Our local newspaper is the Valencia County News-Bulletin. Our schools start next week, and the News-Bulletin ran an editorial urging parents to demonstrate that we value education. The editor urges parents to turn off the TV, and shut down the games so that students can go to bed early. Parents are to make sure students head to school on time, well fed and well rested. The message is that school is important. Likewise, parents are to encourage doing homework.
As a retired teacher, I fully agree. Motivation is a key ingredient in education. Teachers work hard to motivate all students, but teachers can not do the job alone especially if someone at home is critical of the school or education in general. Teachers need the support of parents. Parents should be telling their children how important it is to learn for the long term. When the student hears the same message from the teacher, it should be reinforcing what they were told at home.
I have written a letter to the editor on this topic. I will deliver it to the editorial office tomorrow. Since motivation of students is a universal problem, I am sharing this letter with you.
To the Editor:
Thank you for your editorial asking parents to encourage students to do well in school, but let’s go a step further.
When I taught school, my biggest frustration was unmotivated students. Such students only attend school because they are forced to. They see no need for knowledge in the future. Often they learn just enough to pass the course and then intentionally forget everything. Teachers work hard to motivate their students, but often the most effective motivation comes from the home. When parents do not attempt to motivate, the students are usually lackluster.
In addition to anything a student hears from his or her teachers, the student needs to be encouraged by the parent. Students need to be told that school is important both now and for the future. Parents need to encourage students to do well in school, not just for the grades, but because the student may need to know that information later in life. Long after the grades are dust, there will be occasions when it will be worthwhile to know what was taught in school. Encourage the student to strive for long term retention.
On a related topic, parents should take care not to undermine the authority of the teacher or administrators. There are times when a parent should come to the defense of their child, but it should be done with tact and understanding. When the child has broken a rule, allow the child to face the consequences. Enduring consequences is part of the learning experience. When there is a valid misunderstanding, discuss the matter calmly with the teacher or an administrator. Learn the facts and the circumstances. While advocating for your child, clear up misunderstandings and errors, but do not ask for favors or special treatment. Let the child know that there are consequences to misbehavior, and that they will have to face a consequence to the extent they are at fault. Let the child know you are backing them up, but they must still obey the rules.
Please do not insult or degrade teachers in front of your child. Respect is an important part of the educational process.
________________________ August 8, 2011
Reynold J. Conger