No More Frustration from Parents! Sounds good?

Calling parents and talking to them is a skill. It needs to be learned and developed by teachers just like the skill of teaching itself! Working on that skill will bring more enjoyment in the work place as well as more parents support!

If you are a teacher wanting to make a POSITIVE INTRODUCTION phone call home without already an issue in place then go to THIS POST

However, if the nature of the phone call to the parent is negative behavior, then read on! 

Or you may also scroll down directly to the end of the post for specific tips for scripting and making phone calls to parents and skip the introduction!

It is funny. At the beginning of my teaching career I was young and communication with parents felt intimidating. I had to make calls home on a few occasions discussing behavior issues. The phone calls were handled with the parent immediate response to deal with the situation at home. I was lucky. I started teaching by communicating with parents who understood and did not question the validity of my work.
After I had been teaching for a few years the situation changed a bit. The more home phone calls I need to make, the more difficult it seemed to get. I was having to work with very different parents who were thinking very differently about raising their child. My school is in an area with very mixed socio-economics. The parent support and involvement in my program is very different from one child to the next. My program has been growing consistently over the years. The level of the program has also been raising consistently. It seemed that with each year the level of the kids will grow but the challenges when communication with parents will grow as well. While working hard to reach the parents of the lower economic groups at the school, I was realizing that often the involved parents take their child's progress personal. It is in these cases when we had a clash.
I am posting this blog post wishing that parents appreciate their teachers for the positive aspects of their work, but also to allow them to guide their child into changing that child's behavior for the better.

Calling parents and talking to them is a skill! It takes time to develop but it is possible to have pleasant and positive relationships with parents! Start with these tips:

NEVER call a parent in the heat of the moment! 
You will always be at a "loose" situation if you do that. The parents can also have more opportunity to get defensive toward you. Instead, wait until you feel calmer and you can explain the situation in a calm voice. 

Always have facts to share when you call. Be very specific!
If you are calling with a discipline issue, it is not enough to simpl say "the student is misbehaving" or The students is talking in class". You need to be more specific. What exactly happen- perhaps the students interrupts when you deliver instruction, or maybe he said a very bad word to a fellow student. Remember, the more specific and the calmer you are are, the more the parents will need to except the information. Not giving enough information and being vague gives the opposite party opportunity to argue back and get defensive. You do not want to get in this situation. Event worse, if he parent asks what exactly heir child is doing, you cannot stumble and loose track of the facts. 
Sometimes this is difficult to do when you are in the middle of trying to organize a hectic class. In this case, have a paper right next to you and very quickly write down what exactly happen.

Script the Phone Call Before Calling Home
It is always good to place the information as a "sandwich". Give a positive fedback, say what is happening, and finish with a positive statement as well. You conversation may lok like this

John is doing very well in orchestra and he is very talented. Unfortunately I am seeing that he is starting to turn around and talk to the boys around him. Can we together work on stopping this behavir so that he can continue doing great in my class?

Do you notice the "positive" way this message is delivered? If you want to see other examles of how to script a parent phone call new  post coming next week.

Thinking about running a silent auction for your orchestra (or band) program? Perhaps you have a school program that is growing and with its growth you need to start thinking about a variety of ways to fundraise.

Silent auctions can be very profitable for a school program but they don't work well in any situation.  If you wonder if your school program will benefit from it or you are just starting out, see these tips for starting a silent auction!

If you are already in the process of organizing a silent auction then scroll down to the bottom of this post for more tips and different helpful sites!

 Silent Auction Tips for your Music or School program 

Silent Auctions are a lot of work. Make sure you have you have support (most likely from parents). Don't think of organizing a silent auction for your program all by yourself in addition to running a concert in the same day! You need to have a group of 2-4 adults who take initiative and run the preparations for the silent auction.

You must to start early. A successful orchestra silent auction done in December has to be planned September at the very latest. More time will give you more opportunities to gather items for the auction and it will spare you from last minute frustrations. Ultimately more time in preparation will also give you the most profit.

One of the best indicators for a successful silent auction is the parents you work with! Get to know the parents in your community well before suggesting a silent auction event. Make sure they are "doers" and they understand what they need to do. Get a feel if parents have different skills they can contribute to the auction.

Silent auctions work well if you have a big program!  A few parents or a handful of concert goers will not necessarily make a successful orchestra silent auction.

Location of the auction items is most important! After preparing everything, it is good to have a place where parents "have to go through". Don't put the auction table in the corner of the gym where nobody would go and look at them. Please email me or place a comment on this post if you are wondering or need more info on this subject.

