I was reading an article today from the NY Times partially about the influence that parents have on their children’s success. The story relates that it is to be expected that the parents of the kids doing poorly, students who are in some sort of reform school, etc., who do not show up for the kids games or to conferences with teachers, are bad parents. I too felt that way for many years while teaching, that the only parents I saw, as a general rule, (and teachers out there correct me if I’m wrong) were the parents of students I did not need to see. They were the parents of the successful, happy, well adjusted children. I needed to see the parents of the struggling, the tardy, the absent students who were in trouble with me and in danger of failure. I rarely saw those parents. It is easy to blame the parents of those students. I no longer do. Perhaps it is age, the advisory job I now do for the state, or reflections on my own life, I find that the reasons for these problems are increasingly more difficult to pinpoint.
There are wonderful students of terrible parents. There are terrible students of wonderful parents. While I do not remember exactly, I can only remember two occasions my parents were ever called to school on my behalf. Both times were of course, something I did that was wrong or inappropriate and those of you who know me perhaps are shocked at that being such a low number of parent meetings but things were different then. I’d get picked up for truancy by our Assistant Principal Boris Spivack (exactly) routinely but my folks were never notified because he took care of the situation. There was no need for additional punishment. I understood my offense. I understood my responsibility. Today everyone is notified, tracked, observed, a file kept on them for fear that if it is not done, something will happen and the school/church/whatever will be sued by the parent/student. We’ve gotten ourselves so bogged down with all the monitoring and reporting that the real care giving is lost.
The interesting thing about this article is that this young girl’s lack of attention mirrors that of many of our “regular school” students today from their own parents/guardians/teachers/administrators.
I don’t know the answers. These societal problems will continue to grow in our schools unless we begin to look at the bigger issues. I’m sure poverty and ignorance have been around, fretted over, and political action taken on the issue since the beginning of time. Nobody has ever solved poverty nor will they. But poor parents (financially) or rich I think it is time to lay off parents, not entirely now but to the extent society blames them, we need to take a step back and see what is it we are missing in our approach to education and socialization of todays’ youth. What worked in the past we perhaps need to resurrect? Suggestions?

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