Star Jar, Peer-driven Reward System by Patey Yeh

Guest writer, Patey Yeh, has not only discovered a brilliant way to address the flaw in typical reward systems, she also has the generosity of spirit to share it with us! No matter how satisfied you are with the system you may already be using, I urge you to give this a read. It completely embodies the philosophy of teaching kindness first. All the best to everyone for a beautiful start to the new school year!


Ever since I was a little girl, I made these little origami stars. Several years ago, I can’t remember why, but I made one while in school, and one of my students at the time saw, and begged me for one. I let her have one and of course, as teachers, we all know that when we give one student something neat, 7 other students come within the hour, asking for the same thing. At that point, I decided to just encourage the class to behave, and if they did, I would give them each one. It was simple because it takes me about 20 seconds to make a star, and I used recycled paper so it never cost anything. It was perfect. The kids were on board for the reward system; they asked for it! Everyone brought a jar from home and each student made their own label, decorated it and put their name and “Star Jar” on it. It was lovely seeing the array of different jars lined up with their individual labels. Every day at the end of the day, we would take 15 minutes and hand out stars. I’d write their names on the stars and they’d put them in the jars daily.  They never got to take home their stars until the last day of school. It was special and fun for them, and I did this for several years…

The last year I did this reward system, I had a very strong willed student. Very type A, very controlling and very over-achieving. Quite manipulative of her peers, and after one incident where I threatened to have her lose her star for her behaviour, she had a massive melt-down. It shocked me. I think her need to control, or the fact that she wasn’t going to have what she believed was perfection was unacceptable for her. I went home reflecting upon what this reward system really represented. It was very clear to me that the message being sent with this reward system held the same faults that any other bribery based system held. It fundamentally does not work for more than a quick rectification of behaviour. It is not sustainable, nor is it truly what I want my students to learn from me, and the world. Yes, of course the world is run on fundamentals of bribery, but the most authentic motivators aren’t. What messages do I want to send in how I behave towards my students?

I took the summer to think about it. All I knew is that I needed to think of another way to do it. I was Ms. Yeh, and I was known for my stars. My students would tell their younger siblings about it. I didn’t want to get rid of my stars, but I needed something new. I think I dreamed this up this idea overnight (or in one of those thought driven nights where you work out issues you have been thinking of for a long time), and these were the basic guidelines:

-Students do not receive stars from the teacher.

-Stars can only be obtained from a peer who recognizes an exceptional behaviour in another.

That was basically it!

The 15 minutes before dismissal at the end of the day was a time for my 2nd graders to sit in a circle and reflect positively on the day. It was interesting at the beginning. Nominations came slow, and the kids weren’t used to noticing the positive behaviours of others. The negative they were programmed to point out…

Examples of nominations sounded like this:

“I nominate X, because he helped me up when I fell on the playground”

“I want to nominate X because she brought my lunch box back to class for me when I forgot”.

The deeper ones sounded like this:

“I know X has been working on X, and I saw that they did it during recess or class today!”

I would write their name on one side and try to squish in what they did on the other side of the star. Once in the jar, they could look back and think, OH, I got this one because of X… ☺

I have to say that doing this at the first day of school is FABULOUS, because you really set the tone about what kind of teacher you are. You recognize that the negative exists, but you send the message that the positive it what I’m looking out for. I’m dealing with the negative, but how do we change it to be positive? How do we show gratitude at the end of the day? The kids caught on very quickly as the days passed.

What you can suspect happened. There were the usual suspects of SUPER kind or popular kids who got nominated often, for simple things…”He picked up my ruler when it fell” etc. What soon happened was a clear disparity between those who had more stars that others. What I observed within the first week was that all students tried their best to behave in a kind way towards their peers. It was really lovely to watch and it was ultra positive in the class, right from the beginning. The kids left the class GRATEFUL. It’s a good feeling to leave school with.

