Diana Hyatt-Michael

DIANA HYATT-MICHAEL

Okay, I am Diana Hyatt-Michael.  I’m professor of education at Pepperdine University in California.

Well, the most important thing that all young teachers should remember – and many of them are young teachers, some are returning teachers – is that you are entrusted with your – with their children.  Their parents – parents give you the thing that they value most which is their children.  And if you can remember that you are in charge with their most treasured possession, and that that is an honor, and that that’s your task to work with them and you together in nurturing this person the most wonderful person that this child can be.

I think it’s critical when you’re a new teacher, you come in filled with life and excitement and all these great things that you’re going to do in your classroom and what you have to remember is that to make all your dreams, and visions, and hopes work you need to bring in the parents of the children so that collectively the parents, the grandparents, the aunts, the uncles are all helping this child.  We – it’s a trite phrase now that it takes a village to raise a child, but every time you get the parents involved with their children it’s the opportunity that that child succeeds.  Um, if you don’t mind my giving some answers I’d be delighted to give you some examples when I was a teacher.  (Interruption)  Because I was thinking last night about Mark – and Mark, I hope that you’re still alive and well somewhere and if you ever get this tape to see it – but, there was a little boy who was very small in his class and his name was Mark and he couldn’t write.  He learned to write “Mark T.” with a period, “Racey.”  So we always used call him “Mark T. Racey.”  And you could tell he was a child who had some difficulty being accepted by all the children in the 1st grade class.  He was not the top reader, he was not the tallest.  He was like nothing.  But I believed every child was a leader.  This is a belief I came with as a Dewey type person.  And so with that in mind I began to think, “Okay, how can I make Mark feel important?”  Well, it didn’t take much thinking at all because all I had to do was find out that Mark’s father was a fireman and what gives power to a 1st grader?  Not the father who is Chairman of the Board at the – I worked in Connecticut so we had the Chairman of the Board of Travelers in my class, we had uh lawyers in my class, we had district attorneys in my class, but Mark’s father was a fireman.  And so the first field trip we went on was to the fire department.  And so with that Mark became a leader. 

Because the – the resources in your classrooms are small, but when you open up your door to the community all the resources are yours there to use.  So you have the museums to go to, you have the libraries to go to, you have the police department as far as community resources, and the parents are divergent set of resources.  It can be everything from somebody who knows how to cook something and – and help with math and science because they’re teaching cooking in your classroom.  Or people that have a unus – parents that have unusual hobbies they bring to their class.  It can be their careers.  I mean the – the thoughts of what parents and the community can bring to the classroom, it’s endless, it’s enormous, it’s as rich as our global community.

I would say probably the most important thing I would say to teachers who want to shut that classroom door and make life behind the classroom door is you are – you are shutting out your own knowledge of this child that will make you a better successful teacher.  Working with the parents will make you better.  The more that you share your power with others, the more power you col – you collect on your own.  Um, that’s – that’s a very important element for every person to know.

The most important skill of all that any teacher can have is when your parent come is to listen and just listen, and listen, and listen.  Because as somebody said, “What makes uh effective classrooms and effective work?  It’s relationships, relationships, relationships.”  And so the more you build this – you listen, the more you can connect this parent to you.  I mentioned a prior thing.  Another situation was I could not get a parent to come to my classroom for a parent conference.  They – they worked all week.  And so I asked them that – and it had been a Hispanic family, and I asked them, “Well, could you come to my home on Saturday?”  Because I was thinking of a place – the school had other uses on Saturday.  And this – this mother and father and the whole family, because they come collectively, came to my house and we sat, and we had coffee, and we talked.  And it was a connection and a bond that held that whole class together.  It turned out this young boy, which I – this is October remember – was actually the leader on the playground.  So once I connected his parents to him and he realized that dad thought this teacher was the best thing he had ever seen, that boy then just anything I had to do I just asked him and he took care of nature, that everything went well in my classroom.  I don’t care whether it had to be permission slips brought in, whatever.  These – they became a volunteer community liaison with me.

