How Valuable Are Kindergarten Teachers?


My boyhood friend, Guy Protano is so excited and full of pride for his outstanding kindergarten teacher granddaughter that he asked me to write an article about her. I will share her story later in this article. Her name is Nicole King.

My opinion on why kindergarten teachers are so valuable is based on my 34 years in the public school system. I served parents and the community as a classroom teacher, an elementary principal and an assistant superintendent of schools.

Teachers as Artists

Buttressing my opinion is the classic essay that appeared in the Kansas City Times and was made famous by the commentary of Robert Fulghum, ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN. In 1991, my three kindergarten teachers, Lisa, Lucia, and Phyllis gifted a copy to me. It’s a great gift for parents too.

Kindergarten teachers and all superior teachers are genuine artists. Lay people don’t often think of teachers as true artists but they are in every sense of the word. Outstanding teaching is an art form. Usually when someone mentions an artist, the mind wanders to names like Frank Sinatra, Leonardo DaVinci, David McCollough, Ana Pavlova, Michelangelo, Georgia O’Keeffe or Leonard Bernstein.  Do you think any of these famous artists could teach a kindergarten class? No Way!

The formal definition of “the arts” refers to the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture producing works to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power. Well, did you ever see an extraordinary kindergarten teacher or any outstanding teacher perform?

I evaluated many “teachers as artists’ ‘ I am a bonified witness to their creativity, imagination, beauty, truth and emotional power. It’s a thrilling experience.

Highly effective teachers -like artists- act instinctively. It’s part of their repertoire. And they are the whole package: researcher, writer, planner, organizer, performer, and self-assessor.

Many great artists have legacies but none so great as an inspiring teacher who can influence lives and behaviors and learning. A parent recently reminded me of remarks I made at a kindergarten graduation. Many years ago. I said kindergarten teachers should make more money than other teachers including college professors. I have to rethink that because after teaching as a college adjunct professor for six years, I realized that professors don’t make much money. Anyway, you know what I mean.

And the Research Says

The reason kindergarten teachers are so valued is because they are responsible for components of learning that provide a path to school and life success in later years; social and emotional skills.

Daniel Goleman, in his ground breaking book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ, states the following:

A report from the National Center for Clinical Infant Programs makes the point that school success is not predicted by a child’s fund of facts or a precocious ability to read so much as emotional and social measures: being self- assured and interested, knowing what kind of behavior is expected and how to rein in the impulse to misbehave; being able to wait, to follow directions and to turn to teachers for help; and expressing needs while getting along with other children.

Almost all students who do poorly in school, says the report, lack one or more of these elements.


Kindergarten teachers, more so than other teachers, are charged with the social and emotional learning of their five-year old students. Parents take heed because you can learn much from the great ones. After all, parents are the first teachers, role models, and influencers.

Who is Nicole King?

And now to Nicole King. This is how my friend Guy describes his granddaughter to me.   “Nicole goes above and beyond every single year to make sure her kids have the best kindergarten experience possible. She spends countless hours at night prepping for activities, works through her whole summer break to ensure that her room is perfect and ready for the kids. This year she was selected as “The Teacher of the Year” at her school. I couldn’t be prouder of her because I watch her pour her heart and soul into it daily.”

My friend said it best and now you know why Nicole is a genuine artist who will enjoy a legacy that others only dream of. She has the dedication, perseverance, and devotion to her profession that includes never being satisfied and trying to get better all the time. Isn’t that the way it should be?



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Progressive Parenting Poop

By James L. Casale


Did you ever wonder why this current generation is filled with so many “snowflakes”? These are the kids who were awarded a trophy even if they came in last. Generally speaking, our current young people can’t seem to cope with anything and our education institutions comply. When Hillary Rodham Clinton lost the 2016 election, the schools and colleges provided not only counseling but cry rooms. God help us.

What Constitutes Effective Parenting?

Parenting is a serious and sacred undertaking. It requires accurate knowledge, thoughtfulness, patience, prayer and practice. When I see or read about kids and young adults who “don’t have a clue” about what it means to be a grown up, my thoughts are laser focused on the parenting these kids received. But I also understand that kids, especially the older ones, make choices they often regret.

Here is a sample of the some of the progressive nonsense that passes for effective parenting as proposed by Ronica O’Hara, author of an article, Mindful Parenting, that appeared in Natural Awakenings Magazine. (Nov.2020):

“parents can only be effective by knowing themselves via therapy, reading, journaling, and meditation.

