Add This

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Edwards is out of the race

John Edwards is dropping out of the presidential race. News that he was canceling scheduled campaign stops to return to New Orleans today to deliver a speech on poverty was the first clue. He's a good man and it's unfortunate his message didn't catch on. Will he endorse a candidate?

A chilly morning

It's a chilly 55 degrees in my house this morning. The power went out some time in the night and I only awoke this morning when I heard the city's high-powered generator keeping the water pump going across the street.

Despite Mother Nature, I have a deadline today. Just as I was packing up my gear to head to the library to work, the power came on. When it did the clocks were flashing 3:44 a.m. Not sure what took The Illuminating Co. five hours to fix, but I'm grateful to not have to leave—and to get my space heater back!

Back to work!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Why Obama resonates: Three views

I'm nearly finished with Barack Obama's memoir, "Dreams From My Father." It's a lyrical book that tells the story of someone as he is wrestling the demons of identity and self-actualization long before he emerges as the confident orator we see today. Here's an excerpt I found quite moving for its honesty. It is one of many.
"That's what the leadership was teaching me, day by day: that the self-interest I was supposed to be looking for extended well beyond the immediacy of issues, that beneath the small talk and sketchy biographies and received opinions people carried within them some central explanation of themselves. Stories full of terror and wonder studded with events that still haunted or inspired them. Sacred stories.

And it was this realization, I think, that finally allowed me to share more of myself with the people I was working with, to break out of the larger isolation that I had carried with me to Chicago. I was tentative at first, afraid that my prior life would be too foreign for South Side sensibilities; that I might somehow disturb people's expectations of me. Instead, as people listened to my stories of Toot or Lolo or my mother and father, of flying kites in Djakarta or going to school dances in Punahou, they would nod their heads or shrug or laugh, wondering how someone with my background had ended up, as Mona put it, so 'country-fied,' or most puzzling to them, why anyone would willingly choose to spend a winter in Chicago when he could be sunning himself on Waikiki Beach. Then they'd offer a story to match or confound mine, a knot to bind our experiences together—a lost father, an adolescent brush with crime, a wandering heart, a moment of simple grace. As time passed, I found that these stories, taken together, had helped me bind my world together, that they gave me the sense of place and purpose I'd been looking for. Marty was right: There was always a community there if you dug deep enough. He was wrong, though, in characterizing the work. There was poetry as well—a luminous world always present beneath the surface, a world that people might offer up as a gift to me, if I only remembered to ask."
I'm compiling my list of reasons why I support Obama and will post them here in advance of the Ohio primary. But let me offer a teaser now: I like how he thinks. I admire his mind. And after eight years of Bush, I find it an absolute necessity to have a leader with a bright mind. Novelist Toni Morrison tapped into something deeper in her endorsement letter, which was posted to Obama's Web site:
"In thinking carefully about the strengths of the candidates, I stunned myself when I came to the following conclusion: that in addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don't see in other candidates. That something is a creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom. It is too bad if we associate it only with gray hair and old age. Or if we call searing vision naivete. Or if we believe cunning is insight. Or if we settle for finessing cures tailored for each ravaged tree in the forest while ignoring the poisonous landscape that feeds and surrounds it. Wisdom is a gift; you can't train for it, inherit it, learn it in a class, or earn it in the workplace--that access can foster the acquisition of knowledge, but not wisdom."
Finally, there was the moving op-ed penned by Caroline Kennedy, a woman not known for jumping onto the political dais. She spoke of her support of Obama both in the New York Times and yesterday at American University as "patriotic, political and personal." She also spoke as a mother of teenagers and as someone who believes so strongly in young people. Her message resonates with what I find in my own heart.

"I have spent the past five years working in the New York City public schools and have three teenage children of my own. There is a generation coming of age that is hopeful, hard-working, innovative and imaginative. But too many of them are also hopeless, defeated and disengaged. As parents, we have a responsibility to help our children to believe in themselves and in their power to shape their future. Senator Obama is inspiring my children, my parents’ grandchildren, with that sense of possibility.