Well I have to give you – I think share – just my own personal approach is that if you respect and love everybody, which is a (unintelligible) of Brigham Young and here at Pepperdine, and the most important thing we bring is a sense of love to everybody that we – that we meet with.  And when you – when they come in knowing that you treasure them as people, then they will open up to you.  It may take a little while with some, but you – you know, you honor their own culture.  I mean if they’re – you don’t hug somebody who’s Chinese or Japanese.  You know, you bow and keep your social distance.  But by doing the bowing and – and respecting them, they come – they come around and then little by little they’ll like come in very quietly and they’ll say, “Now let me tell you – tell you something.  Uh, you know, my husband doesn’t like this but I do,” and then you go, “Okay, okay, we won’t say anything,” and go forward.  So I think those are the important treasures.

I think just sharing some of your – your own life experiences.  Um, sometimes it’s hard for us as professionals.  We want to put this little exterior on us and – you know, we dress professionally, we behave professionally, but with – with parents and the community what you have to do is look at how does your community dress?  If it’s very formal you dress formal like I am dressed today but – and that’s because we saw the Secretary of Education and I wanted to impress him that researchers don’t look like (unintelligible).  And when you’re – when you’re out there with parents you dress – you dress as they do.  And so if it’s a Saturday meeting, uh, you know, you’re wearing sweatshirts and jeans and – and low priced sneakers, you know, just as they are and – and meet with them.  You all – you also sometimes if you want to connect to parents, you handle the barbecue, you – you show them that you can – you can bake something too on a flat sheet.  Um, it’s – it’s connecting with them at their level.  Let me give – if you don’t mind, you can cut this, but let me give you an example at um – we have a school district out in California – it’s (unintelligible) unified school district, it’s a K-8 school district.  It’s very small.  It’s the one that’s right under where the – where the airplanes land on the freeway and I’ve been very fortunate as that – the assistant superintendent became my (unintelligible) when he was a school principal.  And so I had this wonderful opportunity to work with Tom Johnstone, collect data early on on parents center, and at the same time come down and work in his school with his teachers.  And so with this – with this opportunity I began to realize that you connect with the parents with their own needs first.  So in his particular case we – we were looking – they weren’t coming to the soup kitchen on Saturday and I said – I listened and I said, “Tom, they’re too embarrassed to come to the soup kitchen on Saturday so they’re not going to show up.”  “Oh, what is it that they need?”  Well, of course, what they need first – they’re new immigrants, is they need to get that green card to work.  And what’s some of the second things that they need?  They need healthcare.  So we made sure we got the Wellness Program right on site.  So we got them coming for help with immigration, for help with the green card, then we began to look for – you know, what were some other needs?  Well, they needed bilingual education.  So Tom went out to the community colleges and the adult ed schools, but they brought them right out to that school.  So we ended up – he built an integrated school site.  He didn’t – it wasn’t a plan.  I mean I had learned curriculum.  We had looked at – seriously looked at this gap at what is and what should be.  I’ve learned now know what you do is you have sort of this vision of what you want for all these youngsters and then as the opportunities arise you snatch them and bring those – bring those services to the school.  And so I – as – since I know I’m speaking to teachers, I can’t help but say as a teacher that the most important thing you have as a principal that is there to support you.  So one of the things that you also have to do as a new teacher is you have to help your principal understand what you’re doing.  I mean my first principal had no clue.  He was very professional in putting up the façade, was that as a John Dewey person, I had to go out and connect with all these people.  I was going to do theme-based instruction even though nobody cared.  And I just went out – and I was brand new.  I mean I’m from Wisconsin and I’m (unintelligible) in West Hartford, Connecticut.  That is not exactly where you know everything, but little by little I learned, you know, what – people from the church would come in, where the museums are, where you connect.  And as I build these relationships and connected them to the school, um my room soon became the – the center hub.  Well then the principal starts to take notice, “Why is it at Open House night you have 100% attendance and nobody else has 100% attendance?”  Well once they see that or they hear everybody clapping down the hall, they go down to find out and then you get the chance to talk.  Now when you’re brand new like I was, I wasn’t always sure how to convince you – say it was you, Winston – why my classroom was working.  I was a little nervous on things like that.  So I guess if I could speak to any new teacher I would say – have the confidence that if you believe it in your heart, just share it with everybody else around you and soon they will believe in you.

