Back to School Letter to Parents: Your School Knows What It’s Doing

kidsatschoolDear Parents Who Worry About Your Kids’ School,

It’s back to school time, so for many, the anxieties are at an all time high. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember when every news article you read today seems to find a new way to trash teachers and schools, but the simple truth is, the majority of professionals working in schools know what they’re doing and they take the job of educating your child very seriously.

KidsBToS12I can remember the days when I worked as a reading specialist (That means I had two degrees in how to educate children.) in a diverse public school. I would sometimes get pulled into  long summer days filled with post-it notes on white boards that we shuffled around and around trying to get exactly the right schedules with exactly the right teachers to make the best days for students with the resources we had. It was never easy, we had to get very creative and it seemed to take forever. Often there had been some movement in staffing because of people’s lives changing (Someone was always pregnant or moving!) or some county mandate that added or cut positions. These changes didn’t always happen neatly in May or even June, to give plenty of time to make shifts, but instead they were last minute calls in July or even late August which meant you had mere days to hire someone and move classrooms before the students arrived.

rp_DSC_0008.JPGOne year, we were making huge changes to the curriculum and the placement of classes because the previous year, after many meetings pouring over data both empirical and anecdotal, the administration and staff decided that implementing the state ordered curriculum changes would be done more effectively if teachers and classrooms were situated differently.

LunchBoxesI can imagine what this looked like to the community. If you had to visit over the summer, the school was a physical disaster for weeks as we moved entire classrooms. I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure it would all be finished by Open House day. It was. But then, the parents arrived with their students in tow to view the classroom letters posted to the outside door only to find what they were expecting may have shifted dramatically.

minivanmoveThere were looks of horror and some squeals of glee because Jan would have her favorite teacher again as they moved up together but Johnny would never have the 5th grade teacher he’d been looking forward to since kinder because now that woman was teaching 2nd grade. Of course the parents questioned us. Sometimes, very loudly and even angrily.

We had to assure them that none of these moves were made haphazardly. Every decision was made on purpose with their children in mind.

LEBackPacksAnd of course, none of this “newness” was intentionally meant to throw off parents and students, including the decision to announce it only a few days before school. Trust me, the administration and staff would have loved to have their fall wrapped up the previous spring with classrooms moved and teachers announced and all happy constituents. But that’s just not how life works.

sadgbabyIs it unnerving to all of those involved, this shifting and changing and uncertainty that comes in summer? Maybe. Likely, for the teachers and staff, it’s exciting and perhaps a little scary, but overall they like a challenge and the new beginnings September brings, or else they would have different jobs completely.

Sitting here now, do I as a parent wish I knew more, and earlier, about what to expect when I send my babies out of the nest in September? Of course. I have some mad-anxiety issues around this place. I sure would love to start planting seeds in June for what to expect for September. Instead I take the summer as the summer and worry about school when it starts.

BabyFGradHere is why.

Because, what I do have is trust that the people in charge at  my children’s school know what they’re doing and have the students’ best academic and social interests in mind when they make whatever decisions they make. I can’t promise, but I can say that’s likely true for your school too.

I trust the education process. The people in charge of the process went to university (and beyond) to know how to do this job. They continue to take classes and workshops and learn and hone their craft. They have been doing these jobs, some for many years, successfully. And believe me when I say you will not succeed at this job if you do not keep children at the forefront of your decisions. These people are professionals who, in most cases, know more about educating children than the parents that cross their classroom thresholds year after year.

3GonzagaBabiesThey may not know more about my child’s moods. They may not know about their food and sleep patterns and the anxieties that keep them up at night. But these school employees know how to educate kids and they take that job, and all the shifting and change that comes with it, very seriously. If you keep that in mind, I promise every change you field this September, you’ll field just fine.


Once a Teacher, Always a Teacher



Back to School Reminders that Time Marches On

IMG_5736 It’s the shoes that get me. Every year around this time I take the kids out for new shoes. They get school shoes, gym shoes and “weekend” shoes. Every year I marvel at how giant their feet are. I mean, how can my baby wear shoes from the women’s department? It seems impossible. Don’t we all have to go home and share baths right after this?

Every year, on shoe day, I cry. I find old baby pictures to stare at,  and snuggle up close to the box of clothes I just can not give away that I have hidden in the basement. I just hug the fleecy footed pjs and the first little Polo shirts. What is it about the clothes and shoes that bring home the rapid passage of time?

The funny thing is, I would never go back. As much as I loved having a house full of preschoolers and toddlers, I have hit my stride with a house full of tweens and teens. I LOVE this time of life, where our house vacillates between all-out screaming fights and laughter so loud and full of life that it travels down the block. It’s an emotional rollercoaster around here, almost minute by minute, but I love it all.

Those are my BABY's feet!

Those are my BABY’s feet!

And yet, my heart can’t help but pine for those tiny breadloaf feet that I had to dress in tiny shoes every morning, and the little boys and little girl who spent long summer days in a kiddie pool, or covered in homemade playdoh. The same ones who loved to snuggle right into my side and watch Super Why  on the couch after a long day of play.

I miss those babies sometimes, even if I love the big kids they have become. I miss my role as their mom even more. It’s hard when the result of doing your job well is that you put your own self out of work. I know they’ll always need me in some ways, but every year, as their feet grow, they need me less and less and that is something I just don’t think I’ll ever get used to. I miss those babies and I miss my job as their mom even more.


Talking With Kids About Feelings

The feelings aren't always good.

The feelings aren’t always good.

A few weeks ago the kids and I went to see the movie Inside Out. We had been excited to see it for months after watching the preview before our family thanksgiving movie. Then, they hype before the movie was so intense we all went in expecting it to rock our worlds.

