Per Facebook, my primary news source, the state of Florida has been passing several controversial laws. The first was a drug testing for those applying for welfare. I think I agree, but I’d like to read the opposing position first. The second puts parents to a passing or failing grade on the participation level of their children. I read it most recently on a guest blog for The Pioneer Woman. I had to stop halfway through the comments section, there was just so much to absorb.
The irony is that I was just discussing this issue with my educator husband and mother-in-law the other night. I hear from all my educator friends how parental involvement really is necessary, and I totally agree. My devil’s advocate question the other night was, “so exactly what do I need to do as a parent to participate in their education?” Pretending to be a working mom with a 50-hour/week schedule, I asked, “so I need to take part of my 2 weeks annual vacation time to attend the Halloween party? That’s what’s expected of me?” (interestingly enough, the FL mandates parents offer at least 3 hours each semester for volunteer classroom activities).
There’s so much I don’t know about this issue, but the few things I have decided: a) you can’t legislate good parenting (much like most of morality). b) everyone has a stake and everyone is responsible. Parents, teachers and students.
I will probably most strongly side with the voice that says that, especially as the student advances in age, the responsibility ultimately lies within the kid. I’ve only been at this parenting thing for 2 years now, but I believe strongly that even the best parent can’t create a perfect kid. Kids, in the essence of their nature, will do things contrary to their parents, and teachers’, wishes and instruction.
We won’t live in a perfect world any time in the near future, but I’d be curious to know from educators, parents and even students, what the perfect world would look like? What do they need from the other parties to do their best in their role? What expectations should they own?
I think parents are responsible for making sure their kids are able to fully participate in the educational opportunities in front of them. They should make sure they get their kids to school, that they’re fed and rested so they can focus on what the teacher is offering. I think it should be understood that parents participate in activities with their children that contribute to education: reading, going over spelling words, asking questions about the material covered and looking for ways to reinforce concepts through conversation and general life events. I also think parents should take a proactive, rather than a reactive, role in partnering with teachers. Perhaps “no news is good news” isn’t the best approach; perhaps conferences aren’t just for kids exemplifying warning signs. If we’re serious about individualized instruction, conferences are an opportunity for parents and teachers to decide what next steps they both can offer the student moving forward as way to take their learning experiences to the next level. Maybe “your child is doing great” isn’t the best conference; instead a parent can come with questions about how to take it to the next level and the teacher can offer hands-on, practical suggestions.
I think students are responsible for making the efforts to learn and participate to their best ability. If homework is age-appropriate, then they should be responsible for completing it (which may mean parents might have to help them develop the habit of making sure it is complete or by helping them with difficult problems). I think students should have to live with the naturally-occurring results of their decisions (and this can happen even at a younger age. It’s not about punishment, but about consequences).
And what if, instead of looking for reasons (and in some cases, excuses) behind a student’s failure, we spend equal effort trying to find the best way to help meet their needs while still requiring the student to fully participate to the best of his/her ability?
Even being married to a teacher, the hardest part of the equation I have with are the expectations of the teacher. I mean, I have a good idea of what makes a good teacher from a student’s perspective and what helps me learn. But what, as a parent, am I looking for? Is it anything different than being a good teacher from a student’s perspective?
So those are my thoughts. I don’t think the Florida law will really affect any change in terms of students’ success. I think it’s nice the state is trying to put a little push behind the teachers’ cry for partnership. But ultimately, if their child’s wellbeing and education isn’t enough to keep parents involved, will a bad grade?