“discipline your child from a place of presence or awakened consciousness.”

She adds more poop from other like-minded authors but I will spare you their thoughts.


The Real World

It’s not totally progressive nonsense. If the reader digs deeper and reads between the lines while holding her nose, there are few nuggets to be found.

  • If mindfulness means thinking clearly about your family mission statement that emphasizes character building and life-long learning, I’m all for it.
  • If mindfulness means reflecting and self-assessing based on your family goals, I’m all for it.
  • I always recommend journaling for parents. It assists in reflection and self-assessment.
  • If meditation means prayers to God Almighty and the Saints, I’m all for it.
  • Don’t stop reading and learning. Don’t confine yourself to parenting books.
  • Connectedness: you must forge positive relationships with your children. This is crucial and demonstrates your leadership qualities. Read leadership books.
  • Don’t give up, don’t give in, and don’t beat yourself up. Recognize and admit your mistakes, keep learning, then move on.

There is much more to the parenting journey than “mindfulness”. Parenting is not quantum physics, brain surgery, or completing a triathlon; it’s harder. Focus on common sense and accurate information. Stay in shape and eat healthy. Remain positive and joyful.

Books Worth Reading

  1. The 12 Rules of Life by Jordan Peterson.
  2. Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
  3. The Five Parenting Commandments by James L Casale
  4. Corps Values by Zell Miller
  5. Character Carved in Stone by Pat Williams
  6. The Seven Tipping Points that Saved the World by Chris and Ted Stewart.
  7. Wisdom of the Ages by Wayne Dyer
  8. Words That Hurt, Words That Heal by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
  9. The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
  • Leadership as an Art by Max Dupree



Dr. Casale is a state and national award-winning educator, the author of three parenting books and numerous essays. In 1974 he was selected as the Florida Teacher of the Year, the first male teacher to receive this recognition. While serving as principal of Purchase School in Harrison, New York in 1988, his school was selected by the United States Department of Education as a National School of Excellence. He has two children and four grandchildren.


He is available as a speaker.


Don’t Live Next to a Candy Store

Don’t Live Next to a Candy Store


James L. Casale


On October 31, 1998, my grandson, Christian James Casale, was born at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City. Happy birthday to the so-far-tallest Casale. I used to be the titleholder of the tallest Casale at a towering 5’9”. This was considered tall if you lived in the 1950s Brentwood section of Harrison, New York, where most adults were under six feet tall. Both of my grandfathers were about 5’5’’ with their hands raised.


 I grew up on Nelson Avenue, about 75 yards from Joe’s candy store, a palace of sweet temptations near the corner of Nelson and Calvert Street. As a regular customer at Joe’s, I spent a significant portion of my childhood devouring toxic sweet things that, I’m convinced, along with those Lucky Strikes, stunted my growth. I should have been 6’2”, or at least as tall as my grammar school and high school coach, Fred Fiore. I think he was a six-footer.


My town had several other outstanding candy stores that no longer exist in the 21st century. Unfortunately, they were replaced by the confectioners who arrived in our modern malls. These imposters are boring, lack variety, and don’t offer penny candies. Have you ever found Devil Dogs, fudge pops, Bazooka gum, cream sickles, or Ring Dings in those stores? Don’t look.


Godiva stores? Forget it. Supermarkets? Don’t ask? The only place that sells anything remotely 1950ish is Cracker Barrel. At least there I can buy and drool over Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, Clark Bars, and Chunky Bars, among other delectables. When I travel, I always visit a Cracker Barrel for their blueberry pancakes and candy.


But even Cracker Barrel cannot compare to the variety of sweets that contributed mightily to a 14-year-old showing up at the local dentist, Dr. Olmstead, with 16 cavities. The culprits, which had been bought with the spare change I’d found around the house, under couch cushions, and in my dad’s pants and jacket pockets, included all manner of penny candy, the bubble gum that came with baseball cards (I wasn’t smart enough to keep the cards), double-stick ice pops, fudge pops, cream sickles, Zero Bars, root beer barrels, wax lips, Mars Bars, Bit of Honey, Sugar Daddies, licorice, pies, Yoo-hoos (still my all-time favorite), and a variety sodas and fountain drinks never to be seen again.


