Dear Dr. Fournier: I'm responding to one of your articles. My son is in school in Monticello, Miss. He has a lot of the problems you discussed. He has been diagnosed with a "language disability." I was curious when you expected this parent to do all of the "how-to-help methods."
When did you expect that parent to help study the other subjects? Say that parent gets home from work at 6:30 at night. She has to cook, clean and go to school herself one or two nights and doesn't get home until 10. Also, when does this child have time for himself? I believe educators and the government need to face the facts of this day and age: Both parents work to pay bills and buy groceries. It's not like in the old days when the wife worked for extra money.
The Assessment: In your more lengthy letter, your anger and concern about raising a child in today's society have come through loud and clear. Being angry is fine. Staying angry is not.
While finger-pointing is popular today, it's not particularly productive. Parents have many complaints about our educational system, and educators have many complaints about parental involvement. As parents, we feel the sting of being told that we're not doing enough. Yet that's just the message that teachers and our school system get from us.
What school administrators, teachers and politicians hear is that we are demanding more. And so, parents, it's more that we get - not better.
Education in our country will not change until parents unite and change it. That means we must work with teachers, instead of pointing fingers at each other.
Why change education now? We cannot afford to continue to lag behind the changes that have already taken place in our workforce and our culture.
University of Maryland researcher Harriet Presser predicts that by 2005 the largest growth in jobs will be in occupations that require employees to work nights and weekends. This makes sense in a society in which the service industry is among the fastest-growing.
But what will our schools be doing then? Teachers cannot continue to send home assignments for parents to do with their children because many children will not have parents at home to monitor the work.
What To Do: Parents need to become vocal and active consumers of school services.
Speak up. Join with other parents who feel the way you do. Together, insist that your schools and school board re-engineer the education process in a way that supports family unity and structure.
So what can an individual parent do? Set your own rules for homework at home, and discuss them with your child and his teachers. Here are just a few examples:
- All homework will be completed by a time set by parents and convenient for the family.
- If any homework is left by that time, parents will determine whether it will be done. If the assignment is repetitious and goes well beyond the allotted time, the parent will write to the teacher and explain why the child was unable to do all the work in the time expected.
- If the child does not understand the content of the homework, the parents will write a note to the teacher requesting help in this area.
- If the child has a disability, parents and educators will meet to determine any special compensations the child might need.
Start by setting these rules for your household but don't stop until you find a way to work with other parents and with teachers to make the changes that will make education relevant to our lives. Channel the energy from your anger to work for positive change.