Most teachers share the frustration of the lack of parental involvement in education. The abysmal failure of education in the United States is blamed on government programs, under qualified teachers, lack of resources, and a host of other things. But one of the most important is the lack of parental involvement in the educational process. Several factors may contribute to this failure that is reflected in classrooms every day.
The changes that occurred in American homes after World War II have dramatically affected family dynamics. Mothers increasing entered the work place and in the decades that followed, the home became dependent on two incomes to survive. Maybe survival is the wrong term, because we could live on much less. The family became dependent on the second income to afford the luxuries they enjoy. Hence, we have what has been termed the “latch-key generation” with children spending a large amount of time alone, kept company by computers and televisions, and the fact is that technology, no matter how sophisticated, does not add to the learning experience of our kids.
The evidence of this is seen in the large number of high school graduates who, while they can use a computer, video game, or cell phone, do not know how to read, write, and do simple mathematical computations. Parents are proud of their children’s technical abilities, and do not seem to realize their kids never learned the basics of what it takes to get through life.
Of the kids entering college, large percentages of them still do not have the ability to do basic writing, reading, and arithmetic. As an older student going back to college, I was a part of a team project in a Public Speaking class. On our team was a football player. We never realized until we were presenting that the young man could not even read his speech from a typed sheet.
Teachers are continually frustrated that many parents never show up for parent-teacher meetings. I managed to teach the same students for three years and never saw a parent. Amazingly, the kids that did the best always had parents attend every meeting, assembly, etc.
A common excuse heard from parents is their own lack of education. Their inferiority somehow means they should be held exempt and unaccountable for their children’s learning. As a teacher there is no kind way to say it. You do not need to know everything to help a child. Showing interest and setting expectations will mean more than you realize. School will never be important to your child unless it is important to you as a parent.
Parents should want their children to have the best chance for success. Success today means more than a high school education. It is no longer possible to get a good job with only a diploma. A minimum of a 2-year college degree is important if children are to succeed in the business world. A four year degree if preferable and most college graduates cite their parents as the main reason for their success.
So what should parents do to ensure success for their children? Visit the classroom and meet your child’s teacher. Communicate with the teacher about strengths and weaknesses in your child’s academic background, and work together to improve these areas. Attend parent-teacher meetings and special school events. Expect your child to complete homework and make deadlines. Sit with them, if possible, to encourage and inspire them in their work. Set goals for grades and award success. Make sure expectations are attainable, and do not over pressure. Always be reasonable, but let your children know you care about them and their success.