Senator Obama is running a dignified and honest campaign. He has spoken eloquently about the role of faith in his life, and opened a window into his character in two compelling books. And when it comes to judgment, Barack Obama made the right call on the most important issue of our time by opposing the war in Iraq from the beginning.

I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it; who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift our spirits, and make us believe again that our country needs every one of us to get involved.

I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Obama turns the table on experience question

Here's an interesting item from the San Francisco Chronicle by editorial page editor John Diaz from last Sunday. Read Diaz's full editorial here and see the video here.

The questions were finished, but Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was not. He had one more point to make before leaving his meeting with the Chronicle's editorial board.

"Why don't we go off the record on this," Obama said as he was standing up and pulling on his suit jacket Thursday.

At that point, I usually stop politicians. Ninety-five percent of the times they go off the record in a large meeting of journalists -in this case, there were 16 of us - their comments are not any more provocative or insightful than what they would say for attribution. And if they do say something revealing, we want to share it with our readers.

No objections were raised this time, however.

Obama proceeded to challenge the premise of our questions about experience. In the process, he helped answer a question about one job requirement of the presidency: the ability to confront people in a direct way.

"One thing, when this issue of experience comes up, I always ask the editorial boards to consider: Most of you spend enormous amounts of ink complaining about how broken the politics of Washington are; how sordid and inefficient and ineffective it is. And yet, during the course of campaigns or conversations, you're looking for validation in terms of how well does this person work the system that you are constantly decrying and saying is broken and doesn't work.

"I think it is important to ask: Do we need somebody who, in fact, does not speak in the very traditions that you say do not serve the American people? Are we willing to break out of that pattern?"

It was a fair point. It also was illustrative of another quality that came through repeatedly during our meeting at the St. Francis Hotel: his skill at delivering direct, pointed messages in a thoughtful, nonabrasive manner. I wanted to share that moment with our readers. I asked Obama to allow it to be on the record. He agreed.

Writer's paradise

"I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library." — Argentinian writer, Jorge Luis Borges

Monday, January 21, 2008

What Kristof said

If you're concerned about the experience question in this 2008 presidential primary season, please read Nicholas Kristof's column. I agree with him word for word. Consider this:
"Mrs. Clinton’s strength is her mastery of the details of domestic and foreign policy, unrivaled among the candidates; she speaks fluently about what to do in Pakistan, Iraq, Darfur. Mr. Obama’s strength is his vision and charisma and the possibility that his election would heal divisions at home and around the world. John Edwards’s strength is his common touch and his leadership among the candidates in establishing detailed positions on health care, poverty and foreign aid.

Those are the meaningful distinctions in the Democratic field, not Mrs. Clinton’s spurious claim to “35 years of experience.” The Democrats with the greatest Washington expertise — Joe Biden, Chris Dodd and Bill Richardson — have already been driven from the race. And the presidential candidate left standing with the greatest experience by far is Mr. McCain; if Mrs. Clinton believes that’s the criterion for selecting the next president, she might consider backing him.

To put it another way, think which politician is most experienced today in the classic sense, and thus — according to the “experience” camp — best qualified to become the next president.

That’s Dick Cheney. And I rest my case."

Yeah! What HE said.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wednesday potpourri

I'm about to go into lockdown for a big writing assignment, so I'm reading a bunch of stuff before I have to close myself off for a spell. Here's a little of what I'm thinking about today.

Baltimore Sun reporter John Woestendiek had me dreaming of ivy-covered buildings and sprawling greens in his Real Life column, "It's time to take this job and shelve it: True tales from everyday living."
"I had, for the first time in my life, an office, with a view of the mountains around Missoula. I could ride my bike to work. I could walk over to the University Center and get my choice of gourmet coffees for 50 cents a cup. I could root for the Grizzlies, climb up mountain trails just minutes away, amble along rivers through which, get this, clear water flowed. I could walk my dog without a leash - and relate to his joy of being unchained."
Can you see it? I can.

