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Providing Parenting Advice … Even When You’re Not a Parent

MjAxMi0wYzU2Y2EwNzQzNTM2NWJjBy Sabrina Bong — About a year ago, my fiance and I volunteered to babysit his sister’s children overnight.

The girls, who were five and one at the time, were super excited that they got to spend one-on-one time with Rob and I. The oldest one was so eager to have us over that she almost shoved her parents out the door in her excitement! It was a little rough at first (if you have never cooked before with a one year old holding onto your leg and a five year old who is trying to help, but really is making an enormous mess, it’s quite an experience!) but we managed to get both girls fed, bathed, and in bed at a reasonable hour. Once the oldest one was finally asleep, Rob and I collapsed on the sofa before saying to each other, “That was an experience!”

As Rob and I prepare for our wedding (in 10 days!), we have talked about having kids in the future. Though we are not ready anytime soon, we have occasionally discussed what will happen when we become parents. Our conversations have ranged from how we will juggle soccer and karate practices, to how we want to discipline our children. But the majority of our talks revolve around how we want to raise our children. We have talked about taking the best of how our parents raised us, and then blend it with some of our own ideas.

Beyond all of these discussions, and the night we watched the girls, I have not really thought too much about being a parent and parenting advice. However, this recently changed when one of my students fell on some hard times.

This student of mine is a very sweet, very kind young girl. She has been dealt a lot of hard cards in life: she was homeless last year, and is currently living with a relative. She recently started stealing things from her parents, as well as outside organizations. Her parents are unsure what to do, and turned to our principal for help. She, in turn, suggested that the parents come in to meet with me and the head counselor in my building to discuss parenting strategies.

When she first suggested this, I was baffled. What advice on parenting could I offer, when my “parenting” experience is pretty much nonexistent?

When I brought this up, the head counselor reminded me that I gave a lot of advice to boys, even though I was never a teenage boy. He then told me that even though I didn’t have experience parenting, that I knew enough to help guide these parents into how they could talk to their child about her stealing and lying behaviors.

Our first session with the parents went pretty well. To be honest, I was pretty quiet; I was struggling with how best to phrase my suggestions. For example, when the mother asked if it was appropriate to take her daughter to a juvenile detention facility to show what her life could end up like, the head counselor gently, but firmly, vetoed that idea. But the way he did it was fantastic; he was completely honest, but did not make the parent feel defensive. I am not exactly sure how he managed to do this, but it is a technique that I am working hard to learn.

So far, this has been a very eye-opening experience. I have learned that I can provide valuable advice, even if I do not have first-hand expertise in an area. I have also learned that it is okay to respectfully disagree with parents. I am sure that all of the things I am learning now will be incredibly helpful … not only with the parents I work with, but for my possible future as a parent!

Tuesday Trivia: November 11, 2014

How much do YOU know about Marquette University and the College of Education?
Test your knowledge (and win cool prizes) every Tuesday!

TuesdayTrivia

In light of Veteran’s Day…

In what year and who changed the name of Armistice Day to Veteran’s Day?

 

Claim your chance to win by leaving the correct answer in the comments section below anytime today between 7am – 11pm. And don’t be afraid to play, even if someone has already posted the right answer! One winner will be randomly selected from ALL correct answers and announced the following day.  The winner will be posted on our Facebook page and notified by email.  Please note that you must have a valid email address listed in your comment or WordPress profile to win.

Can Technology Bring Us Closer Together?

By Claudia Felske –Imagine being separated from your spouse for seven years. It’s not what any of us sign up for, especially after 30 plus years of marriage.

My friend Barb faced this exact situation as the state of the economy forced her husband Al to take a contracting job in New Orleans while she remained back in Wisconsin. Through holidays, periodic visits, Skype, and gritty determination on both of their parts, the state of their marriage remained strong.  Connect6

And happily, this summer after seven years of living separately from his wife, Al was able retire. He moved back to Wisconsin, and now Barb and Al live like married people are meant to live—together.

Sounds like a happy ending, right?

Imagine my surprise when Barb, wine glass in hand, lamented the other night that she felt closer to Al when there were four states separating them.

I inquired and she explained.

When he was in New Orleans, they spent an entire hour each night face-to-face Skyping. No multitasking, no running to this commitment and that event, no half-conversations while watching t.v. or surfing the net: one full hour of face-to-face, eye-to-eye conversation about how their day went, about the family, about their plans, about the state of the world, one full hour every single day. How many of us have an hour like that?

