This is a column about education, about kids, about parents, and about schools. I wrote a similar editorial about a year ago.
At that time I talked about the three-legged stool and that it requires each leg to hold up the stool and keep it strong. I explained that one of the legs was the family's responsibility, one leg is the educational system, and the third leg is the community and its attitudes towards raising children. As I said at the time, all three legs must be strong and work together in order to support the stool. The same goes with raising our children.
At present. I am a member of the Carbon High School Community Council, made up of parents, teachers, students and community members. At the last meeting I sat back and listened as all four segments of the committee talked about tutoring programs and what the schools are doing to help students, especially those who struggle with traditional programs.
As they discussed the various tutoring programs and classes that are already available the same questions kept coming up again and again. I definitely heard more questions being asked than answers given.
Here is some of the dialog at the meeting:
"What are parents doing to instill in their children the sense of action to take responsibility of their own education?"
"Many of our kids are 16, 17 and 18, and have no desire to advance or learn. Why don't these kids take responsibility of their own education?"
"What are the schools doing with the many kids that are slipping between cracks, kids who have emotional, mental and social challenges?"
"Many of the children coming from broken homes, dysfunctional homes, homes where one or both parents are drug addicts, are not fitting in and finding their way in the high school system. What can we do to help these students?"
"Are students willing to ask for help?"
"What about the advanced and gifted children, and what about the children with special needs?"
"What about the kids who are active in sports, music and other extracurricular activities? Do they have advantages?"
"How do we teach our children to care about their future and take an active role in making good choices?"
"What is the difference between encouraging, suggesting, or forcing?"
In my earlier editorial I wrote about my experience teaching parenting skills in Havre, Mont. The classes were very well attended but in most cases it seemed like the parents who should have been there were noticably absent. The children from these homes often told their teachers that their parents were working out of town, partying or didn't really care about their education process. I heard over and over from some of these parents that it was their job to pay the bills but the school's job to take care of education.
But there is so much more to it when it comes to education. Of course the academic skills such as reading, writing, math or geography are important, but who is teaching the kids about honesty, self-esteem, self-confidence and making good decisions, which helps the kids understand loyalty, motivation, enthusiasm, and compassion?
What about getting along with others, learning how to listen, prioritize, think and reason.
Parents need to understand that absenteeism is a key factor. Teachers can't make up for the time a student misses and yet more and more parents are allowing their kids to miss for a wide range of excuses and reasons, some legitimate, some not.
Teachers and school districts can set up all the tutoring programs they want but if kids have no desire what can teachers do? Currently there is a program called LIC, which is Local Interagency Council. Students who qualify in certain areas are given additional tutoring opportunities. Another program is mandated by judges for kids who have been in trouble with the law. These after school programs are held in the library, but again are available only through court orders.
Then there are consultation periods. These are not free periods but a time when teachers must be available in their classrooms to help students make up work, reteach missed lessons or talk about progress with grades. This time is available to every student on Mondays. But unless the students come in to seem them there isn't anything the teachers can do. In many cases the students see this period as a time to get out of school. There is also the CEU Sun Center where college students have volunteered to help tutor high school students. This can be arranged through the counseling services but again, the students need to ask or take responsibility to seek out the additional help.
The teachers on the committee admit that additional tutoring programs are needed for all students.
At the meetings I have also heard several stories in the meeting with examples of parents taking charge of their children's tutoring needs. One parent comes to every consultation every Monday and checks on her child's progress, takes home extra work and is proactive with the education her daughter receives.
I still think that parent's guidance and insistence when their children are young to get involved in sports, music, church, are helpful in answering some of these questions.
There are many outside programs that teach children to get involved. In some cases it's in these groups and activities, whether its 4-H, dancing or soccer that make the big difference in the long run.
We have heard so many times that it takes a village to raise a child and we all can relate to the truth in that phrase.
But we must remember that building that village must start when the child is very young and it must start at home.