Should I even mention that I chased the Good Humor man down the street each day to get my strawberry shortcake ice cream? My two career choices in those days consisted of becoming a Good Humor man or a baseball player. Sadly, I didn’t fulfill my dream for either one. I’m a failure.


I guess I’m lucky to be 5’9”, but at my age, I am shrinking. I’m considering inserts or wearing my old motorcycle boots to make me look taller. Or maybe I should just stay home and dream of my sweet childhood in Harrison, New York.









How Can Parents Survive the Pandemic and Beyond? Routines, Routines, Routines


How Can Parents Survive the Pandemic and Beyond?

Routines, Routines, Routines


James L. Casale 


The current state of affairs has plunged ordinary households into an abyss of chaos, confusion, bewilderment, curiosity, and panic, aka “What the hell do we do now?” Parents didn’t sign up for this “school stuff.” We pay taxes, and some of us pay both taxes and tuition to have professionals teach our kids away from home. 

It’s no longer: “I’d rather be fishing.” It’s: “I’d rather be at work, mowing the lawn, or food shopping rather than staying home with these insatiable, selfish, grumpy, attention-seeking, irresponsible, and always-hungry munchkins.”


Equip parents now and forever on how to maintain some semblance of sanity and civility while avoiding the necessity of hiring a mental health professional. Provide at least one strategy that will ease the parenting journey through this pandemic, the next pandemic, and beyond if a private school in Switzerland is not an option.

Four Promises:

  • I promise not to weep when someone suggests that you must “stay positive.”
  • I promise not to wince or run away when you are told, “You are in charge.”
  • I promise not to hire a tutor or any other professional even if they dress in radioactive gear.
  • I promise not to call Dr. Fauci for advice or my parents for babysitting.

Routines, Routines, Routines

If your home is devoid of structure, expectations, and routines, expect chaos, confusion, and constipation. You are trying to row your boat without oars, to fly without wings. A sign in Mr. Dawson’s mechanical drawing class at Harrison High School in Harrison, NY read, “Plan your work; work your plan.” You are required to have a plan that all house members embrace. That plan is based on routines such as: we all routinely speak kindly and respectfully to each other. We routinely care about each other and accept our responsibilities as family members.

If the three most important words in real estate are location, location, location, then the three most important words for your family school are routines, routines, routines. Hold on to routines like a life raft. While maintaining high expectations, accept even the smallest improvement as a win.

James Clear in his book, Atomic Habits, reminds us that small improvements have meaning and “the difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding.” For example, telling a child to clean up her room has many components: make the bed, pick up your clothes from the floor and deliver them to the laundry room, vacuum the floor, dust, etc. But if a child starts with making the bed (my personal favorite) that is an improvement. By the way, that does not mean you are expected to pick up those dirty crusty clothes off the floor. Don’t do it.

Routines make sure that things get done. Thus, the home environment is more relaxed and less stressful. A sense of accomplishment ensues for both parents and kids. These accomplishments are part of the effective parenting paradigm.



Good News/Bad News

The good news-I hope- is that you already have household routines. The bad news, for some or most parents, is that your new pandemic duties -if your children are home-require you to be the Board of Education, superintendent of schools, principal, assistant principal, teacher, mentor, psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, curriculum director, nurse, aide, secretary, aka administrative assistant, bus driver, and maintenance supervisor. This may be a tad overwhelming.



Routines in Place

Routines in your household already exist. They vary based on the age of your children. Infants and toddlers require more of your time and energy. Or maybe not. If none of the following are familiar, you may have to seek counseling and pay for it. Or abandon your family completely and move to Costa Rica.

  • Going to bed/napping (not you). Be consistent here.
  • Waking up/getting out of bed. This is a requirement for all healthy parents.
  • Brushing teeth, showering, combing hair, etc. (Hair and nail salons may not be open. If they are, expect Black Friday crowds.)
  • Making beds (ha-ha). If not, teach them.
  • Tidying up their quarters and helping around the house and yard.
  • It’s an excellent academic exercise: language arts/math/science. And they can use it when they grow up.
  • All items for the washer and dryer must be brought to the laundry room by their owner.
  • Breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner (no booze until all kids are tucked away).
  • Ordering take-out. You need a break, but not every night
  • Walking the dog. Includes picking up his poop.
  • Playing outside.
  • Playing inside. No fighting or throwing things.
  • Watching TV or using entertainment electronics (but not in their rooms).
  • Not watching TV and not using any entertainment electronics.
  • Family discussions.
  • Family disagreements.
  • Homework from those online courses
  • Praying some more that your house of worship opens soon.
  • If you have any other useful/normal family routines, please send them to me at

PS: If none of these exist in your household, I suggest you move your family off the grid, seek advice from the Alaskan Bush People, and start all over by building a shelter and locating food sources. The necessary routines will easily present themselves.


