make meaningful.

Teens need to feel empathy for others who are less fortunate. In general, adolescents are pretty much focused on themselves. This is natural and not something parents need to worry about. But parents can help them to see that there are others in the world, and that many people do not have their basic needs met. The best way for them to learn this is to witness their parents helping others by giving their time, energy, and money. Involving your teen in these activities can help them to focus on others, which will lead to feelings of self-worth and satisfaction.

Finally, teens need to understand that luck does not determine what happens to them—they need to know that hard work makes the difference. I have personally witnessed this in my classroom many, many times. It is the student who works the hardest who experiences the most success. Once they understand this concept, they feel a sense of control, which is extremely important for everyone—not just teens.

If you have a son or daughter who is feeling down about life, start off by giving them a hug and telling them how much you love them. Have a conversation to find out what is happening in their life. Most of the time, the feelings of despair are only temporary. Sometimes, though, they do not go away. In these cases, your child may be depressed and need professional help to regain a sense of hope for the future. Life can be tough for adolescents, but knowing that you are there for them makes it a lot easier.

>Tips for Parents of Middle Schoolers

>Today's Multitasking Teens

Continue reading
  7697 Hits
7697 Hits

Icky Childhood Illnesses: My Family’s Icky Illness and the Yuck Factor

The phone rings and I recognize the school’s number on my caller ID. It’s not a number I want to see. The school doesn’t call to say hello. It’s the school nurse, and she’s calling to tell me that my daughter has ringworm.

My first emotion is humiliation. No, it’s not concern for my daughter’s wellbeing or relief that it’s not something serious. Instead, I’m embarrassed, and I feel like a bad mom. My belief that it’s okay to go six nights between baths has caught up with me.

At least she doesn’t have head lice.

I pick Celia up. There it is, a dime-sized ring over her eye. I saw it a few days earlier and thought she scratched herself in her sleep (she chews her nails to the nub, so I admit that theory was weak). I just wasn’t concerned. Bad mom!

When we see the pediatrician, I learn that ringworm has nothing to do with worms. It’s a fungus. She could have picked it up anywhere. It is not an emblem of poor hygiene (or six nights between baths). And it’s no big deal. Yes, it’s contagious. But the infection is harmless and treatable. The doctor writes the name of an over-the-counter ointment and orders Celia back to school.

 6 Childhood Illnesses That Are Icky, Gross, and Disgusting (but Harmless)

When I take Celia back to school, I get raised eyebrows from the front office staff and the nurse. I deliver Celia to her teacher and explain that we put ointment on the fungal infection and that she has been cleared to return to school. (I sidestep the word ringworm.)

I kiss my child and return to work.

For today, at least, I’m not a bad mom after all. But why do we let intense, irrational emotions throw us into a tailspin when it comes to our kids? Why are we so quick to assume we’ve failed every time the school calls?

Sometimes kids get icky illnesses or things. Warts. Cold sores. Pinkeye. There may be ooze and pus involved, and that can be disgusting. But instead of worrying about whether we’re bad moms (we’re not), it’s better to face the yuck factor and deal with it.


Journalist Patti Ghezzi covered education and schools for 10 years for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, winning several awards, including a public service citation from the Associated Press for her exposure of grade inflation. Since becoming a freelancer in 2007, her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Miami Herald, and Adoptive Families magazine. Ghezzi lives in Avondale Estates, Ga., with her family, which includes husband Jason, daughter Celia, and geriatric mutt Albany.

Continue reading
  6513 Hits
6513 Hits

Host a Playdate for a Child With Food Allergies—You Can Do It!

Joshua, Henry, Isabella, Matthew, Jasper, Jack, Katie, and Paige.

These are just a few of the names of children who have come to our house for playdates and parties for my sons. Between my two kids there have been numerous birthday parties on the weekends, countless playdates, and lots of social gatherings with their friends’ families.

My wife and I have become seasoned experts in both caring for other people’s children with food allergies during parties and playdates, as well as placing our trust in other parents when dropping our boys off at their homes. At times, this hasn’t been as easy as it sounds, since one of our boys has food allergies, as do a handful of our sons’ friends. 