While at Cleveland Heights High School last week, the principal I'm writing about loaned me his copy of, "Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong," by James W. Loewen. Interesting reading, especially since I've spent the past week quizzing my high school freshmen on world and American history for his final exam tomorrow.
From the introduction:
"History professors in college routinely put down high school history courses. A colleague of mine calls his survey of American history "Iconoclasm I and II," because he sees his job as disabusing his charges of what they learned in high school. In no other field does this happen. Mathematics professors, for instance, know that non-Euclidean geometry is rarely taught in high school, but they don't assume that Euclidean geometry was mistaught. Professors of English literature don't presume that Romeo and Juliet was misunderstood in high school. Indeed, history is the only field in which the more courses students take, the stupider they become."
The January/February issue of Columbia Journalism Review arrived in the mail today. I'm looking forward to reading Barry Yeoman's profile, "The Redemption of Chris Rose." Rose, for those of you who don't know, is the New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist who wrote publicly, painfully and poignantly about his battle with depression in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Took a little break today and went to Bay Library. I was looking for a book for Mikey, but on a whim I picked up Barack Obama's "Dreams From My Father." Stopped at Java Bay and read through the first chapter. He's a great writer.

Was helping out at Mikey's school library today and the librarian read the book "When Marion Copied" to the class of third-graders. It was and interesting look at plagiarism in a way that young children can understand.

Finally, I've made thousands of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in my day and I think it's high time some industrial designer came up with a new type of peanut butter jar that doesn't get peanut butter all over the handle of the knife when you're scraping the bottom of the jar.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Philly in March

One of my 2008 goals was to participate in a fellowship. Unfortunately, so many mid-career fellowships are out of reach because I'm not willing to miss any of my kids' lives to leave for six months to a year. But I had been reading about one that piqued my interest last summer.

After corresponding about whether or not freelance journalists were eligible, I finally bit the bullet and submitted an application.

Today I received a letter congratulating me on being selected a 2008 Peter Jennings Fellow. I'll be traveling to the National Constitution Center March 7-9 (along with 30 other mid-career journalists) in Philadelphia to participate in "The Constitution in our Midst: Civil Rights and Civil Liberties."

I don't have many of the particulars yet, but I look forward to learning more about how constitutionalism reaches into our daily lives and affects so much of what we journalists write. I am absolutely thrilled to read that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be leading a panel on "Women and the Law."

Friday, January 11, 2008

Latest UB story: Be not afraid

In today's Catholic Universe Bulletin is the following story about Father Neil Walters, who has a prison ministry at Cuyahoga County Jail. Also, the St. Ignatius pallbearer society story in online here.

Be not afraid
Father Walters brings compassion to prison inmates
By Wendy A. Hoke

“For I was in prison, and you visited me.” Matthew 26: 35-36

Growing up in St. Luke’s Parish in Lakewood Father Neil Walters lived a comfortable life around his siblings and his parents who owned a metal stamping business. He went to John Carroll University as a business major, but remained uncertain of his future.

“Sitting in classes I thought, ‘I don’t want to do this,’ ” he said over lunch at Abby’s Diner across from the Justice Center downtown, where three days a week he serves as chaplain to prisoners in the Cuyahoga County Jail.

God and religion were always a big part of his life. His mother’s uncle was a priest and former rector of the seminary. Gradually and without any earth-shaking epiphany, he began to discern a calling to serve in the priesthood. “I wanted to work with the poorest of the poor,” he said.

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do short of helping others. A lot of my work is unplanned but, with God’s help, has been satisfying.”

Ordained in 1989, his first assignment was in Wooster, which he describes as “a little oasis in the desert. I think I was on a high those first five years,” he said. Gradually, he found himself moving closer to Cleveland at parishes in Akron, Euclid and now Garfield Heights.