I have to be honest that my – both my research and my life experiences show again is that key person, the principal.  I mentioned Tom Johnstone as – as probably a wonderful example, but I could share examples from all over the country of excited principals who then would share that sense of energy and enthusiasm and – and then like unleash it from their teachers who then go out, but they also unleash it if they’re good.  They unleash it with everybody that’s around – and by everybody I mean the secretary, the first person people see when they come into the school.  Um, if you – if you happen to collect this book – and this book was put out by the Family, School, Community Partnership here at (unintelligible) to be promising practices made intentionally for – for teachers and for – for principals to see what were the best promising practices around the country.  So it goes everywhere from Navajo Indian reservations, uh on up to fishing villages, to big urban centers, to – to the Plain States, to uh probably the Everglades.  I don’t know if we have anything on crocodiles, but we try – we almost try to get the crocodiles in there.  Um, so uh with (interruption) So um the – the important thing is that a principal realized that he’s – he’s the site leader that’s going to give – uh give this power and energy to open – to open it up.  And with that, as long as he can unleash it and develop – the most important thing for the principal to do is develop a sense of trust.  Um, I have an article in the School Community Journal and it’s called uh, “Schools as – as Community Learning Places,” because it’s really like an organ – I hope I say it right.  I should start again.  I should get that title straight.  I have an article in the – in the School Community Journal that is – that is entitled uh, “Schools as Learning Communities:  A Vision for Organic School Reform,” and it’s nothing new.  It’s just collecting information from the past both from research, as well as from uh my own observations that the most important thing a principal and a teacher has to do is develop this sense of trust with the people that you’re working with because if people don’t trust you they’re not going to do anything.  And you can go to research study after research study to books on theory that say that trust is the foundation – even going back to Eric Erickson.  That trust is the foundation.  And unfortunately in our current busy society of virtual reality, of – of so much thought is able to take place, that we have forgotten that trust – and trust doesn’t happen overnight and so the important thing to do is develop this sense of trust.  From that you really understand that you give away power because to give away power you actually get power.  So to become a learning organization you – everybody’s something – when someone comes with an idea you say, “Yeah, go with it.  How can I support you to do this?”  And you play the role of servant leader.  That you’re there to nurture, and support, and care for each new idea and give energy to that person who then is energized and goes forward and creates more energy.  Um, I don’t know the physics of that, but there must be something that talks about unleashing the power inside the atom because what we’re doing is releasing atoms and its going “Boom!”  And that’s how it gets started and then soon you have parents.  It doesn’t mean you’re never going to have an angry parent or a parent you can’t deal with.  We – we understand mental illness is out there, but at the same time if we’re out there we can help that family support that person that has that serious problem.  It takes time.  No one is going to admit to these things.  These are – uh alcoholic parents, parents that are emotionally ill, they’re often times hidden – and I speak from very direct family experience on this one.  It’s hidden and so we don’t grab the resources and the support that we need.  So that – that’s one part and then the um (unintelligible) and then the other one is just the fourth one in the article, is that the principal serves as a – as a collaborative leader.  So his ideas to – is to network people, bring them together working so that they’re able to come together and solve a personal problem.  Um, I can – I can cite Ralph Tyler who was my – he happened to be my mentor, and Ralph Tyler mentioned that – that he had never seen a major problem that couldn’t be solved by a group of interested people working together.