Best donated items from the silent auction will come from the parents and their talents. Again, get to know your community well before starting a silent auction. You will most likely  have parents who have specific crafts or skills that they can easily donate for their child music program. If this is not the case, all major chains offer gift cards that they donate to non profits in their area. In most cases these gift cards are in the amount of $30.00-35.00

It is good to have a purpose for the silent auction.  If the parents know the specific items or goal you are fundraising for, they will be more likely to participate in the auction. For more tips on running a silent auction with a purpose see this post

There is a wonderful site, specific to fundraising for school programs. They have a wonderful post specific to silent auction with lots of helpful tips and ideas. They also provide info on other fundraising ideas. I have used a lot of their ideas and I must say our silent auction events are getting better and better every time. 
Elementary, Orchestra, or Band Holiday music concerts will run smoother and the concert audience will have a better experience when these three tips are in place!

Work on the transitions between the performances!
This is so important! It can make or break the flow of the concert. Carefully think about how your would position the students on the stage, if you need to re-set the stage at the concert, try to minimize time waisted in these transitions. Talk about these transitions with the students and practice what is possible in the classroom.

Prepare your students for everything beyond the music during the concert!
This is key to having a better concert experience! It is true especially when preparing concerts with younger students. They need to know exactly where to sit/stand, how to bow, what to expect. The younger the students at your concert, the more you would need to focus on the aspects of the performance that are "non-musical". The students will naturally get a bit nervous. They may act confident in class. The stage will bring different sides of students' personalities. In order to ensure a smooth run of your concert program, the students have to rehearse everything that will happen on stage from beginning to end. Make sure you practice how the concert will start, where and how should the students come on stage, what the students will be doing between the pieces. In order to have a good concert experience, the students need to know and feel comfortable with all aspects of the performance, not just the music itself.

Think how and when to introduce the pieces. Script the concert introductions and if you don't have years of experience, practice those before the concert. Many orchestra directors also have students introduce some of the pieces. This is a wonderful idea. However, make sure that these students practice the concert introductions in front of the class before the concert.

I have seen a lot of student concerts with wonderful performances where these three tips were not taken into consideration,. The result is parents loosing focus during the transitions of the concert. Make your holiday concert a great one!

  1. How does discipline and behavior define a musician and his performance?

  2. What essential techniques are needed to achieve mastery in..?

  3. What are the elements of music that enhance a performance (dynamics, tempo, etc)

  4. How do we practice and prepare for a concert?

  5. How does concert etiquette affect a performance?

  6. What are the skills needed to achieve mastery in....piece?

  7. How does music help us grow as community?

  8. How does positive feedback and assessment help us grow as musicians?

  9. How does knowledge of historical background enhance our music experience?

  10. What are the skills needed before learning a piece of music? 

For more detailed post on essential questions and how to choose effective essential questions for your classroom, please read post 

 Providing Positive Feedback To Change Behavioral Habits In Your Classroom

Are you working in a classroom that needs discipline intervention? 
Do you have certain students who need to improve their work?
Are you thinking about different ways to improve your own child's behavior? 
One strategy you can use in your classroom is providing consistent positive reinforcement. This approach will help you both with developing discipline as well as improving students' performance. You would be using positive reinforcement to change the negative aspects in your classroom. It will  help you develop better relationship with the students as you would be guiding them to a better performance instead of forcing them to it. 
While using this strategy you would be assessing students each time they do an activity. Here is a step by step approach to it: 

 1. Start by getting into the habit of giving students positive feedback very consistently at the end of each activity and at the beginning and end of each class.
It is always a good idea to start the class with a summary of what happened in the previous class as well as what the students will be working on. 
Examples may sound like this : 
  • Last week we had a great class. We learned new song which we will continue today. However, I noticed that some of you were not quiet at the very end of class. This time I am going to be watching to congratulate the three quietest students at the end.
  • Yesterday we practiced Twinkle and we worked on our second finger being in tune. Now I am going to be watching these second fingers and pointing out the students who are doing well with it.

2. Catch a behavior that you want and then acknowledge it. 

Examples of phrases you may use:
I noticed that...was doing a good job playing attention to the conductor

I am congratulating...for...

I noticed that...was quiet for the whole class
Before we begin class today I'd like to congratulate ... for getting here on time and being in rest position right away.

3. Focus on the positive. 
When you begin you must focus on positive aspects of the students. It is very natural for teachers to pay attention to the higher performing students first. However, what you need to do instead is focus on the ones who are not doing so well. You would need to re-direct their attention to the positive things they are doing in your classroom. The positive feedback may be as simple as "John, I noticed you were not late today" "John, I noticed that you were distracting the class but then you were quiet at the end."

4. Never let students know who you would acknowledge and why.
This strategy works only if the students are. The teachers should never give them a clue on the feedback that would be provided to them. 

5. Don't pick favorites. 
Make sure each child gets a chance to be acknowledged.

6. Be consistent giving the kids feedback in the same way over many lessons.
With developing any habit, consistency is the key. You need to be consistent using the same strategies over the course of many lessons in order for the strategy to work. If used just once or sporadically it would not have an effect. 

