The new school year is fast approaching. Some parents will have children starting school for the first time. Other parents will have children continuing their education, but in new schools. The most challenging chapter in one's education is for those going away to college for the first time.
As parents, before our children begin school, no matter what their level of education, we should be clear on our expectations.
School, no matter what level, is a gift and our children should respond accordingly. Unfortunately, too many students see school as a burden and an unfair obligation that they are stuck with.
As a parent, what rules do you have regarding school? What do you expect from your children?
If you have college students, is it difficult to legislate anything more than a reasonable grade point average? If you are paying the tuition, it is reasonable that you don't want any dropped classes and that you expect at least a "C" grade in every course. Should your son or daughter be non-compliant, you need to be clear and concise in what the consequences are for non-compliance?
A college education is an excellent opportunity for shaping one's career, having a great social life and growing as a mature person. It is also a time for disaster. As parents, we can help prevent disaster by being clear on what we expect. Be consistent and reasonable.
As our children begin or return to high school, there are a variety of issues we must address. Our son or daughter's code of conduct is key. Some schools have a dress code (which is not a bad idea). Before the first day of school, we need to know what the dress code is and re-enforce it! Our teenagers should dress respectfully and wear clothes that are appropriately covering the appropriate areas of their bodies. School is not a fashion competition. As parents, we need to stay on top of the dress issue.
Social behavior is another concern. A growing number of middle school and high school students smoke cigarettes. All school campuses are smoke free environments. Before school begins, you need to forcefully remind your children of the smoking prohibition.
Some schools have very clear consequences for students who are non-compliant. They may involve detention and/or in school suspension. They may also impose a hefty fine upon parents.
The new craze among a growing number of high school coeds is the abuse of over the counter and prescription medications. So many students see nothing wrong with this. When they are confronted, they respond with ridiculous answers like, "at least I am not smoking pot or doing other street drugs."
Street drugs, underage drinking and smoking pot continue to be the backbone of many high school students' social lives. Many teenagers really believe that it is their social right to get high as long as they get up for school and take care of business. "What is the big deal?" They minimize that it is against the law and so do many of their parents.
Review with your children, their school's code of conduct. If your school does not have one, it should. Every parent should read it and re-enforce it.
This summer, Dr. Robert Aloisi, the Superintendent of the Port Jefferson School District, mailed every parent a summary copy of the Student Code of Conduct. That abbreviated, two page document was very informative and very comprehensive. It outlined student rights, responsibilities and clear consequences for non-compliance. It also reminded parents that we are essential partners and reminded us of our responsibilities.
Hopefully, school administrators and teachers will hold students and parents accountable.
In addition to the Code of Conduct, I received an affidavit that I had to sign if I wanted my senior to have open campus privileges, which simply means they can come and go as they please as long as they attend their assigned classes.
Over my twenty-seven years of being a surrogate parent in the district, I have had dozens of exceptional students who were scholars and scholar athletes. I have also had dozens of students who barely get by. I have never supported an open campus for seniors. Early dismissal, yes, but not the freedom to come and go as one pleases.
That policy has always presented delicate and at times, dangerous challenges. Having been a teenager at one point in this adventure and having not always been angelic, I know how easy it is to get drawn into the wrong behaviors that can have some lethal consequences.
The challenges facing our present generation are even more challenging than the ones we faced, so are the possible consequences. Some students can handle that freedom, many cannot. High school should be about learning and growing, not about playing and cutting corners.
Every parent should expect their students to go to school on time every day, attend every class (even the boring ones) every day, be respectful and do whatever the assigned homework is. If most students comply with this expectation, they will pass and possibly even learn something. Unfortunately, we parents make too many excuses for our children's non-compliance and we even cover for their irresponsible approach to learning.
As the new school year approaches, have a school curfew that is conducive for doing homework and studying. Make it clear that you expect daily attendance at school and class, with all assignments completed and handed in on time. Let your children know from day one what the consequences will be for non-compliance and remind them that school is a gift, not an entitlement and should be treated accordingly.