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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Who's responsible?

I was having a conversation with my husband’s aunt about schools.  She was telling me about how people in her district were suggesting that the school provide breakfast for the students.  The school in which I used to work had a breakfast program while I was there.  The students would have to run around the oval a couple of times and then got some cereal for their effort. On the one hand this is a good idea.  It promotes healthy eating and exercise and it give’s the kids a chance at a good brekky who would otherwise have not gotten anything at home.  My issue is: why aren’t they getting a good breakfast at home?  Is it really the school’s responsibility to promote healthy eating?  When I was teaching in town I would see students walking to school with a can of coke and a bag of lollies.  This disturbs me.  One of the subjects I was teaching at the time was Health, but clearly explaining the benefits of healthy eating and the effects different foods had on the human body was not enough.  The message was lost.

Another gripe I regularly hear is parents complaining that their children are not being taught manners in school.  Is that really the job of the teachers?  If so, what role do the parents play in their children’s education?  It appears to me that parents are giving over their power as parents to the state and expecting schools to teach their children everything they need to know…. About everything.  At the same time, they are telling their kids, “The teachers can’t make you do anything, so you just do what you want.”  There are mixed signals here.  And it is no wonder that our kids are slipping through the cracks.

As a new parent and a former teacher, I have a unique perspective about what I can expect from schools and education for my child.  I know that schools have no power to discipline kids and no real ability to tailor programs to suit my child’s needs if they differ significantly from mainstream education.  Teachers only get the children for a short period each day and for the rest of the time they are in their parents’ care.  Can parents really expect teachers to have more influence over their children than they do themselves?  And for that matter, why do they want them to? 

For my part I’d like to urge parents to take back responsibility for their children’s education…all aspects of it.  If you want your child to grow up with a certain set of values, then model these for them and encourage your children to learn them.  If you don’t think that the school is doing a good enough job at teaching your child reading or mathematics, then don’t complain and threaten, pick up the slack and read with your children and encourage mathematical calculations at home.

If we, as parents, take back our power and realise that it is our responsibility alone to provide an education for our children, then the schools can resume their place.  By this I mean the school is merely a resource that you can use to assist you in the education of your children.  It is a good resource but not a complete one and certainly not the only one you have. Once you realise this fact, a whole new freedom opens up for you and your kids.  Take an interest.  Take back your power and your responsibility.  I’m sure that the education process will be far more rewarding when you do.

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