This got me thinking, what right does a non-teaching parent have to suggest what should be going in on the classrooms of today? Should just because every parent to some extent has been to school give them an entitlement to pass judgement on education professionals and the effective of their work? I go to the dentist and the doctor once in a while. Does this give me the power of suggestion, recommendation towards these professionals regardless of the fact that I have no professional or academic training in either medicine or dentistry and in all honesty, hate needles and have no wish to spend time in what we as students used to call the "murder house"?!
Despite all three contexts being professional in nature, there are societal differences between teaching and the professions of dentistry and medicine. Whether trained and qualified teachers like it or not, parents of today are to some extent if not significantly, co-educators of their children and due to the increasing rise of online learning opportunities and education technology, will continue to grow into such a role, I do think that parents of today and tomorrow do need to be seen and treated as bona-fide educators. However, if this is indeed the case, it is not appropriate for parents in this context to have as the cliché goes "all care and no responsibility."
I remember talking to a teacher from a rather high decile school subsequent to a term break. He confided in me that he could not believe how few students attended the school week either side of the 14-day holiday break. When I inquired as to why so many students were absent from school during the end and start of the terms, I was duly informed that air fares are a lot cheaper the further travel is away from the high-demand holiday period and so therefore it made fiscal sense to travel in this time period. Furthermore he had informed by some of the parents that the absences away from school would be justified by the real-life learning that the students would obtain on their various travels to all points North. South, East & West. Incredulous at the time of such practice, I was left in no doubt as to the prevalence of such actions when my eldest son started primary school. We received a letter stating in no uncertain terms that the holiday period was the best time for family holidays and that any time away from school either side of the official period was not appreciated and was strongly frowned upon by the school's teachers and senior management. If parents are to be seen as valid educators, considerable care must be taken to ensure that school is not treated lightly when the best travel deal exists or there's fewer crowds during school time. Furthermore when a number of students are alighted from classes this near the holiday periods yet many remain in class, such removal does much to suggest that the schooling is often secondary in importance to personal and/or leisure and relaxation pursuits. It also does little to dispel the perception of "haves" and "have nots" within one learning space. Do most students catch up on all the work missed whether out pre or post the sanctioned holidays? In my experience it's rarely a complete "yes" but please note that I am more than happy to be proved wrong on this one.
I am an educator that firmly believes in the existence of the home as not just a place of stay and shelter for our youth but also as a legitimate learning space that contributes to the advancement of a student's academic and citizenship skills. Parents need to be fully aware that most students are in learning when they are at home, except in unique circumstances of severe suppression on the home front. The other day I blogged about schools providing breakfasts for students with the ultimate aim being "full stomachs, full minds." But extraordinary circumstances not-with-standing, when a student comes to school hungry, they are at a massive disadvantage in terms of being ready-to-learn. If when some students at any school in New Zealand and beyond, do consume pre-school but it is in the form of chips, pies or soft drinks, how much physical energy do these ones really have, how much learning energy can be utilised? Over my career, I have come to realize just how much of an impact hydration and nutrition (or lack of one or both in many cases) can have on a student's classroom composure and their ability to engage, learn and achieve academically and socially. Despite such a move undoubtedly being termed social engineering, the management of student food and liquid consumption to the better would have a huge impact on the student success in our schools. Student in high-level sports, cultural or performing arts contexts know only full well just how much pre-event undertakings impact on an outcome. Parents in this instance as "educators" have, I believe an ethical and educational obligation to make sure their children are suitably ready-to-learn i.e. they have enough fuel to power to each day's learning destinations and beyond.
When we consider that students spend 2/3 of the day outside of the school, the role of parents as "educators" becomes even more significant. But what a minute, I hear many of you say, the students are sleeping for at least 1/3 of the time! Are they, are they really? Increasingly a number of certainly lower-income families have school-attending students working up to 20, 30 or even more hours a week during school terms and outside of school hours. Yes, the son or daughter may be providing much-need financial support for the greater good but what damage is being done long-term to the likelihood of their academic and vocational endeavours in the current and in the future? Sadly, it is often these students who despite in a number of cases being highly capable academic individuals, succumb to the lure of the dollar in the now and often withdraw from school much too early. Why? To work even more hours and rarely if ever can they break free from their new-found routines to return to academic learning in school or in tertiary. Ideally the students would complete their secondary schooling at the very least and arguably at the same time, then be in more possession of social and personal maturity and a greater awareness of potential career or vocational pathways. Ideally parents would support their child's chosen career pathway over a short-term job that allows no future advancement or personal satisfaction.
I love the fact that more and more teachers exist in the form of well-meaning, passionate parents who not only are interested in the academic undertakings of their children but who are also very keen to be actively involved in the learning. Parents must ensure that they work with the educational institutions their sons and/or daughters attend and where possible work with the appropriate teaching communities to ensure the shared vision of engagement and success is believed, visible and extolled in both the home and school. In such an existence, the student has no excuse the. The success stage has been built by the "educators", it is now up to the students whether they perform to acclaim or miss their cue. or fluff their lines. By the stage the educator parent and the educator teacher can do no more...as it should be.