With planning, education, and understanding, however, taking on the responsibility of hosting a child with food allergies at a playdate or party—and allowing your food-allergic child to be in the care of other parents—can be safely done and is ultimately rewarding. 

My wife and I aren’t alone in these experiences. Recent studies show that about 8 percent of U.S. children have a food allergy. That means there's a good chance that at some point you will be taking care of a child with a food allergy. Food allergy awareness and understanding are key. Both will allow you to safely include a food-allergic child—who could otherwise easily be excluded—at fun parties and playdates.  

Food allergies among students in U.S. schools have become more and more common as well. And tragically, food allergy-related deaths continue to occur in and out of school. 

Some school communities have become divided over policies set up to protect children with food allergies, such as peanut-free lunch tables and the like. However, food allergy education and awareness in our school communities is critical for the safety of kids with food allergies. These kids need to have their food allergies managed at all times and in all circumstances. Remember, allergic reactions can be life threatening.

To help, here are some basic Food Allergy Management Tips:

  • Know how to prevent allergic reactions from occurring. There needs to be a responsible adult present when hosting a food allergic child, who knows how to avoid a potential allergic reaction. This is done by accurately reading food labels, avoiding cross contact, knowing about hidden ingredients, and communicating effectively about the food allergic child’s allergy. Children can be messy eaters and inadvertently serving food that is an allergen to other kids may put the food-allergic child at risk. If you are not comfortable with preparing separate food for a child with food allergies, it is perfectly acceptable to ask that safe foods be provided by the child’s parents. Some families may even feel more at ease providing their own food to make it easier on you, and also to reassure themselves (and their child) that the food their child will eat is safe.


  • Emergency preparedness is a must. A person who can recognize allergic reactions and knows how to respond with the appropriate emergency medicine, must also be present. If you’re hosting the visit of a child with a food allergy, make sure you have a copy of the child’s emergency allergy action plan (a document that outlines what to do for an allergic reaction), and his epinephrine auto-injector (Epi-Pen or the like), if the child’s doctor prescribed one. (Here is a printable Food Allergy Drop-off Form). The parent of the food-allergic child can teach you how to administer an epinephrine auto-injector using a training device. If you are not comfortable with this responsibility, invite the parent to stay for the party or playdate.


If you prefer, there’s also a printable summary of Tips for Managing Food Allergies, as outlined in the points above.

Knowing how to avoid food allergens and always being prepared for an allergic reaction will not only help you safely host a child with a food allergy but will also help you do your part in creating a community of inclusion and support. Your children can also partner with you in this effort by gaining an awareness and acceptance of their classmates’ differences. With a solid understanding of food allergy management you can make a huge difference in a food allergic child’s feeling of acceptance—and possibly even save a life.

Please note that this post is intended to increase awareness and encourage you to obtain more information from additional resources. Before making any changes in management please discuss with the parents/healthcare providers.

Helpful Resources for Food Allergy Awareness:


Michael Pistiner, MD, MMSc is a pediatric allergist with Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, and volunteers at Children’s Hospital Boston. He is the father of a child with food allergies and serves as a voluntary consultant for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, School Health Services. He is chairman of the medical advisory team for Kids with Food Allergies Foundation, and serves on the board of Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, New England Chapter. Dr. Pistiner is the author of Everyday Cool with Food Allergies, a children’s book designed to teach basic food allergy management skills to preschool and early school age children, and is co-creator of AllergyHome.org, a website that provides free modules designed to increase food allergy awareness in the community.


Continue reading
  12538 Hits
12538 Hits

Mother Arrested For Cheering Graduating Daughter, But There's More To the Story

A mother who says all she did was cheer for her daughter as the young woman graduated from high school last Saturday was arrested during the commencement ceremony and charged with disorderly conduct.

Sounds like the mother’s crime was innocent enough, doesn’t it? Cheering on your child as she walks across the stage during commencement to receive her diploma? And then arrested for it?

As is typical, however, there appear to be two sides of the story.

Local police say they announced to those gathered for the South Florence High School graduation at the Florence Civic Center in South Carolina last weekend that shouting and/or screaming would not be tolerated, and warned that those who did so would be removed from the building.

