5 Steps Parents can take for a Successful School Year


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With all of my former colleagues heading back in for another exciting, inspirational school year, I feel it necessary to advise my fellow parents on some steps to make this year a success for their kids. Every year, both student and teacher enter the classroom on a clean slate, but it will not be long before the hazards of a “Bad School Year” become apparent (Pun Intended). Here are 5 simple guidelines to help avoid it.

  1. Stop thinking a “C” represents Failure- over the last 10-15 years, there has been a shift in the mentality of the grading system in schools. Along the way, the prolific idea of getting Straight A’s became the movement of the norm. Getting an A used to be reserved for students who went above and beyond the actual work needed to be completed. Today, however, students are receiving As just for completing the work on the average requirements- yes, AVERAGE?!  Should your child receive a B or C from this year’s teacher, do not jump to the conclusion that your child is failing, even if they received straight As the year prior. The work they did the year prior has no indication on the work being asked of them this year, nor does it have any indication on the requirements of the current teacher. The expectations of each teacher will vary, which does not mean that one teacher is better than the other. It simply means that your child will have to reach or exceed the new expectations set forth by their current teacher. Be ready to explain that receiving a B from Mr. High Expectations, is better than the A given to them by Mr. Easy. Remember that a C represents “average”- as defined, 1. the typical or normal quality, degree.  Is it really a negative to be of typical or normal quality? If you honestly believe that an average student deserves an A, then I would suggest that your standards need to be raised.
  2. Open your mind to the possibility that it may be “your child”- I have had a running joke with one of my former colleagues for over 10 years because of these situations. Her child happened to be attending the same school we worked in, and a teacher approached about a situation involving her child. In a classic parental reaction, the exact words of…”What? Oh, no, not my child!” were exhaled. Now in defense of my colleague, her child was and is a poster child of excellence, and admirable qualities, however in this instance, it was her child. The situation was handled accordingly, after retracting said words, because of the willingness of the parent to trust the teacher. Many situations are mishandled or blown out of proportion due to the fact that as a parent, you choose to side with your child without trusting the teacher or the facts in each particular case. Yes, there are cases where a teacher has developed a vendetta on a particular child or parent, but these are extremely rare and have usually developed over time (showing a pattern). Teachers are in the classroom to teach and expect the conduct of their students to respectfully allow every individual their right to an education. The goal of every teacher is to create a safe and encouraging environment for all, and if your child is disrupting this, it needs to be dealt with. Trust me, no teacher is ever excited to make a disciplinary call to any parent.  They are made as a last resort, and your support is greatly appreciated! If upon receiving such a call regarding discipline, your reaction was to state “My child already informed me of what happened….” and you then ask “What did YOU do?”, then you are part of the problem.
  3. The way you learned is not the way your child will learn- First, let’s simply acknowledge the known fact that all students do not learn the same way. Good. So what would make you think that your child must learn in the same fashion that you did? We must also acknowledge the fact that education is transforming to meet the needs of today’s students for tomorrow’s careers. We must also allow the education system to do its job and educate our children. Using Math as a prime example- simply memorizing that 2 x 2=4 is no longer good enough. Students are being asked to understand why this is so. Students are required to provide the correct answer, however, they are now being given the opportunity to learn and understand the different options that lead to the correct answers. It is similar to the change in parenting where you actually explain an answer to your child, rather than express “Because I said so!” Should your child have some homework that you do not understand, simply document this in a note to the teacher to inform them of the troubles your child had. Please do not force them to complete the assignment the way you learned, as it limits your child’s ability to expand their learning and understand the lesson at hand.
  4. Your child’s grades are not the best indicator for future success- If you have spent any time on FaceBook, you will see many parents announce and exclaim the success of their children by posting their report cards every marking period. Every parent should be proud of the work their child is doing, but the report card is not the best indicator of success. As a matter of fact, every teacher will tell you that the report card actually holds little value, other than to update a child’s progress. I had a conversation once with a mother who claimed that because I gave her child a B, I would cause her to not qualify for Harvard! Folks, if you believe that Harvard is worried about what your child received in 4th Grade, YOU are one of THOSE parents! The best indicators of your child’s success will be based upon 2 ingredients: Effort and Social Skills! The level of your child- above, average, below- is irrelevant. You must focus on the effort your child is putting forth to improve. No student is getting paid to learn, but if they were, their grade does NOT indicate they are learning. Learning is indicated by the gaining of knowledge from current levels. Thus, your focus needs to be on the effort to gain knowledge, not that your child is an A student. Second, and most importantly, your child’s social skills- or lack of them- will be a huge factor of success or failure in the future. The world is built on communication skills, and the ability to work with others. Whether in a partnership, or in a group, the jobs of tomorrow will demand that your child work well with others. Let’s be honest, even if you are extremely intelligent, you will have a hard time keeping a job if you can’t relate to others. Do your part as a parent and make sure it is……not my kid!
  5. Be Thankful for the teacher- Whether or not you agree with the policies, the grades, the discipline, or the work- just be thankful that the teacher is willing to place him or herself in front of your child every day to do their best to educate them. To think that every year will be a blessed year for your child is impossible. There will be teachers who make a lifetime impact, and unfortunately, there will be teachers who make education a nightmare (Hopefully not). Either way, the year will be a learning experience for your child and can provide them with a foundation to be successful in the job market. We will all have bosses that impact us positively and negatively just the same. Make sure to support your teacher irregardless of your personal feelings towards them. A teacher’s job is hard enough, and the last thing any teacher wants is to have issues with parents. What other career is being guided by politicians at the federal, state, and local level; Departments of Education at the federal, state, and local level; So-Called Educational Leaders; Billionaires and their Foundations; Administrators at state, local, district, and school levels; and Board of Educations? Most of whom have little to no experience actually running a classroom. Support your teachers, support your schools, and try not to be that parent! In the end, every teacher wants to help every student- no matter what you do as a parent. Trust me though, you will get a lot more from a teacher you support than from a teacher you are fighting against.

