12 November 2006

The Parental Piece of the Puzzle

I write about parents here from time to time. It's such a vital piece of the educational jigsaw and yet they are not visibly involved with discussions about the kinds of things impacting students: NCLB, state requirements, School Improvement Plans, and so on. This is not to say that they don't care about their kids or do things at home to help things along on an individual basis, but I wonder if it appears that school is something done to their kids rather than with kids and parents.

The coffee clutch I visit on Friday mornings is made entirely of elementary teachers. I listen to their stories of frustrations with students and parents. They often turn to me and ask if high school teachers have the same problems of students not turning work or parents in denial about student behavior (or even helicopter parents). For some reason, the teachers thought that these problems go away. On the other end of things, most high school teachers don't realize that their elementary counterparts have these issues. They don't magically appear or disappear with puberty. The elementary gang said that phone calls about classroom issues begin in kindergarten and continue on. As a classroom teacher, you might think that you are calling a parent about a problem for the first time. A parent might have already had that phone call multiple times over the years.

This observation begs a few questions. How many parents have had call after call, year after year, about their child's behaviour or lack of work ethic? At what point do you (as a parent) just start shutting out what teachers are saying to you? Do you try for awhile to help correct behaviors...or do you just give up around second grade? Were you this sort of student, too, and does that impact your view of the school?

Schools---not parents---are held acountable for student achievement. I don't think that many parents out there realize this and that it is the reason that they neglect to support their children's learning to the fullest. I realize that the feds think we can get all kids to standard without parents helping along the way, but I don't know an educator out there who thinks that's realistic. So, what do we as schools do? We need all parents to shoulder their piece of the puzzle, not just some. Do we log parent contacts over the years? How do we make those calls more positive and draw in the parents we need?


Anonymous said...

I think that the person who can solve this problem will be a rich one. The thing is, I just don't think (call me naive, it's ok) that parents set out to undermine the school. I don't think that (most) parents actively work to let their kids know that school is a waste of their time.

I do think there comes a time where they don't know how to help or to fix the problems their children are having in school. At the beginning of each year we send home an information sheet to help us get to know the students on our team. This year one of them was returned by a student in my homeroom. His mother wrote, "If he gets in trouble, don't call me, I don't know how to deal with him either." Shockingly, so far he's having a good year.

Unfortunately, it's much easier for everyone to blame the school. If it's the school's fault, we don't have to worry about poverty. If it's the school's fault, we don't have to worry about offering parenting classes to the children having children. If it's the school's fault, well then fix the schools or close them.

I'm not sure when it finally dawns on the government and the public at large that this is not something either side can do alone. It may well be too late.

graycie said...

I truly believe that this is the crux of so many of the difficulties we face in our nation today -- not just in education. No one is really raising our children. Parents both must work full time to provide for families. Who's with the kids when the whole village is out finding food and shelter?

No institution can raise children. Raising is a 24-hour-per-day job done by EVERYONE -- and I'm not at all sure that ANYONE is doing it today. Our children are growing up alone and uncivilized.

(Has anyone read Lord of the Flies?)

The Science Goddess said...

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt, is it ladies? :) You're so right about the public (in general) not seeing that kids need strong parenting. It's not an institutional sort of thing, even though we get the blame.