In an interview with WPDE/CarolinaLive, the online site of a local news station, the mother, Shannon Cooper, said she yelled, “Yay, my baby made it, yes!” She then said, “How can I not cheer for my child?”

However, an online comment about the incident, posted below the story on the news station’s website, was written by a woman who says she was at the graduation and included this statement: “I was there and first let me say that at the beginning of the ceremony it was told to us that it was the students [sic] wishes that there be no cheering and they wanted this day to be about them.”

Another comment on the same story made by person who also said she was at the graduation, read in part: “…the news needs to be corrected [sic] they never said they would throw people out…The principal said exactly…The senior student body voted and it was agreed upon by them that they would like for this graduation to only be about the student [sic] and not their parents or families…If you do not follow these decisions you will be removed from the ceremony…”

While police wouldn't comment on Cooper's arrest, they told the news station that people who became disorderly while being removed from the building were arrested. Cooper’s graduating daughter, Iesha Cooper, 18, said she witnessed the whole thing. “That's all I can picture,” Iesha told the news station, “me crying, looking at the police van knowing my mother is in there.” The mother also said she was held in a police van outside the building for a long period before being taken to the station.

What do you think? Would you loudly cheer for your child during a graduation ceremony? (Perhaps you have!). What if you were warned beforehand that doing so would lead to your expulsion? Or, do you feel instead that a commencement ceremony is a solemn occasion, and that parents cheering and shouting to their graduating children is inappropriate at best and downright rude at worst? Please comment below and share your thoughts!

Continue reading
  8854 Hits
8854 Hits

What Happens When This Mother-Daughter Share Fashion...and Music?

I just “accidentally” spent $100 on clothes.

I figured only half of the stuff would fit and/or look decent so it was really like I spent $50 and I’d just take the ugly back, right?

Um. Yeah.

“Accidentally,” everything fit—and looked awesome.

Now what?

I opened it up for discussion on my Facebook wall; I mean I’ve never had this dilemma before. Shopping for me tends to be a wham-bam affair. I find a shirt or capris that seem like they might work, and I buy and take home. Later I say a prayer to the hip Gods and try stuff on in the privacy of my dark closet. If they fit, I’m pleased, but more often… when they don’t I take them back between buying bread and eggs. I tend to be ‘fashion stupid’ so this is a regular event for me.

The other day I had a whole 25 minutes to myself and slipped into a discount clothing store, thinking I’d just buy a few fun and funky shirts, maybe a pair of summer pants for an upcoming trip to a social media conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Anyone gonna be at the Type-A Parent Conference in June? I would love to see you there!!)

I bought a couple of shirts with crazy stripes (totally not my usual bland mom-fashion) and not one but two (!) pairs of summer pants. I was feeling oh-so-wild that day, I guess? And later that evening I had to text my husband the above quote: “I accidentally spent $100 on clothes today.”

He didn’t mind and all the Facebook chatter ended with… “It’s almost Mother’s Day; keep the stuff and call it a gift to yourself!” Thank you, I did.

The funniest part is that my 14-year-old daughter keeps eyeing my new funky shirts. (She’s wearing one of them in the photo with me.) There’s no way MY pants would fit her… so don’t even go there. But I have to chuckle a little bit at her willingness to share my fashion, because lately she hates that I sing along to Adele. I mean, Please. As if Adele is “her” music?  When it totally is MY music.

She recently laid down a new edict: Mom is not allowed to sing along to ANY music (in her presence) unless it was written the year I was born. I’m nearly 40—do the math. I am soooo not singing along to disco anytime soon!

So, I figure if I can’t sing to “her” music… I can at least dance to it (in my new accidental outfits)!



Continue reading
  4522 Hits
4522 Hits

Bullied Gay Teen Defends Himself At School Using Stun Gun Mom Gave Him

Parents, what do you think about this story?

A young Indianapolis teenager, who is openly gay and has been repeatedly bullied at school, was given a stun gun by his mother to protect himself.  

And when the young man, Darnell “Dynasty” Young, age 17, was recently surrounded by a group of six bullies who threatened to beat him, he says he raised the stun and shot it up into the air to scare them off.

He was then reportedly handcuffed and has since been expelled from the school. He cannot re-enroll, according to the Indianapolis Star, until next January, meaning he misses completing the end of his junior year, and the beginning of his senior year.


