While legislators struggle with how to evaluate and grade the performance of your public schools, teachers and administrators continue to show up every day with a single goal of educating the students under their care. They need to be concerned about the grade they receive whether it is a color or a letter or some other method because so much hangs in the balance. But they will still invest most of their time trying to find the best way to make students successful.
At Greenville schools this summer the focus of study on the part of administrators and the board was to determine the best way to create a partnership with the community and particularly the parents. They discussed where they are today and the important areas to which they should direct their attention.
It was because of this that an article in a recent issue in USA Magazine caught my attention. Eric Sheninger, an award winning principal at New Milford High School in New Jersey, is the author of the article titled “What Teachers Want You to Know.” It includes input from several teachers. I have drawn the following from his work.
In addition to some familiar points, Mr. Sheninger focused on the need for everyone to be on the team. He said coaches and advisors play an important role. He stressed the need for parents to take advantage of the internet to interact with teachers using websites, social media spaces and blogs. He also asked parents to be patient with teachers who may not be able to read their email until the end of their work day. We have grown accustomed to instant feedback, but most teachers do not have the luxury of checking their computer that often.
Teachers today are struggling with change. It is hard to change traditional thinking about anything but especially teaching. Teachers need for parents and the public to be patient as they work through the change process.
Parents and guardians also need to understand the role of at home projects. Amanda Dykes, a middle school teacher in McCalla, Ala., points out that these are not really designed to torture parents. She recommends parents find out when they are assigned, and when they are due and help their student develop a reasonable timeline for completing them. This can be done by contacting the teacher or checking their website. Parents should resist the urge to step in and help their child. This is meant to be a learning experience for the student.
Finally, the author of the article offers three suggestions to help parents foster a love of learning in their child.
Praise effort and specific work. Comment on the time the student spent on a project or the content of his/her paper.
Connect what children are studying to what is happening in the world or in their lives.
Avoid using rewards and punishments for academic work. The student should learn to love to read for the pleasure of it not for a financial reward.
These are only a few suggestions. A conversation with your child’s teacher could help you to understand specific areas where you can help motivate your student and help him/her not only to enjoy school more, but to become a lifelong learner.
Janet Ralph is president of the Greenville Public Schools Board of Education.