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  • Dean Rohrer / NewsArt

  • Joni Samples

Parents, teachers must work together to improve schools

Published: Sunday, Sep. 16, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3E

Parenting is not for sissies. Being a parent is tough when you're juggling job, paychecks and diapers. When parents have children of school age, the responsibilities are even more challenging.

When the children are little, Mom or Dad can help with walking, talking and tying shoes. As a parent of a school-age child, how do you help with reading, science or the dreaded "a" word – algebra?

Studies of parent involvement have shown that children do better in school when their parents and teachers partner in a child's education. Not only do children do better in school, they are more likely to attend, stay in school, graduate and go on to postsecondary training.

President Barack Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention included a clue to what works. He said, "Teachers must inspire; principals must lead; parents must instill a thirst for learning, and students, you've got to do the work." The clue leads to the key – parents and school folks, both teachers and administrators, must work together to support children's learning.

Change is going on in the education community. Educators and parents are beginning to realize what is meant by the phrase, "It takes a village to raise a child." Teachers can't do education all by themselves. Parents can't abdicate all of the learning and lessons to the education system, and then be surprised that the results aren't what they wanted. It's an evolution that was destined to happen.

The way to become part of a change in the system is not by rebelling against the current well-meaning individuals, either parents or teachers, but by working together for the change we want. Collaborate with each other, and the change will happen in a way that works, not in a way that leaves scars and bloody battlefield winners and losers, with the children being the biggest losers.

Politics in education have led to top-down testing as the major scale for whether a child is successful. Score high on the state tests and reach the No Child Left Behind academic goals. Score high on the SATs and get into the right college.

Many children don't score high on tests yet are brilliant in their own way. Our opinion of children slides when they cannot score high enough on tests. Their value and success sinks lower on their own self-worth scale.

Knowing my children and now my grandchildren are getting the best possible education, the most current skills and a love of learning are part of my vision of collaboration.

All children can learn. Parents must trust themselves to be a part of the process. Parents must trust themselves to support children's learning. Teachers must trust parents to be part of the solution.

Parents are a child's first teacher and his biggest role model. Yes, your child will use those four letter words if he or she hears them from you. If you say it or do it, it must be OK. Know they are noticing when you decide between reading a book or watching TV, working or napping, or the hundreds of other choices you make daily. They will do what you do.

Parents can partner with schools folks with relative ease. It's all a matter of focusing on what can help a child learn. Parents can start with something as simple as eating math for breakfast. For the little learners, count Cheerios. How many Cheerios are on the spoon? How many are on this spoon and the next? Add them together.

Have the third-grader in the household, help bake half a batch of muffins. The process will require a good deal of fractional calculation. Use place mats that have numbers and problems. Go through the ads in the newspaper and make a grocery list for breakfast foods. How much will it cost for your favorite breakfast?

As a parent, you'd probably do these things anyway. This time and next, have your child help. Model it, and the child will learn. Let her learn how and why we use math.

Read a story with your child in the evening, discuss the political conventions, or figure out your favorite ballplayer's batting average.

As a parent, it is possible to support your child's learning every single day. Teachers can give you more ideas.

When you get engaged with learning, children know you care and recognize learning is important. When learning is important to you, learning becomes important to your children.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Joni Samples

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