POLL: Did this mother do the right thing?


Young’s mother, Chelisa Grimes, who appeared on CNN with her son, said she feels she did the right thing in giving her son the weapon to protect himself. Grimes said she wasn’t even aware that her son was being bullied until she was contacted by school officials. After that, when nothing was done about the bullying— she says when she complained about the continued bullying school officials told her that Young should be less “flamboyant”—she provided the gun to her son.

What would you have done in this situation? Has anything like this happened at your child's school?

Continue reading
  7447 Hits
7447 Hits

Expert Sue Scheff Offers Parents 10 Tips to Help Prevent Teen Drug Addiction

Sue Scheff is an author, a parent advocate, and the founder of the Parents' Universal Resource Expert (P.U.R.E.). Scheff helps families with at-risk teens, and specializes in educating parents on the daunting industry of teen help and how to find safe and quality residential therapy programs—at a time when parents are at their wit's end.

 Parenting a teen in today's society is not an easy task. Communication with your teenager is key to his success on many levels; however, as a mother who raised two teenagers, I know it is easier said than done. Drug and alcohol use among teens is an issue parents need to be aware of. There are many good kids making some very bad choices. 

A common misconception among parents is thinking that a teen is only smoking marijuana as a phase. Marijuana and the substitutes for it, such as “spice,” are more risky and dangerous than what was available in years/generations prior. These drugs can be laced with higher levels of PCP, which can literally alter the mind of your teen and cause brain damage.

Drug use (substance abuse) is a serious cry for help, and making your teen feel ashamed or embarrassed can make the problem worse. Here are some common behavioral changes you may notice if your teenager is abusing drugs and alcohol:

  • Violent outbursts, rage, or disrespectful behavior
  • Poor or dropping grades
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Skin abrasions or needle track marks
  • Missing curfews, running away, truancy
  • Bloodshot eyes, distinctive “skunky” odor on clothing and skin
  • Missing jewelry, money
  • New friends
  • Depression, apathy, withdrawal, and generally disengaged from the family
  • Reckless behavior

My 10 tips to help prevent substance abuse:

 1. Communication is the key to prevention. Whenever an opportunity to talk about the risks of drinking and driving or the dangers of using drugs presents itself, take it and start a conversation.

2. Have a conversation not a confrontation. If you suspect your teen is using drugs, talk to her. Don't judge her; instead, talk to her about facts behind the dangers of substance abuse. If your teen isn't opening up to you, be sure you find an adolescent therapist who can help. 

3. Addict in the family. Do you have an addict in your family? Sadly many families have been affected by someone who has allowed drugs to take over his or her life. With this, it is a reminder to your teen that you want him to have a bright future filled with happiness. The last thing you want for them is to end up like [name of addicted relative].

4. Don't be a parent in denial. There is no teenager who is immune to drug abuse. No matter how smart your teen is, or athletic she is, she’s at risk if she starts using. I firmly believe that keeping your teen constructively busy, whether through sports, music or other hobbies, will put her at less risk to want to experiment. However don't be in the dark thinking that because your teen is pulling a 4.0 GPA and is on the varsity football team that he couldn't be dragged down by peer pressure. Go back to my number one tip—talk, talk, talk. Remind your teen how proud you are of him, and let him know that you’re always available if he’s being pressured to do or try something he don't want to.

5. Do you even know what your teen is saying? Listen, or watch on text messages or emails, for code words for medicaiton being abused or specific drug activity: skittling; tussing; skittles; robo-tripping; red devils; velvet; triple C; C-C-C-; and robotard are just some of the names kids use for cough and cold medication abuse. Weed; pot; ganja; mary jane; grass; chronic; buds; blunt; hootch; jive stick; ace; spliff; skunk; smoke; dubie; flower; and zig zag are all slang for marijuana.

6. Leftovers. Are there empty medicine bottles or wrappers in your teen’s room or car (if they own one)? Does she have burn marks on her clothes or her bedroom rug, and ashes or a general stench in her room or car? Be sure to check all pockets, garbage cans, cars, closets, and under beds, etc., for empty wrappers and other evidence of drug use. Where do you keep your prescription drugs?  Have you counted them lately? Teens and tweens often ingest several pills at once or smash them so that all of the drug’s affect is released at once.