I think the most important thing to develop trust is you have to get out there so they can see you as an individual person.  So some of the things that I’ve seen best developing a sense of trust is – one principal began with a breakfast meeting and he went out and got uh donuts – sorry nutritionists – but he went out and got donuts because they were what – they were contributed (unintelligible) Starbucks to do coffee, and so he went out and – and got the food for the parents and it was a totally open breakfast meeting.  It – it happened, I think only once a month at first, but the parents soon asked for it twice a month.  And they could come in and talk about anything.  He would just sit there and move around and so soon they began to ask questions of how they can get help in the community.  Um, then eventually some teachers would come if they new a difficult parent was coming and say, “Oh, come on, let’s go visit, you know, your teacher’s classroom.”  But by developing it he began opening that door so that people could then come in and do it.  Another way of developing trust is probably going out where they are.  Um, if – if what they are doing is uh they – they’re having some sort of a picnic at a church or something, you’re the one then who signs up to do their – male principal to barbecue, if you’re a woman, maybe you could do the barbecue too, but do something so that you’re seen as a real person out there to develop that sense of trust.  Um, I just had – this is just sharing with you, but I just had a doctoral dissertation just defended and it was on developing a learning organization in a non-profit.  And he had one that they were – it was totally going out of business.  I mean they were going to be eliminated if they didn’t do something and so he said, “I don’t know why.  I took your article,” he said, “from your class,” and he said – I said – and he said, “Well, Diana does that when she teaches.  When she teaches us as adults, the first thing she does is really work with us the first 2 nights on getting to know us,” and I mean I wish I could have them come to my house.  There’s a wonderful thing when you – you open up yourself, when you open up your house to somebody and with – and I always think of my classroom as my house.  So you try to do things like uh food and bottled water in these days, and your office is always open, there aren’t scheduled hours.  “What time can you meet with me?”  Because they’re working people.  So you open up.  And a principal has to behave the same way.  If a difficult princ – if a difficult child happens to be with a very busy father, when will that father come?  And he maybe wants to meet with the principal, he’s important.  He doesn’t – you know, he may not value the teacher.  He should, but he may not.  And that way that will bring it.  And I’m thinking particularly of a school – one of my doctoral students was Chinese and in that particular school she found out that the – the father – if the father came then the things would take place.  So they would meet with her as a principal, but they weren’t going to meet with the teacher.  And so she just – you know, she worked with the teacher.  They’d just meet – you know, the teacher and the principal would meet with this father.  She said it took a lot of time out of her life, but she said it made a total difference in the academic achievement of that school.  She said we – you know, Asian students always do well, but they did exceptionally well. 

Well, first of all, you know that school when you walk up to it.  Uh, you – you immediately – the lawns are tended in front because some volunteers have gone in and tended that lawn.  They don’t have to worry about a district thing.  You enter that lobby.  I’m thinking of one that had the smell of coffee or tea, whatever was the indigenous drink and – and that was there.  They did not have high counters.  They had people that were instantly available.  I’m thinking of one school district that I – that I mentioned in my – in my book which literally the PTA spent money and got furniture, comfortable furniture, and they had brochures, things dealing with parent involvement – uh, things that would be helpful to the parents, even to jobs, whatever was the need.  That was right there.  Then that school – for security reasons, yes, nowadays I think you should have a badge.  In those days we didn’t have to have a badge, but something to enter.  But after that there was someone there who personally escorted you wherever you wanted to go.  You know, helped you out of sort of like a tour person.  And then with that um you could just see all of the activity going on.  I mean it is not a closed school.  You see children painting out on the playground, you see – I’m thinking of one school, Overland School in Los Angeles, they’re out there and they’ve got their gardens.  I mean when I walked into that school with the principal – and by the way, talk about diversity.  She’s Heinz 57.  She’s (unintelligible) and she just shakes her head and her braids fly, but everybody’s there around her.  They know her by name.  I mean little kids would come up and say, “Oh, you’re (unintelligible) friend.  They love me instantly.  You know, I was (unintelligible) friend.  And she said, “Guess what happened to me today,” and I said, “What,” and she said, “My pea plant has its first peas.”  And so I felt so treasured.  She went out to this – her – her garden.  Every class gets a garden area and in it they can plant whatever they want and hers was a pea plant.  And so she opened her pod and shared her first peas with me.  (Interruption)  There was a PTA meeting that I went to and I was concerned because I thought, “Oh, this is not (unintelligible) mothers come out at 8 o’clock in the morning,” but it turns out that that’s when the mothers could come out was 8 o’clock in the morning because most of them were – were working at night in the hotels because then father was home to watch the children.  So the mothers PTA was in the morning and they – they served breakfast.  Remember these are hungry mothers who got up after their nights work, held breakfast, and then walk to school with the children.  And they were just happy – it was like a family life.  They were chatting with each other about their job, who – you know, and are there any other part-time work.  Can you – you know, how can you all help me – help me out?  And then they sat down and the talk was from a nutritionist on a nutritional breakfast and I – I happened to be sitting because there weren’t too many Samoans and the Samoans were the only ones that were the English ones.  So these large – 2 large Samoan mothers sat next to me.  And I didn’t understand that when the closer you get with a Samoan the closer they get to you.  So you can just picture these Samoan mothers and me and as they got closer to me – they literally got closer – and all I know is that the principal was looking at us and he was grinning from ear to ear and he said, “You look like an Oreo Sandwich the – you know, the white part in side the Oreo sandwich, but it’s that kind of warmth that – that one happened to be Tom Johnstone.  So it’s that kind of warmth that is generated when you connect with the community and the teachers, the principals, the custodians, the nutritionists, everybody is – is there to help the child and you’re all coming around to – to help your child and you realize the child is the center of the universe.  That’s our legacy.  Nothing is more important then that child.

