(by Jennifer Cumberbatch)
All parents in favour, say ‘aye’. Say ‘aye’ to the fact that you want the best for your children. Parents do want better performance for their children; and parents do have a right to expect better. Parents want the best teachers and the best schools to improve their children’s chances of success.
Education, then, must be high on the agenda of parents regardless of their economic or social status in life. There are several examples of children whose parents are poor who have still become successful in life. A popular example is American neurosurgeon
Dr. Ben Carson. He came from a poor single parent family; however, his very determined mother, who could not read, made the big difference. She ensured that he borrowed books form the library on a regular basis and that he related to her the stories that he read. She ensured that he remained in school, giving him the continuous help, encouragement and support that he needed. All children need that special support. Other than the financial support, which is essential, the mere presence of the parent in the home helps a child to feel a sense of security.
Showing interest in the work that the child is doing at school, whether or not you are knowledgeable in the area concerned, is of immense value to that child. The child, even though frustrated or overwhelmed, feels comfortable in knowing his parents are there for him.
Parents should be the Number 1 advocates for their children. Their children expect this of them. This also helps to enhance their self- confidence. Studies have shown that in successful schools, high parental involvement was a major factor in their success. Many recognise that parents are the key to closing the achievement gap. But how do they do this? How do they ensure that their children achieve their personal best?
Parents must believe that they are essential to their children’s success, and be prepared to do all they can to achieve this. They must get involved in their children’s school. This a great way for them to show their children that they are interested in their education, and it sends a positive message that they consider school and education to be a worthwhile venture.
Parents automatically are members of the Parent Teachers’ Association (PTA) of their child’s school. But more than automatic members, they should be active members. They should attend meetings regularly and volunteer to do tasks. (What about being on the PTA Committee?) Other areas of involvement could be: Fund raising, organising and promoting cultural activities, helping children with special needs, volunteering during and after class hours among other activities.
Parents should not be bystanders but should get involved. There are endless ways. Their children would benefit in so many ways. From analyses of studies, Henderson and Berla (1994) posited that children, whose parents were involved in school, generally achieve better grades and are motivated, attend school more regularly, have better self esteem, are more disciplined and better behaved, and show higher aspirations.
The study also found that these parents increased their interaction and discussion with their children and that they were much more responsive and sensitive to their children’s intellectual, social and emotional development needs. Parents were also found to have a better understanding of the job of the teacher. This led to improved relations. In addition to this they had a better understanding of the school curriculum and were thus more inclined to work with their children at home.
The school and the home are inextricably linked. They are both of immeasurable importance to the success of the child as the poem which follows postulates.
I dreamed I stood in a studio
And watched two sculptors there.
The clay they used was a child’s mind
And they fashioned it with care.
One was a teacher – the tools she used
Were books, music, and art.
The other, a parent, worked with a guiding hand,
And a gentle, loving, heart.
Day after day, the teacher toiled with touch
That was careful, deft, and sure.
While the parent laboured by her side
And polished and smoothed it over.
And when at last their work was done,
They were proud of what they had wrought.
For the things they had moulded into the child
Could neither be sold nor bought.
And each agreed they would have failed
If each had worked alone.
For behind the parent stood the school
And behind the teacher, the home.
This poem reminds us that each child needs both teacher and parents, and how in different ways they are vital to the child in their quest for the best for the child. Notice that they toiled in their different ways and were together proud of the result.
Parents must also be committed to positive parent-teacher relationships, especially when one thinks of the benefits to be accrued. There was once a teenager whose mother only knew that he was not promoted to Grade Eleven (Form Five) when she visited the school to find out about the payments for the Caribbean Secondary Examination (CSEC). This was after one of her friends mentioned the payment of her daughter’s examination fees. Another parent was unaware of having to sign her child’s National Grade Six Assessment application form. Sometimes parents are ignorant of their children’s attendance patterns at school. If parents visit their children’s school regularly, or are in frequent contact with their children’s teacher, they would have the necessary knowledge of what is happening in their children’s school life. A good point to note, too, is that teachers see the future before the rest of us, (Pastor Raphael Massiah, 2013.) Know and communicate with your children’s teachers.
As teachers seriously recognise parents as vital partners and stakeholders, and that these parents, too, are integral to the students’ success, and as there exists mutual respect between the two teams, our children’s chances of enjoying school and doing well can only be increased!