New Routines

If your household boasts even a modicum of the routines, you already have a blueprint for survival. Keep the ones you have if you are satisfied with them and haven’t yet called for the men in white coats and lose the ones that are causing you angst as well as upsetting the dog.

Yes, you are the leader. Please don’t wince.  Stephen R. Covey points out in his stellar book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, that the human interaction in your home can be a win/win that “seeks mutual benefit”. And that’s how routines work.

While schools remain closed and distance learning rules, the work schedules and routines dictated by the school may continue. My high school grandchildren attend to their distance learning at specific times. That’s called a routine. My college grandchildren have more freedom and choices and sometimes choose the times they will sit in front of a computer and learn stuff, unless it was a Zoom class, which has a specific time slot.

If parents build their family culture on a variety of routines and schedules and sprinkle in major doses of love, kindness, common sense, high expectations, responsibility, accurate information, modeling, leadership, and nutritional food, positive outcomes will follow. Oh, prayers help, too.

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Dr.Casale is a state and national award-winning educator. In 1974, he was selected as the Florida Teacher of the Year, the first male teacher to receive this recognition. While serving as principal of Purchase School in Harrison, New York, in 1988, his school was selected by the United States Department of Education as a National School of Excellence. He is the author of three parenting books.







Cap’ n Crunch vs Cartoons and Screen Time

Cap’ n Crunch vs. Cartoons and Screen Time


James L. Casale

Dear Parents, 14 October 2019

Do you ever read the obituaries? I have been reading them for years but I am particularly attracted to the ones in the Wall Street Journal which chronical the lives of iconic business professionals, scientists, and other obscure figures I never heard of. To me, their lives and accomplishments as well as their failures, are intriguing, fascinating, and informative.

Sometimes the narrative in the obituary includes something directly relatable to common sense parenting advice. For example, in this essay about the former president of Quaker Oats, Kenneth Mason, the topic of too much screen time for kids rears its ugly head.

Mr. Mason, suffered the criticism of many for his company’s sugary cereal, Cap’ n Crunch which was deemed unhealthy and rotted children’s teeth. Mr. Mason responded to his critics by replying that Saturday morning cartoons were rotting children’s minds and TV producers needed to come up with more intelligent programming. His comment were prescient.

These days, professional educators and organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics are warning against the deleterious effects of too much screen time for children. Screen time now includes much more than 1950s that I grew up on.TV. Electronic entertainment devices have changed and, along with TV, include: computers, x-boxes, cell phones, and other hand- held devices that seem to consume too much of our children’s time.

David Gelernter, professor of computer science at Yale University opines that,” Many children will settle down with the latest I stuff, each like a happy dog with a big bone and all those pads, pods, smart phones, video game machines and computers look like useful fun. We ought to group these machines with alcohol and adult movies. fine for grown-ups but no good for children under 13 except for on-line learning when they are at home and simple cell phones when they go out.” Mr. Gelernter believes that these digital toys represent a “mental purgatory” that harms a child’s ability to concentrate. He is in good company, namely with the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics).

The AAP guidelines recommend establishing a family use media plan, banning all electronics at mealtimes and after bedtimes and eliminating TVs from children’s bedrooms. According to Marjorie Hogan, author of the AAP recommendation and a pediatrician, “excessive media use is associated with obesity, poor school performance, aggression, and lack of sleep.”

The evidence is clear and now it is decision time. As John Gardner, former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under president Lyndon Johnson, has stated, “The smallest school in America is the family.” Parents can and should control the environment and culture in their own homes. Equip yourselves with a positive attitude and accurate information and forge ahead to be an effective parent.

Dr. Casale is a state and national award-winning educator, a published author, and a national speaker.  Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. His website is


Is There a Secret to a Successful Charter School?

Letter to the Editor, (WSJ) 9/21/19

Robert Pondiscio’s, The Secret of a Charter School’s Success? Parents, is no secret. Parent participation in a child’s education has been an established fact well before the results of the 1966 Coleman Report. The largest study of its kind up to that point concluded that more resources, even for disadvantaged children, was not the best determiner of school success. The best determiner of school success was and is the “quality of the family.”

