About Me

Welcome to SFPSMom! 

FullSizeRenderEvery day, I have conversations with parents and educators. In my 20+ years in public education, I’ve seen that while both are committed to doing the best for “their kids”, there is often a disconnect between what parents and teachers know and believe to be true.

Teachers are experts in their content, child development, and student learning. SFUSD’s innovative teachers are constantly learning from educational research and putting new ideas into practice. Instruction today involves digital learning, common core math, inclusive classrooms and restorative practices. These shifts in teaching and learning have made our classrooms look wildly different than the classrooms we sat in as students.

Conversely, many teachers are so focused on serving the needs of students, they often forget (or lack the time!) to truly partner with families, who are in their own way experts on their kids. As their children’s “first teacher”, parents have unique insight into a child’s talents, challenges, interests and needs. They know what motivates and shuts down their child. Additionally, families hold important cultural knowledge. They understand the many histories and heritages that make up SFUSD’s diverse communities. Many schools lack Black teachers for example. Black family members often serve as a link between school staff and the communities they serve.

That’s where I come in…

Teacher turned Mom, I’m here to help!

During my years as a middle and high school educator, I worked with thousands of students. I taught English, ran tutoring programs, trained conflict mediators, and mentored students. These experiences gave me a solid understanding of teen psyche and behavior. I felt confident talking with parents about ways to support adolescents in making good choices, engaging with their learning, and navigating the social and societal pressures that teens face today.

Then I became a parent of two little babies. Twins at that! I was dumbstruck. I wondered what was going on in their little developing brains. I struggled to understand what made them tick. I realized my training as an educator hadn’t prepared me for parenthood. I scoured the internet for articles on child development and early learning. Even though, as a high school English teacher I had successful taught students how to critically read a class novel, as a new mom, I was clueless as to how early reading worked.

Teachers are a wealth of information!

When my girls started kindergarten, I was eager to support their learning. I wanted to understand the school reading program, and the “new math” they were learning. I also needed guidance in dealing with their behavior. When I ran out of ideas, I asked teachers for advice and information. Many of the teachers I sought advice from were parents themselves. Their help was invaluable! As an avid researcher, I also found a wealth of information online.

…much of the information and resources I had collected was written from a very academic perspective.

I yearned to share what I learned with other parents. Unfortunately, much of the information and resources I had collected was written from a very academic perspective. I had been trained in “education-ese” and knew many of the terms and acronyms (e.g. SES, EL, IEP) I read. But to the untrained eye, this information wasn’t accessible. As I became an active school volunteer, I found myself adapting the information I found into parent-friendly resources for other busy families seeking answers as well. It was out of this process, that I began this blog.

At the same time, I continued working in Bay Area schools to implement education programs. I have coached and advised teachers, principals and district administrators on ways to create healthy, equitable school communities. Through the years, I have gained extensive experience on youth leadership, college and career-going culture, academic literacy, racial and cultural diversity, and parent engagement. Most recently, I worked as a school improvement coach and in the district data office helping teachers, principals and district administrators implement support school improvement initiatives.

As my girls have gotten older (they are now in middle school!) I have continued to create resources I wish I had found, and share my family journey through the public education system. And, despite the occasional challenges we all face (and what you may have heard) my experience has been nothing short of AMAZING!

So, if you are a new parent, daunted by parenting in these troubling time, or overwhelmed by the public education system… have no fear!

This blog is for parents who are…

  • interested in learning and growing with their children
  • actively involved in supporting teachers, principals and our amazing public schools
  • firm believers that urban environments are the most stimulating and engaging places for children to grow, learn and thrive

This blog is also for educators who…

  • are eager to learn more about “parent perspectives” so they can better serve families and students
  • actively partner with families to create loving, diverse, and empowering learning communities
  • believe that our public schools are the front line in the fight for social justice and are committed to providing excellent educational opportunities for all students

What do you want to know? What would you like to share? This site is for you…

Do you have a burning question?

I have created this site to answer questions about how to nurture and support healthy, inclusive learning environments… whether they be at home, at school or in our communities. Do you have a burning question? Is there something about the public education system that you just don’t get? Are you wondering how to better support your child’s learning or academic growth? Do you wish you understood the teacher and/or parent perspective better? Please email me and I will do my best to answer you question. If I can’t answer it, I’ll at least point you in the right direction and we can learn together.