My favorite thing came up several weeks later, with a student who was struggling with maturity. He didn’t bother to learn names of peers, didn’t work well with others. Very self-focused. He didn’t have any siblings and that unfortunately never gave him to a lot of opportunity or need to share. The students in the class did not really like him, and he was the one that I got complains about and who had conflicts with many others in the class. Of course, he came to me in tears.

I took the opportunity to have a class discussion. It was great. He wasn’t the only one that was being nominated less. I drew attention, NOT towards those not nominating (no blame here), but everyone towards themselves and WHAT they could each do to help those who were struggling. How do we rectify this injustice? I told them that we were like a family. Sometimes we don’t always like each other, but we are together and we want to make it work. NOTE, this links directly to my policy on tattling: It does not exist in my class. If, for example, my brother happened to get himself into trouble, the first thing I would do would NOT be to run to my parents or to the police to get him arrested. If I care about him, which I do, I would do everything I could to help him directly. THIS is what I remind my students of in the class. We ARE a community. We might not like everyone, but we do what we can to build each other up.

SO we discussed with this little boy, his behaviour. We gently discussed with him what we saw, but also what we would like to see. I helped the class encourage just ONE change in him every week (eg: sharing the soccer ball this week). I also strongly encouraged the class to open their eyes to the possibility that he could do something good, because we could all see he wanted to. EVERY SINGLE student had a job to look out for. It was the responsibility of our community to help him.

The weeks following was a beautiful blossoming to mutual nominations and happy children who reflected on how their behaviour affected others. I loved when this little boy, grateful for his first nomination, nominated his nominator right back the second he got it. I let him give it, even though it doesn’t usually qualify for a star. He was just so happy, I couldn’t deny him his gratitude. Every week, we made a new social goal for this boy, until he didn’t need us to anymore. He blossomed and made friends. I have to say it was my best teaching year…classroom management was a pleasure, and it was so positive in the class.

As the year progressed, I encouraged nominations at deeper levels. “She picked up my ruler for me” didn’t cut it anymore. I was looking for deeper stuff. I was looking for individual growth. I saw a lot of competition and I hated seeing a student compare reading levels, for example, when I had a class full of ELL students. One thing might be huge growth for one student, but easy for another. They could handle more, and most importantly, kids can UNDERSTAND more. I explained to them the injustice of comparing grades or levels. They understood because it involved their daily lives. They took it on. I am still so proud of them.

Only other guidelines I’d say I used were:

I didn’t want to see the same people nominating their best friends. It had to be real. I would take the liberty of veto-ing nominations that were meaningless.

Special nominations were given by me, ONLY if I saw some special things that the students did, that no one else noticed. Stuff I felt important to acknowledge. It didn’t happen often, but at times I really wanted the class to recognize with me. I sometimes would encourage a student to nominate for me, but sometimes you just need to give one particular kid something special.

The only other rule I had was that a student could only be nominated once for something they did.

I definitely saw shifts in behaviour, in self-reflection and in an understanding that the classroom is a community, much like a family. We are in this together and we look out for one another. With that said, I encourage you all to use whatever you feel you want to, and tweak it in a way that will best suit you and your class.


It fills my heart with joy to have seen how many teachers have been interested in this. I’ve never felt so popular! I believe it’s time for something different than the same old reward systems, and I’m so glad that some of you might think about doing this for this new coming year. I hope the consequences of this positivity reverberates exponentially beyond me taking this time to write these words. This is truly what I love most about teaching.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, and enjoy it! If you do use this method, please send me feedback! I’d love to hear from you! I send you all my love and positive wishes.

Much gratitude for the opportunity, and feel free to share this with others!


Let’s Celebrate! Ebook Free!

I am thrilled to announce that the digital version of Teach Kindness First is complete! Woohoo!!! In celebration of this accomplishment, I am making it free to download for a limited time. The mission of this book is to bring more kindness into our daily lives and what better way to achieve that goal than to offer it for free… Please follow this link and get your free copy – offer available today until Saturday July 22. Please share this link with your friends and family, your Facebook groups, Instagram…You name it! Tag me if you can so that I can witness the journey. =)

It’s Kind to Be Firm

When we fail to teach our children a healthy dose of fear, we disable them.