It didn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, the movie is adorable and quite honestly anything with Amy Poeler (even just her voice) gets thumbs up from this crowd. But to say we were underwhelmed by it would be accurate.

I kept quiet about it so as not to ruin it for the kids, but then it came out that they all felt the same way. No one hated it, but no one loved it like we thought we would and no one considered it to be as overwhelmingly groundbreaking as so many others have.

rp_kidsonbeach.JPGI’ve spent a while thinking about why. Then one night before bed The Husband was sharing a story about how at a swim meet he handled a near melt down of our youngest by identifying that the boy was afraid but that Dad had full confidence in him that he could face that fear and do what he came to do-namely, swim. I was so impressed with the way The Husband and the boy handled the whole situation but I wasn’t really surprised. I mean, that’s what we do. As parents, we try to help our kids understand what they’re feeling. We always validate whatever it is and sometimes we force their hand so that they learn how to maneuver within or around our outside of those feelings.

The other night, my baby was scared, but rather than let him berate himself for that fear (which he is apt to do) or give into that fear and miss an opportunity, The Husband just explained that he understood the fear and it was fine, but that he also believed so much in our boy’s ability to overcome it, that he left him on his own to do just that. He didn’t coax, or cajole or drag him out of it. Instead, he just communicated his belief in the boy and then left the rest up to him.

Clearly, we've got JOY down.

Clearly, we’ve got JOY down.

From day one, since I read all those books about what all the different baby cries mean, I have considered it my most important job to figure out what is making my little people tick and then as they’ve grown help them recognize it and work around it. After all, we are nothing more than an outward manifestation of all we are feeling inside. If we don’t teach our kids how to understand and know who they are, then what good are we?

Long before Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith and Bill Hader and Mindy Khaling put voices to our feelings, we’d already done that here in our house and it seems to be working pretty well.

The movie Inside Out is great and for sure it provides an outstanding opportunity to talk to kids about emotions and navigating the world through them. And, yes, perhaps the theme is groundbreaking. We just didn’t realize how groundbreaking we already were right here at home.


Amwell Brought a Doctor to My Kitchen

When you feel like this, who wants to travel to the doctor?

When you feel like this, who wants to travel to the doctor?

 This post was sponsored by the Role Mommy Writer’s Network.  However, all opinions are 100% my own.

I find that the older I get the more nagging ailments I have. The problem is, the older I get the busier I am, which means I tend to ignore the nagging ailments rather than carve out time to go to the doctor. Because, let’s face it, no matter how much I love my doctors (which I do) there is nothing quick about a visit to them. Even a straightforward check up can take hours out of my day and that is when I have the presence of mind to even make the appointment, which is rarely except right when I’m thinking about the kind of pain I’m in.

Enter, Amwell. Amwell is the nation’s largest telehealth company, connecting users with board-certified, licensed doctors for immediate and live, online visits—day or night, on either mobile or desktop. What does that mean? Well, for me it means when I’m sitting at my kitchen table working on my tablet or laptop and I remember I should make a doctor’s appointment because of the nagging on again off again ear ache, instead of reaching for my phone I can type in Amwell to my search bar and be connected almost immediately with any number of primary care and specialist physicians. Or if my kid is having trouble in school and I want to save my self a few thousand dollars up front, I can go to Amwell to talk things out with a licensed behavioral therapists before moving on to any other professionals I might need to see in person.

Only this kid finds doctor's offices fun.

Only this kid finds doctor’s offices fun.

Amwell doctors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and are dedicated to keeping you healthy — all from the comfort of your home. Yesterday, right at my kitchen table I saw a doctor about my ear. I filled out the standard medical information forms, read through the doctor information and chose the physician I wanted to see. Then, I gave my phone number for an “alert text” and went back to work. Within a few minutes I got a text that my doctor was ready, so I logged back onto the Amwell site and had a video conference with a doctor who looked in my ear, asked a bunch of questions and gave me suggestions for remedies that I could handle no problem. All of this took about 30 minutes tops. Incredible. I felt like I was on the Jetsons!

I was so pleased with the service, convenience and care, that I intend to use Amwell more in the future for those things that may be bothering me or my children but just don’t require a multi-hour trip to the doctor. Also, Amwell sure is a better solution than Doctor Google. No more late night sessions of me self-diagnosing us all with brain tumours or kidney cancer. Instead I’ll just choose a doctor from Amwell to check us out and diagnose the real issue (likely a sinus infection or UTI).

Pleeeaase can't the doctor just come to us?

Pleeeaase can’t the doctor just come to us?

I’ll be honest, I never thought I would feel safe enough using an online medical service, but my experience with Amwell has proven that it is a safe, private, thorough service that takes the hassle and expense out of doctor’s visits. This time it was for me, but I can see using Amwell for my kids in the future. Gone are the sleepless nights waiting to call the primary care or worse, midnight ER visits because you just want a professional to look, right now. Amwell is a mother’s dream.

Some common reasons people use Amwell are cough, sore throat, vomiting, flu, pinkeye, fever, upset stomach, anxiety, depression, weight concerns and smoking cessation. Amwell is accessible, often cheaper and definitely fast. I wish I had known about it when we were on vacation with a sick one a few years ago or when my babies were little and inevitably spiked a fever at 3:00am or that one time, in college, when I thought I was dying but an excruciating trip to the school health center and then the ER later, I learned I just had a wicked cold.  Amwell seems so much better!

If you’re interested in trying Amwell for yourself, they take most major insurance plans but I also have a code for my readers to get their first appointment free. Just type in ROLEMOMMY when it asks for payment and you will get your first session free. Try it. It has to be better than this!