Please talk to your child every day and encourage them to simply “Try your Best!” Keep your expectations high, but also be willing to explain why you are still proud of your child’s effort even if they are not a straight A student. As a teacher, I have so many more stories of inspiration from my C students, as many A students didn’t have to work as hard. If your child is PROUD of their effort, as the parent you need to be PROUD of your child! Work together with your child’s teacher to make the most of the school year, and the results will come. Your child will never give 100% effort to learn if they know you do not support their teacher. That responsibility falls squarely on your shoulders! Best of luck to a great year. Remember that every year, every week, every day can be a fresh start to their education!

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“One More Day” Before School Starts- Inspiring School District


Need some INSPIRATION with only a day remaining before students come to your Class?

The Daily Grind can bring the spirit of teachers down, it is great to see a district that keeps the atmosphere fresh and engaging for their staff.  Great Job! Would love to see the Mid-Year Inspiration and, of course, the End of the Year Celebration put on in this district!

An Apology to Current Generations (Teachers and Students) in Education?


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As you walk into your classroom for a new year, excited and inspired, I want to apologize for the days you are destined to experience. Through no fault of your own, your classroom has been set up for failure.

It has nothing to do with the seat you will sit in, the desk you will use, the lack of technology, the old textbook, nor the artistic bulletin board for sure. You will hopefully still have a room filled with love, kindness, creativity and inspiration!

However, there are many who have come before and now lead you blindly into the future….Many who have been taught by old school word of mouth, or writings in text…..Many who continue to declare your learning environment to be uninspiring, to be failing….

Continue to declare your schools to be failing

Continue to declare your teachers to be failing

Continue to declare your parents to be failing

Continue to declare you to be…………..

Failing in a classroom THEY are failing to transform.

They talk about a “Flipped Classroom” as if it is transforming, but yet it has existed since the textbook was brought into the classroom. Do you remember having to read (learn) Lesson 2 at home to discuss the next day? placing the lesson in a video format may make it more engaging, but not transformational. Hopefully you have a teacher that will use technology for communication while you are outside the classroom to better inform him/her what you are and are not learning.

They also talk about “Station Rotation” as if it is also transforming, but yet, every elementary, middle, and high school has used some form to differentiate instruction. Simply bringing technology into the mix does not make it transformative. Hopefully you have a teacher the will use technology to make the stations engaging and efficient so when you are on your own in a small group, you are making the most of your time there.

Every student and teacher is asked to look into the mirror and judge the reflection, so look into the mirror and tell me what it says about you! Are you a Failure? I know NOT! You are a generation with more knowledge at your fingertips than any generation prior, and you use it! Whereas I learned in an offline world filled with deceit, you are tasked to learn in a world filled with deceit, both offline, and online! Whereas I grew up being careful of other who were two-faced, you are learning to be judgmental of many who remain faceless behind the screen of their computer! You have to adapt in a world that is changing EVERY DAY! Be Proud of Yourself!