I think there’s a multitude of things that a good teacher can do to help a parent support the child at home.  Uh, parents often – often feel very isolated, they’re out there all by themselves.  And they also don’t have all the knowled – all the knowledge that we have as teachers.  So they’re very helpful when you can give them ideas of how to help just naturally teach the children numbers.  How is numbers used in your home?  Help them how to find the study space for their child at home.  Uh, help them how to make the home a place of – of reading, and literacy.  And some of these parents maybe do not value literacy.  Um, you go to so many homes now where the TV is the center of attention, and I think if I were going to turn off anything I would – I would disconnect all – all Playboys and all TV.  Not that I’m a (unintelligible).  So turn off this TV and hug your child and do something with them.  That’s probably what I’d say on the “Oprah Winfrey Show.”  (Interruption)  Yes.  My vision would be that if we could help teachers – I better start again.  My vision would be that if teachers could help parents to understand that the most important thing valued by their child is their time spent with them, that if the parents have a choice between just – you know, I call it just vegetating, you know, and watching TV, that their opportunity would be that they would turn off the TV and spend the time with their child.  Like reading a book or listening to what happened at school, or a problem with a best friend, or what are their child’s hopes and dreams, and so that the time spent with the child is spent in positive relationships, giving their child compliments, not always trying to make their child into something like “Why haven’t you done this?  Why haven’t you done that?”  I think the – the teachers could help parents understand to be positive with the child and look for the things you’re going to compliment with your child, you’re going to get more of what you’re complimenting with your child then not – and I just saw this in the elevator the other day.  She say, “Well, put your hair all up.”  Well, the girl was 13, “No, mom.  I’m wearing it this way.”  Well she would have looked adorable with her hair all up, but you have to wait until your child puts the hair all up and say, “Oh, you created such a cute hairstyle today I’m going…” – you know something like that.  Then all of the sudden, “Oh, okay.”

