Reader Question: Switching Private Elementary Schools- How Do I Deal With Negative Teacher Report Card?

Reader Question: I’m trying to change schools (from private to private). What about the child who gets an “improvement required” on classroom behavior? My daughter will be going into the 3rd grade, and although she is currently in a private school, the teacher has extremely poor classroom management skills, and any child who has any energy, or gets bored with the “routine” gets this comment. How do I mitigate this comment during the interviews as I apply to other private schools for 2012-13?

Anne Simon’s Answer: If the comments are on the written report card and the schools you are applying to read the complete report, you will have to hit the issue head on in the interview and answer any questions honestly. It will be important to try to find another teacher who understands your child’s learning style and ask him/her to write a recommendation letter to accompany the transcript. It might be an art teacher, a P.E. or music teacher. I believe that admissions directors can read a lot between the lines and might be perceptive enough to see the teacher’s anxiety showing through. Don’t assume that they will read every teacher comment. If they ask, tell them your honest experience and try to get someone to validate your perception, perhaps in a note. It is a tough one, but moving a child at this point is usually accompanied by some kind of dissatisfaction (if it is not about a family move) and admissions directors are familiar with these situations.

Good luck!

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On The Scene! Eileen Horowitz: From Head Of School To Life Coach/Parent Partner

Eileen Horowitz Specializes In The L.A. Private Secondary School Admissions Process

1. First, congratulations on your retirement as Head of School at Temple Israel of Hollywood! As an aside, my son and I did the “mommy and me” at Temple Israel and loved it! You’ve had a long and distinguished career as an elementary school educator. Can you tell us a few of your most personally meaningful career highlights?

I began my elementary teaching career in rural New Jersey as a Title I teacher. We made home visits so we could learn as much about each student before they even stepped into our classroom. I took this holistic approach to teaching at both the Center for Early Education, where I taught for 10 years, and started their very successful after school program, Lullaby of Broadway and at Adat Ari El, where I taught and was a part time administrator for 6 years. When I began at Temple Israel (TIOH) in 1995, I was able to encourage and mentor my teaching staff to embrace this philosophy. The reputation of the school grew as did our numbers; from 82 students to 215 when I retired. I have always believed that children, who are encouraged to take risks in a safe and loving environment, have a better chance of maximizing their potential. Helping to create that kind of school was very meaningful. At TIOH, not only did the students flourish, but the staff did too. Today several former teachers are administrators themselves! Mentoring for both the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, has allowed me to touch the future, and for me that is what teaching is all about!

2. You’ve opened a new chapter in your career as an education consultant and life coach. Why did you decide to focus on families who are making the transition from elementary to middle school?

During my early years at Temple Israel, as the Head of School, one of my important roles was to help children matriculate to the best private and public schools in LA. Working with families, helping them make decisions about schools based on who their child was at that moment, and what their hopes and dreams were for the future, was meaningful work. In my fourteen years, all of our students were well placed! It is a legacy of which I am very proud. When I retired, several families from the school approached me to see if I would consult with them, the way I had done for more than a decade at TIOH. It seemed logical to me to continue this aspect of my work because I loved this part of the process. So “Leen On Me” was originally started to help the families in the TIOH community. Now my clients come from several elementary schools around the city and valley.

3. What advice do you have for families who apply to their school (s) of choice and learn that their child hasn’t been admitted?

Very often the parents or child’s school of choice is not the right match for the child. The family applies for many reasons; including at times, an unrealistic view of which school can best meet their child’s needs. If parents are honest with themselves and approach each school with openness, usually the right school becomes apparent. As a Jewish educator of strong faith, I am of the belief that the students end up where they are supposed to be! It is difficult to have parents who are in the process accept this credo. Yet, my experience has proven time and again that this is the way it works.

4. Why do you think the private school admissions process in L.A. is so competitive and stressful for parents (and possibly admissions directors, too!)

We are living in a highly competitive world, where this generation of parents has the reputation of achieving in all their endeavors.  They themselves have had great educational opportunities and expect the same for their offspring. A lot of the pressure is self-imposed. Most parents approach this process very seriously. They do their homework and become very informed about the schools even before they visit. The tours can be overwhelming. When a parent sees the “competition” on all of the same tours they are right to wonder, “How is my child going to get in?” The volume of applicants versus the number of spots is daunting. At every soccer game, birthday party and school event, all these parents can talk about is the process. It seems as though there is nothing else on their minds. And of course, this stress filters down to their children!

 5.  What services can a family expect if they hire you as a consultant to guide them through the middle school admissions process?
I see my role as literally someone they can “Leen On.” This stressful, transitional time of life for the family brings up many issues and often they need someone who can help them gain perspective. By discussing all the options, helping them see their child through the eyes of the potential admissions committee,  making a plan of action and holding them to deadlines, parents begin to feel supported during the process. This helps relieve some of the anxiety and frenzy in which they are caught up.  Sometimes the parents have a single session with me at my office or over the phone.  I have yet to use SKYPE, but that would empower me to be face to face with a client, which is always my preference. My fee is $150.00 an hour, regardless of how many sessions a particular family needs. I also offer a mock interview with the child, which helps relieve some of their anxiety in approaching this new expectation. Seriously, how old were you when you went on your first interview? Some students need practice before they do anything, so I give them this experience before it really counts. My clients have found this piece to be very helpful too.

6. What is the single biggest mistake families make when applying to middle school?

The single biggest mistake is not being honest on the application. If your child has a learning style that is unique, has had intervention, an Individualized Education Plan, or such, it is imperative to put that information on the application. By doing so, the school knows that these are honest, involved parents, who are going to be partners in helping the student. The school can then assess if they can meet the child’s needs. This helps the child be accepted to the school that is the right match. There is an injustice to the child when parents apply to schools that are clearly inappropriate. Our goal is to have acceptance letters come March, not rejections.