In fairness, let’s ask the so-called experts to do the same and take the time to look into the mirror and tell us what they see? In true irony, the P.A.R.C.C. reflection clearly spells what their statistics mean. As for the Smarter Balance, better known as S.B., initially the reflection is clear that they too are full of it. You see, YOU are not a reflection of your test results, and neither are your teachers. Both you and your teachers are a reflection of your hard work and dedication to your education. Their test can only evaluate your effort on that particular day of testing. Their test can only evaluate how you answered their questions on that day. Have you ever panicked and did poorly on a test? Have you ever had at-home factors negatively affect you in school? Where it fails is its lack of ability to evaluate you or your teacher as a person, the drive to be better, the ability to overcome obstacles, and the pride you have in your heart!

I sincerely apologize for the failings of the older generations to provide you with a better learning environment. We are trying. We will get it right. As students and teachers, make sure to focus on the task at hand inside of your classroom! Keep your nose to the grindstone, stay inspired, and be Proud of your work!

Please Feel Free to Share, Like, or Comment!!

I am looking for submissions from anyone willing to share your stories of inspiration in Education!!

Email me at ojlowe@optonline.net

A True Teacher Doesn’t Make A Difference, but Rather Influences Lives Forever


Due to confidentiality, the names in the story below have been changed, except for the inspirational teacher with whom consent to use her name was granted. 

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Every year a new flock of students walk into each teacher’s classroom to pursue their education. What most don’t realize is that every single students also carries extra baggage through the door with them. I am not talking about the 3 bags of supplies that the overzealous moms get while School Supply shopping season is underway. I am referring to the unseen baggage of parental demands, parental divorce, homelessness, starvation, abuse, and so much more. It is the baggage that, while unseen, plays a significant role in the engagement of each child and the success they will have in the classroom.

For Mrs. Randall, every student is assumed to have baggage, but this baggage is never to be used as an excuse. She is an exceptional and inspirational teacher whom I am proud to say was one of my partner teachers early in my career. Joe, one of her many students, walked into her third grade class just as the many others had before. Mrs. Randall’s reputation precedes her, so I expect that he walked in with a huge smile and full of excitement. Joe didn’t stand out as having problems at first glance, but as any great teacher knows, its whats under the exterior that counts. “First impressions are everything”, is a phrase many people believe, but not to a true teacher!

As the year progressed, Mrs. Randall noticed that under the exterior, Joe had the potential to be a brilliant student. He would be caring and supportive to his classmates, and yet, he would struggle with the everyday responsibilities of his school day. Mrs. Randall learned that Joe was extremely street smart, mostly due to the fact that he had learned a lot about life on his own. You see, Joe came from a family that didn’t provide consistent support. Due to several factors, Joe’s parents were not always available, including incarceration at several times for the father. The pattern again continued when Mrs. Randall was asked to move up to teach 5th grade and Joe was placed in her care for a second time.

Though it never seemed like enough, Mrs. Randall always cared for her students as if they were her own. Joe was no different from any other student, but at the same time, Mrs. Randall couldn’t help but worry just a bit more about the situation she knew Joe was in. Especially at the end of the year when he would be moving on to the Middle School across the street. Joe would not only have to deal with the issues that Middle School kids bring, but also with the move to foster homes which would continue for Joe and his sister till he turned 16. How could school be a priority for someone who needed to care for and protect his younger sister? And when she lost touch with him for those years, Mrs. Randall could only wonder and pray….

There was no contact until Mrs. Randall received an email from Joe just to reach out and say that he was now a freshman in High School. Then several years later she received another email from a now grown “Joe” asking her to review and edit a letter he needed to write to get into law school! Life in between emails had not gone well due to the foster homes, and he quit school. However, he had refocused, got his GED, and was, at 19, finishing college and trying to get into Seton Hall Law School! All on his own!  His reasoning for becoming a lawyer was to help other children like himself and his sister from falling into abusive homes.

Unfortunately, in the last few years, Joe has fallen in with a bad bunch of people and was actually in jail himself for a little while. He has since gotten out and is trying to get back on the right track. Mrs. Randall and Joe continue to keep in touch through the wonders of Facebook. In true teacher fashion, Mrs. Randall continues to be there for her students long after the classroom, and continues to encourage and support Joe for what he can accomplish. It is never about the mistakes students make, as we all make them- it’s about picking up the pieces and making a positive change!

When asked if there was anything that stood out in her talks with Joe to show the role she played in his life, she replied with one simple line from an email she had received:

“Hey Mrs. Randall! I attend Seton Hall Law School, and you were the building blocks of my education.”

A true teacher influences Lives!

