As You Place Them on the Bus……

From the thoughts of a Parent:  As I place my child on the bus to head to school, there are many thoughts that run through my mind.

  1. My child is growing up so fast, it seems like yesterday that he/she learned to walk.
  2. Even though he/she talks a lot, I hope the teacher sees what a wonderful, talented kid he/she is.
  3. I hope the teacher understands how close of friends he/she is with Timmy and allows them to sit next to each other.
  4. He/She really loves story time with me. He/She will sit and listen to me all night.
  5. I don’t understand why homework has to be so hard. I don’t understand how to do it, how is my child supposed to?
  6. I hope today is a great day, can’t wait to see him/her at the end of the day!

From the thoughts of a Teacher: As I place the students on the bus to head home, there are many thoughts that run through my mind.

  1. My students are growing up so fast, it seems like yesterday that they nervously first stepped into the classroom.
  2. Even though he/she is struggling, I hope his parents see how hard he/she is working.
  3. It is nice to see them developing new friendships, it makes them appreciate the ones they already have.
  4. They did a great job reading out loud today, I hope they are reading at home to someone.
  5. New concept today means they will struggle with today’s homework, I hope parents understand homework does not have to be 100% correct.
  6. I hope today was a great day, can’t wait to see them tomorrow morning!

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5 Rules on Parent/Teacher Conferences


As the time approaches for spring conferences, I thought it would be helpful to offer some advice to parents as you head in.

Time is limited to have a meaningful conversation with your child’s teacher at Parent/ Teacher Conferences, so be sure to make the most of the time you have. Here are 5 simple rules to follow that can make the difference in helping your child in Elementary and Middle School:

1. Stop focusing on the Grades: Especially in Elementary School and even Middle School, parents tend to focus way too much on whether or not Johnny is getting straight A’s. Let me be clear, grades are important, however the need to debate turning some B’s into A’s is ludicrous. Harvard will not be checking Johnny’s 5th Grade report card to determine his acceptance or rejection. The question to ask is whether or not your child is giving a great effort towards their education. It is about preparing your child for their future education: A “hard-working” C is better than a “lazy” A!

2. Identify Strengths and Weaknesses: You will most likely be surprised as a parent to hear what the teacher sees as both strengths and weaknesses. Seeing your child in the different light of a classroom allows the teacher to be open-minded and not be prejudiced towards certain actions. Each child can truly start with a clean slate every year, so the teacher should be able to express individually what he or she sees in your child. Celebrate and be proud of the strengths your child demonstrates, but take more notice about their weaknesses. Each child is only as strong as their weakest link. The question to ask is simply what strengths and weaknesses does the teacher see in your child. No child has every suffered low self-esteem based upon their strengths.

3. Importance of Social vs. Academic: If you are focused on grades, you will never get to the most important factor for success in life. Your child’s ability to socialize with their classmates is just as, or, I would argue, more important than their academics to be successful in life. Collaborating with partners and groups is a fact of today and tomorrow’s workplace, and those skills are developed throughout the school day, in the classroom, at lunch, and at recess. The question to ask is what does the teacher see in your child’s ability to interact with others in the school, not just with classmates, but all students, staff, etc. Some of the greatest ideas have been lost because someone never voiced them.

4. Identifying Gifted/Remedial: You may feel as if your child needs to be placed into Gifted and Talented, or needs remedial help. Should you wish to discuss the options, or requirements for either, please make sure to have some documentation. For GnT, your opinion that your child is as smart as Billy who is in GnT, is not the requirement. If your child is not receiving straights A’s on average, then please be rational. As for remedial help, be passionate about the help your child needs, but come with organized thoughts not centered on grades. Behaviors that you see at home that can be compared to what is seen at school is extremely helpful. Also understand that there is a difference between a struggling student and one who needs remedial help. The question to ask, either way, is whether or not the teacher observes your child on the same level as you do, and what steps can be put into place to 1) help your child immediately, and 2) ensure your child receives proper support if identified in observation. In either case, GnT or Remedial, documentation to support your child will go a long way.

