I have written before in the past on various blog sites and networks about the vital equation that must exist in order for a student not to fail in our schools:
Family + Student + School + Policy makers/Voters = Student Success
Each variable is co-dependent on the other. Each link in the chain must do its part, pulling its weight for the goal to be achieved. To tackle this polynomial equation takes deconstructing its parts. Therefore, much like a Top Chef contestant deconstructs a grilled cheese sandwich to analyze its ingredients, I am going to break down our education equation into parts and analyze what each must contribute for a student to succeed.
So I've posted three articles simultaneously, a webquest of sorts through my blogs, covering the following:
- Here, you'll find my take on what the family and home life must contribute to the equation.
- At the George Lucas Educational Foundation's Edutopia site, I've written on what the student must bring to the table.
- At my personal website, Tweenteacher.com, you can read about the schools' responsibilities, specifically those of the teachers.
Stop by each site and look at each of the variables. For without any of them, the equation will undoubtedly fail.
The Family's/Guardian's Responsibility
It seems simple to say that a family provides the first and most important education for a student, but it's true. As a teacher, I have influenced many students in my time, but never more so than the lessons coming from their homes. It doesn't matter whether the student comes from two parents or one guardian, a traditional home or an alternative one; there must be structure at home that supports a child's learning. At school, we struggle to differentiate for the 30 or so students before us, but in the student's home, individualization should be the norm. Teachers may be educational experts, but those at home are supposed to be experts at their own children.
The home life must follow some foundational rules to contribute to the equation of student success to avoid a student's failure:
- Get the student to school... on time.
- Make sure the kid is fed... on something other than Snickers.
- Make sure the student has had proper medical care.
- Communicate with the school: show up to meetings about the child, have a way to reach out with questions or comments.
- Be accessible. Make sure the school has accurate phone numbers. Make sure calls are returned.
- Know where the student goes after school.
- Make sure the student has a place to work and a routine time to do homework.
- Follow the homework to its destination. Many times, parents let go of monitoring before the student is ready. Check to make sure the work was done. SEE the kid put the work in their bag before school.
- Learn how kids change from year to year. A student who is an A-student in fourth grade might be struggling to make Cs by middle school or might never find a passion for learning until high school. Students are constantly trying to redefine themselves, and it is not always the school's fault if a student is trying on a costume that we all disapprove of.
- Share honestly what a student has a tendency to do socially, academically, and behaviorally. Don't leave that knowledge for the school to unearth. It wastes time in solving the problems. Be upfront with the school, and work together to provide consistent structure as soon as possible.
Look, I know that not every home life is set up to allow for all of these rules to be followed. There are parents with multiple jobs, homes of nomadic families, and things that happen that throw a tragic wrench into the consistency of a family's life. I get it. But it's important to realize that there is a trade-off if this variable in the equation is not functioning at its full peak, and schools cannot always bridge the gaps that exist in all homes.
So far, families are not held accountable the way the schools are for their student's failure. But one must ask: are some families of failing students living up to their end of the social bargain?
The Final Variable in the Equation of Success
Of course, the last vital variable is what we all, the voters and the policy makers who work for us, must do for education to succeed.
It's important enough that I want to end each of my three posts with this challenge: make education a priority in the voting booths and the campaigns. Retired baby boomers can't dismiss educational issues as no longer their problem to solve. Younger families coming up through the system can't cut-and run from our public schools in their indecision of how to educate their own children. The problems that plague some of our schools belong to us all.
Public schools are a miracle of this country. The mission, to educate all for free, is one that anyone on any side of the political fence should be fighting for as a top priority. But it's up to voters to send the message that it is important, and its up to policymakers to do the right thing despite party politics and lobbyists.
Cutting education will only cut the future of this country, and that hurts us all. With every vote that does not pass and with every "nay" on the floor, our voters and policy makers condemn our system to further failure.
The equation of student success isn't about who is to blame. Rather, it forces us to ask the question: how can each variable that involves us all, better do its part?
In regards to what families should be required to do to hold up their end of the bargain, what would you add to this Top 10 list to help avoid their student's failure?
Follow Heather Wolpert-Gawron on Twitter: www.twitter.com/tweenteacher