Ali Collins

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© Alison Collins and sfpsmom.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Alison Collins and sfpsmom.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Join the conversation! 6 Comments

  1. Hi Alison,

    I came across your blog while researching the Russian Hill/North Beach community and so appreciate your information. I have already got my kids on a wait list for swim lessons at the pool and planning to sign up for the fall classes.

    We are a family of 4 (boy 11 and girl 9) who recently relocated to the city this summer while my husband attended a training program for his work. We had planned to be here a year, but things changed and we are now here 3 to 6 months. With the unknowns of how long we are going to be here I have decided to home school, which is a bummer.

    We are from small town Michigan and I was really looking forward to an urban school experience. So, I am working at activities after school and other social engagement opportunities. Do you know if the public schools allow home school kids to participate in public school activities such as various clubs? Any info or ideas you can provide me that will capitalize on our experience in San Francisco is much appreciated.

    Thank you,

    • Hi Sarah,

      I’d definitely check out SF Rec and Park programs, they have a lot to choose from at all ages. Some are quite popular, so you should sign up right away for any you might be interested in. It’s a great way for your kids to make friends. Sign up is THIS SATURDAY at 10am. The competition is high so be prepared to be persistent. Go here to get a Family Account (which you will need to register) https://www.sfreconline.org/Start/Start.asp. Here is a link to the catalog http://sfrecpark.org/wp-content/uploads/FALL_FINAL.pdf

      I don’t know if home schooled kids can participate in school activities. Unfortunately, I’m not sure what to tell you there. Are you sure you want to home school? (I have to be honest, I LOVE my kids… but would go simply batty if I tried to homeschool them. I need a break!) Just so you know, there are some really great SFUSD schools that fly under the radar that you might want to consider. At this point in the game, I believe the Educational Placement Office (at SFUSD) allows folks to register at any school where there are openings. It might be worth a try to call EPC to learn more (enrollment changes every day as kids move around the system.) Here’s a link http://www.sfusd.edu/en/enroll-in-sfusd-schools/getting-started.html FYI: 4/5 grade is an easier age to find openings because class sizes get a big larger at those grades and so there are often spaces at smaller schools. (Even ones that tend to have wait lists.)

      I hope this helps and feel free to email me if you like. I’ll shoot you a quick email to say hi!


      • Ali,

        Thank you so much for your help. The kids are enrolled in swim lessons at North Beach. This will be great for them and something to look forward to. I have also contacted the local girl scout offices and maybe my daughter can participate with one of the schools. We are in walking distance to Yick Wo Elementary and probably some others.

        I have to admit, I am going to miss “me” time with the home school option and appreciate your support for SFUSD. Will look into this.

        Thanks for your help.

  2. Awesome site!

  3. Hi. Where can I find the research supporting gifted learners do equally well in the ordinary less room. I’ve looked but haven’t found it. Thanks. SF

    • I’m assuming that’s a typo and you mean “ordinary class room”, right? The idea of “giftedness” is pretty complicated. I’ve found some articles online to support some of the basic issues at hand in the district’s redesign of our gifted and talented programs and posted here.

      But, before we talk about HOW to really support gifted and talented students, we have to address the fact that we haven’t really had a process for identifying gifted kids (based on what the research says). We’ve really just been identifying quiet student and good test-takers. If you read the links above you’ll see what I am talking about. In this way, our previous model, under-identified gifted kids who may have had other learning differences (English Learners, kids who didn’t “test” well, and students receiving Special Education support). Additionally, we’ve GROSSLY over-identified kids who are maybe wonderful children, but who are not TECHNICALLY gifted.

      Based on the definition of educational researchers, only about 2-5% of kids are cognitively gifted. At some schools the district was identifying up to 50%! That means, what we had in the past was not REALLY a gifted program, just a tracked program.

      Your question is a good one though in asking what the BEST way is to support kids who are ready for more challenging work. (This can also apply to students who are not identified as gifted, BTW>) Researchers say, even in tracked (i.e. gifted vs. non-gifted classes) teachers need to differentiate. Our math curriculum is moving in this direction with a focus on more project-based work. Here’s a good video example I found online to provide an example. Note the fact that the teachers themselves are happily surprised to find lower and higher performing students did more challenging work when they structured it around collaborative problem-based work.

      I hope this provides at least a bit of context. You are asking a REALLY big question which takes more than this space provides. Feel free to email me at ali (AT) sfpsmom.com if you have specific questions related to your child and I’m happy to share my experiences as a teacher coach or reach out to folks I know if the education field!


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