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Back to School Tips


• Welcome: “Back to school? Already???”
• Feature: “In the face of frustration”
• Teacher/Parent Book Pick: “If you don’t feed the teachers . . .”
• K-3 Book Pick: “I don’t want to go back to school”
• 4-6 Book Pick: “American Heritage Children’s Dictionary”
• Web Discoveries: “Back to School Websites”
• Words of Wisdom: “Kid’s Do’s & Don’ts for Dads”
• Life Skills Resources: Quick Links


WELCOME: “Back to School? Already???”


It’s been cooler than normal in New Jersey, but no one is complaining! For some of us, the vacation is yet to come. For others, school is just around the corner. I hope everyone has been having a great summer.

Teachers are already calling us to schedule life skills assembly programs for the Fall. Next thing you know, the malls will be decorating for Christmas! (-:

acel%20moore Back to School TipsThis month, our guest columnist is Acel Moore. Mr. Moore is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and editor from The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Mr. Moore has been kind enough to let me reprint his column, previously published in The Inquirer. I’m sorry that it is not a happy article to read. But it is a powerful story and there are positive lessons to draw from it.

“If you are a teacher, then do your best to face the frustrations. You do make a difference. Every day.”

 “If you are a parent, participate in your child’s education. Without fail. No teacher can fill your place.” On a lighter note (but equally profound), this month’s “Words of Wisdom” comes straight from kids in the classrooms. 


With best regards,

Kent Davis – Editor

FEATURE: “In the face of frustration” by Acel Moore

Ann retired from the Philadelphia School District. For the last 12 years of her 23 year teaching career she has taught eighth grade at the same West Philadelphia school that she attended when she was a student.

 Ann is leaving with mixed feelings. She is among a growing number of veteran teachers who have decided to retire.

 Some are leaving because the school district offered them an opportunity for early retirement. Others are leaving because, like Ann, they feel burned out. Others are leaving because they can earn more money teaching in the suburbs. So many teachers have left there is now a shortage so severe that it is difficult for schools to get a substitute when a teacher is out with an illness.

Ann’s is an individual story. I believe that she was a dedicated professional who loved teaching and loved her students.  Her story also is the same story that many of the recently retired teachers are telling.


” I am leaving because I no longer feel that I can, as an individual classroom teacher, make a difference, Ann told me recently, her eyes welling in tears. “I am going to miss being here in many ways, I wanted to teach at this school. This is where I went to school, and it is the neighborhood that I grew up in.”

I learned of Ann’s decision to call it quits when I visited the school a little more than a month ago for a career-day conference.  She talked to me in a first-floor classroom that was a reception area for the visitors like me who came to participate in the conference in the 71-year-old school building.

“Twelve years ago, I felt that I could make a difference here,” she said. “Now I do not. The problems that the children and their families bring to the school are so intense teachers can’t possibly deal with them,” she said.

The more than 700 students who attend the middle school where Ann taught came from families that have many social problems. Ann said that about 90 percent of her students come from single-parent homes, foster homes or are being raised by someone other than their mothers. Many of Ann’s children have seen violence, and come from families where someone has been a victim of violence.

“I am stressed out and burned out from being a baby-sitter, a social worker, and a police officer. These are things that we were not trained to do,” Ann said.  “I found myself spending most of the time in my classes just trying to keep order.” said Ann.

That disruptive behavior and teachers’ attempts to keep order were apparent to me when I visited the school.I talked to three classes about careers in journalism or communications.  Ann’s efforts to get her students and others to focus on education did not stop at the end of the school day. Often she said that she would come home after school and before taking her coat off get on the telephone talking to parents.

She urged parents to be part of the teaching team and suggested ways of helping their child learn. A major frustration arises for Ann and other teachers on report-card night or at parent-teacher meetings when fewer than 100 parents show up. At the career day conference in May, I mainly listened to Ann and at one point she could no longer hold back her tears as she pointed to a boy who was fidgeting in his desk.

She said softly, “Look at him, he is emotionally disturbed.” “We are trying to refer him to another agency. He needs the kind of help that we can’t possibly give him here.” 

Teachers like Ann, who work in old buildings, are among the least convinced of the need for new football or baseball stadiums. Veterans Stadium, 30 years old, is younger than most school buildings in the city. Many teachers like Ann, who work in old buildings, return to school before it opens in September and paint their classrooms in order to improve the learning environment. 





“Some of these children come from deprived home environments. I think it makes a big difference if they come to a school where the building is in need of repair and refurbishing.” 