Connecting with families and parents is a win/win situation.  Uh, the parents win because they have the opportunity to get to know you, you win because you connect with them, and what we have when you – when you have this kind of achievement, you have children who are attending school, they’re doing better at school, they’re setting school go – their own goals for what they want to achieve in school, um you – you don’t have them interested in truancy.  Um, if the parents are together they – they – with – with the class you have this um – this high sense of school climate.  And I think it’s this positive climate that makes the children want to come to school and the parents want to come to school, and it ultimately does relate to test scores, even as pathetic as we know – test scores only tend to measure very, you know, finite knowledges that they have, but overall they – they pick these out as their coming to school.  If they don’t come to school they’re not going to be learning.  In fact, one comment I was thinking last night reflecting is I said, “How can parents help their child at school?”  I think the most important thing that they can do is they can send the child that’s loved, and wanted, and valued.  The second thing is the child who has a good night sleep.  And so the house is made so that the child has their routine, that you could sleep at their time, and they’re gotten up when there’s a quiet stability and routine, and the other – and the third thing is that they have good nutrition.  I’m all for, you know, home literacy programs, numerousy, other kinds of activities, but as the child is worrying about his parents arguing at home, worrying about the safety because he hears bullets and shots taking place, worried that his father is going to be put in jail or that they’re going to keep him in jail and not release him out, that somebody is – is dying, these are not things that are going to make him focus on what he’s supposed to be at school for.  So those are the important things, as well as if he’s exhausted because he’s kept up late, if um – if he’s not fed, he’s thinking about being hungry. 

My personal belief that any reform that ignores the family and the community is not school reform and it will not take place at all.  Any kind of school reform – research has shown us that take – that goes like that – and I’m thinking of some that happened in – in Temple City schools in the Los Angeles area.  Someone came in with a great idea that they were going to have differentiated staffing and they made all these plans, put it into place, and no parents were involved.  As soon as that person moved onto someplace else all of that fell apart because the only way you’re going to institutionalize anything at a school in a community, is to involve the community and the parents because that’s what stays over time. 

And my own dissertation chair, John Goodlad, had us read this book, “Behind the Classroom Door.”  It was the first text that I read in my doctoral program and I was just shocked that teachers did not involve parents in the community.  And I ended up choosing John Goodlad to be my dissertation chair.  Uh, he has a great mind and I love him dearly, but he still does not understand the criticalness of the parents and the community.  He has focused on professionalization of the teachers.  And you can have the most professional, skilled teacher who thinks that she’s doing the best thing for the class.  If she does not understand where this child is coming from, his home, his family, and his community, she is not a great teacher.

I had 2 kindergarten teachers as a child.  One who was told that she came – from the University of Chicago – I probably shouldn’t say these names, but that she came a very well recommended – this kindergarten teacher as a well recommended school teacher uh had all the right pedagogy.  I mean I reflect back on how she – she knew how we would learn to do beginning reading.  She knew how she would – we would learn beginning numerousy.  She knew that we were supposed to move from parallel play to cooperative play and provided all the right opportunities, but she was as cold as ice and our parents did not connect.  They would come in and our mother would come back from these conferences and she’s say, “Miss So-and-so…” – she said, “She seems to know a lot about teaching, but she surely does not know very much about us and she didn’t seem to know very much about you either.”  And so with that – uh fortunately the next year I had a teacher that was very warm and caring.  My mother went to that conference.  She found out everything about me and she knew what things I enjoyed doing.  She knew who were my best friends and she talked to my mother, and made my mother feel so good.  She said, “You are doing…” – my mother was a little insecure and she would say, “You are doing all the right things.  You know, Diana is becoming a leader in this class.  So just keep doing what you’re doing.”  My mother came back feeling so self fulfilled.  We had the best dinner that night.

Okay, this is probably my most area of passion and interest because I really do care that all teacher educators, you and I, that teach these young teachers or teachers re-entering the field who maybe think they know everything to understand how important it is to tie the parents and the community with the school.  And every class should have connections.  My own research shows that almost all teacher educators say they do something about parents, but when it comes to what do they do it turns out to be the one that is shared by everybody’s parent conferencing.  So I think they get a lot about just conferencing in general and then they go to maybe PT – how to do a PTA Open House.  That’s – and even that’s only half.  And then it goes on down.  They do not now how to do school visits, they do not know how to work with community liaisons, and they do not understand how to make your own classroom open to the parents so that parents can come into your classroom anytime, day or night, and you are there to help them as a support person to their whole life.