Now that they’re living together, she explained, that hour simply doesn’t happen. Life gets in the way. Emails, meetings, obligations, television, hobbies, the internet—all of these happen, and so remarkably (though not so remarkable when you think about it) she feels less close to him than she did during their 7-year separation. She pines for that hour.

And HOW (you may be asking) is this related to education?

One of the biggest fears people have about technology in schools is that it will depersonalize learning, that students will hide behind screens and teachers will hide behind their desktops.

Not  unlike Barb and Al’s Skype sessions, the reality is that the effective use of technology can bring us closer together, in our relationships, in our schools.Rid6eAni9

Sage teachers use backchanneling technology to engage ALL students to participate in class discussions rather than just one raising his/her hand at a time.

Tech savvy teachers use polling and surveys to check for understanding throughout the class period, making each student  aware of his/her learning at any given moment.

Innovative teachers use technology to flatten their classroom walls, connecting with other classrooms in the district, state, country and world.

I jokingly advised Barb that maybe she and Al should consider going into different rooms each night and Skyping each other to rekindle their bonding hour.

And maybe those in education who fear that technology will depersonalize the classroom should consider the opportunities it offers to connect us to each other and to the larger world.

Social Media Shutdown

media_overload_by_itsyouformeBy Amanda Szramiak – I think it’s safe to say our generation is absolutely and pathetically (in my humble opinion, of course) consumed with social media.

The big culprits of this epidemic are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. At least those were my biggest demons.

At the beginning of the semester, I went through a break up. Thankfully, it was a long-distance relationship, so I wasn’t worried about running into him on the street or having to sit awkwardly in a class with him. Unfortunately, the good majority of my social media usage involved him.

We used Facebook to video chat. We used Twitter to communicate through our retweets and favorites. We used Instagram to display all the fun times we had together. So I was in a predicament. Every time I went on Facebook I was reminded of my relationship status as “single,” which I swear was in boldface, size forty-five print. His mom made sure to strategically put up pictures of his new found life in college every time I happened to open the app on my phone. Twitter also made sure to notify me every time he followed someone new or tweeted about his amazing life.

What was I supposed to do? Delete all my social media sites? I honestly didn’t think that was an option.

I ended up deleting everything. Well, I didn’t delete my Instagram, but I gave the password to my friend and made her promise not to let me go on my old account. I created a new Instagram because I could not (or didn’t want to) go completely cold turkey on social media.

Now, you may be asking why I am writing on an educational blog about my post-traumatic stress due to my break up with my high school boyfriend. I’m still trying to figure out that answer, so bear with me.

I challenge you to calculate the minutes you spend on social media sties a day. I had to log my social media usage for a class, and I will take the total number of minutes hours I spent on social media to the grave. As silly as it sounds, I genuinely believe I am doing better in school now that I am (almost) social-media free. When I am working on an assignment in the library, I don’t hear my Facebook or Twitter app calling my name begging me to open them. I find myself so much more focused on individual assignments and schoolwork in general because of my decision to rid my life of social media.

Changes in life are inevitable, but I have vowed to at least try to transform any negative alterations into somewhat of a positive outcome. While I don’t think everyone should be social-media free, I do encourage you to (at the very least) be aware of how much time you spend on social media and your cellphone in general. You would be surprised with how much more time you have in a day after you gauge and adjust your social media usage.

Appreciation and Contemplation: Considering Military Families

Veteran_and_FlagBy Aubrey Murtha – The beginning of November is a special time for military folks across the country.

November 11th is Veterans Day, an annual federal holiday that honors men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces.  The day preceding is also significant to my dad because it is the birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps.  Although my dad has served in both the Air Force, the Marines, and went through the Naval ROTC program here at Marquette designated for guys interested in the Corps, the Marine Corps holds a very special place in his heart.

Ooo Rah! Semper Fi! Happy 239th birthday, dad.

Lately, I have a growing interest to teach at a school in an area with a high population of military moms and dads.

Last year, I took an online course offered to me by the College of Education in partnership with the Military Child Education Coalition.  The course was aimed at educating future teachers, coaches, counselors, and others who work with military children on the effects that military reintegration can have on the child or children of military parents. Military reintegration is the process that follows an extensive deployment in which the spouse, children, and military service member must adjust to living together once again.  As a teacher of a military child whose family is adjusting either to deployment or the reintegration of a military parent, one must be cognoscente of the emotional and psychological distress that can result from these dramatic lifestyle changes.

