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As EDWorks’ Manager of Partnership Development I have the pleasure of visiting schools across the US and watching them transform from industrial age “workhouses” to 21st century centers of learning and innovation.  However, my most important job is being a mom.  I have three sons ages 17, 15 and 10 and I want them to be to grow up to be happy, healthy and hardworking.  Schools and society want my kids to be “college and career ready.”
This is a letter to the teachers and leaders who work with my sons every day.  It is also “how to” guide for ensuring every child is college and career ready.  By using this guide as the foundation for everything that happens in school, all children will become college and career ready.
Dear Teachers and School Leaders:
I am giving you my three most precious gifts and I expect you to treat them with care. Some days they are amazingly sweet and caring. Other days, they are grumpy old men. But please know I am not hiding the good kids at home. Every day I send you the best children I can raise. I send them to you because I believe you can help me mold them into happy, healthy, caring and hardworking adults. Some days this is extremely easy and other days it seems impossibly hard.
If you follow this guide you will help my sons grow up to be good men.

  1. Treat my children as if they were your own. Think before you speak. Please remember every word you say to them in anger will be remembered far longer than the words you say to them in praise. Never forget that sometimes my kids think bad attention is better than no attention at all. The more often you praise them, the more often they will behave in ways which encourage more praise. Are you a little frustrated with my son? Refer to #2.
  2. Connect learning to what jazzes my kids. While all of these boys grew up in my house, they are very different (personally and academically). Joe is much more artistic and loves to argue. Andy thinks social studies is awesome but math, not so much. JP loves to tinker and work with his hands but thinks reading is pretty boring. The more you connect learning to what my kids like, the faster they will learn it – AND remember it. Over a year later, JP can still explain the differences among tension, torsion and compression because he experimented with materials to figure it out himself and then worked with others to build bridges. Not sure how to do this? Refer to #3.
  3. While they may grumble and moan, my children will work harder than you ever imagined if you truly believe they can do it AND you make it relevant to their lives. If you give some kids the easy way out and make others work hard, my kids will call you on it – and choose the easy way out. If you make sure my kids understand the “why” they are much better able to do the “what.” If your words and actions lift my kids up, you can set the bar very high and they will accept the challenge. If you say they can do it, but don’t give them the support they need to be successful, or your actions show you really don’t think my kids are as good as others, they will live up to your low expectations. Need help doing this? – refer to #4.
  4. Learn my children’s strengths and use those strengths to help my child learn. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and I am OK with that. As I watch them grow I see so many traits from their father and me. Sometimes they get the “good stuff” and other times, not so much. I ask you to teach my kids as individuals. When Joe is arguing with you, he is showing you he can advocate for himself and others. He can also solve problems. When Andy says he really doesn’t need to take notes. He is right. He learns much better by just listening. JP isn’t crazy about reading because he learns better by watching videos or demonstrations that show him how something is done. If you learn what makes them “tick” you are better able reach them and teach them. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t learn new skills and practice taking on challenges using a different part of their brain. If you think it’s hard to teach them because they are just like their parents, welcome to my world! Always remember, these are my children and I love them just as they are.  Is this a little overwhelming? – Refer to #5.
  5. Light their fires and never, ever, give up on my kids. Every one of my boys has the potential for greatness. As their teacher or school leader you have a chance every day to spark their fire or douse the flame. Every time you help them expand their understanding of the world and how they connect to it, you fan their fire. Every time they fail a test and you just move on, you dampen the flame. When my kids do something wrong, please help them learn from the experience so they do it right the time. Don’t hold it against them, even when they just don’t seem to be changing fast enough. Am I driving you crazy? Don’t hold it against my kids, instead – Refer to #1.

Yes, I know I am asking a lot.  But if you (and everyone else who interacts with my kids) follow this advice, my kids – and every other child will be college and career ready.
Thank you for helping my child grow up to be a healthy and hardworking adult.
Michele Timmons
(and Every Child’s Mom)
By Michele Timmons, Manager of Partnership Development and Technical Assistance Coach with EDWorks. Follow Michele on Twitter at @TimmonsMichele and EDWorks at @EDWorksPartners.