08 Nov Jon Cartu Convey: Parents essential to children’s education | My View
Let’s imagine that a good education is a coveted prize sitting on top of a three-legged pedestal.
One leg is the school/teacher. The second leg is the student. The third leg is the parents. It is this leg that is most weak, and it is what fails most often.
Unfortunately, around 50 percent of local students are receiving at least one F (failure) on their report during remote learning, and worse, on the permanent record that follows them to college admittance, for example.
There’s no “blame” issue here. What I’m about to present are facts. Parents are way more important than many seem to realize when it comes to the education of their children.
For 18 years, I worked as a volunteer with children at the local Boys & Girls Clubs that served hundreds of kids over the years. The Alto Street facility not only offered the reading and tutoring program I ran, but also had an expert art teacher, crafts and computer training and more. It also has a full-size gym where basketball teams from all over played games.
Parents used only the gym. Attendance to games was high. The club tried many other things to get the mothers, fathers and grandparents to become involved in the after-school programs and had little success. So, I know that getting parents to participate in the remote-learning programs that schools are offering during this coronavirus pandemic has to be extremely difficult.
Some still have jobs and large families are not unusual, making it even harder for parents to help. Is it that important that parents are involved?
Yes: In the early 2000s, the Santa Fe New Mexican held an event with the intent to evaluate local education and to produce a report for the Legislature and others about what could be done to improve matters; 120 people from various careers were invited to attend an all-day seminar and think tank. At the end of the day, reports were collected, and the result was that everyone agreed the number one element in success of educating our children was parents.
My tutoring program was for beginning readers. I quickly learned mentoring was a very big part of what could lead to success. Children have serious issues that need to be handled. I and my very capable volunteers discovered children who needed glasses, who needed the help of experts in the field of reading, who were in the middle of their parents’ divorce, who had a parent in jail, who were not getting enough to eat. The list goes on. Part of the problem here in New Mexico is, of course, the child’s first language may not be English and some parents may speak none.
Parenting is one of the most difficult jobs under any circumstances, and often they need the help of outsiders to deal with the issues I’ve laid out above. My experience found that pointing out simple things like feeding the children meals at a regular time and putting them to bed at a reasonable hour could make a big difference in behavior. I saw behavior change with one little girl in two weeks after a conversation I had with her mother. A little boy moved from out under his chair to become an enthusiastic reader after I talked with his recently divorced dad about acting more like a father than a pal to his son.
These are only two examples. Most parents are not prepared or properly equipped to “play” teacher’s aide, and they don’t deserve an F. Neither do the kids if they are doing what they can to cope.
To be stable, our imagined pedestal needs a fourth leg, and that is our community. If we don’t step up, we are the ones who deserve the F. Let’s make sure every child shares in the prize of a good education.
Lou Finley is a retired tutor and mentor who lives in Santa Fe.