Parents—Be Your Child’s Advocate
PARENTS want the best for their sons and daughters. Indeed, the Christian apostle Paul instructed fathers to bring up their children in God’s discipline. (Ephesians 6:4) King Solomon of old advised young ones: “Pay attention to what your father and mother tell you. Their teaching will improve your character.”—Proverbs 1:8, 9, Today’s English Version.
Where, then, do schools fit into parental arrangements for education? And what should be the relationship between parents and schoolteachers?
The Roles of Parents and Teachers
“Parents are . . . the most important educators of their own children,” maintains Doreen Grant, author of a study of the influence of school on the home environment. But as a parent, you may find that idea hard to accept.
Perhaps you observe that the methods of teaching have changed greatly since you went to school. Nowadays, schools feature hitherto-unknown subjects, such as media studies, health education, and microelectronics. This has led some parents to keep their contact with school to a minimum. “Talking to their child’s teachers can make the most self-assured adult feel five years old and four foot tall,” writes Dr. David Lewis in Help Your Child Through School. “Instead of discussing difficulties or worries with teachers on equal terms, some revert to childish behaviour.”
Indeed, only when serious problems occur do some parents contact their children’s teachers. And then, more often than not, it is to complain. Nevertheless, parents can, and many do, make a significant contribution to their children’s education by cooperating with teachers.
Parental responsibility requires you to examine and take an interest in what your child learns at school. Why is this? Because teachers, professionally, serve as your moral agents. The values they maintain affect their pupils, for children look on teachers as role models. For their part, most teachers welcome the cooperation of their pupils’ parents.
One headmaster in southern Germany wrote to parents: “It has become apparent to us teachers, more than in any previous year, that a whole range of our pupils, especially those starting school [in Germany, at six years of age], are even now largely callous and unfeeling, thoroughly ill-bred. Many are completely unrestrained, not knowing where to draw the line; have no sense of guilt; are extremely self-centered, antisocial; and become aggressive without obvious reason, strangling and kicking [others].”
This educator continued: “Even though we teachers have far more difficulty as a result, we don’t want to complain. But we have to recognize that, despite all effort, school cannot educate and bring up children on its own. We should like to encourage you dear parents to venture to take a greater hand yourselves in the upbringing of your children and not surrender to the television or to the street what is actually your own share of [the responsibility for] their personality development, teaching them standards of behavior.”—Italics ours.
Even when teachers make such a plea for cooperation, many parents are still reluctant to help. “Not because they are uncaring, too busy or lack confidence,” claims David Lewis, “but from their firm belief that how well, or badly, a child does in class has little to do with upbringing and everything to do with their genes.” But this concept is simply not true.
Just as problems at home often affect a child’s classwork, so a good home life can help a child get the best out of school. “The family accounts for educational success and failure far more than the school,” concludes one educational survey. The book How to Help Your Child Through School agrees: “Even the busiest parent should recognize that their attitude—the interest and encouragement they show, and the support they give, even at a distance—can be crucial to children’s progress.”
How, then, can you achieve good cooperation with your child’s teachers?
Be Your Child’s Advocate
(1) Take an active interest in what your child learns at school. The best time to start is when your child begins to attend school. Younger children generally accept parental assistance better than adolescents do.
Read with your child. “Some 75 per cent of formal learning,” according to David Lewis, “takes place via reading.” You can thus play a leading role in developing your child’s fluency in reading. Research suggests that the progress of children who are helped to read at home often exceeds that of youngsters who receive assistance from specialist teachers at school.
Similarly, you can help your child with writing and, yes, arithmetic. “You do not need to be a mathematical genius to help with primary mathematics,” comments educator Ted Wragg. Of course, if you need help yourself in these areas, do not let any lack of skill prevent you from taking a genuine interest in what your child is learning.
(2) Consult your child’s teacher about the curriculum. By reading the school’s prospectus, find out what your child will be taught. Doing so before the school term begins will alert you to problem areas. Then, a visit to the teacher to discuss how your parental wishes can be respected will pave the way for good cooperation. Take advantage of meetings the school organizes for teachers to get acquainted with parents. On open days, visit the school, and talk with your child’s teachers. Such contacts prove invaluable, especially when problems arise.
(3) Help your child choose his options. Know your child’s likes and dislikes. Talk about worthwhile goals. Consult the teachers to find out all possible options. They will know about any scheduling problems that restrict the choice of subjects.
Bad feelings can be avoided by clear communication. Many schools exert pressure on brighter pupils to pursue higher education. But students who choose the Christian ministry as their vocation generally avoid undertaking a prolonged university education. Instead, if they opt for supplementary education, they prefer to study subjects that equip them to support themselves. Conscientious teachers sometimes mistakenly view this as a rejection of all they have tried to teach. Your patient explanation to teachers of the possibilities of the extra education open to your child in your child’s chosen field will reassure teachers that Christian parents do want their children to keep on learning.*
The Proper Approach
You can avoid much worry and heartache over your child’s education by remembering that successful partnerships are built on good communication.—Please see the box entitled “Steps to Good Parent-Teacher Communication.”
Instead of complaining and criticizing, be your child’s advocate through consultation and cooperation with the teachers. Doing so, you will help your child get the very best out of school.
Jehovah’s Witnesses who choose the Christian ministry as their career and serve as full-time ministers have the opportunity to attend a two-week course at the Pioneer Service School. Some later qualify for enrollment in a five-month course of missionary training operated by the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead to equip them as missionaries.
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Steps to Good Parent-Teacher Communication
1. Get to know your child’s teachers.
2. Double-check your facts before making any complaints.
3. If upset or angry, always cool down before speaking to the teacher.
4. Before meeting the teacher, write down the questions you want to ask, and list the goals you hope to achieve.
5. State your position firmly and clearly, and then work with the teacher to see what practical steps can be taken to overcome any problems.
6. Put yourself in the teacher’s position. Ask what you would do in his place. This will help you negotiate a satisfying outcome.
7. Listen as well as speak. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something. If you disagree with what’s being said, then say so, and courteously explain why.
—Based on Help Your Child Through School, by Dr. David Lewis.
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Read with your child
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Visit teachers to discuss the school curriculum
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Help your child choose the options