The M.E.A. Messenger

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All in the name of PRIDE


by Sue Coffey
Mt. Pleasant School

Have you heard of PRIDE? Do you know what it is? It is a NJEA program for creating a good public image for our associations. We want the public to know that school staff members care about students, parents, and the community in which we teach and work. NJEA will fund pre-approved projects that put our name in the public eye.
The MEA has had several projects approved for this year. The first is distributing PRIDE materials at school sponsored events where parents attend. The materials included pencils, notepads, and book covers with the slogan "Public Schools Work" along with pamphlets concerning issues ranging from the importance of preschool to how to pay for college.
The Christmas parade is not a new project, but it is a fun one. We will be renting float and asking members to ride on it with their children. We want the public to see that we have children in schools, too, and have a personal interest in public education.
In January, we sponsored a bowling tournament for Memorial and Senior High School students. Each team had a parent/guardian and a teacher on it. Prizes were given in various categories.
A project with the lower grades was a bike rally held in cooperation with the Millville Police Department. This was held in the spring of 2003.
The last project is perhaps one that will reach the most people. Under the direction of Bob Smith, a video of all the good things happening in our schools will be made. It will be shown on QBC in the spring. This will enable us to reach those who do not have children in our schools and those who would have no other way of knowing the exciting things accomplished behind the school doors every day.
These projects need two things to be successful—Funding and manpower. NJEA is providing the funds. YOU can provide the manpower. The PRIDE committee needs your help and support. When a building representative asks you to help, please say you will. But why wait? Contact Sue Coffey at Mt. Pleasant to let her know which projects you would like to become involved.

LANDMINES AHEAD:
The Parent-teacher Conference
Among the most challenging and emotional encounters in life is the typical parent-teacher conference, overrun by hope, desire, worry, and defensiveness.
Let's face it: not everyone has the most positive feelings about school . . . and that's not just parents, it's teachers, too. We have to get past those feelings to keep a conference on track and useful.
As a teacher, I have experienced a wide variety of parental anti-school behaviors. Among them:
• Hard-to-please parents who march into the school office with a daily complaint. At the other extreme are the scared, "helpless" parents who somehow can't bring themselves even to visit the school.
• Parents who use the school in a way that destroys any good feelings children may have about schooling. Is it any wonder a child would balk at going to school after hearing, "Just you wait till you get to school--they'll know what to do with you!"
• Parents who hope, even expect, the school to do for their child what it never did for them, or who expect it to do all the things they can't do successfully in their home. They grow increasingly bitter against the school with each passing day. When the miracles do not occur, they tend to infect their children with this attitude: "That school's no good-what's the use of trying?"
Being confronted with such problems can be frustrating, but fortunately there are ways to help you have positive parent-teacher conferences.
• Every teacher carries battle scars, but you must resist bringing memories of previous disappointing conferences into this conference.
• Be ready to share your concerns, without trying to assign blame. Fault finding is tempting but counter-productive.
• Be aware of parents' "old" responses to describe their children's current situations. "I didn't do well in math, my child won't either." "My child refuses to study. I am ready to give up." Try to be encouraging without being flippant. Parents bring their entire school lives with them to your conference.
Some of the best advice I've heard about conferences is for teachers and parents to be "descriptive" and not "judgmental." The tendency is to say, "Jimmy or Sally doesn't pay attention." Instead we need to specifically describe the ways in which these children act and what can be done to help them. Only in this way will we be able to work together to change student behavior and attitudes.

--Dr. Dorothy Rich
©Dorothy Rich 2002
Based on the book MegaSkills®
To order a copy of MegaSkills®, visit the NEA Professional Library at http://home.nea.org/books/.

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