Welcome Carmen Farina, NYC’s New School Chancellor!

Three years ago, I wrote a Carol’s Wall about the proposed appointment of a new city school chancellor.  I was so upset about the appointment of Cathie Black, that I included an online petition to deny her the waiver she needed to assume the position.  I made the argument that the best person to serve as chancellor was someone with a deep understanding of teaching, a vast knowledge of education theory, and an abundance educational administrative experience.

I was so thrilled when it was announced that Carmen Farina would serve as our new school chancellor! Carmen has all those requirements and more. She is veteran classroom teacher from PS 29, former Principal, Superintendent of District 15, Deputy Chancellor of city schools, and has been longtime educational advisor and advocate of early childhood education.

As far as her qualification for chancellor is concerned, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “She knows it because she’s lived it,” and I could not agree with him more! 

For the past few years, it saddened me to learn how developmentally inappropriate early childhood education had become.  I did not want to, but I could not help but wonder if teaching to the test would become the norm in the New York City DOE.  In her years as an educational advocate, Carmen has de-emphasized standardized testing as a major factor in measuring performance and “teaching to the test.” 

I am also so proud that I had the opportunity to work with Carmen in the past and trust that she will do the right thing for every school-aged child in our fair city.  I am also so happy for every parent and child who leaves CHP to go off to the world of NYC public schools headed by a wonderful child advocate school chancellor who will surely make the changes needed to return our schools to excellence. 

What a way to start a new year!

To learn more about Ms. Farina, please visit: 

Rules of the School - 2013-14

Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand.
-Chinese Proverb

Before I came to CHP, I worked at the Mary McDowell School for a number of years. I took over a class in an established classroom where I found a factory-produced poster on the wall which said, RULES FOR FIGHTING FAIR.  The rules were appropriate and sensible, yet it struck me, why weren’t these rules written by the children in the class?  What a missed opportunity! 

The first fall when I started working at CHP, I introduced the project and the children dictated the rules which were posted front and center in the classroom. 

When the time came that I needed to step down as head teacher/director to wear only my director’s hat, I passed the job on to Nicole.  She asked if the children could illustrate the rules (what a grand idea!) which they did and then the rules were posted on a bulletin board in the classroom.  The illustrations and text were so wonderful that we decided to publish a book to share with every child who attends CHP.

This year’s version is called KINDNESS AND SAFETY RULES AT CHP. This project works in many ways: It allows children to use fine motor skills, number concepts, communication skills and more. Even if your child is too young to actively participate in the process, you can read and share what makes CHP a fun and safe school at home.  The activity strengthens the home/school connection while you sit with your child and read the rules at home.

Twenty Years at CHP: A Retrospective of Some of the Many Things I Have Learned About Children

Twenty Years at CHP, a Retrospective of Some of the Many Things I Have Learned about Children...

Three weeks plus twenty years at CHP equals the time it took me to compose this Carol's Wall, to record a list of what I have learned about children from the prospective of an educator and a mother.  Some of these things I thought I knew when I started at CHP, and most I learned along the way.  Here goes...

  1. Children thrive with a semblance of structure. Structure makes children feel safe because they know what to expect so they are not scared.  Yes, life can be unpredictable and sometimes routines do need to fall by the wayside.  The point here is that even when life pokes a hole in your attempts at structure, you need to get back on track, pick up the ball and begin again.
  2. Children are not miniature adults.  Adults and children are entirely different entities.  Yes, we are both the same species, but our thought processes and approach to life comes from such a different place.  Do not expect your child to think and react to things the way you do, try to remember how long they have been on this planet and how much they have to learn.  Adults are able to pull up information from our short and long term memory.  Children do not have as many memory files as adults do, and they are still figuring out how to pull up those files.  Remember this when you ask your child a question and he or she answers you the next day.
  3. Little kids forget.  Do not expect your children to consistently perform to whatever standards you set for them.  Children are affected by so many different things:  Lack of sleep, too much sleep, too much activity, not enough activity and so on. When they forget, you need to remember so that the next time you are in a similar situation you can help your child be successful by prompting them. A little bit of prep goes a long way.
  4. Imagination is a wonderful thing, nurture your child's need to make believe and go with it. 
  5. Children cry, it is okay.  Recognize your child's feelings out loud.  If you think they are sad, say so, "I'm sorry you are sad."  If you are wrong, and your child says he or she is mad, you need to change gears and say that too.  Asking a child why he or she is sad or mad can make them more upset because they may not know why they feel the way they do.  Asking them what's wrong might make them worse, because they may not know why they are crying.  Recognize the feeling and wait a bit.  Don't speculate, just comfort your child and go with it, you just might find out why your child was upset in the first place. 
  6. Celebrate the effort--spending a long time on a project, cleaning up, or walking that extra block without complaints.  One of the biggest mistakes I made as a young mother, second to giving my children junk food, was by constantly telling them how smart they were.  I wish I would have sung the praises of hard work and tenacity as loud as I announced their brain power.
  7. This one is a toughie. Do not relinquish too much control to your child. By all means, give your children opportunities to choose, but make sure their choices are simple and appropriate for a child, not another adult.  For example, if your child insists on wearing summer clothes in the dead of winter, make sure those summer clothes do not find their way back into the dresser.  Now you can allow your child to choose from the appropriate winter wear found in that drawer.
  8. You will find this in another Carol's Wall installment:  Try not to read something to your child that you do not love.  I believe the love of reading can be sparked by the person who reads aloud to a child who has not yet begun to read on his or her own.  Even if you are reading a book you do not necessarily love, make sure you never read a book "cold."  Children's picture books should be read with feeling, so that the young listener is enveloped into the book.
  9. Do what you can, each day, to make your child laugh.  Being silly does not get nearly the credit it deserves. On that note, singing is good too, for both of you. 
  10. Tell your child that you love them, every day.  Remember that when you get angry, it's okay to get angry, but don't forget to tell your child that no matter how angry you get, you always love them. 

I left the easiest one until last.

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