Success Academy’s demanding protocols coupled with some parent requirements are possible because charter schools can act independently from state regulations and teacher unions which strangle the standard public school.

However, there is no magic in establishing a charter school. Many of them fail for the same reason that public schools fail; teachers and administrators who staff charter schools are selected from the same talent pool eligible to be hired by private and public schools. There are never enough outstanding teachers and principals.

The first year my grandchildren were enrolled in a charter school in Florida, was a year of achievements and success. The parents were happy too. When the dynamic principal left for a better opportunity, her replacement, with the same faculty, did not enjoy the confidence of the staff or parents and there was a lot of grumbling.

The X factor, no secret, that contributes to a child’s success in school and life are parents who accept their sacred responsibility as their child’s first teachers and role models. They don’t rely on schools to raise their children.

James L. Casale, Tequesta, Florida


Parents, Leadership, and Humility

Parents, Leadership, and Humility


James L. Casale

Humility is a leadership trait. Parents are, for better or worse, leaders who can influence their children and their children’s children. Sam Walker, writing in the WSJ,offers searing evidence that heroic individuals who act calmly in life-or-death situations do so because they are true leaders who are knowledgeable, composed, collaborative, and confident. And at the end of it all, they are humble. Parents need to model all of these leadership traits to be successful and raise successful kids.

Mr. Walker cites three examples, two airline pilots and one mine foreman, who, due to their heroic actions, saved hundreds of lives. All three had similar leadership qualities that parents should emulate.

Thirty years ago, Alfred Haynes, a former Marine aviator and commercial pilot, put on a “crisis management masterclass” as he guided his DC 10 to a crash landing that saved hundreds of lives. The tail engine had blown apart, and the shrapnel from the explosion had disabled all the hydraulic lines controlling the rudder and flaps. There were no brakes. He had to land the plane at twice the normal speed.

Upon landing, the plane broke into four pieces. No one was expected to survive. However, 184 out of 296 did survive, including the crew. At a subsequent news conference, Captain Haynes said that there were no heroes, “just a group of people who did their jobs.”  Calm, humble, composed, and knowledgeable are words that easily describe the pilot.

A more recent example that captured the world’s attention is the heroics of Chelsey Sullenberger, who, in 2009, landed his commercial jet on the Hudson River without a single loss of life. “We were simply doing what we were paid to do,” said the modest pilot.

The third example is less well known. Luis Urzua was the foreman of a group of miners trapped in a Chilean mine that caved in. This calm and quick-thinking man remained with his men for 10 weeks before they were rescued. He insisted on being the last man out. Afterward, he said, “ We learned to keep our composure.”

Parents don’t usually find themselves in life-or-death situations that may affect hundreds of people, but those of us who are raising kids are no strangers to crises or potential crises. Jimmy falls out of a tree. The house is on fire. Grandma trips and falls. Joey swallows a dishwasher pod. Stephanie falls into the pool. The family car with everybody in it is rear-ended. Need I go on? Are you ready?

Even if you feel you command the safety police at home, stuff happens. While you may never be accused of negligence, like the couple who somehow lost track of their toddler who fell into the gorilla’s zoo enclosure in Cincinnati or the man in New York City  who forgot to drop off his children at the daycare and left them in a hot car for eight hours, no one is immune to unforeseen events.

Do you know how you will act in a crisis? Are you aware of the qualities you need to mitigate dangerous situations? Do you fully understand your role as the leaders of your family? Is humility, knowledge, composure, confidence, and collaboration part of your repertoire, and are you modeling it for your children? The following leadership qualities must be evident if you expect to be an effective parent:

Composure: Somebody has to be in charge. It helps if it’s the adults in the room. Your kids are watching and learning.  How you act in a crisis will have a lasting effect, and it is easier to stay calm and emotionally in control if you know what to do and have some basic knowledge other than calling 911.

Accurate Information: Heroes who save hundreds of lives, like pilots, boat captains, or mine foremen, are experts in their field. First responders save lives daily and later claim they were only doing the job they were trained for.

Ordinary citizens who save lives in a crisis act instinctively to help others. They run into burning buildings or pull people out of cars in devastating accidents. When interviewed afterward, none consider themselves heroes.