Many times when I share my tough love approach, the parent with whom I am speaking will reply, “But he’s only five!” I get it. The society in which we live defines childhood as a time to be young and free. And to a certain extent, that is how it should be. However the protection of a child’s innocence can sadly and ironically come at the cost of his safety.

It is Kind to be Firm

I still remember clear as day the first time Yasmine refused to hold my hand in the grocery store parking lot. She was two years old and as feisty as feisty gets. Here’s the thing. There are some battles with our children that we need not fight. We can compromise and bend and adapt and…the list goes on. There are some things however that are non-negotiable. The battle that ensued, I mean dialogue, went something like this:

“Give Mommy your hand,” I said sweetly.

“No!!!!” she asserted as she yanked her hand out of mine.

I did not hesitate to grab her firmly by the arm as she started to take off ahead of me. Of course she cried out as if I was hurting her, compelling strangers in the near vicinity to turn and stare.

“I don’t care how loud you cry, Yasmine. It’s my job to keep you safe,” I said, pretending to not care about what others might be thinking of my firm hold on her.

“You’re hurting my arm!” she continued in a loud voice that I knew had the capacity to catch everyone’s attention in a five-mile radius.

“You should be holding my hand like a good listener. I promise you it hurts a lot more to get hit by a car. It’s not you I don’t trust Yasmine. I don’t trust the cars to be able to see you and to be careful around you. I give you lots of choices, all the time, but holding Mommy’s hand in the parking lot is not a choice,” I replied in a firm, confident voice. Of course, my ego was screaming at me to worry about what people around me were thinking. Instead of focussing on the feeling of embarrassment caused by my child’s behavior, I forced myself to be courageous enough to follow through on my beliefs, all the while hoping that perhaps I would inspire other parents to be just as openly firm with their own children. The turning point for me came when I decided to challenge the common belief that our children’s behavior is uniquely a reflection of our parenting skills. It is not. Children will challenge us. They will test the boundaries and often they will do so in the least opportune of places. Too often I see parents put their pride of worrying about what others are thinking first. I get it. But seriously people, this madness has to stop.

She resisted some more, as most toddlers do, but like I said before, there are some battles you simply must not lose. The choice to hold my  ground highlights the deepest and truest meaning of kindness. It is the utmost form of kindness to protect my child from the possibility of getting hit by a car. Therefore, as I insisted on the behavior I expected from her, I was sure to let her know that my love for her was my motivation for being so firm.

“Let go!” she cried.

“Are you ready to hold my hand like the good listener you usually are? When you are ready to make the right choice and hold my hand I will be able to let go of your arm. I love you too much to risk seeing you get hurt.”

Needless to say, this went on until we made it to the entrance of the store at which point we had graduated to a new problem. There was no way I was about to put up with her defying me the entire time we shopped, nor was there anyway I was about to use bribery to get her to listen. Instead, I used empathy and natural consequences as a way to persuade her to cooperate.

“Yasmine, you have a choice to make right now because I am done struggling with you. You have never acted like this before and you are certainly not going to start now. We need food for lunch and supper. This is work that Mommy needs to do for the family and I need your help. I know you know how to be a good helper. I have already planned for us to do some fun things this afternoon like playing with playdough and doing puzzles, but do you think I’m going to feel like playing and being kind with you when you can’t be kind with me?”

The mention of her favorite games caught her attention.

“How the rest of the day will go is in your control right now. We can have a good day or a bad day. Cooperate by sitting in the cart and by helping me to get some yummy food for home and we will get to have a good day. If you cannot be kind and cooperate, we are going to go home and you will sit alone in your room for a long time (keep in mind 10 minutes feels like an eternity to a toddler). I will not want to play with you because I will be too upset about your behavior.”

