Back to School with a New Attitude

Ah, mid-August. Back to school time. Relief for parents paying for extra childcare and camps is coming. Teachers are getting ready to embrace a new year and time to start over (with varying degrees of excitement).

But let’s get real for a minute, out of the summer haze and into the shade.

It’s not a secret that public education needs, and is under, massive reform, with laws trickling down from organizations and people who have never been educated about education and the process or psychology of learning.

Some people argue the US government needs to be making reforms. Others argue that changes need to take place within the state. Others still, within individual districts.

While these macro changes may be necessary it’s likely also true that change need to start happening on even more on a micro level. The changes that need to happen in education need to start in your home, and eventually go viral across every home in the district, in the state, and across the nation.

What happens at home affects what happens at school. It’s a fact. Often, though, this doesn’t mean what people think it does. A child needs his or her basic needs met, yes. But let’s think about how we view and talk about education in our homes and what that means for our kids and the establishment of public education. We’re not just talking about “broken” homes, or low socio-economic homes, homes where parents are incarcerated, or homes where our students have been abused. We might be talking about YOUR home.

Consider the following media outlets that children start taking in at young ages:

The news – When was the last time public schools were taken seriously in the news?

  • You hear about teachers being arrested for scandals and DUIs, or maybe about force used by a resource officer, and how wrong these adults in the school were.
  • In North Carolina, at least, you hear that the state ranked 44th in teacher pay in 2016.

TV Shows and Movies – Yes, I know that there are quality shows out there that promote intelligence, grades, and non-stereotypical strengths and are anti-clique based, but I’m asking you to think of the whole.

  • Schools are a popular setting for many TV shows and movies aimed at kids, tweens, and teens. However, look at the plots and the students. What is the focus? Drama, socializing, mocking teachers and school staff for jokes. Popular new Netflix Series, Thirteen Reasons Why, based on the young adult novel with the same name shows school as a party and teachers and counselors completely unaware of, and unable to help, problems going on in kid’s lives.

Think about what this says to a child? The repeated messages bombarded at students on an unconscious level? If the world doesn’t care about education, why should they? How can they truly believe that adults at the school can be taken seriously, understand, and help in a problem situation if they’re all involved in scandals or the punchline of the best jokes?

The likely answers probably lay within the walls of your home, and most of the solutions revolve around awareness, modeling, and communication.

  • Be aware of how you talk about your child’s school, teachers, and assignments/projects. What are you promoting when you look at a common core math worksheet and say, “this is stupid, you just add, I don’t know why your teacher is having you do it this way” vs. “I didn’t learn it this way, let’s figure out what your teacher is looking for.”  The second scenario models resiliency and problem solving, and doesn’t give your child the idea that his or her teacher should not be listened to.
  • Model good work habits that are stressed at school. For example, model planning with study areas and times. Stick to a basic routine, but plan details on a weekly basis so it works for your family’s schedule and is more likely to be stuck to. Create an area that is comfortable, but free of too many distractions for study time. If there is no homework, have them read or play educational games for an allotted time.
  • Model problem solving and working through being “bored” or “unhappy” with certain school situations.
  • Model speaking positively about school and school personnel.
  • Communicate
    • With your child about school attitudes and what they are seeing in the news and on their TV shows. Use this communication to stress what is just entertainment, and what characters could do or say differently in dealing with school. Remind them that the adults on the news are not right, but that they do not represent all school personnel.
    • With your child’s teacher(s) first to solve classroom grade, behavioral, or classroom specific social issues- this also models problem solving and shows trust in the teachers.
    • With the school counselor if your child is experiencing larger social issues or persistently strong negative feelings toward school. Let them and teachers know if something may be going on at home that could cause a change in focus or behavior. Details shouldn’t be needed if you are uncomfortable giving them, but a general knowledge that your student may not be his or her usual self can be extremely helpful, and models getting help when needed.
    • With the school counselor/social worker if you are unable to meet some of the supply or monetary needs. Keep in mind no one will ask you for details you are uncomfortable sharing, but it shows your child how and where to ask for help. School counselors and social workers almost always have access to school supplies, and a simple “I may not be able to get this for my child before they are needed,” can get him/her supplies needed and show how much your value them having what is needed in class. On a side note- the sooner you communicate with the school about any financial obligation you may not be able to fulfill (think supplies, field trips, etc.), the more likely it is that you will get the help you need to support your child.

Schools DO need reform but the reform is going to start at home. The school, the district, the state, and the country cannot affect the attitudes and learning within your four walls, but YOU can. Be aware, model, and communicate your way to giving your child the absolute best education you can. His or her future is worth it!

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