5. Place your Pride aside: While it is great to hear your child is doing well, there will be times that you will receive information you don’t agree with or don’t want to hear. Keep an open mind about what is being said and how the situation can be rectified. The last thing a teacher wants to do is create an irate parent by making up situations. It is not a knock on your parenting abilities, just simply communicating the situation they observe to obtain the best possible solution WITH you. Also, remember that for the teacher, it is NEVER about you and parenting, it is ALWAYS about what is best for the student. The question to ask is what can I do to help solve this issue. It is a sensitive discussion that every teacher dreads having to approach, and you reaching out an olive branch of joining forces will be welcomed.

As an added bonus, never be afraid to ask you the teacher for advice on helping your child. How to help a child with Homework is something most parents want to know. You can ask for a list of questions to ask to help with Reading Comprehension, options in developing study skills and note taking, or even help with the “new ways” of solving math problems. Just don’t ask if they have extra workbooks for you to have. They spend enough of their hard-earned money on the students, and I am letting you know that the local teacher supply stores are open to the public. You can purchase most teaching materials there and get help from the sales person who is usually a teacher or former teacher themselves, or simply ask during your conference where you can go and what is recommended for your child!

Hidden Agenda vs Public School Education?


The Common Core State Standards are leading the way to improve the American Education System.  Based upon their performance on PARCC and Smarter Balance Testing, students will be expected to show “Mastery” and their teachers will be evaluated based upon those results.  Supporting individuals clearly state that this is a great check and balance system with high expectations and standards that will be consistent for each and every child.  What is wrong with having high standards?  Especially with our educational system in a free fall, becoming engulfed by the rest of the world? Well…….

What if all the media surrounding Common Core State Standards and Standardized Testing is propaganda aimed at completely destroying any and all positive support for Public School Education?  Could there be a force sinister enough to collaborate behind the scenes in an effort to destroy the foundation of America that has educated many successful generations?  The first question that would need to be answered is whether or not our children are truly falling behind when compared to the rest of the world. When you look at the PISA and TIMSS results, it seems that our students have consistently ranked about the same year after year, slightly above average.  This is nothing to yell out in the streets about, but where does the panic of our declining educational system come from?  The 2010 Brown Center Report on American Education outlines the status of our educational system while debunking some myths surrounding it like the belief “that the United States once led the world on international tests of achievement. It never has.” We could argue why comparisons of educational systems via standardized testing is wrong and slighted, but it would do nothing to help identify what the problem is. As the rest of the world has invested into their own educational systems, they have dramatically improved. Does this mean that the US system has declined, or simply that many countries around the world are educating their students at a higher level that is now in comparison with the US?

So why the outcry about our “failing” school system? Well, it seems to me that anytime politics becomes involved, money is somewhere behind the scenes, so lets see where the money goes through my average joe eyes. Here in New Jersey, there are districts that are struggling to educate their children, especially in the inner cities like Newark and Camden. This is nothing new, and when you compare inner city students across the country, most are labeled as struggling. With that being said, one can easily see why these districts are targeted as if the blame is squarely on the inner city schools. Our Governor is pushing the development of Charter Schools, and personally, I have no issue with the development of any type of school that may help children, but it should never be at the expense of those in the Public Education field. The push is directed at these identified struggling districts because no one will question the attacks except for those stakeholders directly affected, and who is going to listen to the complaints coming from these inner city stakeholders? Even when the testing data shows that the Public Schools are outperforming the Charters, the propaganda drowns out the positive news. It is alarming to hear that in Newark, even though the Public continues to outperform the Charter, funding continues to be cut to the Public Schools. Do what you need to make the public schools perform negatively. This is a simple game of money and politics. All you have to do is look at who is being hired to run these Charter Schools, and simply connect the dots back to the politicians. It is an absolute shame because it is the children who suffer in this game. 

Our students losses are at Big Businesses gains! It has become big enough to even get coverage as an Investment Opportunity! In other words, the Charter Schools will do whatever it takes to make money, for that is the business it is in. Think about that……..Now think about what is best for your child? Sadly, it has never been proven that Charter Schools are better performing. When you look into it, what is truly different?  Are the classrooms different? Are the teaching styles revolutionary? Simply, the answer is No. In comparison, they are in the same class as a private school. One in which they get to select which students get to attend, and have the option to dismiss students who are not performing up to their level, both options of which a Public School does not have. The difference is that big business is playing with the guaranteed funds of our taxes. By preying on the hopes and dreams of the inner city school parents who are fed up with the failures of the inner city schools, these charter schools will continue to expand. If these charter schools simply educated our students better, then why is the focus in the inner city? If they simply educate better, and are the answer to making the US #1, then I along with everyone else would want my children to go there also.

