Monthly Archives: May 2011

GCP Interview with Dr. Pedro Noguera, Pt. II: How to Pick the Right Schools For Your Child

In Part II of GCP’s interview with Dr. Pedro Noguera, Professor of Teaching and Learning at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, GCP asked Dr. Noguera for suggestions to help parents identify the best educational settings for their sons from pre-school to college.

Pre-school

Dr. Noguera noted that parents often look for the most highly structured, regimented pre-school program for their son, because they feel it is critical for their boy to learn to follow rules.  He suggests instead that parents should carefully consider their son’s personality and think about who their child is when deciding where he should start his formal education.  Dr. Noguera firmly believes that an open and less structured early learning environment, like the one found in Montessori classrooms, can benefit a child and  “develop [his] intrinsic motivation to learn”, thus creating a life long learner.  When trying to determine whether an unstructured Montessori environment or a more structured environment would be better for your son, Dr. Noguera noted that, “as a general rule, if the home environment is less structured, more structure is needed in school.” He cautioned that unstructured home environments are found at all socio-economic levels, so it is important to be honest about your home environment.

Elementary School

GCP asked Dr. Noguera his opinion of the push to educate boys of color in single sex schools.  He expressed skepticism that single sex schools are the best solution in all cases.  He noted that “our society has a lot of confusion about masculinity,” which can result in single sex schools focusing on teaching the boys rules to follow to become men.  He believes that the better schools, both single sex and co-ed, “are taking a looser approach [and creating] a space for [boys] to be themselves.”

Middle and High School

When selecting a middle or high school for our boys, Dr. Noguera cautioned parents not to consider schools that did not offer a nurturing environment and a solid support system.  Once these threshold attributes are met, he believes that the most important factor parents should consider is the school’s track record.  Parents should ask where the Black and Latino male students have gone on to school after graduation.  In addition, parents should be sure that the school does not engage in tracking (separating students by perceived ability).  Lastly, parents should make certain that the school has a wide range of extra-curricular activities available.

College Readiness

Dr. Noguera suggested that Black and Latino parents needed to broaden our definition of success when it comes to our children.  He implored parents to help our sons (and daughters) discover their passions, reminding us that the happiest adults are those who can make a living doing what they love.  Dr. Noguera encouraged parents to consider having our sons take a gap year between high school and college, noting that “life is not a race,” and that there are many pathways to success.

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Filed under Experts, Guest Bloggers, Interviews, Parents, Resources

Resume Building and Job Hunting Advice for Your College Student

With the post college job market looking pretty weak these days, college students need all the help they can get to make themselves as marketable as possible.  GCP talked to two senior executives who regularly  hire college graduates and asked them what resume items resonate with employers.  Parents would be well advised to pass on this information to sons (and daughters) while they are still in college. While this advice is primarily geared to the college set, high schoolers could benefit from hearing this as well.  Here are some helpful tips:

1. G.P.A., G.P.A, G.P.A.:  This is the first thing employers look at on a resume.  A strong G.P.A. (3.5 and above)  gives a candidate a great advantage.   In some instances, employers won’t even consider candidates who don’t have these grades.  Students can bolster a weaker G.P.A. with strong extracurricular activities.  Note that even the student with the strongest G.P.A. should have extra curricular activities as well; employers are less interested in students who do nothing but study.

2. Seek Leadership Positions:  Students do well to choose extra curricular activities which demonstrate engagement and leadership, particularly in areas which reflect their areas of interest.  Not all leadership positions are created equal:  from an employer’s perspective, being Chair of the Social Committee of a fraternity is not as impressive as President of the Marketing Club.  (Not to say that  students shouldn’t seek and enjoy being Chair of the Social Committee, they should just know how it is perceived.)

3. Summer Work:  Students who manage to secure summer jobs in their areas of interest will have an edge.  If they can’t find a job in their area of interest, volunteering time with an organization that they are passionate about demonstrates a work ethic that impresses employers. Employers want to see real work experience.  Caution:  Spending all or part of a summer in a program abroad may be a wonderful life experience, but the student should not try to suggest (on the resume or in person) that it provided real work experience.  Employers see right through this.

4. Practice the Interview:  Students should practice their interview skills. They should enter the interview feeling and appearing self-confident.  They should have a firm handshake, look people in the eye and smile.  They should practice the interview ahead of time: they can google interview questions if they can’t think of enough on their own, and they should prepare their answers to standard questions (e.g., “What was your favorite course?”) well before the interview.

5. Interview Etiquette: Students should appreciate that they are in a formal setting during the interview and avoid lapsing into slang, regardless of how well the conversation is going or how comfortable they feel. They should use Mr. or Ms. to refer to the interviewer unless the interviewer indicates otherwise.  They should be conscious of taming their nervous habits during the interview.  They should sit up straight and keep their bodies still (no shaking or swinging their legs) so they will not distract employers from what they are saying.

6. Don’t Squander Connections:  Parents, if you are asking a friend to interview your child for a job, tell your child to prepare for this interview as if they were meeting with a stranger. Even your closest friends will be annoyed and disappointed if your child comes in ill prepared.

7. Thank you Notes: Students should write thank you notes after interviews.   They should reference something that occurred during the interview to remind the potential employer who they are (and show that they were paying attention).  Emailed thank you notes are fine, but it is critical that students double and then triple check the spelling and grammar of the note, however they decide to send it.

