Notes from the Backpack: A PTA Podcast-logo

Notes from the Backpack: A PTA Podcast

Kids & Family Podcasts

Sometimes, your child forgets to share the notes from their backpack that tell you everything that’s happening at their school. On Notes from the Backpack: A PTA Podcast, we give you the inside scoop on how to help your child succeed—in school and at home. We discuss real issues with parents and experts—from handling homework to school discipline—to support you every step of the way! Join the conversation using #BackpackNotes and learn more at


United States


Sometimes, your child forgets to share the notes from their backpack that tell you everything that’s happening at their school. On Notes from the Backpack: A PTA Podcast, we give you the inside scoop on how to help your child succeed—in school and at home. We discuss real issues with parents and experts—from handling homework to school discipline—to support you every step of the way! Join the conversation using #BackpackNotes and learn more at








How Schools Can Challenge All High Achievers

From supplemental instruction to grade skipping, there are options when it comes to challenging our most advanced learners, but these opportunities can be hard to access. Brandon Wright, editorial director at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute joins the show to share best practices in gifted education and what families can do if their child would benefit from a more advanced curriculum. Building a Wider, More Diverse Pipeline of Advanced LearnersFailing Our Brightest Kids@BWrightEd here


Preparing Educators to Engage Families

How do teachers find the most effective ways to engage families? Teachers often learn from their colleagues and even their own experiences as students. In this episode, Dr. Soo Hong, researcher and professor at Wellesley College, highlights the lack of formal family engagement training and the systemic changes needed to support early career teachers. Educator Preparation Framework for Family and Community PartnershipsA Cord of Three StrandsNatural Alliesher websiteTeacher Talk Miniseries


How to be an Ally to Transgender Youth

As new state and local laws target LGBTQ+ students, what can families do to ensure schools treat all students with care and empathy? Teen transgender activist Harleigh Walker and her father, Jeff Walker, join the show to share their advocacy experience. They highlight how harmful policies are impacting school life for kids around the country and what you can do to help. How to Help LGBTQ Youth Thrive@harleighawalkerSouthern Pride


Playground Politics: How Kids Make Friends

Friendships are a cornerstone of childhood, but some kids have an easier time making friends than others. We talked to psychologist, author and friendship expert, Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore to learn how families can support their children in building and maintaining healthy relationships with their peers. Dr. Kennedy-Moore shares how friendships change and develop as children age and how parents can coach from the sidelines. 4 Ways to Help Your Child Create True FriendshipsWhy Some Kids Have Trouble Making Friends@DrFriendtastic here


How to Talk with Your Kids About Addiction

Many parents feel unsure when they should start talking to their children about addiction and even more uncertain about what to say. In this episode, author and educator, Jessica Lahey, offers practical tips and guidance for having conversations about drug and alcohol abuse. She draws on the latest research and her own experiences to share what families need to know to keep their kids safe. 5 Things You Need to Know About Youth Vapinghere@TeacherLahey@JessLahey Read Jessica Lahey’s books The Addiction Innoculation and The Gift of Failure


Raising Children Who Love the Environment

There is so much children can learn from the great outdoors! We spoke with Bianca Myrick, executive director of the Virginia Association of Environmental Education to learn how families can explore the environment together and raise kids who care for the planet. Bianca shares ideas on how you can replace screentime with green time at home and advocate for environmental education in your child’s school. websitehereHow Your Family Can Be More Green at HomeHealthy Earth webpage


Finding the Best Summer Program for Your Child

Choosing a summer program that is fun, educational and affordable is no easy task. Brodrick Clarke, VP of Programs at the National Summer Learning Association joined the show to help. He talks about the tools families can use to find high-quality summer programs and offers tips for finding a program that will be a good fit for your child. Resources: DiscoverSummer.orgSmarter Summers, Brighter Futures: A Summer Playbook for PTA and School LeadersTips to Keep Your Kid Learning this


Social Media 201: Embracing the Digital World

When our kids talk about the latest social media trends, it can feel like they’re speaking a foreign language. Founder and CEO of the Social Institute, Laura Tierney, joined the show to help us understand how we can best support our children in navigating the current social media landscape. She highlights the importance of positive social media education and shares how technology can support our children’s mental health and even their study habits. Resources: family resourceswebinarsSchools and Social Media: A Survey of NSPRA and CoSN MembersSocial Media & Cyberbullying 101@TheSocialInst@SoLaur


Why Your Child's School Isn't More Diverse

While segregation may seem like a thing of the past, it’s still a major issue affecting our schools today. We spoke with Stefan Lallinger, executive director of Next100, to explore why schools aren’t more diverse and how we can advocate for systemic change. He also shares his insight on the upcoming Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action and its implications for the future of K-12 education. Resources: The Benefits of Socioeconomically and Racially Integrated Schools and ClassroomsSchool Segregation in Cities Across America MappedBridges Collaborativeepisode with Dr. Shawn Jones@StefanLallinger


