By Roger Barbee
The days are getting shorter, crepe myrtles are blooming, and mums are beginning to show their varied fall colors. You may think it early in the season for that discussion, but one fact cannot be ignored: schools open this week or soon and it is this occurrence that engenders the following suggestions for students and parents. They are only suggestions, but I think that if they are followed, the school year will be a good one for students and parents.
1. Parents and students are most responsible for the students' education. Yes, teachers are involved, but the home has a powerful influence on what a child learns or does not learn. Create a clean and orderly space for homework, set regular hours for study, and maintain a good attitude about school and what it means.
2. Don't believe everything you are told by a classmate or another adult. A bit of skepticism will help. I am not suggesting that someone would out-and-out lie, but I know that anyone can be mistaken about what he or she thinks is true. So, if someone comes up to you and says, "Did you hear ....?" then be cautious for you are about to hear gossip and it may not be true or, at best, partially true. Being a bit of a skeptic will keep you from running with the herd that is about to go over a cliff. If you are a parent, please read Shirley Jackson's short story Charles and then discuss it with your student(s).
3. Teachers are human! That means that they, like you, have days that are better than others. This fact does not excuse them from professional behavior, but it does give them the right not to know everything and not always "be on." As my granny said, "Sugar draws more flies than vinegar," so a bit of courtesy with your teacher will go a long way, as it does with you.
4. Be an advocate for yourself or your child. If a situation arises that you or your child does not understand, contact the teacher directly in order to give him or her a chance to explain whatever has occurred. If your child is reluctant to approach his or her teacher, then go with him or her to meet with the teacher, but let your child carry the conversation. Be present in a supportive role and let your child have this growth experience. Use a building administrator for clarity only after having listened to the teacher. Like you, the administrator was not present when a puzzling occurrence happened, so he/she know as little as you. By giving the teacher first chance, honest dialogue will be established.
5. Be involved. In class be attentive to what is going on and do the work assigned. If you are a parent, attend meetings and back-to-school night. Treat your child's academic work as you do his or her athletic work-talk about it with your child, ask questions about what is going on, and be supportive of your child and the teacher.
6. Realize that even today, with all our new ways of learning, the 3 Rs are still the most basic path to good learning. A sound understanding in 'Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmatic will open up all the other doors that lead to a sound education and marketable skills. Read challenging books and articles and a newspaper. Learn the multiplication tables. Acquire the skills needed to write a coherent and concise paragraph.
7. At Delphi two expressions were carved: "Know Thyself," and "In Nothing too Much." Know how you best learn and if you are not being challenged in a particular class, approach the teacher for more work, or just take on doing more. Recall suggestion No. 1 and learn to "go the extra mile." And the second expression is wise for us all today -- keep a balance in your classes, extra-curricular activities, and personal life.
8. Understand that the easy way is often a dead end. Yes, enjoy the school days, but know that for the best result, your child and you will need to work. Knowledge does not come by itself. Education requires diligence and perseverance and dedication for that end.
9. If bored, do something productive to change the environment.
10. Join a club, team, or activity. Be a contributor, not a taker.
Have a good and productive year.
Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs and five cats. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.