Looking Forward to the 8th Annual Conference on Education

Classrooms are changing and students are learning in new and different ways. As a parent, I am energized to hear about the great things happening in our schools. I’ve seen my daughter study for her AP World History exam with on-line quiz apps on her phone and my son make movies with an iPad as a way to learn new vocabulary words. Their teachers are creating new and innovative ways to teach the next generation of students. Every night, our dinner conversation is full with talk of the creative things that happened in school that day. It is my favorite time of the day, hearing my kids so pumped up about school and learning.

I try to bring this excitement with me to work at the Rodel Foundation of Delaware as we strive toward our mission to help Delaware build one of the finest systems of public education in the world. And it is this excitement that I look forward to seeing at the Eighth Annual Conference on Education, Moving Education in Delaware Forward, on Wednesday, October 28, 2015 at the University of Delaware’s Clayton Hall. Teachers, administrators, community and business leaders and PARENTS are encourage to attend. As parents, this is a great chance for us to have our voices heard and to be a part of the conversation.

Click here to register for the conference.

Teachers may qualify for scholarships to the conference. Email me at nmillard@rodelfoundationde.org to learn more about scholarship opportunities.

I hope to see you there.

Be the Change: A Perspective on Newark Charter School by a Local Resident

I live in the center of it all – and by center I mean smack dab in the middle of Newark Charter School’s five-mile radius.  With such an incredible school so close by, it is no wonder that at some point nearly every family on my street has rolled the dice and entered Newark Charter’s lottery.  Unfortunately, not everyone has been lucky enough to have been selected.  Therefore, my neighborhood resembles the melting pot that is Delaware’s schools.  On my street alone, there are families that have students attending independent schools, catholic schools, charter schools, Christina School District schools, Appoquinimink School District schools, Red Clay Consolidated School District schools, NCC Vo-Tech schools and there are even 2 families that home school.  It’s a traffic nightmare just getting out of the neighborhood with all of the buses and carpools coming and going every morning.

I love all of the options that are available to my children.  In my day, everyone got on the same yellow bus that bumpily drove us all to the same public school.  Those days are long gone.  We parents have so many options available.  And all we really want is to provide the best option for our children.

That is what makes the Newark Charter School’s expansion such an emotional issue – it’s personal.  All of us just want what’s best for our kids.  Wouldn’t it be great if every child in my neighborhood could hop on a bus and have an educationally enriching and challenging experience everyday?  That is what we all hope for.

I applaud the work being done at Newark Charter School and hope the expansion is approved.  It will provide even more options for children in my neighborhood and provide a model school from which other public schools can learn.  Perhaps the parents who are so frustrated by this expansion should channel their energy to challenging their own school officials to improve their school of choice.  Shouldn’t all of the students in our neighborhood benefit from the work being done at NCS – by using it as a model to improve our own schools?

I have a son who is currently in 5th grade.  You can be certain that I will enter the Newark Charter lottery again and hope to ‘win’ a spot for him in the future.  But until that does, or does not, happen, isn’t it my job as his mother to provide him with the best education possible?  Instead of harping on what others have that I do not, I chose to spend my energy helping to improve the school that he does attend.  Engaged and involved parents can and SHOULD be the change agents that our schools need.  Let’s invest our time and talents to make sure our own schools are innovative and educationally challenging for our children.  Be the change.

Oh No, It’s Spring Break!

Yesterday, my 14-year old daughter Elizabeth asked me what we were going “to do” for Spring Break.   This is an excellent question – what are we going to do for Spring Break exactly…beginning in a mere two days?  While I’m sure she is dreaming of amazing rides in Disney World or dipping her toes into the warm tropical waters of the Caribbean, unfortunately for her (and me) an exotic Spring Break vacation is not in the cards. 

The real question is, “What are parents supposed to do with their school-aged children over Spring Break?”  You see, as much as I’d like to run off and have fun with my kids for a week in April, I—like most parents—have a job that doesn’t celebrate Spring Break.  So the challenge becomes what to do with the kids for the week while I go off to work every day. It helps that my husband works from home and my mother lives nearby, so I will have some assistance with keeping two kids entertained. And while it won’t be Disney World, it will be a chance for them to relax and take a break from the regular school routine.

But it will also be ten days of brain lethargy and ten days away from the routine of school.  This year seems especially hard, as Spring Break comes so late in the school year.  My kids will go from over a week of vegging out straight back into the rush of the end of the school year, with finals and papers and projects galore. I wonder how the break will affect their performance.  

The concept of year-round education fascinates me.  Going to school “year-round” does not mean going to school non-stop, but it does allow students to have more time in the classroom.  Year-round schools promote a balanced academic calendar to reduce learning loss and extensive review time that decreases time for new learning.  Students are usually scheduled to be in the classroom for eight-to-ten week blocks with short breaks between each block. 

Year-round education or programs with similar structure are beginning to pop up in Delaware. For example, Seaford School District, offers a balanced school calendar with classes beginning earlier in the summer than other districts, allowing for more learning time in the classroom.

For me, I’ll just have to juggle work and kids for the next week –and find some time for a trip to the library to keep their brains busy.   I will make sure that Elizabeth checks out a book about the Caribbean so at least she can learn about her dream Spring Break location. 

Happy Teacher Day

Did you know that May 3 is National Teacher Day? A national day to celebrate classroom heroes was the brainchild of Arkansas teacher Mattye Whyte Woodridge. Mrs. Woodridge wrote a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt, urging the First Lady to persuade her husband to proclaim a special day to honor teachers. In 1953, the U.S. Congress proclaimed the very first National Teacher Day.

To celebrate National Teacher Day, the Delaware Department of Education is holding a student essay contest for First State students to write why their teacher is special – in 350 words or less. Three winning educators — one each from elementary, middle and high school — will receive $100 gift cards. Also, Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery will take over their classrooms for half a day as a reward. Students who write the winning essays each will receive $50 gift cards.

To be eligible, the student must nominate a classroom teacher, specialist or paraprofessional in a Delaware public school and the student must be a current student of that educator. Entries may be submitted online at greatteachers@doe.k12.de.us. The essay submission deadline is Friday, April 22. All nominations will be posted on the Delaware Department of Education’s website the week of May 2.

This week marks Spring Break for many kids in Delaware. I know for my family it brings a rare time with no homework, play rehearsals or baseball practice! It would be a great time to sit down with your kids and have them write down how they feel about their favorite teacher. Let your teachers know how important they are to your children and your family.

And don’t forget to wish your classroom heroes a Happy Teacher Day on May 3.