Connecting the Schoolhouse to Your House

The parent teacher conference needs to evolve for the 21st Century-for the sake of our kids. Spend any amount of...

The parent teacher conference needs to evolve for the 21st Century-for the sake of our kids.

Spend any amount of time in education circles and you'll soon hear the phrase "home-school connection." It's simple really: Parents and teachers should collaborate to support the child. Sounds good, but as someone who's been a teacher and is now a parent, I've seen both sides. The home school connection is definitely broken.In my time on the teacher side of the fence, I've seen too many educators who don't want parents involved. Parents ask questions and make demands. Thanks to my two sons, I also get to hop to the parent side where I see too many moms and dads who don't want to hear negative feedback about their children, or worse yet, just want the teachers to fix everything.When my own son came home with a progress report full of previously uncommunicated information-both positive and negative-the report made me think about how a true connection can't happen with only two or three conversations a year. No one's communicating effectively in this model. Why do you think so many teachers and parents dread parent teacher-conferences?Parents and teachers need to meet each other at the 21st century fence and change the frequency and quality of their interaction. We live in a tech savvy age with constant communication via text and email. But, other than a formal, written progress report halfway through the grading period, and the report card and conference-at which attendance is often optional for parents-months can go by without parents and teachers talking about a child's academic progress.Too many teachers keep to the minimal contact mandated by their principals, either because they don't want more, they lack the time, or they simply don't know how to reach out. Not wanting more contact is a sign a teacher may be struggling, and parents should definitely reach out to an administrator for support. Time is an issue for everyone these days, so although frequent in-person meetings would be great, teachers can't stay at school until 7 p.m. to meet working parents. Fortunately, technology can help provide alternate solutions to time and skill issues.Growing numbers of teachers create classroom websites or blogs and post what their class will be learning that week and what assignments are due. One of my son's teachers, a nearly 30-year veteran, regularly emails or texts me about how my kid is doing in class. Because of the frequency of contact, I get to see the whole picture of my child's educational experience, not just the high points, like a great test score, or the low points, like when he's a bit too talkative.An increasing number of K-12 schools use third party sites where parents log in and view their children's grades and homework. In districts that use such services, up to 70 percent of parents say they check their children's progress at least once a week and feel more connected to the school. If parents like these sites and teachers like them, why aren't they in every school? Sure there's a digital divide that limits tech access in lower income areas, but the overall foot-dragging by schools around using such services is a sign that connecting parents and teachers is not a huge priority.Communicating quality information isn't just enabling parents to look up a test score on a web site, and technology can't be the answer to everything. So my son got a 95 percent on his test. Great. But what concepts did he master, what's he still missing, and what's the plan to help him learn?Parents don't need to just hear a teacher say: "Your child is behind in writing," and show a test result. They should hear: "On five different writing assignments, your child had a hard time focusing on a main idea. Here's why I think that's happening, and here's what we can do together to help him."Though parents share the responsibility to build the home-school connection, teachers are the paid professionals, so they need to take the lead. Added bonus: If teachers step up, they will never have to hear another parent complain about not knowing his or her child needs extra help.We have a broken status quo where teachers grumble that parents can't handle criticism of their children, and parents leave conferences feeling like they've sat through a performance review with a bad manager; they head home feeling completely blindsided with negative information. When this has happened to me, I've found it difficult to trust the teacher's expertise. The bottom line though is the child misses out most. If schools are serious about fixing student achievement, they'll fix the home-school connection.

via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

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Offering parental leave for new fathers could help close the gender gap, removing the unfair "motherhood penalty" women receive for taking time off after giving birth. However, a new study finds that parental leave also has a pay gap. Men are less likely to take time off, however, when they do, they're more likely to get paid for it.

A survey of 2,966 men and women conducted by New America found that men are more likely to receive paid parental leave. Over half (52%) of fathers had fully paid parental leave, and 14% of fathers had partially paid parental leave. In comparison, 33% of mothers had fully paid parental leave and 19% had partially paid parental leave.

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Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger


Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head


Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor


Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

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