Thursday, March 10, 2011

I don't know who wrote this, but it sums up how I feel perfectly.
~Clover

Education Reform Begins at Home

Imagine it's the end of the marking period, but instead of a parent teacher conference to discuss your child's academic progress, the meeting's agenda is to assess your skills and participation as a parent?
Do you adequately supervise your child's homework? Do you assure he has a healthy breakfast and lunch each day and check to see that his gym clothes are always packed in his backpack? Are you responsive to his teacher's questions and concerns? Do you read the schools' weekly newsletter? Volunteer for playground duty? Sign permission slips on time?

Suppose that the end of the marking period assessed not only your child's performance in school, but yours as well? That's the goal of some politicians, administrators and teachers. I have to confess, it's an idea that has some merit.
Parents and teachers should be on the same team

Most of us recall a time when parents didn't question their children's teachers. If a teacher called home to discuss bad behavior or poor effort on the part of a student, his mom and dad were solidly in the teacher's corner – and if that student was you, you pretty much knew you were in big trouble.

That's not how it works these days. If a teacher calls home – something most of them avoid at all costs – they're likely to face an angry, suspicious, defensive parent who can't fathom that his or her child is capable of the behavior that prompted the call. It's typical for a teacher to hear, "Obviously, you've made a mistake. My son told me you would be calling but he wasn't involved. He told me so."

Rather than see themselves as allies working in the best interest of children, parents and teachers have too often become adversaries, pointing fingers and blaming each other for the failure of kids to behave appropriately and learn effectively.

My take? There's plenty of blame to go around. But since I'm a parent who believes first and foremost in taking full responsibility for the growth and development of my children, I think parents need to step up and admit a greater share of responsibility for the attitudes, actions and academic performance of their children.

We need to face facts: Teachers can only do so much. Given the limited amount of time each day to instruct their students in academic subjects, they ought not also be expected to instill manners, moral values, ethical standards, study habits and social skills.

Our schools are not responsible for the instruction of our children – we are. We choose and use schools to help us accomplish this vital mission. But to lay the responsibility for our kids on a public or private school system is to fundamentally misunderstand the role of parents in the development and education of our children.

Call a team meeting

When my kids were younger, I made a point of chatting informally with their teachers, with my children present. The purpose of these casual conversations was to reassure their teachers that I was there to support them in their dealings with my children. In short: I let them know I was on "their side."

Typically, it went something like this, "Mrs. K, I've reminded Amy that you and I are on the same team. She's welcome to join our team, but she knows that you and I are working together to help her through the coming school year."

Speaking in parent/teacher code language, I let my children's teacher know that a phone call, note or email to me about my children would prompt a supportive response. I'd be holding my kids accountable to behave in the manner their teachers demanded and expected, and I wouldn't be running in to defend my kids' poor behavior or accuse the teachers of misjudging them.

Talk about a great strategy! When they feel supported, teachers are naturally more willing to take the time and effort to help kids succeed. And when they believe they won't be assailed, blamed, accused or maligned by parents, they're more candid, more caring and more connected.

What's the goal, anyway?

We all want our kids to grow up to be responsible, caring, well educated citizens who are prepared to make positive contributions to their communities and the nation we all hold dear. That's the ultimate goal!

But we need to take stock of our style as parent-educators. We can't rely on the schools to teach the things we should be imparting in our homes. And we can't be so quick to defend our children that we undermine their respect for their teachers and administrators.

Statistics show our schools are in crisis. They aren't educating our kids as we expect, or as our children deserve.

Teachers aren't perfect, and some are in over their heads. Who better to support them and solve the problems facing our schools than America's moms and dads?

1 comment:

Sara said...

LOVE this post. I don't yet have children, but this has been my hunch for a long time - that a lot of parents are enabling bad behavior by siding with their kids without question. Thank you for giving me some insight!