Parents often act instinctively, too, but accurate information about how to act in specific situations will honor your legacy as a parent. Take a first aid course,  safety-proof your house, collaborate with first responders, and keep those important telephone numbers handy.

Collaboration: If the other head is available, two heads are better than one. If only one parent is present, be sure to have immediate access to one or two other heads you can confer with. It could be your spouse, doctor, neighbor, relative, or friend. Again, keep those emergency numbers handy and stay composed.

Confidence: Your kids get their confidence from you. How you conduct yourselves as parents and model your expectations are the cornerstones of raising successful kids. Staying connected to your kids is critical. This requires that you believe in yourself and your abilities. Confidence is rooted in knowing what you are doing and putting this knowledge on display for all to see. Your kids are watching and learning.


Ignorance is never bliss; it’s dangerous and can be fatal. Read the papers or watch the news if you are not convinced. Anybody with kids can claim to be a parent, but successful parents fully understand their sacred and primary responsibility: the safety and security of their children.

It’s never too late to be a more effective parent. Effective parents depend on strong beliefs and accurate information and dedicate themselves to modeling expected behaviors. They understand that their leadership roles require composure, accurate information, collaboration, and confidence. And yes, humility and modesty count.

(Mr. Walker’s article appeared in the WSJ on 7/27–28/19. I recommend it highly.)

Dr. Casale is both a state and national award-winning educator: Florida Teacher of the Year and National School of Excellence Principal from Harrison, NY. He is a published author and a national speaker.  His website is Follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.


Dear Parents Who May Be Sending Their Children To College

Dear Parents, 8/28/19

If you have recently sent your child off to college or will soon, please read this most informative article in the WSJ (8/24-25/19) by Drs. Anthony Rostain & Janet Hibbs, Is Your Child Emotionally Ready for College?

As a grandparent who has three grandchildren in college and as an author of three parenting books, five critical pieces of information are worth noting but I urge you to read the entire article.

  1. “Students who haven’t faced adversity are usually the least prepared for it.”
  2. “Self -restraint is one of the best ways to avoid derailing a college career.”
  3. A parent’s” job is to promote true independence, partly by volunteering to reduce their control.”
  4. “One of the most important implications of an 18th birthday is that parents no longer have legal authority over a student as a patient. Federal privacy laws govern a college student’s medical and mental health treatment and educational records.”
  5. “Healthy attitudes and better coping skills can make these sometimes stressful years the best of their young lives.”


There is so much more to this article that parents will appreciate knowing. I have written often about the parent’s role as first teachers and role models and that the “quality of the family” is the best determiner of a child’s success in school and life. Love them unconditionally but don’t coddle them. Kids need to learn from their mistakes, experience adversity, understand sacrifice, be part of a team, and know that they will not receive everything they want.


James L. Casale


My Child’s Room Is a Pigpen: Three Strategies That May Clean It Up

My Child’s Room Is a Pigpen: Three Strategies That May Clean It Up


James L. Casale, Ph.D.

Your child’s room is neat, clean, and always tidy. You never have to remind him or her about taking care of their personal space. Good for you. Read no further.

I use the word child in the title because children who refuse to tidy up their rooms or help out around the house are not bound by gender. My son slept on top of his bed so he didn’t have to make it in the morning. The rest of his room was tidy except for the moss growing in the dust on every flat surface.

The condition of my daughter’s room caused us to contact FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and apply for funds to hire a cleaning service. When we were showing off our new home to friends, Stephanie’s door remained closed and posted with a “Do Not Enter” sign.

Even after endless reminders, demonstrations, and bribes, the following conditions prevailed: clothes, shoes, and sneakers strewn on the floor, dresser drawers ajar, bed unmade, enough dust to be scooped up with a shovel, other unidentifiable things on the floor including books and pencils (at least she tried to do her homework), and a closet so full of her stuff that it defied entry. If any of these sound familiar, these three strategies will help and may just lead to spending less money on a cleaning service.

