An uncommon defense of Common Core: Parents are key

IMG_1795Educators cannot say this, but I can: Parents, you and I need to up our game! We need to do the hard work that makes great education possible. We need to lead our families to help those who are disadvantaged to do the same. No law, amount of money or education system can overcome our lack of engagement or community involvement. Parental engagement is not the norm based on my interactions with educators from many states.

The number one problem with education is not education. I am fully convinced that culture is chasing down the wrong issue. Parents are key. In my last post on defending Common Core State Standards (CCSS) I will address what is the real issue: parents. This post may sting a bit. I would rather our national education discussion be on family involvement instead of arguing against CCSS.

Unchanged factors
A wise teacher once stated there are three things a teacher cannot change: 1) A child’s IQ, 2) A child unwilling to learn, and 3) Parental apathy. A child with a 70 IQ will not perform the same as a child with an IQ of 130. That doesn’t mean one child will not have a profound impact on society, but it is a reality of academic performance. A teacher cannot force a student to learn. At the end of the day a student who refuses to learn wont. A teacher has no control over what goes on in the home. Teachers cannot change parental apathy. Key navigating this: parents.

Unchanged problems
Many of the argument against CCSS already existed. Standardized testing, curriculum decisions, Federal overreach, issues with math education, etc existed prior to CCSS being implemented. For my conservative friends, I am confident you would add teacher unions to this list. Many of these issues exploded in 2001 with the advent of No Child Left Behind. There are serious issues that need addressing. These issues are related to CCSS, but existed before CCSS. Stop CCSS and we’re left with the problems. Key to changing this: parents.

I sense we are uninformed on eduction
I thought I was informed on education, then I spent a year volunteering in a school. I was not as informed as I thought. Over the course of two years, especially this last year, I have seen remarkable things by some sweet teachers. I saw them have great days and incredibly challenging days. Here is the conclusion I reached: Education is not dry cleaning. We do not drop off our kids and return to pick up a cleaned and improved product. Education is fundamentally a community partnership and we, as parents, too often drop the ball.

A glimpse into schools
Often people ask why I support CCSS and why I argue for teachers. That is not the norm for someone more conservative minded, let alone a pastor. Let me give you a glimpse of what I see based on watching some classy friends do their job:

  • Teachers work long hours and weeks that run almost non-stop, except for the summer. For the summer there is much work to prepare for the long work hours and weeks that almost run non-stop. During the school year teachers often don’t have a life. They are not lazy.
  • Teachers are continually working on their trade and work towards advanced degrees. They are trained, evaluated, retrained, re-evaluated and this process continues. They collaborate, they self-initiate learning and they love it. Teachers are not dumb.
  • Teachers struggle with the same things you and I do. Some struggle with their marriages, some with dying friends or family. They have good days and bad days, and like all want to know they are making a difference. Teachers are not different from us.
  • Teachers are frustrated when they see a student underperform when they know they can do better. They are frustrated when a struggling student is doing great but others see it as not good enough. They are frustrated with the great middle that need time and investment too.They are frustrated when they, the teacher, drop the ball. Teachers are not content.
  • Teachers are scared and waiting for when goal posts (made by people untrained int heir field) are moved… again. They are often scared at interacting with us as parents, because the trend is see them as the problem. They are more and more scared for theirs and their students safety. They are scared about the family life of some students. They are scared about approaches to teacher accountability that actually undermines and not help. Teachers are scared that they expend all this time an energy for nothing. Teachers are not secure.
  • Teachers are classy. Despite all this they smile at students. They champion students. They push students. They give to their community- on top of their work. They go the extra mile for their peers- on top of their work. They improve their classrooms, curriculum, etc out of their own pocket. Teachers are not slaves, but they are heroes.

Parents: Want to improve education?

  • Parents, we must stop treating our kids as pets and our schools like a dry cleaning service. Get involved. Being informed does not equal involvement. Be the parent: play, read, argue, champion, cry, cheer, get thrown up on, etc with your kids. When your kids head to school remember it is your child’s job and not their babysitter.
  • Parents, we must listen, trust, and allow our children to fail. When schools/teachers inform us, listen and ask questions. If you have no question, ask: “What I’m hearing you say is…., correct?” Trust that the time and investment the teacher made in their career means they are a professional and know what they’re doing. Meaning: when a teacher approaches you about your child assume the best and focus on your child’s performance and not the teacher’s. A teacher works WITH you not FOR you.
  • Parents, encourage your child AND their teacher. Write a note out of the blue, go out of your way to interact with them. Ask how they are doing. Share humorous stories about your child, or even concerns you have when they’re struggling.
  • Parents, volunteer at least an hour a week in school. It is hard to understand education without being there. Society’s promotion of volunteerism often leaves avenues for you to take work time and volunteer in your community.
  • Parents, seek to understand then be understood. I find often the goal of educators and parents are the same, but we, the parents, often don’t listen. When your school has a school improvement meeting be there!
  • Parents, when you do the above and there is a serious issue you need to address, you will be addressing partners and friends who will hear you. You will know how to interact with them best. There are bad teachers, but I’d submit that is not the majority. I find most people have enough critics but what they lack is cheerleaders. That’s a choice we as parents have to make. Issues from cheerleaders are heard louder than those of critics.
  • Parents, our homes hold the key to our schools’ success. Work on building a healthy and safe home. Help your neighbors do the same. Why? No one learns or works well when they are stressed out. No education system can control this but it is THE issue effecting education. Healthy homes, healthy kids, healthy schools.

The bottom line:
I support CCSS because my education partners say it is a helpful tool. I support CCSS because I took time to listen and understand my education friends. Common Core makes sense. There are issues that my educator partners and I want addressed. These issues are related to CCSS but were not started by it and will likely continue unless we as parents step up. Why? The key to education is the home. You and I hold the key to great education.

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