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He took to the Podium to Recognize an Important Individual- What He Said Surprised Everyone


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As I remember, I was just getting back home after a long day of teaching and coaching. It was around 2005 and I had been teaching and coaching for almost 10 years at this point. Every day, I loved that my life was filled with a passion to teach, a classroom of passionate learners, a passion to coach, and players who were passionate to learn. Very few people understand how fulfilling life can be when you have these things. I believed that I had it all, and that I was emotionally “on top of the world”!

That is, until this day. Upon entering my house, my wife greeted me with a message that would end up driving my passion for teaching further than I ever thought it could. It was a very simple message that started it all, “You need to call- Mrs. Stone. Here is her number.”

“Mrs. Stone? Who is that?” I remember stating. My wife gave me little information, other than it was important to call back, it had something to do with a past student. Stone? Could only be David Stone, and exactly like a parent getting a phone call about their child, the thoughts rolled into my mind- Is he ok? Does he need my help? Has something tragic happened to him? Why would his mother be calling me? What had happened? …… You see, David was a 5th grade student of mine at Anastasia ES in Long Branch. He wasn’t a struggling student. He was one of my top students. One of those students with great parents and a solid foundation to be successful. But that was 5 or six years prior and by my calculations he would be a Sophomore or Junior in HS. What could have happened? I had moved to another district shortly after he graduated from my class and I was in the midsts of stamping my footprints at VMES in Brick, NJ. While I always thought (and continue to do so) of past students and how they are doing…. getting a call like this was troubling.

As soon as I was able to make contact with Mrs. Stone, my fears were put aside when she assured me that everything was alright. We had a couple minutes of updating conversation, followed by the reason for the call. She would have rather had David personally call me, but he was busy and since time was of the essence, she was making the call on behalf of him. David was doing extremely well both academically and athletically, and he wanted to ask for my attendance during his induction into the National Honor Society. Each inductee was to choose the person they felt was most influential in their academic career, and ask for their attendance. While the choice to be in attendance was an easy one, I did not know the impact it would have on me!

I don’t remember how many days went by before I was to attend the ceremony, but I do remember feeling on cloud nine just for the fact that a student chose me, out of all his teachers, parents, coaches, and role models, as the one who most influenced him! That knowledge, in itself, is what makes it all worthwhile! It was great to be able to talk with colleagues about these recent events. It was a great drive back into Long Branch, and it was great to walk into an auditorium and see colleagues and parents that I hadn’t seen in years, but nothing prepared me for the moment that David stepped up to the microphone, not just to be inducted, but to make a speech about his “Person Who Influenced Them”.

David started his speech with a simple question to the audience- “Are You Proud?”  He paused and waited……when he continued, he spoke of how I had asked these three simple words every time he handed something in when he was in 5th Grade. He spoke of the power of having to look me in the eyes and answer this one simple question. He spoke about how these three simple words began to impact everything he did. He spoke of hearing these three simple words constantly being asked of himself for anything he did. He spoke of the impact academically these three simple words had for every homework assignment, school project, or paper he had to write. He spoke of taking these three simple words into his athletic pursuits, workouts, and daily practices to make himself better. He spoke of the impact these three simple words had in leading him to the place he currently stood. He spoke of how these three simple words were going to take him down the path of success in life. It was moving, it was powerful, and it was inspiring!  Then he turned, looked in my direction, and simply asked…….

“Mr. Lowe……..Are YOU Proud?”

(Yes, Mr. Stone……..I am!)

As teachers, we always talk about  inspiring students, providing safe learning environments, and being positive role models, but what Mr. Stone taught me was that even 3 simple words could change the world for my students. It is not about a special project or a well developed lesson. It is not about the homework, classwork, or the ten page paper. It is not about a passing grade, benchmark tests, or standardized tests. It is about THE STUDENTS! I learned that I had to be cognizant of EVERYTHING I said and did around my kids. Mr. Stone inspired me to be a better teacher not just everyday, but every second of every day in the classroom!

While there were many factors in education that were out of my control as a teacher, when students entered my class, they became my kids. I had control of this, and my expectations of them. I believe that when teachers have high expectations, treat students fairly, and support them as individuals- the students will have the same for you as a teacher! Inspiration is a two way street in a well designed classroom!

I thank you, Mr. Stone. It was my passion to touch every life that became a part of my class. It was a privilege to have touched yours. It was inspiring for you, my student, to have touched mine!

– Edward Lowe

Please Feel Free to Share, Like, or Comment!!

I am looking for submissions from anyone willing to share your stories of inspiration in Education!!

Email me at ojlowe@optonline.net