While some of this may seem elementary to us, it  may be news to our  children.  If you can pass this advice on to them while they are in school, it will put them more firmly on the path to find a great job once they’ve graduated. Today’s Wall Street Journal adds a few more tips on this subject in the article “Don’t Wear Flip-Flops to the Interview”, which you can find  here.

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Filed under Ages 16-18, College Bound Students, Resources

2011 Scholarships for Black Students

BlackStudents.com offers an extensive list of scholarships of interest to minority high school and/or college students. Some are specifically designed for minority applicants, others are open to the general public.  A list well worth checking out!  See the list here.

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Filed under Ages 16-18, College Bound Students, Resources

Dr. Pedro Noguera to Parents: Pay Attention, Stay Involved

Dr. Pedro Noguera is the Peter Agnew Professor of Teaching and Learning at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development.  Dr. Noguera is a nationally recognized expert on the best practices to narrow the achievement gap between African American and Latino students and White and Asian students.  He has worked both with high poverty urban schools and integrated suburban schools. In his book, The Trouble With Black Boys: …And Other Reflections on Race, Equity, and the Future of Public Education (2008, Jossey-Bass), Dr. Noguera details how the daunting challenges facing our young men– from low expectations and even suspicion from teachers and other authority figures to negative peer pressure from other Black and Latino boys — can negatively impact their school performance.

GCP recently sat down with Dr. Noguera to gain his insights on how parents can best support our African American and Latino boys.  We began with a key GCP concern:  How should parents should respond if they see their adolescent boys suddenly putting less effort in their school work or adopting risky or self-destructive behavior? According to Dr. Noguera, parents need “to create a home environment that has consistent and clear messages stressing the importance of education. Dr. Noguera observed that there is an unhealthy tension in many families between an emphasis on sports and an emphasis on education.  He cautioned that parents have to work to maintain good relationships with their children as they enter adolescence. “[Parents also need to] give their sons the space to be themselves and to talk about themselves” he noted.  They need to move from a model of “control” to one of “influence.”  Dr. Noguera cautions parents that it is important to be aware and “try to remember what you were like at that age.”  Parents need to “pay attention, stay involved and set limits.”

Our discussion then turned to how parents can help their sons deal with teachers who may judge them unfairly. Dr. Noguera stressed that it is a parent’s responsibility to prepare his or her son for the real world.  He noted that while he frequently sees Black parents trying to shelter their children, it is important to be realistic and not try to protect them from experiencing any adversity at all.  According to Dr. Noguera, “we have to prepare our sons to deal with teachers, police and others that may judge them unfairly.” Moreover, we need to help our sons develop “strong, positive self images and good judgment”.  We also need to recognize that when our sons are one of few people of color in an academic setting they can experience a “heightened sense of difference and heightened scrutiny.”  Parents can counteract this by ensuring that our children spend time in all Black or Latino settings.  We also need to model behavior by letting our children observe us interacting with people from different ethnic and class backgrounds.  Dr. Noguera suggests that we bring our children with us into the workplace on occasion, so that they can see firsthand the “codeswitching” that successful Black and Latino adults engage in during the workday.  Most importantly, we have to stay connected to our sons and encourage them to de-brief and share their experiences with us.

Noting that class differences can lead to tensions between middle class Black boys and boys from less privileged backgrounds, GCP asked Dr. Noguera for suggestions of how to mitigate or resolve these differences.  Dr. Noguera noted that the recent dust-up between Grant Hill and Jalen Rose constituted a missed opportunity to explore the way class shapes perspectives.  Our children need to be aware that despite some obvious and visible successes, many Black Americans suffer from extreme levels of poverty and can harbor resentment of more fortunate Black people.  We need to teach our children that character is more important than material wealth and expose them at an early age to all kinds of people.  Dr. Noguera noted that sports and church offer natural opportunities to interact with Black people across the class spectrum.

A key point that Dr. Noguera returned to several times during our discussion is the importance of parents protecting the emotional health of our boys.  He believes that there is “a global crisis in masculinity” in response to the changing roles of men and women in society.    Our outmoded definition of men as strong, emotionless providers can hurt our boys, as this definition ignores the fact that boys and men have complex emotions, and that it is okay to experience and show them.  Above all, we need to recognize that our sons are individuals, and we must teach them to be sensitive and caring ones.

In Part 2 of our interview with Dr. Pedro Noguera, we’ll share his perspective on how to find the best educational setting for your son.

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Filed under Ages 0-4, Ages 0-5, Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, Experts, Guest Bloggers, Interviews, Parents

Tell Us Something Good: Have Racially Sensitive Teachers Helped Your Child?

GCP wants to hear from YOU about how teachers and school administrators in public and private schools have successfully handled racial incidents involving children of color, especially our boys. We are looking for 10 great examples of how teachers got it right, i.e., handled a potentially offensive or damaging incident in a thoughtful and productive manner, for an upcoming post.  We often talk about what has gone wrong with respect to a teacher or school’s handling of such incidents (and a future post will address this issue); but now we would like to focus on what has gone right.
If you know of  any instances where a teacher or school administrator has been especially successful in this area, we would greatly appreciate your sharing them with us. Please send an email describing the situation to us at csl@groundcontrolparenting.com. We would like to identify the teacher and the school (but not your name or your child’s name) so that these teachers can get the attaboys they deserve.  Please let us know in your response if you would prefer that we do not mention the school or teacher.
Thanks, and we look forward to hearing your stories.

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Filed under Academics, Ages 0-4, Ages 0-5, Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, Parents