Parents = The Primary Teacher

Parenting is a pretty tough job. It demands all of you- then even a little more. Their child seems to be their world and they do everything necessary to help them survive. However, once the child enters school, there seems to be a dramatic shift. As a former public school teacher, I often wonder why was it that so many parents took a backseat to the process of their child’s education. During report card pick up, less than sixty percent of the parents would find their way into the door of my class to discuss their child’s progress with me. When I would make phone calls to parents, very few engaged me longer than a few minutes. During special events or presentations, on average, only a quarter of the parents would make it a priority to attend or stop in. How did we get here?

As a parent, you likely know and understand your child more than anyone else. You are more invested in their success than anyone (especially because their lack of progress will adversely effect your own quality of life in the future). Furthermore, you are probably your child’s greatest motivation to be successful in their academic performance (after all, you provide the home meals and Wi-Fi that they love so much!) So, since someone is so important to a child how did parents become so minimally engaged in their educational career?

I for one don’t blame the parents. On the contrary I blame the schools. The teachers, School Leaders, School staff, Media, Community Leaders, etc. Why do I believe the blame falls here? Simply because we tend to send messages to parents that encourage them to sit on the sidelines as we educate their children and provide all that they need much better than they could ever do on their own. We fail to communicate to parents that their full involvement, presence, support and accountability are a vital part to the equation of success. We ask them to partner with us, but what we regard them as outsiders to the process and minimally involve their input and suggestions. We don’t esteem parents in their roles, on the contrary we make them to feel inadequate and incompetent to educating their own children. Our major message to the parents of the children in school seems to be: “Since we know how to do this and you don’t, just wait over there until we happen to call on you” Or “don’t even try to take a lead in their education, you’ll just mess them up”.

I envision a school model in which we encourage, empower and collaborate with parents in their child’s education. I’m dreaming up a structure that doesn’t altogether exclude or minimally involve parents, rather it depends on them because they are the link to their child’s success. The current “take them and make them” approach to educating children is proving to be quite ineffective for this generation. Surprisingly, in the age of Before School Care, After School Care, Saturday School, Summer School, and other Educational Programs, we’re seeing that even though our country spends billions of dollars more on education these days, despite the increased hours of school days and the number of teachers and school leaders with graduate degrees and beyond, the majority of children are still less educated than children of the past. Therefore, we’re learning what previous generations knew very well- Parents make all the difference.
Gov. Rauner can’t fix schools, Karen Lewis and the CTU won’t fix education, Jesse Ruiz can’t be the solution, not even will the current US Secretary of Education provide our answer. It lies in the everyday, non-Rockstar Politician, unpublicized, low-name-recognition role of PARENT. Unless and until the current convoluted, messy bureaucracy of the education department recognizes this, I do not doubt that American children will continue to lag behind this world’s nations in education. Children already know it’s their parents who make the greatest impact in their lives, so it’s time we know it too.

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Aziza Butler

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