As a seminarian, Father Walters, who today serves as parochial vicar at St. Therese Parish, Garfield Heights, had the opportunity to visit inmates. Throughout his years as a diocesan priest, he would be asked to visit inmates on behalf of parishioners.

When he arrived at St. Felicitas in Euclid in the late 1990s, he saw a television program about prison inmates and was inspired to make a call to the Cuyahoga County Jail. It took about six months for him to hear back, but finally he was invited to visit.

The chaplain who was there left after two weeks and was never replaced. Bit by bit, Father Walters filled his shoes. Today he does a series of religious services and Masses, hears confessions, and shares reading materials (and reading glasses), including Bibles, spiritual texts and addiction and recovery resources with the inmates. Mostly, he provides comfort and compassion for those marginalized by shame, violence, addiction and hopelessness.

“Often you catch them at their worst. But there is always hope,” he said.

“If you have time, I’d like you to hear my confession later,” said a tough-talking female inmate who claims she has 17 felony drug convictions and has never once been offered treatment. She breaks down in tears during the first reading and is unable to finish. Father Walters hands her a package of tissues as another inmate finishes the reading.

Mass here is a little different. “We have a great need for healing,” said Father Walters, who anoints the women following the penitential rite. The homily is followed with a gut-wrenching sharing of emotions, fears and regret by the eight inmates gathered on this afternoon.

While priests have been visiting inmates throughout time, it wasn’t until the Jubilee Year in 2000 that Pope John Paul II recommended a ministry to the incarcerated. While he has been involved prior to then, Father Walters has been a consistent part of that work ever since.

Bishop Richard Lennon made his first visit to the prison for a Mass in mid-December. He also spent some time talking to two of the inmates.

But it’s Father Walter’s regular presence upon which the inmates depend.

“Father Neil doesn’t judge, degrade or demoralize us,” said the female inmate with the many drug convictions. “People here relate to him because he listens.”

“We tried to get to church all day today. Thank you for coming here,” said another female inmate in the medical floor. They missed the afternoon Mass. Father Walters learns that the guards did not come for them. He raises his eyebrows, wrinkling his forward and said it is the same struggle he has every week.

In his trail running shoes, black Levi’s and clerical collar, he pulls out his chrism of anointing oil and his consecrated hosts to share with the women here and those on the mental health floor. Everywhere he goes, more ask to be put on the list to receive Catholic services.

The job is never-ending and after eight years, he’s still energized by the work.

“What keeps me motivated is that I believe we need God and religion now more than ever, especially here. No matter where you live or what parish you call home, there are people who are touched by the prison system. My work here in many ways is an extension of my work with parishioners.”

Hoke is a freelance writer.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Better late than never

Had breakfast with a longtime SPJ colleague this morning and he delivered my 2006 Ohio SPJ Award for Religion Coverage for my article on Thomas Merton. It was nice to catch up with someone with whom I had planned several of SPJ's bigger parties and most profitable fund raisers. Those were the days.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Today's horoscope

VIRGO—***** You see life through new eyes and perhaps with a lot of wonder. Your ability to open doors and become more creative allows greater insight and knowledge. Investigate with an eye to greater success and more life options. Then act. Tonight: Pretend it is Friday night.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Further stretching of writing muscles

Since it's a new year and possibilities abound, I'm excited to say that I'm involved with a group of West Side writers who are organizing to meet monthly to work on more creative writing projects.

The idea for the West Side Writers came from talking to my fellow writers and from the inspiration of the East Side Writers Group. Whenever I listen to successful writers (or even newer writers) talk on the radio or TV or in print about how their book took shape, they almost always reference a writing group that provided invaluable feedback.

I had heard wonderful things about the East Side Group, led by Cleveland Heights novelist Sarah Willis and thought maybe we could duplicate that here. Let's face it, place does limit us from doing certain things (hence the westerly geographic focus). With the wonderful input of the east's Karen Sandstrom, we are ready to embark on something new—an ultimately terrifying.