The problem with America’s Educational System is that money and politics got involved! From NCLB to CCSS, our focus is to solve the propaganda that our educational system is somehow failing our students. The truth be told, we are failing our students………simply because the focus is on everything else, but THE STUDENTS!! I was lucky to have worked under the great leadership of Principal Joe Vicari and Asst. Principal Alan Ball at one point in my career who advised in one of our first meetings: “Ed, don’t make teaching too complicated. Truly care for each student, set high expectations, and the rest will take care of itself!” Many of my prior posts explain how I feel, and how my students believed in my classroom, so I want to be clear.  Spreading propaganda about a failing educational system is the work of those who would benefit the most to do so. Those who have gained the most are…….Politicians and Charter Schools. When it comes to Public Education and its funding, big business should have no business in it.  Why would anyone think that a better educational system is one in which the focus is on the bottom line? We need to place the focus back on the STUDENT(S) and provide the solutions necessary to meet each and every one of their NEEDS to succeed. Let’s get back to setting high expectations, identifying their needs, and caring for each individual child, so the rest can take care of itself!!

Children Dying at School

I remember growing up with the knowledge that when an adult spoke, I listened. It didn’t matter if the adult was right, wrong, or respectful. It didn’t matter if I was just told something different by another adult. It would be disrespectful for me to state my opinion, or question an adult. Forget having an opinion or a side to a story if there was a problem. Should my parents be called in for an issue, I did not get a chance to explain my side, nor did my parents even care to hear one. Is this the right way? Sadly, as adults, we are preconditioned to continue to trust and listen to other adults who claim to be the experts. Sadly, as adults, we continue to ignore the voices of the little ones, the children. WHY? 

There is a hidden problem in almost every school across this great country, yet no one is talking about it. Consequences. Our focus is on the issues that the mainstream media feeds to us. Bad teachers, Common Core, Failing Schools, and Bullying are all issues being fed into our conversations and ideas about our public education system. Imagine if these are simply the aftermath of a deeper and deadlier issue. Are adults the ones to be trusted? Why aren’t we listening to what our children have to say? Placing children in harms way with consequences like restraining bags, electric shock, and scream rooms are despicable. We are trusting adults to make decisions about helping our kids with these barbaric means? When did it become acceptable for an adult to punish a child in a manner that would be unacceptable for a criminal?

Think back to your education and the most influential teachers you had. What made them special to you? Now think for a moment that your favorite  teacher on your worst day had stuffed you into a secluded “Scream Room”, or delivered shock therapy, would they still be your favorite teacher? When a child misbehaves, there is a reason for the misbehavior that must be understood and addressed for the situation to be rectified. Every day there are students who become disengaged with their education, their future. There has to be a reason behind it, and we must be willing to take the time and energy to stop and communicate this. 

Your most influential teachers are the ones who took the time and effort to listen and relate with you. Instead of handing you ineffective consequence after consequence, they were the ones who took the time to find a solution with you. Even the simple consequence of “missing recess for missing homework” can be idiotic at times. I once had a 5th grade partner teacher who sat a student out of recess for 3 months because of missing homework. Did the punishment deliver the right outcome? How did this help? Do you think the student wanted to miss recess? By simply sitting down and having a conversation, it was found that his priority after school was taking care of his siblings (laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc), not homework. After discussing options with him, the student began finishing his homework based on the guidelines that were agreed to. While he never respected the teacher (she never cared to listen), he felt empowered to know someone would listen and relate with him and put forth a better effort because of this simple offering. 

I am not saying there should be no consequences, and our children should do whatever they want. I am simply pointing out that we, as adults, should remember what it was like to be a child on our good days and our bad days. Remember that we should be using consequences only if they produce the right outcome, and never use them as punishments. Unfortunately there are cases where students are literally dying from these severe consequences, but we must also recognize that we are killing the inner spirit of the child by punishing them. Every child starts off their education by WANTING and LOVING to go to school to LEARN. The question we need to answer is “What stops a child’s passion for learning?”, or even more “Who killed the desire within the child?”


