Remember those back to school commercials from a few years ago that featured ecstatic parents gliding along on a shopping cart in a school supply store? Their darling children stood frozen and expressionless as a voiceover could be heard singing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” We all knew it wasn’t Christmas. Still, it was hard to get that little refrain out of your head even as the temperatures continued to soar to eighty degrees in September.
But judging from all the banter and bear hugs in my high school’s hallways this week, it seemed that most students were very happy to be back in school. Sorry, parents. You did not come in first on the ‘excite-o-meter’ this year. By now, the students have been given the lay of the academic land and understand how their teachers can help them to succeed both in and out of the classroom. Now it’s your turn to learn because education is still a partnership of school, home and community. Here’s how you, too, can be a standout in the school, a Very Impressive Parent!
In spite of the almost daily negativity that we read about concerning teachers and the ‘system’, it is important to remember that your child’s teachers are in their classrooms because they sincerely want to be there. Teachers love what they do and no one is there for the money. Perhaps the time off, but definitely not the money. As parents, it is really important to remember this when you are meeting with a teacher. No teacher can be deemed successful if the students in their charge are not successful, so student success makes everybody a winner. Call it ego, but we want to look good, too.
Make yourself familiar with both school and classroom policies so that you can reinforce this at home. If you disagree with a rule, for instance, speak to the principal or teacher about. Get clarification and if some policy should be changed, work in a constructive way to bring everyone on board. Your example is crucial to teaching your child how to solve a problem by working positively with others. “Bringing the house down” makes for good theatre but lousy school and community relations.
What is proper school attire? Why is lateness to school or class a big deal? Why is lack of homework completion practically a mortal sin? Maybe it’s because we educators understand that our influence goes beyond the classroom walls. In addition to teaching ‘subjects’, we are also teaching the skills that everyone needs to be successful in our jobs and in life. Try being frequently late to work or missing deadlines or dressing like the office Lady Gaga and see how that enhances your career!
A teacher friend of mine has a sign in his classroom that says, “No Whining “. That’s good advice and I will try to remember that the next time I get a disappointing birthday gift from my husband. But as parents we must recognize that most kids whine and complain especially when they are asked to do something they don’t want to do, like homework. Surely, this could get on anyone’s nerves.
But think about how your mandate to do everyday chores and weekend garage clean-ups are received by your kids. Have you heard junior call out to his brother, “NO! Let me take the garbage out. No fair. You did it yesterday”! It’s the same with homework. There is a purpose to it and if you want an explanation, ask. Hint: Drill and repetition reinforce learning. Insist your kids do it.
Every good teacher summarizes the lesson of the day, so here it is, your blueprint for being a VIP:
1. Be positive about learning, as this will set the tone with your child. As parents, you are crucial to their school and life success. Be a good cheerleader for your school and for your child.
2. Encourage your child to do what is expected of them. We all have to live by the rules or accept the consequences. That includes homework. Don’t be afraid to hold your ground. You’re the boss.
3. Work as a team to solve problems constructively remembering that there needs to be a little give and take on both sides. Don’t publicly badmouth a teacher when a private conversation might reveal another side of the story. Be a force but not a force to be reckoned with.
So that’s it. Now this advice isn’t new and won’t guarantee that your child gets a perfect score on the SAT or a full scholarship to some big name college. But it does guarantee that your child will experience personal success, the kind of success that lasts a lifetime. Have a good year!
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