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Time to stop blaming teachers

Community effort: for our children to be academically successfully, parents must work with youngsters, teachers and the Ministry of Education, and must take an interest in their homework and extra-curricular activities while ensuring they know the value of an education

There is one irrefutable truth in education: parental involvement in schools promotes student success and achievement. Most of us grew up believing that we could do anything or become anything we wanted with dedication and hard work.

Whether we will include parents in the education of our children is no longer an option — it is required. If students and their parents understand the advantages offered by something as simple as parent involvement, some may choose to become more involved and, therefore, help their children to be more successful.

Parental involvement is not a new concept. However, our parents are missing in action as it relates to their child’s academic success.

Our children’s academic successes are a partnership between the ministry, teachers, parents and students. There is a great amount of unjustified criticism that is unfairly being levelled against our schools and our teachers.

Most of the criticism is unfounded, baseless, undeserved and distorted. If parents do not inculcate in their children the importance of an education, there is not much even the best teachers can do.

Teachers are not miracle workers, despite what many in our community would have you believe. Blaming teachers and the Ministry of Education has become so popular with parents, the media, some politicians and members of the community that it has blurred the reality of what is actually happening in our schools.

When you talk about the problems in education, all eyes turn to the schools and teachers. Rather than focus on their responsibilities as parents, the discussion is focused on teachers, the Ministry and the union.

If some of these critics would take the time to better understand just how hard the teaching profession really is, they would change their criticism to face the reality of today’s schools as it relates to the larger community.

Our schools are a reflection of society and society at large has changed and undergone a dramatic shift from previous generations.

There is no doubt the target is on teachers and we need to stand up and let others know the truth about what is going on in our schools.

It would be a lie to tell you that all teachers are effective. However, focusing on teachers alone prevents us from addressing some of the real issues in our system. The reality is that we need to work collectively, because collectively we have the power to change our education system. Every one of us has a role to play.

Student failure rates are influenced by many factors. Factors such as institutional policies and procedures, classroom learning environment and curriculum are under the direct control of the ministry and the individual school. Factors such as social, economic, and parental involvement are outside of the influence of the school and the ministry. Also, exposure to drugs, smoking, alcohol, poverty, neglect, abuse and violence also contributes to academic underachievement.

It is no secret that if students are committed to their educational goals, they are more likely to be successful, while a student who has weak goals or is unclear about their educational goals is more likely to fail. Furthermore, students who spend more time studying are more likely to be successful.

Numerous studies have found that student success is directly related to the time and energy they invest in their education. When schools and families work together to support learning, children tend to succeed not only in school, but throughout life. There are hundreds of studies that conclude with the same basic results — children are more successful when parents take an active role in their lives.

We have to be realistic about the schools and Ministry’s limitation as it relates to student success. A teacher should not feel like he/she is starting from scratch every day. That is the reality in some of our classrooms.

Some of our students are not completing homework assignments or reviewing their lessons at home. Parents are not checking to see if homework assignments have been completed and most parents will say: “He said he did not have any homework.” Really? What about reviewing or reading a book? Instead of being on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Vine or Snapchat, have your children feed their brains. The mind is a horrible thing to waste and I see a lot of wasting going on in our community.

Academic success requires effort and there are some students who are simply unwilling to commit themselves to the task.

Unlike previous generations, in many homes today many parents send their children to school unfed, unprepared, with little or no basic skills and often with a lack of social skills — and sometimes with their lungs contaminated by marijuana fumes.

To improve education, parents need to be held accountable for their own actions and we need to be honest about a student’s ability — after all, those who struggle academically are often most aware of it.

Vocational education must be returned to high schools so that students can graduate with skills in useful trades.

Ultimately, parents and the students themselves have the most control over how successful they are, but to put the blame on teachers is inappropriate and counterproductive. Instead, we should acknowledge the value to society that teachers are providing and thank them for their dedication.

Some suggestions for parents:

• Eating meals together is important;

• Helping your child with homework is important;

• Monitoring your child’s homework is an important part of his or her education;

• There should be time set aside each evening for homework;

• You have a responsibility to ensure that your child has completed his or her homework;

• Contact the teacher if your child is having difficulties completing homework;

• Attend parent and teacher conferences regardless of prior commitments;

• Stay in touch with the teacher on a regular basis to remain in the loop;

• Fuel your child’s brain with healthy foods and a healthy environment;

• Teach your children to be respectful and polite and hold them to that standard;

• Stop giving them every material desire that they have. Give them more of your time and attention instead;

• Monitor their computer use. Just because they are on the computer, it doesn’t mean they are doing school work;

• Know who their friends are and the values they share.

Increasing parent involvement in the education of our children is no longer a lofty hope for parents and schools, it must be mandatory.

We must not lose sight of the many and varied ways that parents can be involved or that there is not a magical age when their involvement is no longer of importance and value.

Parents are the first and most important teachers of their children. Home is our most important social institution and home is also the most important academy of learning.

ROMEO RUDDOCK BSc MEd is a senior educator in Bermuda