I had to Apologize to My Students- Their Reaction Left Me in Tears!

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Portion of a letter given to me from a student in a partner class after learning I was leaving. Truly humbling to learn you inspire students who are not even in your class.

Almost 2 years ago, due to circumstances in education, family, and life, I made a decision to leave teaching, to walk away from my classroom.  Two weeks prior, I had to endure the task of informing my students of my decision. It’s ironic how selfish one can be in a profession that is filled with the rewards of giving. My profession, for the first time in 15 years, started feeling like a job in the weeks leading up. I had lost focus, and with it, lost the love and passion from which I thrived. It had become all about me: the hatred building up inside of me, the decision I had to make, the failure I was going to be in my students eyes. I hated that society didn’t value my profession. I hated that the Federal and State governments tried to label my students as Proficient or Non-proficient. I hated that my performance was going to be judged based upon these tests. I hated that I was a data collecting machine. I hated Summative and Formative testing. I hated those who spoke of pedagogy and rigor. I hated that my district didn’t value technology. I hated that I was reprimanded for the tangle of electrical cords when my request for replacement batteries for laptops was denied. I hated that increasing contributions to my benefits package guaranteed a continued pay cut every year. I hated that a yearly pay cut meant I could not provide for my family and left me no choice. I hated having to make that decision. I hated that I had to look my students in the eye and tell them “I am sorry, I failed you as your teacher.” In my search to excuse my feelings of failure, I had lost sight of the only opinion that truly mattered. In those weeks, I truly did fail my students, but my students never failed me.

On that dreaded day of revelation, about 30 minutes into my tear filled explanation of my decision to leave the classroom, one of my students stopped me.  She stated through her own tears, “Why do you keep saying Sorry? You did nothing wrong.” She continued by clarifying in 3 minutes what I had tried to say in 30.  She informed all that putting my 3 kids ahead of them as students was nothing to apologize about. She proceeded to lecture the class and myself that even though we only had 2 more weeks together, we should be thankful for the last 4 months of being Mr. Lowe‘s class.  With the conviction of a true leader, she requested everyone to not discuss this anymore and make the most of our last 2 weeks together.  She ended by telling me that I was more than just a teacher to this class.  She believed in everything I said including forever being one of Mr. Lowe’s kids, and my being out of the classroom was not going to change that! There have been plenty of times students had to correct me and there have been plenty of times students have inspired me, but this was just the beginning of the most inspiring 2 weeks I had ever experienced. It is inspiring to see your students put into action everything that you preach about as a teacher especially when you had just dropped a bombshell on them. “Leave your troubles at the door.” “When you enter this classroom, you enter with a promise to always do your best, even when things are at their worst.” “Are you proud of your work?” Did I ever mention these were 4th Graders?

In a true moment of students teaching the teacher, I had become that lost student needing help, disengaged due to outside circumstances. The outpouring of support came, lesson after lesson. Parents and students, past and present, went out of their way to deliver messages of inspiration and encouragement. My students were right, I had nothing to be “Sorry” about. In fact, I was grateful. I loved every minute I spent in the classroom. I loved inspiring. I loved seeing the Ah Ha moment. I loved the laughing. I loved the dancing. I loved when they made fun of me. I loved the raw emotions of crying, fear and anxiety turn to happiness, courage, and hope. I loved seeing a C student get a C+. I loved seeing BFFs form from my choice in seating. I loved the hugs of excitement and sorrow. I loved to see confidence sprout from doubt. I loved saying “I’m proud of You.” I loved getting in trouble because I fought for my students. I loved working with parents. I loved being inspired by students. I loved seeing them present their work. I loved hearing them sing. I loved welcoming them in the morning. I loved being loud in the hallway with them. I loved the high fives. I loved the down lows. I loved the April Fools pranks. I loved the egg toss and the egg drop. I loved having International Day. I loved steps of improvement no matter how small. I loved the first day, last day, and all the days in between. Most of all, I loved my students, each and every one. I would like to end by telling each and every one “I thank you for being a part of my class, my family! You played an important part in making me the teacher I was, and the person I am today! For this, I will always love you!”