When I ran the idea up the flagpole with two people (Lori Paximadis and Kristen Hampshire), they were both enthusiastically game.

So in the interest of moving outside our writing comfort zone, now six of us have decided to push ourselves creatively, provide support and feedback for each other and see what comes of it. From time to time, I may be writing about our efforts here. But mostly this will be more intimate work, that needs molding and sculpting before it ever sees the light of day.

Reminds me of a line in one of my favorite movies, "Shakespeare in Love." Will Shakespeare confides to his, em, psychiatrist that he has lost his gift and cannot find his muse.
Words, words, words. Once I had the gift. I could make love out of words as a potter makes cups of clay. Love that overthrows empires, love that binds two hearts together come hell, fire and brimstone. For sixpence a line I could cause a riot in a nunnery.
It is not my intention to cause a riot in a nunnery, but I would like to spin some great stories. Stay tuned!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Barack Obama Iowa Caucus Victory Speech

Hope picks up the torch

Who knows where this presidential race will lead in November? But if last night was any indication of the future, I can't help but be excited.

As I've argued with my Dad, I believe a generational change in leadership is required more than a gender change. And I think that's what you saw last night in the Democratic Iowa Caucuses as Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) won with 38 percent of the vote.

The status quo is not acceptable. While I think Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) is an extremely intelligent and capable woman, I think she (and many others on the Democratic ticket) represent more of the same. In my adult life (since 1988 when I was 21) I have experienced:


That's 20 years of the same two families in office. And that represents, for me anyway, the status quo.

Obama's message has done something that probably hasn't been seen in American presidential politics since John F. Kennedy and probably Bobby Kennedy—he has invigorated young voters.

To have voters of all ages and backgrounds turn out in record numbers in early January to participate in an archaic caucus system signals that a torch has been passed and that the tide is turning.

"Our time for change has come."

Thursday, January 03, 2008

How to improve parent-teacher communications

My respect for the teaching profession runs deep. I had teachers from fifth grade on who encouraged me in my writing and provided emotional support when I was an awkward teenager, assuring me that someday all the angst and insecurity would pass (at 40, I think I'm getting close). There also are many teachers in my extended family and a large part of my work revolves around teachers and education.

However, I've also realized as a parent with a kid in high school, middle school and elementary school, where there's room to push and room to grow. I've frankly been around plenty of teachers who hide from parents and plenty of others who simply lack the ability to communicate one-on-one. They are great standing in front of a classroom of kids or parents, but have no idea how to talk to them as individuals.

So of course I was interested in this piece in Education Week about improving communications between parents and teachers. The author's points about teachers recognizing that parents are partners is critical and, by and large, I think most teachers do recognize the partnership.

But there are expanded ways that teachers can improve such a partnership.

1. Resist the urge (no matter how tempting) to stereotype or judge a student. Teachers can be incredibly close-minded and quick to judge. There is nothing quite so infuriating to a parent as listening to a teacher say, "Has he ever been tested for ADD?" or "He's more an athlete than a scholar." If you teach 8- and 9-year-olds then you should know that little boys and probably little girls of that age tend to be a bit wiggly, especially when they are overheated in a stifling classroom, packed in like sardines and deprived of their outdoor recess because of inclement weather. Use your head before making such statements. I'm sure there are children who do suffer from ADD, but I also think that educators must accept some of the blame in pushing the over-diagnosis and medication of young people for attention disorders. One of the first grade teachers at my older boys' elementary school was famous for her diagnosis of ADD or ADHD among nearly every boy she taught.

As to the second comment: That was shared with me by my freshman son's favorite teacher at parent-teacher conferences. I wouldn't dare tell him how this teacher really feels because my son worships him and has aspirations of being a teacher himself. Apparently, eight weeks into his high school career he has already earned the label of "dumb jock." Never mind that up to that point he had never received lower than a B on a report card or that his Ohio Achievement Test scores show that he scores advanced in reading and science and accelerated in social studies. Because he was never taught study skills in middle school, I've spent a lot of my time this first semester teaching him how to study. Hopefully, his semester grades will reflect that improvement. It won't matter to this teacher, however, because he's already made up his mind.

