Public schools all across America are failing on all fronts. Every year new calls come from all angles to change the system. Unfortunately most voices focus on the effects rather than the causes of the shortcomings. This series of discussions will explore realistic and honest approaches to actually fixing the American public school system. Everything will be on the table; sacred cows will be slaughtered and served with slaw. Frankly, our children deserve no less.
Anecdotally an in-law posted a note on her facebook page. In this short message she observed three different parent/child groups in a local Toys R’ Us. What she saw was illuminating. One couple was purchasing educational toys for their little one. Another couple was picking up toy brooms and dustpans. The third group, just a young woman and her small boy, was picking up a toy cash register. This condensed account perfectly displays the real problem facing our schools. No matter how gifted a teacher is there will always be students who fail simply because they do not have a strong educational nor social foundation before they get to school. The most structurally sound building doesn’t stand a chance if it is built on quicksand. This fight is won or lost long before parents walk there little ones to the kindergarten doors. If we are serious about reform we must focus on the parents.
Almost all parents want the best for their kids. That is not the problem. The real issue is the knowledge and parental skills available. As the axiom goes: When you know better, you do better. Many parents simply do not know they should be reading and talking to their infants. Even less understand the vital part proper nutrition plays in future achievement. Some families who have money simply do not spend time with their kids so they develop negative social behaviors. Pockets of successful neighborhoods sit right next to impoverished areas. Of course, if you go back far enough slavery and the subsequent Jim Crow Laws account for most of the disparities. Regardless, the way forward is education. We are on the same planet. We rise and fall together.
Each One Teach One
Each school district would have a core group of stable, competent parents and early child development specialists that form a reformed P.T.O (Parent Teacher Organization). This group would focus on the relationship between parent and child. The group leaders would hold classes, teaching everything from prenatal care to tips for helping with homework, to the inevitable future planning for college or career.
For Those Who Have Little
As we move deeper into this millennium a number of families are at risk of being left behind because they cannot afford the necessary modern advancements. In my classrooms I have a number of children who fall behind due to increasingly technological requirements for school assignments. This problem can be remedied by pooling the community’s resources and securing a few of the various technology grants floating around. Also, almost every neighborhood has a public library. Most times these free resources are completely unknown to low-income families, so computers and books go unutilized.
For Those Who Have Much
Although the district I teach has an increasing number of economically disadvantaged students, my school has not cracked the 30% level. A large problem teachers have is the overblown sense of entitlement some of the affluent students display. The parents of these kids did all of the”right” things, such as early reading and proper eating habits. Where they fail is spending the time to properly teach them how to humble interact with others. Frankly, some of these kids are jerks. Their egos and public cries for attention become more disruptive than the actions of the so-called “problem children” from broken homes. The solution here is to introduce both parent and child to the other side. They must volunteer and adapt at least one economically disadvantaged family. This way, the E.D. kid has a ready-made tech resource and the “rich” kid a humbling reality check.
Will all this be difficult? Most definitely. What is more difficult for me is to sit by and watch kids fail. The dilemma our school system sits in is difficult. We are one; regardless of how many communities and social classes stand between us. The future includes everyone. It is time we start approaching it this way.
This series is far from exhaustive. The purpose of these articles is to spark new ideas and pioneer real reform in our public schools. I am about solutions, nothing more. I fully expect to raise the ire of naysayers and guardians of the status quo; in fact I welcome it. Have something to say? Whether it is a compliment, criticism, or comment sound off below or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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