511CR2238QL. SL500 AA240  Back to School Tips“If You Don’t Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students: Guide to Success for Administrators and Teachers”
By Neila Conners

The title alone is a conversation starter. In direct answer to Acel Moore’s article, this book is about succeeding as a teacher. The author describes her book as follows:

“This book is for anyone who agrees that teaching is the most important profession there is. It needs to be read by individuals who recognize that teaching is difficult and teachers need continual appreciative acts. This book is for all grade levels, all genders, all types of leaders, and all geographic locations. Most importantly, it is for anyone wanting to make a difference!”



Idontwanttogobacktoschool Back to School TipsI Don’t Want to Go Back to School”  by Marisabina Russo

Inspired by his older sister’s dire warnings, second grader Ben is scared to go back to school. Naturally, the bus driver doesn’t really forget Ben, his friends do remember him and his teacher doesn’t keep a tarantula in her closet. This book is nicely illustrated and opens plenty of opportunities for conversation about school, brothers and sisters, and growing up.


childrens dictionary Back to School Tips“American Heritage Children’s Dictionary”

Especially designed for kids in grades 3-6, the American Heritage Children’s Dictionary Over 800 full-color photos and original illustrations enhance the precise definitions. With 14,000 main entries and over 37,000 entry words in all, this new edition is more up-to-date and offers more definitions than any dictionary in its field. features expanded vocabulary, all-new art, and a fresh, appealing look.

WEB DISCOVERIES: for teachers, parents & kids

but starred Back to School TipsBack to School: First Day Checklist for Teachers

Victoria Smith has been teaching in Bakersfield, California for more than fifteen years. In that time, she has assembled a treasure trove of ideas for early elementary (Pre-K-Grade 2) teachers. 

You’ll also find books, poems, themes, read aloud stories, classroom codes of behavior, and classroom ideas for teachers and parents. If you work with grade pre-K through 2 children, don’t miss Mrs. Smith’s site.

but starred Back to School TipsKidsource OnLine: Back to School Tips

The National Association for the Education of Young Children is a group of parents making a positive and lasting difference in the lives of parents and children. This website helps parents find the right resources to help them take greater responsibility for their children’s health and education. The featured page has some quick tips for parents and teachers helping children start their school year.

“Kids Do’s & Don’ts for Dads” by Susan Frost


For 20 years, Susan Frost has been teaching at the Overbrook Educational Center in Philadelphia. Many of her students are blind or visually impaired but when you read their comments below you’ll recognize that they see things very clearly. (-:
The Philadelphia Inquirer originally published this item for Fathers’ Day. It was so much fun, I couldn’t bear to wait until next year to use it. When you put this on your refrigerators, note that the lessons easily apply to Moms, too!

“Kid’s Do’s & Don’t for Parents” by Susan Frost

“Things are a little tricky around Father’s Day at school Not every child has a father at home in the traditional parent role. We have stepfathers and grandfathers and two fathers and absentee fathers and mothers as mother-and-father. For some of our children, the word *father* is just a sort of wish.

“I recently asked the children to think about fathers, and I reminded them that one day, they would be fathers, or choose the man who would be their child’s father. What makes a good father? I asked.

“The words and ideas spilled out – almost faster than I could write them down. Every child seemed to have a strong and clear idea about what fathers were supposed to do and be.

“The depth and understanding of their answers astonished and moved me. Here are their words in the order they suggested them – a kind of “Child’s Guide to Fatherhood.

I think they got it right . . .”

What good Dads do:

* They make money to take care of children; they buy things like clothes and sneakers, and bottles and diapers, and toys.
* Dads should talk to and listen to their kids.
* Dads should help their kids to see the world.
* Dads should help their children get an education to prepare for living.
* Dads should help with homework and tests – patiently.
* Dads should read aloud to kids.
* Dads should take kids to carnivals, movies, playgrounds, the water-ice stand, museums, church, McDonald’s and other fun places.
* Dads should teach their kids games and playing ball and riding bikes.
* Dads should help kids solve their problems.
* Dads should tell their kids they love them.

Here are things Dads should not do:

* Don’t use profanity around kids
* Don’t let kids get near guns
* Don’t let kids get burned by fire
* Don’t smoke
* Don’t hit them or hurt them
* Don’t hit the kid’s Mom
* Don’t drink alcohol in front of kids
* Don’t use drugs




Posted in Adults Helping Children. Tagged with , .

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