2. If you want to be considered a professional, then act more like a professional. The author writes: Teachers are generally highly trained professionals with a deep understanding of the content they teach and the instructional methods to make that content approachable for students of different ability levels. That may be true, but today's professional world operates via e-mail and cell phones and the Internet. These communication tools are your friends and could simplify organizing everything from scheduling parent-teacher conferences to alerting parents of missed assignments or informing parents of marked improvement. If you really want to turn off a parent, just tell them at open house that you, "Don't do e-mail." The rest of the world does, so suck it up and get with the program. And please respond in a timely manner. Perception is reality. When parents hear that union renegotiations revolve around the squabbling over parking spaces or the resistance to extending the school day, it's hard to feel any sympathy for teachers as "professionals." I once sat in a staff meeting in which the teachers complained about having to "dress professional." If you want to be considered "professionals" then consider losing the blue-collar mentality.

3. Is it really about the kids? There are plenty of incredibly dedicated teachers who routinely go above and beyond for their students. I wish there were more. Building off of points one and two, there are a number of teachers who just want to shut their doors and do what they've been doing for 20-plus years. Education, like everything else around us, is evolving. Teachers need to be evolving with the times. Keep it relevant, refresh your skills often and recognize that the way you've been teaching may not work for all or may not work anymore. It's scary, I'm sure, but all professionals face scary industry changes at one time or another.

4. Let's be honest with one another about testing. I'm grateful to have a teacher who wants to do so much to improve my third-grader's reading. But I also recognize that what's driving that need is his low reading test score. Give parents a little credit for knowing their children. I do have a son who struggles in reading and I know what that looks like. I also have a son who can't stand taking tests when it's 90 degrees outside and 95 degrees in his classroom, like it was in early September when they took their first OAT. Let's just say that his attention span is impaired under those conditions. When I got a call the week of Thanksgiving break about giving him one more test, I suggested that wouldn't be an optimal time for testing. Hopefully, his teacher listened to my suggestion. My son is reading well, much better than his older brother did, but he is also lazy. I'm sure he didn't pass the proficiency test because he was not engaged in the process. But I recognize that in a district like ours, not passing is not acceptable. It's not acceptable for me either. I'll bet dollars to donuts, that my son skipped entire pages in an effort to just get done with the test. So let's try to keep things in perspective. How is is doing day to day? Is his work acceptable? Does he complete tasks on time and accurately? Is his homework done properly? Is he respectful in class? Does he seem excited about learning? If so, then what are we so worked up about?

5. Give kids the benefit of the doubt. Sure, parents can do a better job of giving teachers the benefit of the doubt, but teachers can also do a better job of giving students the benefit of the doubt. If a child feels he or she is being judged by an adult (whether fairly or not), they will internalize that feeling and as a result will believe that any effort they make will not be recognized because the teacher has already made up his or her mind about what the student is capable of accomplishing. We've all been there. It's highly demoralizing in school and work. Most students arrive on the first day of school ready to learn. If teachers are honest with themselves, then they need to ask how their actions may hinder that enthusiasm or readiness to learn. Do you constantly roll your eyes at your students? Both verbal and nonverbal cues can impair a child's success. Think about it.

I will share an anecdote I observed last year. A boy who had transferred from a Cleveland school to an inner-ring suburban school was quite a handful and while he was a sophomore by rank, he had severe learning issues and read at a third-grade level. He was a gang-banger in Cleveland and wore a house arrest bracelet on his ankle (something he was happy to show off to his classmates). He was disruptive and disrespectful. But I saw him get what he gives.

