School: Getting Off On The Right Foot

By Beverly Gadson-Birch  

Monday marked the first day of school. As I encountered students in Office Depot and Walmart, they seemed eager to return to school as they made their way through aisles of school supplies filled with paper, pens and notebooks.

The tax-free weekend was a nightmare, but a good thing for parents as they took advantage of the savings to purchase computers to enhance their children learning experience and pre-owned cars to help them get back and forth to school activities and college. Parents, you may not want to admit it but I am sure you are simply ecstatic. You finally get to watch your soap operas without being interrupted with a request to ‘take me here’ and ‘take me there’, but easy on the soap operas and heavy on school participation.

All summer, parents hauled those little darlings back and forth to summer camps, summer jobs, summer schools and vacation bible school. Now, with the advent of school, teachers will assume the roles of mother, father, nurse, disciplinarian, security guard, bus monitor and educator. That’s a lot!

And, sometimes we forget teachers’ primary role is to teach—to impart knowledge. They have an awesome responsibility to shape young lives. Lives that will one day enrich the lives of others. It’s a cycle that is worth repeating. That is why it is so important that teachers give it their all the first time around.

As parents anxiously awaited the first day of school, there were many things to consider. Should I send my child back to a school that is failing? Is my child eligible for a magnet program? Will my child have a teacher or a substitute teacher due to teacher shortages? Will new schools be ready? Will my child need to take drugs to be able to sit still and learn?  These are important concerns that are worth checking into.

Now that we know how much teachers sow into their students, it’s important that parents do some sowing also. Parents, you know your child better than anyone else. Don’t go to your child’s school talking about “you need to get the teacher straight” ‘cause little Johnny said Ms. Teacher is always “picking” on him. The teacher is already straight. You make sure little Johnny is straight!

Parents, be sure little Johnny is doing what he needs to do so the teacher doesn’t have to constantly interrupt the educational process of other students to put little Johnny in check. The problem is you don’t show up to school for Parent/Teacher conferences or to check on little Johnny’s progress, but you don’t have a problem showing up to raise hell.

Little Johnny, you are not off the hook. School is a place of learning. If you knew it all, you wouldn’t have to go to school. You are not in class to cut up or impress your peers. And since you think you know it all, why aren’t you in advanced classes? You may fool some of your peers by refusing to read when the teacher calls upon you; but, the truth is “you can’t read.”  Instead of acting up and wasting the other students’ time, take time to learn how to read with comprehension.

Reading is not just calling or sounding out words. It’s about understanding what you are reading and putting it into the proper context. The teacher’s job is to teach and yours is to learn. Your job, little Johnny is to pull your pants up on your butt, take a seat, open your tablet, do your homework, be respectful and follow directions.

School administrators are faced with many challenges this year—drugs and weapons on campus, bullying, students not paying for lunches, teacher shortages, bus routes and delays, etc.

And, what about discipline? Will suspension and expulsions be reduced? Will teachers continue to suspend and expel minority students at disproportionate rates? Will teachers be able to redirect the negative energy of troubled students into positive energy? Will teachers be able to produce rocket scientists out of rock headed students? That’s what teaching is all about.

It’s about finding ways to transform students whose potentials are limited into students who believe they can be anything they want to be. It is human nature to learn and explore. Teaching is finding even the smallest spark and transforming it into a nimbus.

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