Tag Archives: Parent

Doing a 360 on Attendance in a Part-Time School

Cover of "Class Clown"

Class Clowns: Not That Funny

Recently, I participated in a webinar, sponsored by JESNA, on issues related to complementary (supplementary, part-time) schools.

This was an unusual experience. I was asked to facilitate a group of about ten online participants and discuss the topic of declining attendance. Aside from one familiar name, I didn’t know any one. We examined the issue from the point of view of these stakeholders; Education Director, Parent, and Teacher, and we brainstormed a list of issues surrounding the topic.

It was interesting that this online group of educators and school directors, representing schools from all over the country, mentioned a familiar list: conflicting activities, less parental engagement, too few class expectations, too much school homework, class management issues, social pressures, plus other reasons that were sound and thoughtful.

I’m sure many of us approached this issue of declining attendance in a variety of contexts and perhaps came up with similar but expanded lists of reasons and issues. So, what’s the news here?

I’m not sure what anyone else took away from this online discussion, but for me, there was a particular enlightening moment.

When I suggested we view this issue from the vantage point of the student, I was literally overwhelmed with all of the emotional baggage that our students have to deal with when they attend erratically.

To be clear, these are not going to be things that haven’t come up in conversations before.

It’s just that listed all together, I felt such compassion for that poor kid having to attend any program in this way.

Would any adult be able to handle such a thing? “Kind of” attending a program? Participating “now and then”?

Really, just think about this for a minute. How comfortable would you be in this situation? Think about the social and academic implications.

Now, think of how you might experience this as an adolescent:

You are lost most of the time. Most likely, you haven’t kept up with the work. You don’t really know everything the teacher is referencing, but you pretend because you don’t want to ask questions or ‘stick out’. You may be out of things socially. You may cover up this inadequacy with acting out behavior. You need some sort of role in the class, and class academic is out. So the other roles available that unconsciously suit you may be class clown, troublemaker, blocker, etc. Other kids may resent the fact that you’re not there regularly, as they are. You  haven’t really formed a connection with the teacher.

Though you’ve been absent often, it actually becomes harder to attend.  So you think of reasons not to go. Like complaining a lot. Finding excuses to do other things. Begging your parents not to send you to that ‘awful’ place.

No surprise then, that declining attendance begets a further attendance drop.

I was totally overwhelmed with what students like this experience when they don’t attend Jewish education programs on a regular basis and the challenges they probably face as a result.

How can we use this information?

I know that as a teacher, I’ve often expressed frustration/guilt when my students did not attend regularly. It’s not that I was ever harsh, I just wanted them to know that I missed them and wanted them to be part of the class.

I’d change that now and say something a little different.

I’d make a real effort to show much more compassion for what they’re coping with, maybe privately even get a reference check about the unique challenges they must feel, and help ease their transition into the classroom world any way I could.

They’re dealing with enough.


Parents, Social Media & Boundaries: Read These Hard,Cold Facebook Facts

Lack of Parental Controls on FB? Implications for Teens?

For parents, it’s becoming harder and harder to create boundaries of safety for teens, particularly if those parameters were not in place when they had their first forays in the internet world.

Imagine the challenge for those parents who have trouble with knowing what those boundaries should be.

Recent studies have shown that Facebook is filled with ‘friends’ younger than the minimum age of 13. Thirteen.

Unbelievably, many of these young teens join with the help of their parents, and yes, even encouragement to do so.

Noted in the New York Times, there is now software to help parents monitor their children on-line, but the question is, if some parents are not choosing to monitor their children’s activities without the software application, how will installing a new program stem the tide of children’s premature internet involvement?

Why is this an issue? Well, as noted in the article: “the average American family uses five Internet-enabled devices at home…..yet barely one in five parents uses parental controls on those devices.”

So, those of us in schools need to take note of the environment our students are in at home, and even recognize that the boundaries we provide for our students when using internet media may be more important than we think.

Are you concerned about boundaries on social media?


Helicopter Parents Go to College

This news came to my Inbox today:”Today’s Campus is launching a new publication designed as a resource for the parents of the entering freshmen college class. The handbook is expected to reach over 1 million readers this summer as they prepare to take the first steps towards college.”

I experienced one of those odd moments when you find yourself laughing at something and wish you had someone right there to share the comedy.  Right now, you’re my someone.

Check out this excerpt from above carefully: ‘as they prepare to take the first steps towards college.’ Now reread the entire quote above again. Who is the ‘they’ in the sentence? The handbook is clearly for parents, so it is the ‘they’ that made me laugh as I imagined parents packing for their first dorm room experience.  But, maybe the ‘they’ is intentionally vague (doubtful).

Here are four reasons why what I read was either very, very smart, or totally stupid.

Either option by the way does not preclude huge marketing success.

Smart reason #1. The college admissions process has gotten more intense, more competitive, and financially burdensome for so many families. Perhaps there are real ways to grapple with these issues that the handbook will provide.

Smart reason #2. We know that the terms ‘helicopter’ and ‘hovering’ have been used to describe parents of incoming college students. Now there is yet something else to buy that will somehow ensure their child’s college success. Or they will read about some hints that will perhaps make them all crazier, or actually give them an outlet for their worry. Either way, smart marketing.

Totally stupid reason #3. Why give in to the trend of parents not letting their teens go? This handbook may be feeding the frenzy that I listed in smart reason #1. (I know, this gets complicated).

Totally stupid reason #4. For those savvy enough, it will be pretty self-evident that pages of the handbook will be devoted to advertising space for the best dorm room message board, the must-have comforter and sheet set, and so on.

When the Handbook comes out and you decide to buy one (pick your reason above) I’d love to hear how it all turns out.


Why Do We Hate Teenagers?

The New York Times logo

Image via Wikipedia

Did this headline grab you? You’re not unique. It’s what seems to work for newspapers and television.

This is what I read in the New York Times this morning: “Raising a Teenager? What’s Not to Hate?” Not exactly what I like to read with my morning coffee, and I found the wording pretty distasteful.

What I wondered is how many click-throughs that headline got. But it got worse.

The article turned out to be a review of a tv show debuting tonight and actually said very little about teens and their parents. Except when the author made this indictment of children and teens everywhere:

“There’s nothing wrong with hating children, and teenagers all but ask for it.” 

I don’t think the writer said this in jest; the article was more serious than that.  Now my distaste has turned into disbelief and way more than dislike. I’m disarmed.

Why do teenagers seem to get a bad rep?

They are our future leaders, our creative spirits, and sometimes our conscience.  They make us think about who we are and what we represent. They ask great questions.

There have been countless times, when planning programs  in different venues, that the proprietor asked “You mean, your program is with TEENAGERS? How many? Will they be supervised? How many chaperones will there be? Are you insured? Has this been done before?

Even in the space our school shares on a weekly basis, there is an attitude that during break time ‘the kids are loud, create a mess and hang all over the furniture’. 

Break time is what I love.  There are close to 150 teenagers, all hanging out together, connecting with each other and their cellular devices…and it’s all good. 

Put that into a headline.


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