It is hard to believe that summer is racing to a close. Many of us are getting ready to send our children back to school. Some of us are getting ready to teach a new semester.
The beginning of each new school year is very exciting. After thirty years of greeting new students in early September, I still get energized when I meet my new classes. I also get excited with the students that I parent who are getting ready for renewed opportunities at high school, a first chance at college or graduate school.
This fall I have a handful of students returning to a number of our area's public high schools, a few beginning at local colleges for the first time, a few returning to continue their college educations, one doing his student teaching with the hopes of a December graduation and one who hopes to begin law school.
Like most parents, I am preparing my annual pep talk for the beginning of the new school year. My central theme is that school is a gift that one should value and respect. It is not a gift to be abused and misused.
In simple terms, what does that mean? For my high school students, it is very simple. I expect every high school student to get to school on time every day. He is expected to attend every class, every day, even if it is not exciting. He is expected to carry himself as a respectful gentleman and do his nightly written homework assignments.
If one of my students elects not to comply with this very simple set of expectations, the consequences for non-compliance will be serious. Cutting classes is not an option. If you cut once, you are warned. The second time, you are signed out of school and given the option to attend our non-traditional, no frills school or work full time until you feel willing to be responsible and serious about school.
Deportment is important. If a student is disrespectful or disruptive, he is consequenced. If this behavior continues, he is saying that he does not want the gift of a high school education. Written homework is also an important responsibility that is not taken lightly. Students are provided a formal study hour to support them in complying with this expectation. Thus, there is no excuse for not doing homework especially if it is required.
As a parent, I stress from day one of the new year that school is a gift that should be used wisely and respectfully. It is one of those important keys to success. If properly embraced, school cannot only empower their minds, but also their personal discipline. It will support their positive growth and development as young men.
School is not a playground or a wasteland for human potential. It is an opportunity that can help young people to develop the skills and working tools to be successful in their career and as human beings.
As parents, we need to support our local schools. We must be in concert with our teachers and administrators. Taking an adversarial position is destructive for your son or daughter and for your child's school. That does not mean that you should not express your concern and dissatisfaction. However, I think it demands that we choose the appropriate venue to express our concerns. We do not want to damage the respect and authority of our teachers and administrators. There are many appropriate ways to hold them accountable.
We need to be accessible to our children's teachers. As parents, we need to follow up, even with our high school students. We need to be sure that they are attending all their classes and doing their written work on a consistent and timely basis. If one of our "kids" cuts a class or a day of school, we should not make an excuse or cover up that poor decision-making. Most high schools have a student handbook that indicates rather clearly what the attendance policy is and what the consequences are for non-compliance.
There should not be double standards for athletes and non-athletes. All students should be held accountable for poor decision-making. If a poor choice impacts on one's athletic standing or eligibility, so be it. High school football is a great opportunity for a number of young men. However, it is not the Pros. It is a game. All games have rules. If you break one of the rules, you should pay the price.
Before school starts, there are some things to think about. As a parent, you should probably have a school week schedule that you try to adhere to each week. There should be a certain time for the family meal (and/or some family time), a time for homework, time for the internet, time for play and a definite time for bed. The schedule should be flexible, but disciplined. For the weaker and inconsistent student, structured study time and checking homework should be part of your routine. As much as our kids balk about structure, most of them need it and really do thrive within it.
Our kids will hate this recommendation, but in every major subject, they should have a written assignment to reinforce what they learned in class that day. It should be evaluated to keep the student on his or her toes. Our schools should not become babysitting centers or playgrounds with supervision.
If homework is not done and handed in on the assigned date, parents should be notified. Most parents want to work in concert with our teachers and not be at cross-purposes with them.
The media is bombarding us with all kinds of back to school sales. Our students should go to school looking respectful, but it is not a fashion show. We have made a major mistake by allowing ourselves to be seduced into spending money we don't have on clothes our children don't need.
The competition and comparison on that level is not healthy. That is why on some levels, simple uniforms help to alleviate that issue.
In this age of technology, schools should ban beepers, cell phones and head sets. School should be a place to learn and not the headquarters for social life dot com.
Hopefully as September approaches, we will all begin the new school year with a renewed resolve to make our schools places where all children can thrive and become all that they can be!