  1. Be specific and start small. What exactly does “clean up your room” mean? Do not use general terms when explaining your expectations for a tidy room. And don’t expect to conquer Mt. Everest in one day.Choose what vexes you most and start there. Will it be to make your bed each morning, bring all your dirty clothes to the laundry room, vacuum the floor, dust all surfaces, hang up your clothes, or place all books on the shelf or desk? If she has a private bathroom, that might not be the place to begin her metamorphosis. But learning how to properly clean bathroom surfaces can become a lifelong skill.
  2. At all costs, remain calm and civil. Avoid screaming, yelling, and throwing things. If she needs demonstrations or directions, provide them in a calm manner. Show her where the vacuum cleaner is stored and how to use it. Show her where the washing machine is located and where to place her soiled clothes. Again, start small and be specific.
  3. Provide choices and consequences. Do not clean her room or pick up after her again. For example, if her dirty clothes are not brought to the laundry room, they will not be washed. Anything on the floor that does not belong there will not be picked up by anyone but the room’s resident slob. New clothes, shoes, or accessories may not be a future option for someone who does not take proper care of what she already owns.

Stephanie: “Mom, I need a new outfit I saw at Urban Outfitters. I want to wear it to Debbie’s party next week.”

Mom or dad: “First you need to learn how to take care of the clothes we have already purchased for you. You can start by picking up the clothes from your floor, bringing the soiled ones to the laundry room, and organizing your closet.”

Let’s Review

I read a story about a mom who convinced her husband and sons that each night, they had to set the table. Then and only then would she make dinner. It went as planned for a while, but soon dad and the boys started shirking their duty.

 When the table was not set, mom did not cook. The arrangement soon returned to the original agreement as mom reminded them of their pact and dad and the kids were hungry. This was all accomplished with a calm and civil tone.

It’s never too early to teach your children to be responsible not only for their own space but as a family member and part of the team. Before I was ten, my mother showed me how to make a bed with hospital corners, sew a button, and mop a floor. Of course, that was in ancient times, but teaching responsibility never goes out of style.

Parenting is a struggle, but it can be rewarding as you teach and model expectations for the next generation. However, it requires a positive attitude, courage, determination, a modicum of leadership skills, and a plan. Everything else is boring. Go for it.

Dr. Casale is a state and national award-winning educator: Florida Teacher of the Year and a National School of Excellence Principal. He is a published author and a national speaker. His website is Follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.


Why School Choice Matters But Not to Teachers’ Unions

Why School Choice Matters But Not to Teachers’ Unions


James L. Casale

Five catholic schools are closing their doors in New York City.The parents are sad; the students are sadder. These parents don’t trust public schools to protect their children. Parent José Marin said, “Public school is very dangerous. Here (St. Rose of Lima Elementary School), everybody’s safe. At another school, you’re just a number.” Another parent, Marilu Rodriguez (St. Brigid Elementary School), added, “It’s horrible. It’s affecting low-income families. Now we’ll have to deal with the public schools.”

The archdiocese of NY currently operates 91 schools and serves 28,000 students. They are especially affordable for poor parents (about $300 per month for elementary schools) who are seeking alternatives to public schools. And students do not have to be Catholic.

Who is against school choice?

 Teachers’ unions and their Kool-Aid-drinking-members are against anything that infringes on the status quo, their turf, and their obsession with mediocrity. The charter school movement and the voucher system, which permits parents to choose a private or parochial school, are testaments to parent dissatisfaction with local public schools. Throughout the country, there are pockets of successful public schools. Charter schools are not always successful, and neither are private and parochial schools, but shouldn’t parents who are seeking safer environments and a better education for their children have a choice?

Who is for school choice?

 Joel Klein, former chancellor of the NY City School System, and Rahm Emmanuel, the mayor of Chicago, have different views on the charter school movement than the teachers’ unions. Their opinions are anathema to the liberal cities they represent. In Joel Klein’s book Lessons of Hope, he reveals that “poor parents deserve options for their kids; smaller schools are better than large schools, the self-esteem movement does not provide the tools and knowledge kids need, teacher preparation programs are weak, and teachers’ unions and their contracts that include tenure are obstructionists to progress.” This is not a revelation. His comments were true 50 years ago.

Mr. Emmanuel recently commented on the teachers’ unions in Los Angeles and West Virginia, who are going on strike to protest charter schools. He stated, “The brain-dead debate between charter schools and neighborhood schools should be replaced with a focus on quality over mediocrity.” He gets it.

Charter schools are an affront to the culture of mediocrity, and they have been perpetuated by teachers’ unions for as long as I have been in my profession as an educator—more than 50 years. If you need more evidence about the debate, view the award-winning documentary, Waiting for Superman.

 Dr. Casale is a state and national award-winning educator. He is a national speaker and the author of two five-star-rated parenting books. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. His website is