Saturday, August 31, 2019

Building with Scrap Wood and Helping Your Kids Decide What To Do

One of the difficult things about living in Arizona is that it is like living on the face of the sun. A short trip to the store means getting third degree burns from the seat belt in the car while the air conditioning functions as a blast furnace. You have to park half a mile away from your destination for a sliver of shade from a scraggly desert tree, and your shoes melt to the asphalt as you walk across the parking lot. The idea of a trip to the store is so disheartening that you decide to skip the whole ordeal. By the end of the summer, when everybody is ready for a reprieve from the heat, we typically have a rise in temperature and it gets even hotter.

A few weeks ago when my kids were going nuts and I was trying to find some way to get them to burn up energy, my wife had a great idea. She recommended that I take them into the garage and let them hammer and nail some scrap wood. My three kids were all excited about going out and pounding nails into boards, my wife was excited about a quiet house, and I was excited about spending time with my kids in a place that somehow manages to be hotter than it is outside.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Seven Things Every Teacher Wants Every Parent To Know

I started my full time educational career in 2003. I have been a teacher, a curriculum writer, a coach, an Athletic Director, an Assistant Principal, a Principal, a Director, a Head of School. Basically, if it needed to be done in a school, I have done it. Yes, I have even filled in as a crossing guard and a janitor from time to time. Every year, as the school year starts off, I feel like one of my biggest jobs is to bridge the gap between school and home. When two groups of people as passionate about their jobs as teachers and parents are come together, it can feel like Clash of the Titans. That's why I decided to share my list of Seven Things that Every Teacher Wants Every Parent to Know.

1. We are on the same team. There will be times this year when you will disagree with something that happens in my classroom, but you and I have the same goal and the same desired outcome for the school year: the education of your child. Please remember that I do what I professionally know how to do to educate your child, and I want your child to be successful. I will do what I can to support you, and I ask that you do what you can to support me.

2. If there is a problem, let's talk it through like adults. There will be times when your child is disciplined, is unhappy about a situation, or is struggling academically. You may get upset. I am happy that you want to advocate for your child. But please remember that we are on the same team. If you are upset about something, let's talk it through. Set aside some time so we can make sure that we are all - student, parent, and teacher - moving in the same direction.

3. Please take a day before sending an email when you are upset. I try to practice this as well. Email makes it too easy to say something out of frustration or disappointment that you would never say in person to another human being. Sometimes I write an email and then delete it without sending it. Please remember that we are both adults, and I really do want to hear from you. But let's both agree to take some time before sending those emails that we may end up regretting.

4. Your child can learn from everything that happens. Some in the education world call this "hidden curriculum." These are the things that your child learns that are outside of the particular curriculum that I teach. In math, I'm not just teaching your child math, but I'm teaching organization, logical progression, step-by-step instructions, and neatness. I'm teaching your child how to follow rules, even when he doesn't like the rules. Try to help your child find the learning experiences from everything that happens throughout the day.

5. I am not perfect. I am more than willing to admit this. I may mess up, I may incorrectly grade something, I may say something that is intentionally or unintentionally taken the wrong way. If this happens, please see #2 above.

6. You have one child in my class, but I have many others that I also care for. I am glad that your child is your biggest priority, but your child is not the only one in my class. Please know that I am in charge of the success of all of my students. I need your support in this. You can help by making sure that your child completes the homework for my class, that she comes to school with breakfast, and that she knows how much I care about her success.

7. I am okay not being your child's most favorite teacher ever. We all had our favorite teachers growing up, and we all had teachers that were not our favorites. We may have even had a teacher that we despised. I am not asking to be your child's favorite teacher. I am asking that any negative feelings you have towards me are not shared with your child. As long as I'm your child's teacher, please support me in any way that you can so that I can have the best possible chance of helping him succeed.

Being a teacher is hard, and being a parent is hard. There is nothing easy about educating children, either at home or at school. But if we can come together on these seven things, we are in for the best school year ever.

Let's all do everything we can to make this the most successful school year ever for your student!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Building Lego Architecture Sets with Your Kids

Raise your hand if you loved Legos growing up...

Yeah, both of my hands are up.

Legos have changed quite a bit since I was a kid. The sets are much more detailed and intricate, and the variety of sets available is amazing.

One of my favorite collections as an adult is the Lego Architecture collection. I have been purchasing these sets for years and am amazed at the artistic details in each set. Some of my favorite sets are The Lincoln Memorial, Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water, and the skyline series (Chicago and Paris are two favorites). When I was in high school I thought about being an architect, reading about architecture whenever I could. Maybe these sets are a way for me to somewhat live that life.

So when my son asked several months back, "Daddy, can we build together one of the building sets that you have in your closet?", I felt like Lord Business from The Lego Movie. My knee-jerk reaction was to respond, "Buddy, those are daddy's sets. Let's play with some of your Legos." And then Will Ferrell's misguided dad persona flashed before my mind, and I didn't want to be that guy.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

7 No-Fighting, No-Crying Ways to Get Kids to Eat Vegetables


I am very happy to have a guest writer for Renaissance Dad. This is the Highly Driven, lovely wife of mine, here with some helpful advice on getting kids to eat their veggies. 

Actual phrases spoken at the Renaissance Dad home:

Dad to 7-year-old: “No more kale until you eat some of your pizza.”

4-year-old to Mom: “SALAD?! I LOVE Salad!! You’re the BEST mom!”

Dad to 7-year-old: “Hey, leave some artichokes for everybody else.”

3-year old to no one in particular: “I have strong eyes because I LOVE red pepper.”

Our kids don’t eat veggies. They devour them. So many other parents are mystified, impressed, even jealous, that I finally sat down and really thought about how we got here. So, without further ado, I offer you The List of how we got our kids excited about vegetables.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Storage Coffee Table with Puzzle Tray


Spring is a very busy time for educators. We're preparing for standardized testing, Advanced Placement testing, end of the year ceremonies and celebrations, etc., etc., etc. It is the time of year when my sanity starts to slip, and I need to make a focused effort on taking care of myself.

There are many things that I do to keep my sanity, but one thing that keeps me going is a good project. Having a project that I can focus on, especially one that takes both mental focus and sweat, is my way of recharging. A few years ago I had a stained glass project that kept me going through the end of the school year. This year, I had a woodworking project. 

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