Tuesday, December 27, 2011

No Excuses For Students and Parents

I found this tough-talking article last week. It is nice to read an article on education that actually asks kids and parents to accept some responsibility for their education.

Don't get me wrong: there are teachers that need to go, immediately and unceremoniously.

But there are also parents who are blinded to their child's flaws and kids who have learned to make excuses and hide behind their label (whatever that may be).

Ultimately, education is a three-legged stool with teacher, parent and student supporting it. If one leg fails to hold up their end, the stool falls over. For too long, teachers have been blamed for the collapse of education, and it is time for parents and students to take responsibility, too.

For parents:

1. Read to and with your kids, all the way to adulthood. The material changes along with the conversation, but reading is the key to success.

2. Recognize that your child will make mistakes. Let them. Help them learn from them, not by covering them up or making excuses, but by helping them recognize how they made the wrong choice and requiring them to fix their mistake. Do this early, and be consistent. Bail them out, and be prepared to do it forever.

3. Get all the facts. Don't immediately blame the school for the failing grade. Be prepared to implement suggestion #2.

4. Give your child responsibility. Instill a work ethic. If you are still making their bed in middle school, you are in big trouble. You are not actually helping them. Kids need chores to contribute to the family and see how they make a difference.

5. Turn off the screens. Monitor their time online and in front of a TV. Minimize or eliminate it entirely during the summer.

6. Allow your child to struggle. You do them no favor by paving their bumpy road. Life is full of potholes. Struggle with support is good.

For kids:

1. Ask questions, and ask for help. If you are embarrassed to do so in class, send an email or note to your teacher. You are not expected to know everything!

2. Read every.single.day. Something printed, for at least 30 minutes (an hour is better). If you are not a fast reader, practice will make you faster. Find subjects that interest you, and a sunny spot in a tree, and go read.

3. Turn off the TV. Trust me. It seems like a good idea to stay up all night watching TV, but it is actually not. At all.

4. Understand that your parents were your age once. They may know a thing or two. They may be infuriating and embarrassing, but they are doing the best they can with what they have and know. Sometimes they will fail, spectacularly. You are teaching them too. Be kind.

5. Take responsibility for your work and yourself. Shoddy work that lacks thought and effort is all on you. If you don't know how to approach a task, ask. If you don't ask for help and then wait until the last minute, do not be shocked or angry when you do poorly. In the end, you are the only one who can live your life. It may seem like a great thing to have your parents constantly swooping in to bail you out, but you will regret your dependence on them one day, and you will not know how to change it. If you own up to your mistakes and try your best to change your habits, you will grow and improve in everything.

This is the only life you have. Don't expect someone else to live it for you. Education may help you along, but only if you make the most of it.

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