7. Body language. Tune into changes in your teen’s behavior. Are his peer groups changing? Is he altering his physical appearance or suddenly lack hygiene? Are his eating and/or sleeping patterns changing? Does he display a hostile, uncooperative, or defiant attitude, and is he sneaking out of the house? Are you missing money or other valuables from your home?

8. Access to alcohol. Look around your home—are alcoholic beverages (liquor, beer, or wine) easily accessible? Teens typically admit that getting alcohol is easy, and that the easiest place to get it is in their own homes. Be aware of what you have in the house and if you suspect your teen is drinking, lock it up! Talk to them about the risks of drinking, especially if they are driving. 

9. Seal the deal. Have your teen sign a contract stating that she promises never to drink and drive. The organization Students Against Destructive Decisions (formerly known as Students Against Drunk Driving), www.saddonline.com provides a free online contract you can download. It may help her pause just the second she needs, to not get behind that wheel.

10. Set the example, be the example. What many parents don't realize is that they are the leading role model for their teen. If your teen sees you smoking or drinking frequently, what is the message you are sending? At the same time, many adults enjoy a glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage, and the teen needs to understand that they are adults and there’s a reason the legal drinking age is 21.

A very important piece of advice I share on a daily basis, which I learned the hard way, is that you have to be a parent first, even if it means your teen hates you. The hate is temporary. Your teen’s future, health, and safety depend on your parenting. Friendship will come later—and it does!

Editor's note: For additional information on signs of drug abuse in your child, read What Parents Should Know About the Danger Signals of Drug Abuse at SchoolFamily.com.


Scheff’s organization, Parents' Universal Resource Experts (P.U.R.E.), offers information for parents on residential treatment schools and programs for children and teens. Scheff’s book, Wit's End! Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out-of-Control Teen, outlines how to locate safe and quality schools and drug-treatment programs, and details Scheff’s personal story of finding help for her teen daughter. Follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/TroubledTeensHelp, and on Twitter at twitter.com/#!/suescheff.


Continue reading
  38811 Hits
38811 Hits

Eliminate Distractions While Doing Homework

 Many students have a hard time staying focused on a task. Much has been written about teenagers who are growing up in the media age. Most agree that they are very good at multitasking. In a report featured on NPR, the actions of a student named Zach, which were typical of many teens, were described as follows: “Within the span of seconds, Zach switches between e-mail, iTunes, Facebook, a computer word puzzle game, and messaging his buddy online. Somewhere amid the flurry, Zach manages to squeeze in some homework, too.”

 My concern is what this behavior is doing to teens and their ability to stay focused to finish a task. If Zach is only managing “to squeeze in some homework,” how good can that homework be? And, beyond that, what is happening to Zach’s ability to learn and think? Dr. Beth Hellerstein, a University Hospital pediatrician and assistant clinical professor at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, said this is a recent interview with online magazine Your Teen, “When students are distracted while studying they may be learning facts but are not able to integrate them and apply them to a higher level of thinking. Doctors and educators worry about how this superficial learning will impact long term recall and application of the knowledge and skills.”

 How can students prevent themselves from getting distracted while doing their schoolwork? The first step is to identify what distracts them. In the example above, Zach is distracted by software running on his computer (email, Facebook, a word puzzle game, and instant messaging). He is also distracted by his iPod. Many teens have a cell phone, television, and snacks to the list of distractions.

 Once a student has identified the distractions, he needs to decide to eliminate them while doing homework. He needs to shut down all software except for what is needed to do the work. His iPod needs to be turned off and put out of sight. The television and cell phone also need to be off and out of sight.

 Other things that keep students from their work include clutter in the workspace, interruptions from siblings or friends, and looking for the necessary supplies such as paper, pencils, markers, glue, etc. Parents can assist by offering to help clear the workspace, keeping others from interrupting and making sure their child has the appropriate supplies.

 It takes organization and planning skills to take charge of the distractions. For help with ideas for organization, read A Notebook System That Aids With Organization. For more ideas about how you can help your child to learn more from homework, read How to Help Kids Get the Most Out of Their Homework Sessions.

