Friday, October 24, 2008

Creating a Parent Dialogue

Last Wednesday, we had our first "Parent Dialogue."

Why did we call it that?

We decided we don't like using the term, "meeting." Meetings imply that one person is in charge and talking *to* some people.

We want and encourage two-way conversation...and we want that to include parents.

We started off the conversation with, What do you want for your children?

As you might expect, the parents of our After-School Academy children are no different than anyone else. Top on their list was...

  • Education
  • Study habits
  • homework help
  • quality education
  • Life skills--such as learning how to pay bills, cook, clean, use a checkbook
  • structure
  • good self-esteem and being comfortable with themselves
  • college and/or trade school
  • work skills
  • health care--dental, medical
  • being successful
  • good morals
  • respect for people
  • independence
  • having the Lord in their life

As we talked, parents expressed a desire to be more involved with things that could teach them how to help their child with them to become a better them to know the best strategies to work with their child.

A frustration that seemed common amongst all of the parents was that they didn't feel like the school communicated with them. They didn't like being excluded from their child's life.

So, we are working to figure out ways that we can all work together, form relationships, and make some of these things happen....recognizing that parents and the children should be the focus of our efforts.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse was Positively Praise-worthy!

It was an exhausting week.

By Friday, I wanted to be an irresponsible Director of Education. I wanted to cancel our staff development training and cancel our trip with the kids who had "purchased" the Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse tickets with their earned checkbook money. Unfortunately for me, I'm nearly incapable of doing that.

Sylvia and I had accessed the tickets through the Free Night of Theater. I want to get back in the habit of taking small groups of children on fun field trips. Taking only two or three kids creates a completely different opportunity to bond with the kids than when taking all 30 at once.

So, after work, Sylvia and I followed through on our promise and took two of the kids to Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse.

As I should know by now, the event energized us.

We laughed. We danced in our seats. We were sad for Lilly. We felt her pain when she felt ignored. Then, we laughed again when she made amends and life was good again.

Of course, my favorite part is watching the kids. I loved to see Zykia dancing in her seat. I loved watching Jason repeat the lines in the voices of the characters. I loved that they were so excited to meet the characters when the play was over. We stood in line for every single character to get autographs and take pictures.

With exposure, I hope the kids discover something new. At the theater, not only did we get to experience a different medium...a play instead of a typical movie...but we also experienced a new career possibility. As I watched Jason recite the lines all the way home and to his mother once he got home, I couldn't help but think we may have just inspired the beginnings of an actor. I instantly began thinking about a new volunteer we will soon have who used to teach drama and have high hopes that we can inspire this new interest and intrigue.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Creating our own "Recipe for Success"

13 2nd-5th graders
13 Computers with Publisher software
2 adult assistants
1 computer teacher
Internet to provide access to large amounts of clip art

Take two adult assistants. Walk 13 2nd-5th graders three blocks to the Ransom Technology Learning Center. Seat each child at a computer equipped with Microsoft Publisher. Explain the goal: design a recipe book.

Using an overhead projector, demonstrate how to search for and access clip art. Show kids how to move clip art around on the page. Next, let each child pick a theme relevant to a recipe book. Finally, let each child work independently on his/her computer to design a page for the recipe book.

Yield: Recipe books that will be sold for a fundraiser

Note: Proceeds to go to the After-School Academy. Will be available for Christmas presents.

Get your orders ready!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Teaching the financial process

Friday, the After-School Academy took a field trip to Washington Mutual.
We prepared to "act like bankers" before we went in. Four parents went with us so that their children could open a savings account. The bank allowed the children to put in as little as 25 cents to start saving. Nine children opened savings accounts.

As the kids waited,

...parents set up their child's savings accounts

...grandparents set up their grandchildren savings accounts

...parents/grandparents taught their children/grandchildren how to deposit their money were taught how to read a deposit receipt

...and kids interviewed the bankers.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Board games...the perfect teaching tool

As we played, the kids had to count the squares (which are labeled 1-100). The kids had to gain an understanding of how to wait their turn. They had to work on moving from one space to the next without skipping around the board (which, for some reason, seems to parallel the problems the often have with the way they do their math problems). They also learned about concepts of addition by helping a kid understand that if they are on square 53 and move 5 spaces, they advance to square 58. They had to learn good sportsmanship because I wouldn't allow them to quit the game because they were behind...and when Tyrese won, we each reached across the board to shake his hand and say, "Good game, Tyrese."

Overall, though, it allowed me (an adult) to have personal interaction time with the kids...which a lot of our kids, these days, don't get enough of.

As soon as I was finished, a few kids who saw me playing Chutes and Ladders quickly asked me to show them how to play Monopoly. I knew I was on to something when I explained began explaining how to buy property on the Monopoly board and Eddie, a kindergartener referred to the checkbook system we've been using for discipline...which allows the kids to earn or lose money based on their attendance, participation, and behavior...and then allows them to "buy" activities and field trips. Eddie immediately made the connection of buying the property on the monopoly board to saving and spending money from his checkbook: "It's like our checkbook! It's just like when we can choose to buy a camera or a voice recorder!"

Sometimes I think we try so hard to make sure we have "results" that we forget these natural and fun ways of learning. And we forget how much it means to kids that someone sits down with them, focuses solely on them, and teaches them lessons they can carry with them.

Anyone have any children's board games they would like to donate? If so, call/email me!

note: photos taken by Melvin, 5th grade

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Teach them and they will learn!

I usually have higher expectations than can be met. But this year, I think I've already exceeded my own expectations! I am thoroughly impressed with our group of 30 kids, our 2 Americorps members, our numerous volunteers, and Sylvia!

This year we have created a checkbook system for our discipline. The kids earn $5 simply for showing up (because sometimes 1/2 the battle is won simply by showing up!). They earn and lose "money" from their check register based on their behavior. With their "money," they can "buy" opportunities to be the photographer for the day...reporter for the day...field trips...weekend take-home activites...etc.

In addition to their daily financial lessons, they all have financial literacy classes on Monday...and this Friday we will take a field trip to WaMu so the kids (with their parents, of course) will learn about and be able to open a savings account where they can start by depositing as little as 25 cents.

I think one of the best things my parents taught me early on was how to write a check, manage my money, and make wise choices with what I had. I hope that we can do the same for the kids in our After-School Academy.

So far, it seems to be working. We "sold" two tickets to Lily's Purple Plastic Purse next Friday for $50. Two kids had enough money to buy the tickets. Others were disappointed that they, too, weren't getting the chance to go.

This particular picture must be one of the kids showing off his large balance in his checkbook. :)

All of the pictures here were taken by kids who "bought" the camera for a day in order to be a photographer-for-a-day.

These are great kids! I'll write about our Microsoft Publisher class in the next post.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


It is so great seeing the kids learning how to play chess. They are very attentive and are really learning the game of chess. They have a great chess teacher. I am even learning how to play :) I can't wait to see the students in competition, I believe they will be ready, and it will be a great experience.