Schools start a bit early here in New Mexico. While many states don’t get started until after Labor Day, we begin near the start of August. This means we are now three weeks into the year and schools are beginning to host open houses.
Parent teacher conferences are also just around the corner, as are fall breaks, autumn carnivals, Halloween celebrations, and sports. Each event is a crucial opportunity for us parents to uphold our end of the sacred bargain between families and schools.
This blog has spilled ample digital ink holding NMPED, districts, schools, and educators accountable to center their practices and beliefs on all students, regardless of their personal circumstances. High expectations paired with top-notch instructional practice is a potent duo proven to bring about impressive results with students of all backgrounds.
An equally important pairing is that of child and engaged parent. In the 80s and 90s, much attention was paid to American parenting. Entire populations of students were considered “unteachable” or “not in school to learn.” Bush’s famous quip to the NAACP about the “soft bigotry of low expectations” was borne from this line of thinking and brought the dawn of “No Child Left Behind”, including a pendulum swing of focus to teacher quality and practice.
Now, talk like that is mostly limited to hushed tones, though from time to time even proclaimed education champions let slip their inner thoughts when they say, “We don’t know how to teach kids from poverty. They come with no skills – well, they have street-fighting skills. They’ve got a lot of skills; they’re just not academic skills.” Unfortunately, those beliefs persist and are in large part the reasons behind Yazzie v. New Mexico finding we do not provide many students a sufficient education.
Without doubt, we parents play vital parts in ensuring students complete their work, try their hardest, and respect their teachers. We, like educators, are often overworked and underpaid. Even more reason to ensure we instill strong values and an appreciation of school in students.
As Frederick Hess wrote a couple years back, “When it comes to the handshake between parents and educators, things have broken down. After all, teachers can’t make students do their homework, turn off their devices or show up at school on time. Parents can.”
Both parenting and teaching are incredibly hard jobs. We need to be honest about the co-commitment needed from each without judging. Student success is reliant on what happens at home, particularly for long-term life success. We as parents must do all we can to support our students and prepare them to be diligent learners. A good teacher backed by an engaged parent is a nearly unbeatable force in the life of a child.
So, show up to open house and the autumn carnival. Don’t just grab pizza and leave. Take time to visit the classroom and speak with the teacher. You don’t have to be best friends but shared expectations and a willingness to do what it takes for the child to be successful is worth every ounce of effort. When it comes time to grade us parents, we should all strive to get As and Bs.