Charles E. Richardson

A few simple parental tests to start the new school year off right

wmarshall@macon.com

At the beginning of every school year I write a column to parents about what they should expect from their children, teachers and other school personnel, but most of all, what they need to expect from themselves.

If you’re a parent who’s already running on all eight cylinders, this column is not for you, so don’t take offense. If you’re not on your A game, fess up, and pledge to do better.

Whether you’re a new parent to the school system or you’ve been through the drill, there are a few important things to remember. School teachers are not miracle workers. Parents, if you haven’t taught your child basic manners, courtesy, behavior and hygiene, that’s on you. Teachers can only reinforce lessons already learned. The same goes on the academic side.

Here’s your first test. Look around your home. Do you have more electronic devices — phones, tablets, televisions, games, etc. — than you have books? If you do, you’ve got a problem that will become more apparent if your child hasn’t learned to read proficiently by the third grade. The saying is as old as some of my underwear: “From kindergarten to third grade a child is learning to read, past that, the child is reading to learn.”

Being able to read and comprehend is not a skill that can be delayed without severe consequences. You want your child to climb on the reading train early, if not, there’s so much they will miss. You don’t want them sitting in the caboose watching where other students have already been.

Next simple test. How many of you visited your child’s school last year when not asked to do so? You know, just drop in. It’s doable, but you have to do a little pre-visit preparation, like getting to know your child’s teachers.

I hope you didn’t miss it, but last Thursday and Friday, schools, at least those in Bibb County, had open houses and other events where parents and teachers had the opportunity to meet. Phone numbers should have been exchanged along with these instructions said loud enough for children to hear: “Call me anytime. If my little darling-dear acts up in class, I want to know about it. I will be here in 15 minutes.”

That’s not what children want to hear, believe me. They don’t want to see a united front because they work on divide and conquer. Some children will test you and the teacher. When you get that call, 15 minutes later, you need to be at your child’s classroom door.

Your response will do several things. It will let the teacher know you have his or her back. It lets the child know you’re serious about their education. It’s unfortunate, but teachers rarely see parents at school except when responding to problems.

I have preached this next phrase since my children were in elementary school more than three decades ago. “I believe the adults.”

If a teacher says your child did something, the probability that your child did exactly what the teacher said he did is as close to 100 percent as you can get. Teachers don’t have the time or inclination to “pick” on your child.

That said, parents are a child’s advocate in chief. If something is amiss at school, from the teacher to the principal to the janitor, they shouldn’t be bashful, but follow the chain of command. Speak with the principal first — and if necessary — the superintendent. He may refer you to someone else, but rest assured, he’s the man..

And finally, no matter your child’s age, it is important that you stay involved in every aspect of their education. At no point can you afford to check out and leave it to the educators. They depend on you to help them do their jobs effectively. In fact, educators can’t do it without you.

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