You may also be interested in these related articles on SchoolFamily.com:

Summer is A Good Time to Learn to Type 

Voice-to-Text Software: Great Homework Tool for Kids Who Have Difficulty Writing 

Middle Schoolers Still Benefit From Being Read To




Continue reading
  8955 Hits
8955 Hits

Selecting Typing Software: Which is Best for Your Child?

Parents often call me to find out what typing software I recommend they get for their child. Unfortunately, this is a really difficult question! It really isn’t so much what software to buy as it is what your child does with it and how often they practice.

Here is what I recommend.

  •  You do not necessarily need to buy software. There are free typing tutor programs on the Internet that work just fine. CNet has several available for free and each has user ratings for you to see before you download the software.
  • It is very important to look at the screen (not hands) and use the correct fingers when typing. My goal teaching typing is to have students type well enough so that they do not have to think about frequently used words. If they need to type a word like “the,” their fingers should move automatically. If they use a different finger each time they type, they will never be able to do this. If they are able to type the most frequently used words automatically, it will reduce their spelling errors because many of these frequently used words do not follow the normal spelling rules. It will also increase their overall speed.
  •  Students should not be allowed to play typing games until they can type all the letters on the keyboard without looking down. Typing games encourage them to watch their hands and use the wrong fingers.
  •  Have your child practice 10-20 of the most frequently used words every day. Any word processor will work for this activity. I make a game of this by seeing how many times they can type each word in 10 seconds. It can be encouraging to keep the data each day to see progress over time. They need to look at the screen while they type, though, not their hands.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Typing correctly does not come easily. It takes a lot of work, discipline to use the correct fingers with their eyes on the screen, and many hours at the keyboard.

 Most students cannot learn to type simply by using software. They will navigate to the games that do indeed teach them. However, what they learn from a typing game is if I put my hands like this and quickly type as many letters as I can without thinking, I will do better. The game is won, but typing skills are lost in the process.

 The bottom line is this: Software alone cannot change your child into a good typist. They need some adult guidance to keep them on track. It is worth the effort, however, because no matter what they do in the future, they will probably need to know their way around a keyboard.

Continue reading
  14931 Hits
14931 Hits

"Bully"—Documentary's Rating Creates Dilemma for Filmmakers, Parents, and Students

UPDATE: 03/12/12

Have you heard about “Bully”?

If you haven’t, you will. And then you can decide if you'll take your kids to see it. "Bully" is a documentary film produced by the Weinstein Co., which tells the stories of what really happens to children—and their families—as a result of relentless bullying.

Filmmakers followed three students who are bullying victims—Alex, 12, from Iowa; Kelby, 16, from Oklahoma; Ja’meya, 14, from Mississippi—over the course of the 2009/2010 school year. They also followed David and Tina Long from Georgia, parents of 17-year-old Tyler Long who ended his life after years of being bullied; and Kirk and Laura Smalley of Oklahoma, whose 11-year old son Ty took his own life after years of bullying abuse. The film follows Kirk as he starts Stand for the Silent, an anti-bullying program comprised of a series of silent vigils, which he hopes will draw attention to the bullying crisis in the U.S. and lead to anti-nationwide bullying legislation.

The film won’t be released until Friday, March 30, but it’s been in the news lately because of the “R” rating it was given by the Motion Picture Association of America—a rating that has infuriated producer Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein appealed the rating to the MPAA three weeks ago, but the organization refused to lower the rating to PG-13 due to the film’s harsh language—language that reportedly consists of 6 uses of the “F” word used during a bullying incident caught on film. What do these rating actually mean? According to the MPAA’s ratings site, an “R” rating means: “Restricted. Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian.”A PG-13 rating means: “Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13.”



 SchoolFamily.com wants to hear from you!

Do you feel the film's rating should be changed? If the rating was PG-13 would you let your middle school and/or high school child see it? If the R rating stands, will you take your child to see the film?

Please share your thoughts with us by commenting below!