This form of clear communication works better than you might think. She did as was expected of her and I followed through on playing fun games with her after lunch. Do not mistake that for bribery or manipulation. There is a fine line between bribery and natural consequences, but it is essential we understand the difference if we are to effectively teach through kindness and empathy.

It is the utmost form of kindness to teach our children limits. It is also kind to model natural emotional reactions for our kids. When I explained to Yasmine that I would not feel like playing with her later, that would be true of most people, including our friends. In this way, I am teaching her that when you upset somebody, their feelings are hurt and they may not want to spend time with you. This is not the same as denying love to your child. It all comes down to your approach. If Yasmine had chosen to defy me rather than cooperate, I would have sternly marched her back to the car, returned home in a stony silence and plucked her down in her room. She would have stayed there until she was ready to apologize for the way she had acted. I would have checked in with her every couple of minutes, since she was quite young after all, but the scenario would only draw to an end once she finally gave in and sincerely apologized. (Yes, toddlers know the difference between real and fake apologies.) We would then have devised a plan for how she must behave in the future. She would have had to say in her own words that she was going to listen and be helpful. The act of explaining the plan herself would allow her to feel ownership of it, thereby making her feel like she was in control of the situation, which is all any toddler ever really wants, right?

Now, you may be thinking that’s a serious amount of effort to get your child to simply hold your hand in a parking lot. Is it really worth it? It was a couple of years later when I heard the tragic news that a young girl had lost her life when she was hit by a car in a parking lot not far from where we live. She had slipped away from her mother. I was not there. Please do not misunderstand me. I make no assumptions as to how this tragedy played itself out. Horrible, terrible, unthinkable accidents happen all the time. I speak from my own painful memories when I say: it is easy to say to ourselves, “It won’t ever happen to me,” or “Relax, let’s not over-react.” Call me paranoid, but it when it comes to the scary stuff we need to protect our kids from, a healthy dose of fear can mean the difference between life and death. The courage to discipline my child in front of strangers came from me saying to myself, “I much prefer to see my child ‘suffer’ in the safety of her bedroom than risk losing her forever.” So much in life is a mystery and completely out of our control. That precious child who lost her life at the tender age of three may have completed her soul’s mission. Perhaps it was meant to be. As I said, I withhold all judgement and I pray that her mother has found peace.

When Yasmine and I returned from the grocery store that day, I congratulated her on making the right decision. I was proud of her for using her brain to understand what was best. And I explained to her that parking lots can very dangerous. Getting hit by a car means she may stop breathing, and if she stops breathing, she may never see Mommy or Daddy again. That is an honesty that our children need to hear. A healthy dose of fear can keep our babies safe. Let’s stop being so scared of what others will think of us, and start being more scared of the possible consequences of inaction. Nobody ever wants to think the worst, but prevention and awareness are our greatest tools for keeping the worst at bay.

In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.

– Thomas Jefferson

Photo credit for Safety Pins goes to Emilian Robert Vicol on

A Healthier Version of Normal

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” – Isaac Asimov


Since none of us can truthfully claim that we never make assumptions, it’s time to replace this inaccurate ideology with a more appropriate one. I propose the following:


“Always question assumptions that give you a dramatic emotional response.”


It is when our assumptions create noise in our heads that we need to pay attention. When a situation brings about a strong emotion, than empathy and kindness need to be called upon for assistance before we can trust our interpretation. Too often, we can feel so sure of our judgement of a situation and act on our beliefs without fully entertaining other possibilities. We may think that we are helping by coming to someone’s defense, but if we have not properly questioning the other side of the story, we may be doing more than harm than good.


Consider the following common scenario. A child, let’s call him Trenton, comes running up to you. “William said I’m mean!” he cries. He is clearly agitated and hurt by the unkind words spoken about him. I cannot begin to count the number of times I have dealt with this type of accusation. A typical, familiar response might be, “You go tell William he hurt your feelings,” or “William, that’s not nice! You need to apologize.” While these types of responses are well-intentioned, they do very little in terms of helping Trenton to understand what’s actually going on inside of him. To truly help Trenton and to turn this into a learning experience, we need him to question his reaction by speaking to his heart as well as his mind. We must help him to see that he has just made an assumption and that in order for William’s accusation to be so upsetting, a part of Trenton had to actually agree with William.


