What Parents Can Learn From Teachers

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five educators share their insights into how kids learn and how parents can help

by laura zingmond and helen zelon

two years ago the blackboard awards, invited a panel of new york city teachers to a roundtable conversation starting with the basics: how parents can support their children as they learn. together, these educators have nearly 80 years of in-the-trenches classroom experience. we are grateful they've shared their thoughts with us.

what makes a child teachable?

lynn bernstein: two things: curiosity and the ability to tolerate frustration.

nancy arcieri: i think every kid is teachable if the teacher creates the environment that's needed.

jon goldman: i agree absolutely; it's a given: water is wet, the sky is blue, kids are going to learn. how and what they learn is up to the environment and the people they are exposed to.

david lebson: i believe that a child's education rests on a tripod of teacher, child and parent. if any one of those legs is missing, it's going to be a challenge. if two are gone, the kid's not going to succeed.

what do you say to parents who worry that their child hates to read?

caroline gaynor: i don't believe that a child can hate to read. where it breaks down is that the right book has not been put into that child's hand. the most important thing is putting your child on your lap and making reading an everyday part of your life.

homework's an issue from the early grades up. what should parents understand about it? how much should they get involved?

caroline gaynor: homework is an indicator for the teacher. did the teacher teach what she had to teach today? did the children understand it, or does she need to re-teach it? if a child is having so much difficulty, spending hours with her homework, just send a note in to the teacher.

jon goldman: it's always reasonable for a child to ask, "why am i doing this?"

david lebson: it's absolutely reasonable for a parent to ask why. parents should also understand there's a difference between, "can you help me understand why this is important?" and "why is my daughter doing this crap?"

the educators:

nancy arcieri is a faculty member and vice principal at de la salle academy.

lynn bernstein came to teaching via the new york city teaching fellows program. since 2002, she has taught kindergarten and 1st grade in crown heights and park slope, brooklyn.

caroline gaynor teaches at the manhattan new school, p.s. 290, where she is the literacy coach and works with students and teachers across all grades.

jon goldman has taught english at beacon high school since it opened in 1993.

david lebson teaches middle school science at the school at columbia university.

transcript has been edited for length and style.

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