7. Don't give up! This strategy is powerful but it takes longer!
You may be working with students with behavioral problems. It may seem that this strategy is too "weak" for them to change.  If you don't see success in the first two or three classes, keep going! Keep in mind that you may be working with students who are having difficulties with their family. These students will  feel uncomfortable at first as they are not used to any support from adults. However, these are also the students who you can help the most!

8. Notice how the classroom culture changes!

Welcome to the 48th Kid Lit Blog Hop where we continue to develop a dynamic and engaged community of children’s books bloggers, authors, publishers, and publicists. So, you are always more than welcome to join us by popping in a post and hopping around to meet some of your fellow Kid Lit bloggers and authors!
We are pleased to be welcoming two fabulous co-hosts this week: Kimbra, the blogger behind The Barefoot Librarian and Tiffiny from the blog, Spark and Pook.  Big welcome to Kimbra and Tiffiny!

Happy Hopping everyone and enjoy the Hop!

Kid Lit Blog Hop

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1. We ask that you kindly follow your hosts. You can follow us any way you choose (Email, GFC, Twitter, Facebook, G+, Pinterest, etc.), but we’ve added our preferences below. If you could just give us a quick “follow” or “like” that would be much appreciated! Make sure to leave us a message if you are following us (i.e., on Twitter or Facebook or on our websites) and we will be sure to follow you back. Thanks!:-)
2. Link up any Kid Lit related post. This can be a link to a children’s book review, a discussion about children’s literature/literacy, or a post on a recently-read children’s book or one that you love from your childhood.
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3. Please visit AT LEAST the TWO LINKS directly ahead of your own and leave them some love in the form of a comment. We are trying to build a community of bloggers, readers, parents, authors, and others who are as passionate about children’s literature as we are so please CONNECT and follow any or all of the blogs that interest you!
4. If you like, grab the button above and put it somewhere on your blog, preferably the post you’re linking up. If you’d prefer, you can just add a text link back to this Hop so that others can find it and check out all these great book links!
5. It would really help us get the word out about the Kid Lit Blog Hop if you would be so kind as to tweet, share, and spread the word about the Hop!
Interested in co-hosting the Kid Lit Blog Hop? If you’ve joined us before, you are welcome to join us again! Please email renee @ motherdaughterbookreviews (dot) com and put Co-Hosting Blog Hop in the subject line.
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What To Do After Halloween And Other Holidays

Halloween is a funny holiday. It is very important for so many children. Yet, to me this particular holiday does not hold much historical or national significance in comparison to other holidays we celebrate...but there is lots of sugar and fun involved!

 Kids get excited, have lots of candy, and inevitably get into a sugar "low" right after Halloween

Read these tips to help your child recover after the excitement of Halloween

Balance Your Child's Diet!
Your child's diet will affect their energy level, performance at school, and ability to do their homework. Interestingly, research now shows that sugar in small quantities is not harmful for children. A piece of candy after a healthy meal will not harm your child. The problem? The candy comes in much bigger proportions around Halloween. After the candy rush of Halloween, focus on salads, fruit, and healthier meals! Balance their diet to keep their bodies healthy and their minds sharp!

Your child has collected too much candy after Haloween. They would eat nothing else!
I have lots of parents who come for lessons after the week of HAlloween reporting that they have enough candy at the house for nearly a year. This can be dangerous.
Having lots of leftover candy can be a good way to sneak in some discipline and studies into your child's routine. You can use what they are motivated by to help them build routines.

Set rules on how much candy they can have and what they need to do in order to get it! For example, they can have have a piece of candy on a weekend after lunch and if they have helped with the dishes. They can have a candy every time they have done 30min of instrument practice, math HW, etc.
It is also great to use the leftover candy for after-Halloween educational games. For ideas see post Treasure Games

Your child starts acting out at school!
This may be the time you experience an an Unexpected Phone Call Home from your teacher. You may have a perfectly well behaved child. And during this time of year they may start acting up.

Realize that everybody is tired. This is difficult time in the school year. At that time students start getting tired and the school work demands increase. Both teachers and students start feeling overwhelmed at that time. Simply realizing that and being able to let go a bit will take care of a lot of stress. Don't jump into quick conclusion both about your child or your child's teacher. Instead, take a step back and carefully think about the situation. If you need support handling a phone call home, see this post.

Your child is too tired all the time!
Imagine a sugar rush and then dropping your energy level. This is what your child may be experiencing   after Halloween. Whether permitting, get your child outside. Get them moving. Allow anough rest even if things at school are busy. Watch your child's nutrition after Halloween. Balancing the candy with greens and healthy food is always a good idea to get their little bodies back on track.

Remember, balance is the best way to parent! Balance fun with serious, tasty with healthy!
For First Year Teachers...