Uh, I think the one comment I want to let everybody know, I think we’re moving in a better direction in connecting this.  I think the – the national goals and the 8th goal on Parent Participation is starting to take some place.  I think the institutes for respon – responsive education and the – the national network for schools by Don Davis and Joyce Epstein have been making – have been, you know, making a place little bit by little bit over time because my own research just – just completed this spring indicated that people are reporting working with parent involvement in courses and in the student teacher seminars, 5 to 10 or 10 to 15% of the seminar is focused on parent issues.  My concern is that do they have the skills to do the things that actually make a difference with parents?  Um, I want to make a point – I don’t know whether this has been mentioned, but I – if you need your 16 second clip.  Um, one of the most important things that teachers should do for parents is – is give them a paper newsletter, a weekly paper newsletter that comes out on a given day that the parents are expecting.  A 100% of the parents read that newsletter if it’s a – if they are at all literate to read what’s in there.  If they’re not that literate put pictures, put notes, have it written so that the child reads it to the parents.  But that is the best way of – because they will read what the teacher is saying.  “Here’s where we’re going.  Here’s the homework that’s assigned.”  Maybe you feature uh a letter or something that the children have done and then they will read it.  “Look mom, I’m in the weekly newsletter.  Please see me in the weekly newsletter.”  And children are – are your best vehicle for communicating with the home.  And if you make it so that they’re doing something, they make it so their parent has – “You have to come, daddy.  You just have to come and see me at school.”  And so if we can train the teachers to use these children to bring the parents in the – you will get academic scores and – and homework brought in.  That was another item – got to go back.  But if you involve parents you will find out that you have almost 100% return on homework, and then if you work with the parents on connecting homework to what they do at home – parents are sometimes unaware that cooking dinner is a homework assignment.  That reading directions to put something together can be a homework assignment.  That calling and interviewing grandma can be a homework assignment.  Uh, I’m trying to think of everything.  You know, why is a plant dying in the window?  That’s a homework assignment.

I think that every teacher should have a class – at least part of a class – well, I totally believe in parental involvement into other classes.  I have found that unless you dedicate a special time or – or module to parent involvement issues that the teachers don’t understand how critical that is.  We give large courses to reading and I think that’s important, but I think when – it – it is equally important that we help them understand how to involve the parents and the community because that has as much if not more power then teaching them to read.  When I taught reading as – I actually worked – I actually ran for 4 years uh a touring program and I totally involved the parents.  They came to my home, I was – it was out of the home program, and they – they came to my home and I worked with a teacher and the parent – the parent was paying for this tutoring, but I would not deal with it unless I had dealt with the teacher.  The teacher would tell me which results the child would need.  Work with the parent, learn the home parts, and then work with the child.  And then you’d learn little rewards.  So by working together um I – I help them like, you know, “If you do this really well you can go out and play with my dog for an hour.  If you do this really well I’ll give them something,” what ever worked.  Or I would tell the parent to give them that – that special treat.  And I have some stories that just bring tears to my eyes because one of them I can think was a boy that was placed in a special ed class in 2nd grade.  Those who knew Howard Garner’s work, he was psychomotor child and so he wasn’t ready for reading that.  When they talk about early reading I just – I start to have sparks come out of my head because here’s a child if they had waited he was going to read.  So I got him when he was in 6th grade and he was going to go to junior high special ed.  His – his mother came to me and said, “We don’t – uh, this is what’s going to happen with him.”  In one summer – I mean talk about a true success story.  I got him, we met 2 or 3 times a week and I got him for reading at the 2nd grade level.  So here he was placed in special ed at 2nd grade and never got out – you know, wasn’t there – never got out of 2nd grade, and got him up to reading a 5th grade level, and by that time I worked and went to the high school – junior high school and – and got him so that they would let him in.  We didn’t have all these other options so it wasn’t like we could do partial inclusion.  That’s really what he needed.  And then – but he went in full-time and then that year I met with him once a week to get his reading up.  So here’s a special ed child, psychomotor – he’s probably fixing your car as we speak in some factory out east, but the – was considering himself as being a special ed kid.  He wasn’t a special ed kid. 

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