It is hard to believe that school will begin in a few weeks. We have already been bombarded with ridiculous advertisements trying to convince us to buy things our children don't need or want.
Many of us will probably take our children clothes shopping for school. We need to be cautious. Depending on the age of our children, we need to set some clear clothing parameters on what is acceptable and not acceptable. School clothes should not put us in the poor house, nor should they be a fashion statement.
Some of our children will try to convince us that they are the most abused children since Oliver Twist if they don't get the designer clothes or the one hundred and fifty dollar sneakers they want. Sneakers and clothing have escalated in price. However, a nice outfit and a good pair of sneakers should not obligate you to take a second or third part time job to cover the expense of all of one's back to school needs.
Before school starts, every parent should have a serious sit down with their son or daughter, no matter what their age. Elementary, middle and high schools have changed radically in the last twenty years. The school campus and classroom environment are not what they once were.
Many of our children this year will find increased security in their respective schools, metal detectors and codes of conduct that address social issues that in the past were not issues.
Our children should know how to carry themselves. They should know right from wrong and what is acceptable and not acceptable. Schools should be clear with their codes of conduct and be willing to hold all students accountable.
If the new school year begins with clarity and accountability, it will probably keep some students from making poor choices and trying to get over on the system.
In our pre-school conversation with our children we should be clear as to what our expectations are. As parents, we should not shy away from talking about the tough issues: homework, cutting, respect, drugs, alcohol and smoking. We need to be clear on how we feel and what we are willing to enforce.
It is counterproductive to make rules that you won't or can't enforce. Our kids are sharp. They will work the system any way they can to do what they want, especially if they know they will not be held accountable.
Unfortunately we live in a culture that does not value or respect education. If we did, the violence on many school campuses would not be escalating. The drop out rate would be lessening and fewer students would become functional illiterates.
School is not a game. It is a gift that should be treated appropriately. Every teacher should be competent and respect all of his/her students. Every student should respect all of his/her teachers.
Cutting, especially in high school, should be infrequent to almost non-existent. If students don't want to learn, then they should leave their educational environment. They should not be disruptive or disrespectful to anyone.
Schools have to become more challenging and engaging. Students should want to come to school to learn. Hopefully most of our schools will develop and nurture not only your son or daughter's mind, but will also empower him or her to become all that they can be.
Too many schools have become wastelands of human potential. Too many teachers feel like they are glorified babysitters and too many parents fuel that dysfunctional behavior by not being supportive or involved in their child's educational process.
Education should be a partnership between school and parents. Parents need to support the learning experience both in the content and in the discipline. Parental indifference only impairs a child's learning possibilities.
Every fall I remind my high school and college students that school is a gift that they should value and use respectfully. I remind them because of their age that school is not a social babysitting service or a forum to hang out and do nothing. If they are not motivated to work at school, then they are encouraged to look at other learning opportunities that might help them with a career path.
My high school students must dress like human beings, that is their clothes must not be six sizes too big, no tee shirts with distracting slogans and no ripped jeans. They must get up on time for their ride each day. If they miss their ride, they must walk or make other arrangements. They are expected to attend all classes that they are registered for, pay attention, not be disruptive, do all assigned homework and hand it in on the day it is due to be completed.
It is amazing that if most students go to all classes, are respectful and hand in all assigned work, for the most part they pass and even do well.
To support the learning process, I have a mandatory study hour for all those who are not maintaining at least a "C" or better in all of their subjects. All students know that if they cut more than three times and they are of age, they will forfeit the gift of being in school, will be signed out and will be forced to work full time. In twenty-five years, very few students have put themselves in that position. But they know I will do what I say.
My college students are expected to be a little more self-reliant and independent. However, college is supposed to be fun. I encourage them to enjoy their college experience to the fullest, but not at the expense of their learning opportunities. Those in college are expected to keep at least a "C" in every class and not drop a class within a term. If he does not maintain the "C," he will have to pay whatever the difference is in his college expenses without any assistance from our college fund.
Freedom is a wonderful opportunity, but like everything else in life, it demands discipline, responsibility and accountability. Many children making that transition to college possess the intellectual skills to succeed, but lack the social abilities to manage. We don't do a great job in preparing our children for the freedom and the independence that the college experience brings. If we did, we would not have so many college freshmen dropping out after one semester or being put on academic probation.
Education is an exciting adventure. If embraced properly, it can be the greatest years of one's life. It should be that time where we grow intellectually, socially and emotionally to all of our potential. It can be the place where we cultivate important, life-giving relationships that will last a lifetime.
So, as we get ready for the new school year, let's begin with renewed optimism that this year will be a positive learning experience for everyone.
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