Numerous teen groups, non-profits organizations, and individual teens are lobbying the MPAA on Weinstein’s behalf, by collecting signatures, launching Facebook pages, releasing statements, and Tweeting about the film’s rating and why they want it changed to PG-13. Why? So that middle school and high school kids can go see the film. As any parent of a ‘tween or teen knows, attending a movie with Mom and Dad just isn’t cool. Perhaps more importantly, a PG-13 rating would mean the movie could be shown in schools. One high school student collected thousands of signatures and was invited to appear on the “Ellen DeGeneres Show” this week, where DeGeneres pledged her support to the ratings appeal and signed the petition herself. “I think it’s an important movie and I think it can save lives,” DeGeneres said.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper has also supported the film, featuring it on a recent episode on his show. Cooper is a longtime advocate of anti-bullying programs.   

In the meantime, Weinstein has announced that his company may consider releasing the film without a rating, effectively boycotting the MPAA. That, in turn, has infuriated theatre owners. In response to Weinstein’s statement, the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) has warned Weinstein that it will urge its members to give the film an “NC-17” rating—“No One 17 and Under Admitted”—which is even more restrictive than the film’s current R rating.

Since many students who are learning disabled are often targets of cruel bullying, the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), a sponsor of the documentary, is joining the call for the rating change.

In an email sent to SchoolFamily.com, James Wendorf, executive director of the NCLD, had this to say about the film’s R-rating:

“[The] National Center for Learning Disabilities fully supports efforts to reduce the R rating currently assigned to the film ‘Bully’ and bring it to a broader audience. Bullying is nothing less than a crisis in this country, with 13 million American children waking up every morning fearing abuse from their peers.

“It is a fact NCLD knows all too well. Sixty percent of children with learning disabilities and other special needs say they have been seriously bullied, and that is why we joined with other special needs advocacy organizations to provide support for this vital film.

“Until parents understand this crisis and children and teens see and own the consequences of their behavior, there is little hope for improvement.”

UPDATE: 03/12/12, 10:52 A.M.: Due to the urging of Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and other members of Congress, former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), now the president of the MPAA, will take part in a panel discussion this Thursday, March 15 in Washington, D.C., along with “Bully” producer Harvey Weinstein and director Lee Hirsch. The film will be shown to a group of teachers and principals invited from schools in the Washington area, followed by their participation in the panel discussion.

Tips for Parents on How to Prevent Bullying

The National Center for Learning Disabilities realizes that bullying involves not only the victim, but also the one doing the bullying, and those who witness the bullying but don’t do anything about it. These tips from the NCLD can help parents figure out what to do:

  • Stop bullying before it starts. Let everyone at your child’s school know that you are on the prowl for signs of bullying and that you expect everyone else to do the same. Preventing and stopping bullying is a shared responsibility, and one that is not voluntary. Ask to see the school-wide no-bullying policy and ask that the details regarding recognizing and reporting, consequences, and prevention activities be shared frequently with parents and faculty.
  • Use the word “bullying” with your child. Make sure they know what it means. They may not know that the hurtful behavior they are being forced to endure is wrong, mistaking it for “attention” or “acceptance” from peers. If your child is the one doing the bullying, help him to understand the negative impact it has on his status. And if your child is a bystander when bullying is taking place, help her to know what options she has—doing nothing not being one of them—without fear of being targeted herself.
  • Help your child know what to do. Assure him that he will not get in trouble. The perceived consequences of “tattling” could be keeping your child from sharing his bullying experiences. Help your child know the difference between “tattling” and “reporting an incident of bullying.” This is equally important for the children who are being victimized, those who are the aggressors, or those who are bystanders.
  • Know your rights and don’t be afraid to exercise them. The U.S. government, under both education and civil rights law, recognizes that bullying and harassment are forms of discrimination. Include a goal about bullying in your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP); ask about bullying at every parent teacher conference; and if bullying issues are not properly addressed, be prepared to file a formal complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

For more information on bullying, SchoolFamily.com has an entire section on bully awareness and prevention, with numerous articles and blog entries including what to do if you child is being bullied; tips about preventing cyberbullying; what to do if your child is the bully; and more. Readers may also benefit from reading Fast Facts on Bullying, produced by the Office for Civil Rights. 


Continue reading
  7657 Hits
7657 Hits

Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?

Yes - 31.6%
Sometimes - 25.4%
No - 37.4%

Total votes: 4919
The voting for this poll has ended on: June 25, 2016