7.  What do families do correctly that helps their child get into middle school?
This doesn’t start in September of sixth grade. What they have done up until now counts the most. Have they been attentive, supportive parents who have made their child their priority? Have they spent time to love, nurture and appreciate them for who they are? Have they exposed their child to their own passion, to help model how good it feels to love what you do? Have they cultivated a kind, caring human being who knows what their gifts are and how they can use those gifts to make the world a better place? If so, then their children will shine in an interview because they are poised, articulate, confident and ready to take on a new challenge. 

8. The million dollar question: If your child attends one of the most sought after private secondary schools in L.A, does that ensure they will be accepted to a top 25 college or university? If not, why not?

This question goes against my philosophy! All we really know for sure is what secondary school accepts them. A 12 year old has a lot of growing and learning to do before they turn 17 and need to begin to explore colleges. If we can help families stay focused on the here and now, their children will benefit. When we are caught up with what comes next, we miss out on the beauty of the moment. I let parents know that 6th grade is an exciting year for all students, with  many richly based curriculum projects and activities, and in most elementary school, a year to hone leadership skills and cement friendships.  It is a shame to miss out by worrying so much about what comes next that you miss what is going on now. This is an important life lesson for us all and one that I hope I can help more parents appreciate and support.
Thank you, Eileen! We appreciate your time and expertise. 

Contact Information: 

LEEN on Me

EiLEEN Horowitz
Life Coach/Parent Partner

Reader Question: What If My Child Has A Complete Meltdown During Visiting Day At L.A. Private Elementary Schools?

Here’s a question that was posted in the “comments” section from one of our readers:

Question: Hello: It’s been great reading your blog in preparation for three parent interviews and three school “playdates” in the coming week. As I try not to obsess, I do have a real concern: although my daughter is joyfully happy at her preschool and no longer has ANY problems separating from us, she is STILL a very cautious (or sometimes called SHY) in new situations and the mere mention of visiting a school has her yelling “no!” 

I am sure these schools are used to some kids acclimating quicker than others, but what if your child simply refuses to separate? Or has a complete meltdown in the process? My preschool will attest to what a great kid she is to have at their school, and how it’s not an issue any more, but what if they don’t see that at the visit? Do schools really judge your child on this ONE day?

Sincerely, Anonymous and Nerve-wracked and hoping to get through the week without a stroke, (and thankful for any words of wisdom).

Answer: Hi Anon, thanks for reading the blog! In my experience taking my daughter on visiting days or “playdates,” I found that all of the schools were very skilled in helping kidsseparate from their parents. My co-author, Porcha Dodson, did admissions testing at CurtisSchool and often tells parents that the people working with the kids on these “playdates” areteachers and administrators who are very used to dealing patiently and kindly with youngkids in a new environment. If your daughter is hesitant, they will most likely gently encourage her and make it fun for her. If she truly refuses to separate from you, the schoolmay offer you another chance to come back on a different day. Overall, I think the schools do a wonderful job making the kids feel as comfortable as possible. Hopefully, your daughter will be excited about the opportunity to see a K class and potential new classmates and fun things to do! I told my daughter (who was very shy) that she’d be going to see real K classes and teachers and do a bunch of K projects. She loved it and had no trouble on these “playdates.”

Anne Simon, Beyond The Brochure co-author, advises that you talk to your daughter and reassure her that she will be fine during the “playdate.” And, you may need to stay close if the school tries to separate you from your daughter for the observation i.e. right outside the door, etc. Anne adds, “I would tell her to use her judgement about talking with the Admissions Director about separation. If she thinks she can avoid a total meltdown by staying close, she may want to say something to the Admissions Director.” Hope that helps! 

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I’m guest blogging today at Mamapedia!

When Moms Verbally Attack Each Other We All Lose” – Mamapedia Voices

Competition among moms starts the minute we have our first child. Did you have a natural delivery or C-section? How much weight did you gain? Sometimes these questions are asked before the most important question of all: How are you and the baby doing?

The competition heats up when our babies reaches the infant stage. The topics available for moms to attack each other’s parenting choices are endless. Breast fed or formula fed? Cloth or plastic diapers? Homemade or store bought baby food? Organic fabrics or synthetics?

I’ll never forget sitting in the park when my daughter was about a month old. Feeding her a bottle, talking to a friend, a mom we didn’t know approached us. She interrupted our conversation to inform me that I was holding the bottle wrong and my baby might be taking in too much air. I calmly asked if she was a doctor. Of course she wasn’t. She was just a know-it-all-mom looking to put down a new mom. I ignored her and kept talking, confident my daughter would survive.

It’s a mystery to me why moms compete with each other endlessly, openly criticizing other moms—friends and strangers alike—over parenting decisions big and small. It’s mean and hurtful. It’s all about the “right” choices or the “best” way to parent. Of course, the “right” way is always the method used by the mom dispensing the advice. I’ve never heard someone say, “I learned the hard way, my obsession with designer baby clothes drained our family budget and didn’t really make a difference.” It just doesn’t happen that way.

Click here to view the full article on Mamapedia

Inspired Learning: The Waverly School Garden

“We grew a “pizza sauce” garden of tomatoes, onions and oregano, made some sauce, and threw a party at the farm where we grilled up a lot of pizza. Everyone liked that, so the next year we grew a sauce garden again, and made the cheese for our pizza in the classroom. A parent joked, “How come you didn’t grow the crust?” –Barbara Ayers, Waverly School parent who oversees the school’s garden.

To read more about how the Waverly School garden came to life, read Barbara Ayer’s blog piece. She oversees the school’s garden. For more about the Waverly School in Pasadena, click HERE.

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