Another topic stressed by the course was the impact that moving for military purposes can have on a family.  Because my mom and dad chose not to uproot us kids when my dad moved bases, and my dad made the conscious decision to be a military reservist in the Air Force for much of our lives, I am no expert on the impacts that moving for the military can have on a child.  I never had to deal with much of what other military children must cope with.  I sympathize with the kids in these situations, yet I also recognize the tremendous skills that children of active duty military parents can and often do obtain.  These kids are resilient, extraordinarily adaptable to change, and usually relatively self-sufficient.   Teachers who work with these kids must be aware of this and work to capitalize on these skills.

The fact that the military has been a part of my life has sparked my interest in such topics.  Sometimes, I think we forget about the kids of the men and women that serve extensive tours overseas, and as educators, we rarely learn about how to best serve these children.  Perhaps this is something we could look into.

In conclusion, I’d like to say thank you to any veterans, their spouses, their children, and anyone connected to or personally affiliated with a military service man or woman.  I am very thankful for what you do.  God bless you, and God bless America.

Tuesday Trivia: November 4, 2014

How much do YOU know about Marquette University and the College of Education?
Test your knowledge (and win cool prizes) every Tuesday!

TuesdayTrivia

 
In light of it being election week…

Representative Gwen Moore, an alumna of Marquette University, graduated in what year and with what degree from MU?

 

Claim your chance to win by leaving the correct answer in the comments section below anytime today between 7am – 11pm. And don’t be afraid to play, even if someone has already posted the right answer! One winner will be randomly selected from ALL correct answers and announced the following day.  The winner will be posted on our Facebook page and notified by email.  Please note that you must have a valid email address listed in your comment or WordPress profile to win.

The Art/Science of the College Recommendation Letter

images (8)By Nick McDaniels – This year, I am being bombarded with requests for college recommendation letters from seniors.

I’ve written over 25 already this year with another six to write this week (so far). It makes sense that I would be asked, since I know these students so well, but now I think word is getting out that,  not only will I write these letters, but can write one fast if in a pinch.

This is a blessing and a curse because the joy of talking about great students on paper is something we rarely carve out time to do, in part, because there is no time to carve from. So that I don’t ever have to say no (except for to the one kid I never taught who was told by another I would write him one) I have developed a pretty good system for writing, editing, amending letters to get students what they need in the time they need it.

Here’s how I do it in case you are being bombarded by requests as well:

1) Have your school/district letterhead template ready in many formats to put the letter on.

2) Have a list of activities or resume prepared by the student available while you write so you can include the things you may not have known like “weekly soup kitchen volunteer” or “congregational praise dancer,” both of which I used this year but would not have had I not asked for “the list of things you do.” I always ask for this list before I start writing. If a student can’t deliver that list, then I drop them on my priority list.

3) Develop a number of recurring themes you are likely to use. Make word lists to use for different types of students: the nice kid who struggles academically (dedicated, hardworking, pleasant), the kid who is a complete jerk but has all the academic skills in the world (intelligent, insightful, confident), the kid who is an average student but very popular (leader, respected), the kid who plays 3 sports and is in 3 clubs (devoted, involved, engaged,). These lists will help you develop a theme for writing your letters on which you can build the specifics of the individual student. To be clear you should never resolutely categorize a student in this way, but having word lists available might help bring to mind a particular event or skill/trait that a student possesses that you might want to write about.

4) Keep the first and last paragraphs largely the same in every letter: “It is a sincere pleasure to recommend to you ______ for admission to ______. I know _________ because ________ was a student in my ________ class.” And so on. Then close it with: “There are few students I would be more proud to see accepted into your fine institution than ______. If you need to reach me you can reach me at _____ as I would love to discuss _____ further with you.”

5) Write the middle paragraph(s) from the heart building on the theme you established. I often try to get more colloquial, tone down the professional phrasing and voice in this section. I like to tell stories about the kids, get a little sappy about how important they are, and try to convey that this letter talks about the student as a person, not as an SAT score or GPA (colleges already have that!). This should be the easiest part to write and should put you in a really good, reflective mood.

6) Save for edits or for other schools, print it, sign it, seal it, and keep it moving. (You may also have to become familiar with the number of programs that specific colleges use to allow online submission of these letters now… but your are on your own there as I’ve only seen one that is truly helpful).

In all, writing letters for my students is an absolute joy. I have gotten to reflect just on how much these students have meant to me in my career. I have followed these seniors since their freshmen year. As I said, my name is on their transcripts more than their own in most cases. They have profoundly shaped me as a teacher (I have written this in a few letters). The least I can do is help fill their college application file.


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