How Much Influence on a Child’s Education Does Home Life Provide?
Recently, educators have been under fire for the perceived lack of progress children are making in school. All kinds of arm chair jockeys have jumped in to “fix” the educational system. Testing has become the mecca for deciding what a child knows or doesn’t know. Evaluating teachers has become the bar for whether or not they retain their jobs.
Let’s look at the other side of the picture for a minute as we start to throw the baby out with the bathwater in education.
In my generation, parents sent children to school with the following message, “If you get in trouble at school and don’t do your work, you get in twice as much trouble when you get home!” Today a child is more likely to insult his teacher if she tells him he’s doing something inappropriate with, “If you try to tell me what to do, I’ll tell my mother and father and they’ll sue you!”
Ah, yes…let’s not tell little Suzy or Horace that his behavior is less than perfect or we might damage his self esteem and wreck his life forever after. Right.
Sadly, some of the worst problems in schools are dealings with parents who have no idea how to parent.
A couple of generations ago families lived in the same communities and the grandparents helped their children learn how to parent. Now families may live across country from the next generation, the mother or father may be a single parent trying to scratch out a living, or the parents feel that it is the school’s job to teach the children everything they know including everything from how to use the bathroom to how to become a brain surgeon.
Parenting is one of the two toughest roles anyone ever takes on, the other being marriage. With marriages ending on a daily basis, the parent who is left with the major responsibility may be so overwhelmed with grief over the lost relationship, money problems resulting from the divorce, and complete dismay at the child’s reaction to the situation, that the child is almost without a shelter from the storms!
Add the economic problems that have arisen for most middle class and lower income families in the past few years and you can see what children are facing outside schools. Many, if not already homeless, are worried that they might become homeless. Some are living in environments where a new boyfriend or girlfriend for the parent may be moving in and having a large say-so in the child’s world.
Children are very perceptive. Don’t think that they don’t know what is going on around them.
Some children have parents who have decided to be the best friend of the child. They pamper the child and give her everything she wants until the child gets totally out of control; then the parent throws up his hands and says, “I’m at my wits end. I can’t understand why my child is acting the way she is.”
Sometimes the addition of another child in the family creates chaos. The baby cries at night and the older child can’t sleep; the next morning the child wants to fall asleep in school—and that just doesn’t lead to productive learning.
Some parents have children with special needs. The range of these adjustments can be formidable and not every parent can cope. If you have a child with severe physical complexities, your home life is certainly different from that of a parent who has a child with autism; both are extremely difficult to face, both emotionally and financially. The child will need 24-hour a day care and will need special education at school. Teachers who work with these students have extensive training and equipment to help the child learn, but that doesn’t mean their daily activities are easy either. Some of these children also have extreme behavior issues; dealing with a meltdown can occur at any minute.
Here’s the teacher facing all these situations, not to mention ones where a parent has died or has been incarcerated and the child is devastated with grief. The teacher is supposed to see that every child becomes an “A” student no matter what. The scenario is ridiculous.
Most teachers do their best under extremely difficult circumstances. They must learn what is influencing the child at home and persist to their utmost to see that learning takes place no matter what.
It is no secret that children who have support at home generally do better in school. These kids have parents who see that the child does his homework, eats healthful food, exercises adequately, and gets a good night’s sleep do better in school. These kids are not up all night texting or playing video games. Their cell phones are not in the bedroom at night; they are not staying up until midnight to watch inappropriate television programs. These kids know that their parents (or guardians) love them.
Personally, I think it’s time that our society realizes that education requires the positive engagement of everyone in our communities. Hurling stones at educators and making regulations aimed at increased punishment are not productive answers. Threatening teachers with having their salaries lessened and their professional lives ended does not encourage others to spend their lives in this type of service to others.
Teaching is a service profession. Teachers in public schools take every child who walks in the door as long as that child does not threaten the lives of others. Public schools have every problem that affects society. Some children come from homes where they have loving parents who try to be the best they know how and other children come from homes where the parents care more about drugs and other abusive substances than they do about the children. Teachers work with every child, no matter what.
Teachers can’t correct every ill of society, but they love children and do the best they can for them during the hours they are in the classroom.
Do we need parenting classes for many people? Yes. Can teachers be blamed for every result in the classroom? No.
Wake up, America. We’re all in this together. We need to start acting like it.
Teachers are not the enemy. Teachers are part of the cure; parents, grandparents and guardians are the other half of the equation.
Common sense needs to prevail.