Across West Virginia, parents are sending their children back to school. Summer with the kids at home can seem like a tiresome ordeal. No doubt some parents are happy to dump the kids off at school with an unspoken, “Now, YOU deal with them.”
It is the job of teachers and the school system to provide a thorough and efficient education. Test scores show students frequently fall short of standards and expectations. But it is critical to remember that teachers are not the only ones responsible for achievement.
There’s plenty of research showing that parental involvement is directly related to student outcomes. Bored Teachers, a global platform for teachers to share experiences, has posted an open letter to parents as the school year begins.
Here is a partial wish list:
—Stop making excuses for your kids. Teachers say that children learn through mistakes and consequences, and parents should let that happen. “So, when your kids are late, or they don’t finish their homework, or they cop an attitude in class, avoid covering for them. Let them learn.”
—Make sure they are doing their work. Teachers remind parents that children are not adults; they have not matured enough to make life decisions. “Just like it’s a parent’s job to make sure kids don’t subsist on a diet of candy and breakfast cereal, it is also within their parental purview to know what assignments the students need to finish and make sure they get it done.”
—Cut the distractions. This is a hard one for teachers and parents. Video games, TV, smart phones, iPads and social media can all be diversions from tasks and learning. Teachers encourage parents to limit their children’s time with electronic devices.
—Model good habits at home. Children learn from their parents. “If you never pick up a book, never ask about homework, and watch TV at every meal, your kids will act the same. But the converse is true—if you read before bed, talk about what happened at school, and put the screens down in the evening, your kids will follow your lead.”
—Work with teachers, not against them. In their open letter, teachers ask parents to be on their side. “If we give your student a bad grade, don’t accuse us of being bullies—that is meant to inform you that your student needs to make changes. If we say something in class you disagree with, instead of accusing us of not knowing what we are talking about and calling for our jobs, try to understand what we said and the context in which we included it in our lessons.”
The teachers conclude their letter to parents with a plea to help each other. “We are on your side because we’re both on the side of students,” they wrote.
The quality of the teacher in that classroom has a significant impact in student achievement. It is fair and appropriate for parents to hold schools accountable for outcomes. However, the teachers are right that they can’t do it alone.