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Learning and Teaching – Whose Jobs Are They Anyway?
I just read a newspaper article that talked about the difficulty parents have in helping their children with their homework. Some communities actually offer classes in the subjects their children are studying so that parents can supplement their children’s academic learning at home. I won’t quote the article, because I think it missed it.
This is the answer from my “OP/ED” page: It is NOT the job of parents to teach the 3 Rs to their children. If parents believe they must have a teaching degree to ensure their children will succeed in school, I think they are mistaken. It is best to leave the subject matter and the assessment of mastery of that subject matter to the experts who are trained and educated to be the teachers.
However, there are things parents can do to help their children with their homework. If you have a struggling student, here are some ideas to help them succeed in school:
#1 Have a plan.Ask the experts (their teachers) how they would like you to participate. If their advice is to become a “tutor”, ask for other local resource suggestions. Many communities have after-school programs that include tutoring. Most schools expect their teachers to provide after-school help to struggling students. And, there are a myriad of self-study programs and supportive internet resources to help kids sharpen their math and reading skills. Find out what your child’s teacher recommends for your child.
#2 Become your child’s “coach”…not his teacher. From the touchline, a sports coach applauds, suggests, pushes, cajoles, and sometimes pleads for his player to perform to the maximum… (I repeat) from the touchline. The coach doesn’t get in the game, take the ball or score for the home team. It’s the player’s job.
Similarly (without the “advocacy”, I hope), a parent who coaches their child does so on the sidelines. An important part of the education process is taking personal action and taking responsibility for learning. For this reason, wise parents make sure their children have the tools they need to learn, knowing that the children should do the learning. And, support the process by offering encouragement and guidance on perseverance, attention to detail, the courage to try, and success in small steps.
#3 Create a family activity environment and structure for learning. Children cannot learn when television distracts them. They can’t learn if they don’t have the books or resources they need. And, they won’t learn if parents aren’t willing to curb their children’s natural instinct to blunder.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. So it’s important to set aside time for schoolwork and learning…and it’s crucial to set aside time to play and “have fun”. By creating a specific schedule for both (and sticking to it), children create a pattern of work and non-work and learn to focus according to the mode they are meant to be in.
#4 Establish a family culture on learning. If kids believe that television is the only source of information (because that’s where they see you getting your information), they’ll think learning from television is the norm in your family. If children see you reading the newspaper or books, they assume that reading is a valued “norm” within your family. And, if you instill the idea that the summer holidays are an opportunity to avoid all learning, your involuntary equating of school with learning (and the drudgery of schoolwork with the inopportunity of acquiring knowledge and skills), you set the stage for a resilient learner.
If you want your children to develop a lifelong love for learning, it would be wise to show enthusiasm when you learn something. It’s not just about “facts”. Learning to play the piano, learning geography by traveling or reading about it, learning by exploring topics on the Internet, learning to make a movie or write a story – these are tools for developing a child’s interest and his awareness of his/her abilities and possibilities.
#5 Explore and learn with them.Find something that interests you and your child and read it, browse the Internet about it, do not be afraid to go to “parallel links” (maybe there is a topic or problem related that you find more interesting), find an expert to interview about it, find movies or TV shows about it and watch them together, create a project album and collect items, items or photos on what you discovered.
Stay involved and interested in what your child is learning. Do it together. Talk about that. Make a joint learning effort.
An abiding love for learning seems like an endangered species. Children often see school as a chore and a waste of time because many do not like the subjects they are learning or the way the subjects are taught. Your encouragement and enthusiasm may be the only arrow in your quiver to rekindle the wonder of learning and the excitement of acquiring new skills and knowledge…just for the challenge. Are you ready for this?
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