Let’s back up to when Trenton comes running over upset about William calling him mean. Here is an example of how I might respond.


“Why would William say that about you, Trenton?” I’ll ask him in a neutral voice.


“He says I pushed him to the ground, but I didn’t! I was running and I bumped into him.”


“So William assumed you knocked him over on purpose, but you want him to understand that it was an accident?”


“Ya, but now he thinks I’m mean!”


“Is he right?”


“No. It’s not fair that he said that, it’s not true.”


“How did you react, Trenton? Were you calm and did you kindly apologize right away? Or did you get angry and defensive when he accused you of being mean?”


“…I got angry, but only because it wasn’t true!”


“Do you want me to let you in on a little secret, Trenton? The only person who ever really needs to know the truth, is you. When you know the truth, you do not need to get upset at all. Since you know what really happened, you can stay calm and apologize wholeheartedly. I know it doesn’t feel fair that he accused you, but by you getting angry in return, it makes it seem like you have something to hide and that you aren’t telling the truth. Accidents are going to happen. When people see you staying calm and sincerely apologizing, then it is easier for them to see the truth.”


There is a pause as Trenton digests this information, and then he asks, “But what do I do now? He already thinks I’m mean.”


“Is it true?”




“So prove it. Your actions speak louder than words, Trenton. Say sorry to him like you really mean it. That ought to be enough for him to see that you were not trying to be mean. Haven’t you ever wrongly accused someone before? This is a chance for you to think twice about your own reaction the next time something like this happens to you. It’s also a chance for you to question if what other people say is true, especially when it’s unkind. We can’t control how someone else is going to treat us or react to us. We can only control how we respond to them. You have to admit that it is fair to expect someone could be upset when they suddenly get knocked to the ground.”


“Ya, I guess that’s true.”


“Okay, let’s go see William together to clear this up.”


As we approach William, it is clear he has been expecting us. As I address him, my goal is to disarm him. “Hey, William, are you alright?” I ask in a mildly concerned voice.


At this point, William has had time to realize that he overreacted and that it really was just an accident. Otherwise, Trenton would not have wasted his time going to get a teacher involved. “I’m fine,” William responds.


My next step is to model the generosity of spirit that I wish to inspire in both of them when future misunderstandings occur. “It seems Trenton really surprised you when he accidentally knocked you to the ground. Are you still angry about that or is it okay now?” Phrasing it this way gives William the opportunity to no longer be angry. The power of choice is huge and can be used to resolve countless conflicts. Otherwise, children may not even realize that they have the option to let go.


“It’s okay,” William replies.


“Did you know that Trenton feels really bad over what happened? He wants you to know he really wasn’t trying to be mean. Did he apologize to you?”


“Sort of.”


“Did you maybe get a little too upset with him?”




“Thank you for your honesty, William. Neither one of you meant for this to happen. You were both surprised and didn’t react in the best way. It happens. How about you both clearly and calmly say sorry to each other and we can put this behind us.”


I love watching the transformation on children’s faces as they realize the truth. The ability to empathize exists in all of us. We need only call attention to it and it will appear to serve us. The more we cultivate it, the more harmonious our daily interactions with others will be. We cannot help the fact that our ego is typically on the front lines, ready to defend us. It is the ego’s job after all to keep us safe. There comes a point however when we can catch our ego before it takes over and learn to be more generous and empathetic in any given situation.


Now, some of you may be thinking that I put an awful lot of thought and effort into something rather trivial. I beg to differ. Neglecting to take the time to give these boys tools to resolve a conflict in an empathetic and peaceful manner would be a missed opportunity. Conflict resolution courses are great, but nothing serves anyone better than real life experiences. It is when we are in the moment that we can bridge the gap between theory and reality.

