Making the Most of Your Child's Education:
I would argue that I have been a teacher since I had the linguistic and cognitive ability to lead and instruct. I used to play teacher when I was a kid - no joke, I would give my brother math tests that I made up and I would pretend mark! I chose teaching as a profession because it is a skill that beats deep in my soul - I am a teacher.
I quit teaching for the public system because I believe it is a defunct, archaic system which ultimately destroys teachers and trains children to be mindless, uncreative, drones/slaves - but hey, no hard feelings.
That said, I know that there are teachers within the public system who are amazing, and public school offer's a necessary knowledge base for your children. Going to school is an essential experience for children to have and there are important skills that can be learned from attending public school.
It is possible for you as a parent to help your children learn some high value lessons from school. Here are some ideas on how you can accomplish this with your kids.
Grades don't matter - really they don't!
One of the things that really shocked me when I was teaching high-school, was how focused students were on grades. The thing that shocked me more were statements like, "If I get less than 90%, my parents will ground me!".
I am sure, if you think about it, you can name at least one person who was an all-star student in school and who didn't amount to much in the "real-world". The reason for this is that GRADES DON'T MATTER! And here is why:
They are based on rote learning: grades are based on test scores, assignment completion and how well the student memorizes and regurgitates the text-book material. Grades are not a true reflections of your child's intelligence, creativity, social prowess or their potential.
Grades are sometimes randomly assigned. When it comes to report card time I have actually seen a few teachers go down the class list and assign grades based on how they "feel" the students did during the reporting period. i.e. Johnny gets an A, Sally gets a B and so on. They don't give assignments, tests or do any formal evaluation they assign grades based on their gut instinct. Not every teacher does this, but I saw this often enough in six years and six different schools that I think it's worth mentioning.
Creativity and 'outside the box' type thinking are not encouraged. This is for the simple fact that creativity is hard and time-consuming to evaluate.
Grades are heavily influenced by the teacher's feeling towards the student. If the teacher likes your child, he/she will receive better marks. Teachers are human, they have feelings and their feelings sometimes leak into their marking.
What you need to do as a parent is take the emphasis off rewarding good grades and put it on rewarding good effort, creativity, and respect for peers and teachers:
If your child received a B for something, but learned a lot about the subject - that deserves to be rewarded.
If your child took an assignment, and made it their own or did something really creative with it - that deserves to be rewarded.
If you go to parent/teacher interviews, and find out that your teen is always respectful of the teacher and sticks up for others in the class - that deserves to be rewarded.
If you worry about poor or average grades hindering your child's hopes for post secondary - stop! Universities only look at a teen's last two years of high school. If your child has grades that are too low to go to University right off, they can do a year at college and then transfer to University. Demonstrating a year of good performance at college is much more valuable than two years of high school. And think about it, has anyone ever asked you to see your transcripts from high school?
Help your child identify interests, talents and direction.
One truly exciting and wonderful thing about public education is that your child will be introduced to a variety of subjects, experiences and opportunities. Your child will have to take part in everything from science to music and that means that they can explore different areas and find what they are passionate about. Here are some tips on how to take advantage of this opportunity:
Pay attention to what your children are involved in and do your best to extend and deepen their experience in each area. For example, if they are developing an interest in science, take them to the science center. If they have an interest in art, take them to a gallery.
Teach your children to see new subjects and experiences as an opportunity. An education is a privilege, the ability to read, reason, analyze and calculate are invaluable to our success as adults. Try to help your child develop a positive attitude towards their education.
Teach your children not to give up. If they are complaining about something, encourage them to see it as a challenge and not to give up on it prematurely. Often a child can't see how something is practical and so they disregard it. Try to help them draw the connection to real life where possible. Explain how you have used the information in your life or how you have seen others use it.
If you find a good teacher latch on!
Like I said there are some fantastic teachers in the public school system. They are people who are exciting, knowledgeable, and passionate about their subject and about education. When you light upon one of these extraordinary individuals, take advantage.
As a parent stay in contact with the teacher as much as possible. Ask him or her if there is anything that you could be doing at home to support your child's education. I used to love it when I knew I was getting support from a child's parents. It is an exciting education opportunity when teachers and parents work together for the good of the child.
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