How to help your children face challenges in school?

Boy doing homework.

You likely pay a substantial tax  and money to provide education for your children.

In some areas there are new school buildings, an impressive array of modern equipment in classrooms and plenty of courses on contemporary subjects.

But does all of this mean that children going to school now are better educated than those in the past?

Not necessarily.

The fact is that there are many students in their last year of high school who can read no better than those in fifth grade.

It is equally true that some students cannot comprehend much of what they read. 

A surprising number do not have a readable handwriting.

As a result, the likelihood of their becoming productive members of society is greatly limited.

Why the poor results?

What is happening to child education?

What is happening in schools?

One reason why taxpaying parents and others find it hard to grasp what is going on is that they assume that schools are just as they were when the parents attended years ago.

But conditions have changed drastically.

The average parent would be shocked at what is daily behavior nowadays.

No, we are not referring to somewhat harmless schoolboy pranks. 

We are talking about drug dealing and drug abuse, the drinking of alcoholic beverages, promiscuous behavior—even sexual activity—on school grounds. 

We are talking about fights, knifings—including attacks on teachers and principals—right in school buildings.

We are talking about shameless, senseless destruction of costly school property.

Nor is that all. In some classrooms the days are filled with battles between teachers and disrespectful youths. 

Conscientious teachers try to keep classes going for the benefit of those who want to learn, but rebellious students interrupt, challenge authority and create upheaval. 

There is a tendency for others to be led along to imitate the lawless ones, so that an entire class can in time turn on the teacher. 

By the end of the day teachers are frustrated, ill, striving to maintain sanity and self-respect.

Thus, opportunity, talent and money—your money—are wasted.

If you add to the above a flabby credit system and a grading of exams at such a level that just about anyone can pass, what you get is an atmosphere where there is little incentive to learn or apply oneself. 

Worse yet, students trying to do well are bullied, threatened, beaten and ridiculed. The pressures are tremendous to conform to unruliness and promiscuity.

Think of the plight of one young person in his first year of high school whose student identification card was stolen by other students who wrote the word “GAY” in heavy ink across the front of his picture. 

Students also telephoned the parents of this particular youth, and, pretending they thought they were talking to the boy, explained they had his order of marijuana ready—this to undermine parental trust and create problems for the boy at home. 

At times they also destroyed his schoolwork, his books and electronics projects and even physically attacked him in school hallways.

How many will stand up under that for long?

‘You’re describing some extreme situations at ghetto schools,’ you may say, ‘but that’s not the case where my children attend.’ Are you sure? 

‘Well, they've never said anything like that,’ you may reply.

Have you asked? 

Of course, we hope your children’s situation is not that bad, but they may be too embarrassed to mention what is going on, or they may have been intimidated by others. 

‘But where are the teachers when these things happen?’ you may ask.

What about the teachers?

That is an understandable question for parents and other concerned adults to ask.

Happily, most teachers are still dedicated, responsible people. 

If they have these problems, let these teachers know that you do not approve of rebelliousness and interference with their sincere efforts to serve well. 

They may thus be encouraged to continue to resist the emotional strain and physical attacks.

Teachers need your encouragement.

Consider their frustration when they see that troublemakers are let go with verbal reprimands or a few days’ suspension from classes. 

One teacher who was interviewed said: 

On one occasion I went into the boys’ washroom at school and caught three boys dividing up marijuana into plastic bags. I took them to the office and gave the evidence to the vice-principal. . . . Next day I went to the vice-principal and asked what was done to these students. He said they were sent home for three days.”

Does this affect the attitude of students as to what they think they can get away with? 

It definitely does!

As one juvenile offender said to a psychologist about a felony charge:

 Big deal. All they’re going to do is take me to court and lecture me for a few minutes.” 

Thus some youths hold the whole system of authority and justice in contempt.

Their attitudes, in turn, increase the peer pressure. 

Expelled students use their time off from classes to hang around the school grounds and entice others to wrongdoing.

They become heroes!

What has been mentioned so far is enough to indicate why children can go to school and still not learn well, whether they are directly involved in the misbehavior or not. 

For so many, school is just a meeting place for drink, drugs and sex.

But there are other situations that can stand in the way of your children’s getting a better education.

Sad to say, some teachers are known by their students to be drug users and persons who lead a promiscuous life.

That does little to inspire young students in the right direction. 

Consider the influence on a 16-year-old pupil when a teacher in her 20’s sits on his desk and asks: “How come you haven’t been by to see me like the other boys in this class?” 

More frequent, perhaps, is the “hassle” some female students report they suffer from male teachers who make advances as they assure passing grades to the girls.

Then there are those few teachers who seem to feel that they are on some sort of “special mission” to acquaint the young with “other life-styles.” 

What can parents address these challenges?

Now that you know to some extent what things are like at school for your children and their teachers, what will you do?

What can you do? 

Remember, children are born to parents and within families.

They are not products of the state or of any institutions of government. 

Whatever governments may supply in the way of education should always be viewed as supplementary and never as an excuse for parents to abandon their own responsibilities.

The children are yours. 

Hence, you have a voice (and should have an interest) in what they are taught and how they are taught.

This being so, how do you proceed?

First, sit down with your children and have an open discussion about what is going on in their school. 

What are their needs and problems?

Parents who are concerned with good principles will want to find out what their offspring are being taught or what they are expected to read that may be at variance with such principles. 

Other parents will be concerned, understandably, with the preservation of certain cultural and ethnic concepts that are dear to them.

If you have had good communication with your children all along, the above recommendation will not be a serious problem. 

If, however, this has been somewhat neglected in the past, it will take time and patience to bridge the gap and improve communication. 

Remember, you have strong family ties that give you the advantage.

Your children love you and will be warmed by your genuine interest. 

Eventually they will be more communicative.

So you may have some fence-mending to do, but it is well worth the time and effort.

However, one such session will not suffice.

It must be a steady, continuing interest that you show in them. 

Regularly, perhaps at the family’s evening meal or at some other appropriate occasion, inquire as to how things went at school that day. 

What did they learn?

When they reply, listen carefully.

Do not interrupt needlessly.

Should you detect anything objectionable in what they were taught, don’t panic. 

Don’t overreact or bawl them out.

That will silence them.

Ask them what they think about what they were told. 

Find out why they accepted it or rejected it.

You may be pleasantly surprised at how well they handled the matter.

If so, commend!

On the other hand, if you see that what you wish for your children has been in any way adversely affected, it is your right and duty to discuss this with them. 

It is easier to root out any wrong ideas at this early stage before resulting misconduct brings grief to the family. 

Next, to see for yourself what things are like at school, make a visit there. Spend a few hours or a day, if you can. 

Teachers won’t mind.

In fact, most will welcome it.

If there is a meeting soon where parents and teachers can talk, attend it. 

In both instances really talk with the teachers to see what things are like with your children.

Listen when the teacher talks to you. 

Don’t form opinions too soon.

Communicate intelligently as to what you want for your children.

If you have religious, cultural or ethnic concerns, make them known. 

Most teachers are quite tolerant these days, but they can’t guess about these matters. 

For example, they might conclude that your child’s reluctance to engage in some school program or exercise is merely a childish whim.

Each year a visit to the new teachers of your children affords the opportunity to assure these teachers as to your expectations about your children’s education.

So, while you are not going to visit with the idea of getting involved in a confrontation, or with ideas of altering the entire system of education, there is much you can do to assure that your children are benefited by going to school. 

Just paying your taxes is not enough.

Neither can any teacher substitute for caring parents.

Most of what your children need for a better education is available.

But what is needed most in the program is "you."