Your Child’s Career Exploration Starts Now

We often ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, but how often do we help them figure out the answer? We invited Jean Eddy, Executive Director of the American Student Assistance (ASA) and ASA’s “Solve It” contest winner and high school student, Elliana Cabellon to talk about career exploration. They share how families can help kids follow their passions, plan for their futures and explore STEM career pathways. Resources: Careers: Introducing Kids to Innovation


How Policy Shapes Family-School Partnerships

Is your school district prioritizing Family-School Partnerships? The Director of Family-School Partnerships at Colorado Department of Education, Darcy Hutchins, shares how states and districts can embed best practices into their protocols to ensure strong family-school partnerships. She also offers advice for where families can look for information about policies affecting their own communities. Strengthening Family-School PartnershipsNational Standards for Family-School PartnershipsFramework for Family-School PartnershipsPromising Partnership Practices


Speaking Up for Every Child: Tips from a Parent Advocate

What does it mean to be an advocate for all children and how can you jumpstart your own advocacy journey? We discussed the answers to these questions and so much more with Rosazlia Grillier, a founder and governing council member of the United Parent Leaders Action Network (UPLAN). She shares her own experience, how you can find the leader in you, and how to get connected to a network of advocates and take action. Resources: COFIOnline.orgunitedparentleaders.orgEveryone Wins! TheEvidence for Family-School Partnerships and Implications for


Helping Your Child Through Crises

Since the start of 2020, it feels like we’ve experienced—or witnessed—one crisis after another. How should we talk with our children about these challenging topics—and how can we cope with them ourselves? We interviewed Dr. Pamela Cantor, founder and senior science advisor at Turnaround for Children to get her advice. She shares how relationships, routines and resilience can help us traverse these tumultuous times. Resources: • Visit for resources and resources focused on whole child development • Follow Pamela Cantor on social media at @DrPamelaCantor and read her articles in Psychology Today • Check out “Racism and Violence: How to Help Kids Handle the News” in PTA’s Our Children online magazine


Overcoming Math Anxiety

Do you start sweating when your kids ask for help with math homework? Lots of parents struggle with math anxiety—our child’s and our own—but math is everywhere and it’s our job to help our children embrace it. We sat down with Eugenio Longoria Sáenz, founding director of the Center for Family Math at The National Association for Family, School and Community Engagement (NAFSCE). He shares how you can overcome your own math anxiety and help your child learn how to approach math with curiosity and an open mind. Resources: STEM+ Families Math NightHave a Math Chat with Your Kids


An Inside Look at School Ratings

What goes into a school rating? School ratings often leave families feeling confused, wondering what a singular number tells them about the quality of a school. To get to the bottom of this, our hosts interviewed Jon Deane, CEO of who shares how families can use school ratings as a starting point for making informed choices for their child’s education. Resources: What Do Public School Rankings Really MeanGreatSchools.orgcollege success award@GreatSchools


Supporting Children through School Transitions

School transitions can be hard—and not just for the kids, but for parents, too! Our guest, child development expert and author, Deborah Farmer-Kris, has tips for making school transitions a little smoother. Whether your child is struggling to get out the door in the morning, experiencing anxiety in the classroom or melting down when they get home, Deborah has advice to ease your back-to-school transition. Resources: parenthood365.compicture book seriesHelping Children Transition Back to Schoolepisode with Phyllis FagellGet Your Routine Back on Track


Improving Student Wellness

Our nation is facing an adolescent mental health crisis. Teens are struggling in the classroom and at home. Our guest, Instructional Support Specialist and Social Emotional Learning Lead, Leona Fowler, shares her experiences navigating these challenges and what approaches can equip our kids with the coping skills they need. She discusses how mindfulness and other social emotional learning techniques can improve student wellness at school and at home. Resources: Voices from the Classroom 2022: A Survey of America’s E-Learning Academy@MizBossLady82


Addressing Learning Loss

Since the pandemic began, the phrase “learning loss” has become a frequently used term in the education field. What kind of “learning loss” are teachers actually seeing in their classrooms and how are they working to address it? Angela Burley, sixth grade social studies teacher and a 2021-2022 Teach Plus Texas Policy Fellow, joins the show to share her perspective on the issue. Resources: Students can’t help being absent because of COVID. We need to help them, not label them chronically absentWhy ‘Learning Loss’ Is So Complicated (and How to Address It Constructively)How is Your Kid Really Doing in School?


The Teacher Burnout Crisis

In the last few years, teachers have faced unprecedented challenges that have left a lot of them feeling burnt out. Experienced educator and activist, Sofia Gonzalez, shares her thoughts on teacher burnout and how systemic changes could make teaching a more sustainable profession. Getting Serious about Teacher BurnoutHow much do teachers struggle with stress and 214


Fostering Student Motivation

Fostering motivation is an important part of a teacher’s job. Larry Ferlazzo, veteran high school teacher and Education Week writer, shares his insights on how to motivate students. Learn what teachers most want you to know about student motivation and get tips on how to get your child to do their homework, chores and more. Resources: 4 Tips to Keep Kids Engaged in LearningBuilding a Community of Self-Motivated LearnersSelf-Driven Learning: Teaching Strategies for Student Motivation@LarryFerlazzohis blog