He was wandering down the hall, well after the tardy bell had rung. He knocked on a classroom door and the teacher said, "You're late. Go get a pass." He stepped back, waited and then knocked again, "I said, you're late. Go get a pass," said the teacher. So the boy casually meandered down the hall and I figured he was good as gone for the rest of the day. A few minutes later, he came back down the hall, pass in hand. He knocked on the door and the teacher said, "You're late. You can't come in." At this point, he started yelling, "I got a pass. You told me to get a pass and I got a pass." He created a scene, security arrived and he was escorted off the premises for unruly conduct. But I felt sorry for him. Because he did what he was told and he was punished for it. How could that teacher, clearly highly annoyed with this student, have altered her behavior to turn that situation into a positive experience?

6. Admit your mistakes. We all make mistakes in life. Don't act as if it never occurs in your classroom. If you mishandled a situation with a student, then let the parent and student know and apologize. Maybe you didn't sleep well the night before and were short-tempered. That's understandable. We all can relate. But don't brush over your mistakes as if they never happened. This extends to administrators as well, particularly those responsible for discipline. Encourage your students (particularly at the high school level) to hang on to their graded work to make sure that all grades have been recorded accurately. Let them know that you're not perfect and that retaining the work will ensure all grades are recorded properly.

7. Recognize your teaching biases and learn how to adapt to unfamiliar territory. I once had a middle school teacher tell me that she just didn't get boys. Of course, I laughed, but I stopped when I realized that she was serious. My son had told me that she didn't like the boys (believe me, teachers, they feel it no matter how hard you may try to hide it), but I just chalked that up to his exaggerations. I told her that boys really were not that complicated. But with her face wrinkled up, I could tell she was really struggling with how to reach them and how to handle them. She was very young and I'm sure only a year or two into teaching. I don't know if this is the case, but I'm guessing she had no brothers and really had no exposure to 13-year-old boys. That's fine, then take some workshops and get some professional development to learn strategies for teaching boys. Otherwise, 50 percent of your student population is not adequately being served. Administrators and veteran teachers need to encourage newer teachers in this area, especially during those critical middle school years when boys are more likely to disengage from learning.

8. The boy bias. This is related to the above and probably worthy of its own lengthy post. My oldest son was in first grade when I first heard the anti-boy bias in education. He was in Catholic school at the time and I just assumed it was a problem there. But as experience has shown, the anti-boy bias (as evidenced in point number seven) exists everywhere. Teachers are always going to play favorites, but again I would say: Recognize your biases, get training and development when you need it and be honest with yourself and parents about how you struggle. Maybe parents can offer suggestions for how to help.

9. We all work hard. I was remarking recently about how one of the administrators in our district is always at the school. Some may look at that as dedication, but it makes me wonder whether or not work is being done in an efficient manner. Is it necessary to stay until 9 p.m.? I've heard teachers routinely say how hard their job is and how hard they work. I don't doubt that for one minute. But I will say that most working people work hard, it's not a character trait reserved solely for educators.

10. Giving thanks. Teachers have tremendous power and influence over our children. I am so thankful for the job they do. Parents can do a better job of thanking them. But it's hard when the relationship is such that the first thing you hear is what your child is NOT doing. Of course we're going to be advocates for our kids. If we aren't, who will? But if we feel less adversarial and more collaborative with teachers, that message of thanks will come through loud and clear.

11. If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times. Certain information bears repeating. Certain information bears repeating. From age 16 on down, students need to be reminded of deadlines for projects or that test preparation information is on the Web or that hall passes are required to attend special study sessions. I'd like to believe I could tell my kids to do something once and it magically gets done. But that is not true. Similarly, students do not—upon entering high school—automatically possess study skills or organization skills. These are developed and nurtured over time and the steady encouragement of and practical suggestions in this area would be greatly appreciated. Now, I also believe that sophomores, juniors and seniors need to be responsible for their work and their academic responsibilities. It's called being resourceful. But freshmen need that transition year and the support it requires in order to become resourceful.