Checking In and Catching Up

Summer has sped by! If you, like me, have been slowing down this month, good for you. But as August comes to an end, our focus turns to the start of another school year. Here’s some interesting education info and some back-to-school tips to consider as the summer winds down.

Update on Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans:

President Obama recently named Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski III, President of University of Maryland in Baltimore County, as chairman of the newly created President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans. We told you about the formation of this commission in an earlier post (President Obama’s Plan to Help African American Students Succeed, July 28, 2012).

A Hampton Institute graduate, Dr. Freeman is a widely respected educator who has written several books including the highly regarded “Beating the Odds: Raising Academically Successful African American Young Males“. This year Hrabowski was included in the Time 100, Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most inspirational and world-changing people. As the Time editors noted, “Hrabowski, 61, has spent 20 years as president turning a humble commuter school into one of the nation’s leading sources of African Americans who get Ph.D.s in science and engineering. The college’s Meyerhoff Scholars program — which initially targeted black men but is now open to all applicants — creates a highly structured (no phones or Facebook allowed during boot camp) and supportive experience for math and science students, almost all of whom not only graduate but also go on to grad school.” More about his inclusion on this list can be found here.

Our friends at Beccastone, a great site for mothers of Black children, recently interviewed Dr. Hrabowski about his work with minority students in the sciences. This interview can be found here. After you read this interview, be sure to check out the many other interesting and informative articles that Beccastone has to offer.

Back to School Checklist for Our Sons:

Summer Assignments: If your son hasn’t started the school year yet, now is the time to make sure that those pesky summer assignments (summer reading, book reports, class schedule choices, what I did over the summer essays) are being finished up. Check in with your son and ask him about the status of his summer assignments. If school starts after Labor Day, try not to hit the ceiling if he hasn’t started them yet (getting stressed out won’t help either of you). Just make sure he gets focused and starts working now.

Tech Checks: Take some time now to look at your son’s computer and/or any other devices he uses for school. Are they in good working order? Is there enough memory on his computer to get him through the school year? Now would be the time to get an external hard drive onto which can be moved whatever is taking up a lot of space and is not needed this year (e.g., last year’s work, movies that are no longer being watched, old music, etc.). The hard drive is also very useful to back up school work during the year to prevent him (and you) from being stressed out by any hard drive crashes. This is also a good time for your middle school or high school son to clean out his email in-boxes and set up document files for this year’s classes.

School Supplies: Many schools provide school supply info at some point during the summer, so check your emails and the snail mail carefully (and ask your son to check his email as well). Even if your son’s school doesn’t issue a list of supplies until after school starts, you can head to the stores now and pick up those items you know he will need: Pens, pencils, report supplies, and all of the items he will need to keep his school work in order at home.

Gym Supplies: Are his sneakers in good shape after a summer of serious playing? Does he have enough gym socks? Some schools have gym uniforms which can be bought on-line. Check out what is needed now, so that he’ll be ready on Day One.

Back to School Checklist for Parents:

Meet the Teachers: Make the time to attend the parent meetings scheduled at the start of the school year. Find your sons’ teachers and introduce yourself to them. Let them know you and your son are looking forward to a good and productive year with them. It will be much easier to reconnect with them whenever necessary if your first encounter is a pleasant one.

Go to the PTA Meetings: Put the year’s PTA schedule in your calendar. Go to as many meetings as you can. Even if you are sure at this point that you can’t make any of the meetings, keep them in your calendar system so you will be reminded to attend if your schedule clears. These meetings are a very important way to stay connected to your school community.

Find a Parent Buddy: If your work schedule prohibits you from spending a lot of time at your son’s school, befriend a mom (or dad) of one of your son’s classmates who can spend more time there, and ask her to keep you in the loop about what is going on in the classroom and at the PTA meetings. Take her out for coffee or drinks every so often to catch up.

What Will He Be Learning This Year?: Regardless of how senior a student you have, it is a good idea to take the time to understand what subjects he is studying and what the syllabi include. Here’s something you might not have thought about doing: Pick up copies of the required reading for his English class and read what he is reading. Talking with your younger sons about what they are reading will help you assess their comprehension levels, and your interest and enthusiasm may help them enjoy the book more. Chatting about great works with your older sons will give you a sense of how they are developing their critical thinking, and may bring back fond memories of your classroom days. It takes time, for sure, but it is time well spent.

Here’s to a great start for the school year!!

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