August 31, 2010

It’s That Time of Year, Parents!

Depending on where you live, a new school year has either already begun or will start very soon. So, in a recent issue, I wrote to those who teach – whether in public, home, or private school – addressing a key concept for them in terms of having a successful year. And parents, too – particularly those of you who send your children out of the home for school – should hone in on a couple of key ideas.

First, remember that, while the ultimate result of your child’s education is your responsibility, you’ve chosen to “sub-contract” much of the day-to-day educational process to the teachers in your child’s school. In so doing, you’ve given up some of your authority in terms of what your child is taught and how. Thus, you need to show due respect to your child’s teachers. That doesn’t mean you can’t question some pedagogical choices that concern you; after all, the teachers are also your employees, by virtue of the taxes or tuition you pay. But you must commit to approaching a teacher with goodwill and respect; it’s simply inappropriate – not to mention counter-productive – to exhibit belligerent behavior toward those who work so hard in the classroom under sometimes very stressful conditions.

On the other hand, you should also remember that you are ultimately responsible for the development of your child’s mind, heart, and body. So you can’t abdicate your involvement just because paid educators do much of the legwork. In fact, you must remain fully engaged in knowing what your child is learning and how – and you must be willing to politely advocate for him when particular issues contradict your family’s values or otherwise concern you. In addition, seek opportunities to be helpful in the classroom and after school. You can volunteer to set up bulletin boards and do laminating, serve as a reading buddy for your child’s struggling classmate, or offer to be a guest speaker in your area of expertise. At home, you should check homework, serve as your child’s study partner, help her problem-solve when social difficulties arise, and insist on good nutrition and healthy sleep habits.

It may appear – and some teachers and children seem to indicate – that you’re not wanted or needed in such ways. But, first, that’s a myth. Kids really crave deep parental involvement and warm to it once it’s consistently there. And it’s been documented that kids whose parents are active in their schools do better all around, a truth most educators understand and all need to accept.

Second, that’s all really beside the point. You are your child’s parent. As such, the ultimate responsibility for his well-being – intellectually, emotionally, socially, physically, and spiritually – falls to you. Sub-contracting some aspects of your child’s experience doesn’t take you off the hook. So, even if you’ve been laissez-faire in the past, vow to change your habits now. Your efforts will bear much fruit…and it’s just the right thing to do.

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks


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