Report cards went home this month subsequently followed by Parent/Teacher conferences. Everyone, including the student, meets to review strengths, successes and areas where some support can be given to help the student reach their maximum potential. When I went to school students were not included in these meetings and often we never knew what had been said – positive or negative.
Many of today’s parents carry within them the memories of their own school experience. Many of them are positive but there are those recollections of bolted down desks in straight rows, of not speaking unless the teacher called on you (and hoping she wouldn’t), and if a bell ringing to signal a change to arithmetic from spelling or enterprise. Every day we went to school with clean clothes, clean fingernails, on time and with a nutritious lunch. And that was all that was generally expected from the home influence in schooling. Today, however, there is a welcome change from that basic standard as parents, not only schools share important roles as educators of children.
As long as parents don’t think of schools in terms of the negative things they went through and fall back on what they perceive to be accepted practices, parent/school cooperation can be the strongest force in a child’s success. The creation of a learning tradition within the home and a true concern for who children are, not what they produce, gives them a feeling of competency and high self-esteem.
A noted psychologist has remarked that “education is not really about education, it’s about human development. What happens in a child’s total life influences what happens in school”. Many of us know this to be true when we are helping our children (and grandchildren) learn to ski or ride horseback or play anew board game. Why do we sometimes assume that things will be different inside the walls of a school? For example, if we know that our youngster becomes confused or upset when he is nervous, can we really expect that standardized tests will give a true and comprehensive picture of his learning or ability? We know that our children are each different and individual, even within the same family. Yet we may still expect to enter a classroom and see all the students at the same place in their learning. Flash cards, multiplication tables and vocabulary lists drilled at home may not be meaningful activities and may lead to increased difficulties.
There are ways that we can help our children and ways in which the school and the family can work together for everyone’s benefit. Some very important things happen in a child’s life away from school and good communication always helps. Visit the school (other than for parent/teacher conferences) and get to know your child’s teachers and the principal. Indicate to the teachers any big changes that have happened or are pending – such as a new sibling, a move, a trip or a death in the family for example. Look out for “curricular overload” or academic pressure and don’t schedule too many activities on a weekend if this is evident. Share your enthusiasm for learning a new skill or a course you are taking. Congratulate them on their efforts not always just the product. While getting involved with your child’s education can be time consuming, home/school partnerships are crucial to your child’s self-esteem and feeling of success. And yours too, as a parent.