Accusations are so easy to make and children are often quick to jump to conclusions. Could this be partly because they are mimicking the adults in their environment? If more adults could learn to address these types of situations in this spirit, I sincerely believe we would witness a dramatic decrease in bully type behaviors. We would create a new, healthier version of “normal” for our children.


If you know yourself, then you’ll not be harmed by what is said about you.

– Arabian Proverb

***Featured image of this article generously provided by 

Homework is Yours and Yours Alone

When did “parental homework support” become an essential element of a child’s education? From an empathetic standpoint, I can think of endless scenarios wherein expecting home support would be completely unreasonable. From illiterate parents, to those who work 12 hour days just to put a roof over their heads and food in the fridge, expecting parents to have the skills and time required to help their child with their school work can be a totally unfair expectation and can actually set a child up for failure.


It is not uncommon to hear exasperated parents expressing their frustrations. “When I was a kid, I did my homework by myself. Nowadays we’re expected to sit with our child every night. Half the time I don’t even know how to help! It’s so different from when we were in school.”


On the flip side, I doubt if I could find a single teacher who has never lived through the frustration of giving an assignment, only to wind up chasing after the student to get it done, or worse, realizing that it was done by the parent. When something is broken we either fix it or we throw it out. Some schools have been doing away with homework in light of all the problems it can create. That solution is deeply flawed. It is paramount to throwing the baby out with the bath water. We need to change how and what we do by holding on to the essential and trimming away the superfluous. Less is more.


Am I saying therefore that we need to stop expecting parents to help their kids with their homework, you ask? Yes. That is exactly what I am saying. Stop expecting it. Set your students up for success by only giving them work that they ought to be able to complete on their own at home. Essentially, this means that homework should be about practicing skills that have already been appropriately taught in school or studying material that has already been properly introduced. Resources must be provided that supply support and explicit explanations. (Ideally, these would be web-based, but a hard copy must be provided to all students who do not have Internet access.) If students unwittingly go home practicing the wrong thing, there is more damage than good being done. And teachers, please realize that if the majority of your students need a tutor in order to understand their homework, there is definitely a problem, and it isn’t the students. You can give work that requires support if you know a child has the support available to her, but otherwise, you need to be the one offering alternative resources. Again, if most of the kids need help, then it probably shouldn’t be homework.

Teachers, we must focus and insist on quality over quantity. We do not serve our students when we send them home feeling stressed about the work they need to get done for school the next day. And please do not tell me that your hands are tied because of curriculum demands. It’s time that policy makers start seeing real test results, not the results of what we have managed to jam down the throats of our students. Let’s get back to being teachers. The power of our unity will speak volumes when together we start putting the child first. Positive social change begins with us, the real people on the front lines. I can guarantee you this: kids who have time to consolidate their knowledge come back to school the next day ready to give it their all.


Does this mean parents should just throw in the towel on assisting their kids, even if they are struggling? Not at all. Parents have every right to set their own expectations for their children. They get to establish after-school routines that suit their family, and by all means, they can be as involved in the homework process as they would like to be. (Teachers, if you do not want parents doing your students’ projects, than don’t send projects home. Have them done in class. If there is no time to complete them in class, maybe they are not an essential element of the curriculum to begin with, or maybe something else needs to be done away with.)


Ideally, every parent would check in with their kids regularly to see how they are doing and if they can offer any assistance to their child. It may sound like I am contradicting myself, but I assure you, I am not. Listen carefully: parents ought to be free to set their own expectations for their children (this may even include additional homework of their choosing); as a teacher, I cannot, and should not, be trying to control what goes on outside of my classroom. I am happy to make suggestions and provide support, but it is not up to me to to be trying to monitor what goes on in each student’s home. That is an unfair expectation, and ultimately can result in stress and frustration for the students, parents and teachers alike.


Here’s the thing. The phrase “lack of at home support” is actually a form of pity and therefore it serves no one. It tells a child, “Maybe if your parents did a better job at caring for you, you wouldn’t be having such a hard time.” That kind of message, no matter how hidden it may be, does not go unheard, and it can only cause damage.


My approach to homework acknowledges the various realities with which children are faced (which is what empathy truly looks like), and empowers them. They learn from me that, “Your homework is yours and yours alone. You are responsible for it. How much time you spend studying and practicing your skills will be obvious in how you perform in class. You do not get to blame your parents if you did not take time for your homework. You know how to think for yourself. Nobody knows better than you exactly what you need to get done, and you are old enough to choose to do your work.”


By the way, none of the homework I give is ever graded, not directly anyways. Of course, I collect stencils, do spot-checks, and verify the websites that I use with them which track each student’s progress (guaranteeing that they are only ever reinforcing the right behaviors). No two kids need to study or practice anything the exact same way for the exact same period of time. I know whether or not my students are working hard enough at home based on their contributions to class discussions, and their performance on quizzes and tests. That is more than enough to hold them accountable.


Independence and responsibility are two things that seem to be lacking in children today. Well, who’s fault is that? If we keep robbing children of opportunities to develop these skills, how can we fault them when they fail to meet to our expectations? We need to recognize the role we have been playing and make the necessary adjustments.


Here’s the bottom line: Teachers, stop worrying about home support and stop expecting it. Instead, let’s focus on fostering a sense of pride and independence within each student. Children are so much more resilient than we give them credit for. As researcher Brené Brown said, “We are wired for struggle”. Those who (seem to) lack support at home do not need our pity, they need to be shown their own strength. Only part of their journey has been chosen for them by the parents to whom they were born, the rest is up to them.


No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from. Fill your lives with love and bravery. And you shall lead a life uncommon.  – Jewel


postscript: Many schools have introduced the flipped classroom approach which is pure brilliance if all your students have access to the Internet either at home in an after-school program. Essentially, their homework is to view a video of the next day’s lesson. The video is either prerecorded by the teacher or provided by various excellent websites who have committed themselves to this endeavor. There are numerous benefits to this approach such as: students can pause, rewind, and view the video as often as necessary, children have the opportunity to discuss the material with their peers before bringing their questions to the teacher, the teacher no longer needs to ‘lecture’ and can focus his attention on supporting his students’ comprehension, and the work is done in class where the teacher is present to offer support. It’s genius. Understandably, there are socioeconomic factors which can prevent schools from going this route for now, but the future holds infinite possibilities for finding solutions to this aspect of the dilemma.

Start as You Mean to Go

Since before my children were born, I have always known what kind of relationship I wanted to have with them. I have always dreamed of a day when my children would be grown and we would speak to one another as equals, as friends. I have this image of us sitting at a cozy table in a trendy café, chatting easily with one another about anything and everything. What’s more is that I have been sharing this image with them for as long as I can remember.


“Perhaps we’re in the Old Port of Montreal…or maybe we’re on Dobson Street in Vancouver…” I’ll suggest. Now that they’re older, they like to make suggestions of their own and they’ll name cities and countries from around the globe. It has become our dream.


Why did I choose to tell them about this dream from the time they were little? I believe that in sharing my dream of our beautiful, loving, lifelong relationship, I am setting up the conditions under which it may flourish and become a reality. I tell them that as much as I love being their mother, it isn’t easy having to make difficult decisions. It is never my wish to disappoint them. But right now, it is my job to be their parent, not their friend. But one day…one magnificent, glorious day…though I will always be their mother and I will always want to look out for them…they will be adults and we can have a friendship wherein I respect their choices and offer advice only if it is requested.
I don’t pretend to know that this dream will come true. I am well placed to know that life can throw all kinds of twists and turns at us. What I know for certain though is that I stand a much better chance at achieving this dream if I consciously work at it in the present moment. Rare are the dreams that come true just by chance.