Parents. Teachers. Students. How would you rank them in importance when it comes to success in school.
A friend of mine posed this question to me the other day. Although they each play a pivotal role in the education process, which would stand above the rest. My response to the question was as follows: Parents, Students, Teachers. Why did you rank them that way, Candous? I thought you'd never ask.
Parents are the first teachers that a child will ever have. They teach and instill morals, social skills, names and phone numbers, and so much more. The parents are the ones who teach the children to appreciate art before they meet an art teacher. Where did you get your taste in music? From whom did you inherit your style of dress? Who taught you to comb your hair and brush your teeth? All of this was learned from a parent. Students will learn to appreciate education and take it seriously from a parent as well. If the parent values learning, so to will the child. However, if the child sees that the parent is lackadaisical when it comes to academics and structure, so too will the child feel that it is irrelevant and not worth his or her time. If the parents want the children to value and take seriously their education, they must lead by example. After all, kids never really do what is said, but they always imitate what they see done.
The adage, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink," comes to mind here. In order to learn and grow, the student has to be a willing participant. There isn't much that can be said or done to force a child to learn if he or she doesn't want to do so. Teachers can make the most engaging, interactive lessons that the curriculum will allow, but if the student doesn't want to participate, there's not much that can be done. There's no instant gratification for learning something. You don't get "likes" and "shares" for learning something. There isn't a paycheck attached to learning something. Learning must be its own reward, but because many students don't have an intrinsic desire to want to do so- it doesn't happen. Many of my students think they are working for me. They have not yet grasped the fact that the work they are doing is actually more beneficial to them than it is for me which is why I struggle to motivate them. They have to be motivated to learn even without the teacher present. They have to be accountable. In this regard, many people (parents and teachers included) have done students an injustice as they have not shared with children the pleasure and fulfillment that comes from learning. Many think it an obligation rather than a privilege. Shameful.
Now this is not to say that teachers don't play a huge role in the lives of the children, but we only play a small role. My students only see me for 55 minutes a day, so how is it that I am utterly responsible for their academic achievement or lack thereof? Many of them are unknown to me until they become my student so their histories of trials and tribulations and traumas are unknown to me. These things shape their willingness and desire to learn just as much, if not more, than I do. These students come to their teachers at so many different academic levels and then, according to society, it is the teacher's responsibility to make them all equal or to at least get them on equal playing ground and it is totally unfair. Granted, the teacher must present an environment that is conducive to learning. He or she must incorporate strategies that are engaging enough to make the student interested in the topic that is being presented. But at the end of the day, if the parents aren't checking student progress... If the students aren't taking the courses seriously, then the teacher can only do so much.
This same question was posed to students and it garnered a completely different response. Of the children who were asked this same question, they stated that the Student was the most important in the equation with the Teachers and Parents trailing, respectively. This was very interesting to both my friend and me as we thought to ourselves, if they think they are the most important component, why is it that they aren't putting forth more effort? Why does it seem that they care so little about their academic progress? It it that they are trying to fit in with their peers and they don't want to seem like they are trying to hard or that they are the teacher's pet? Is it that they truly don't know what is expected of them? Or do they really not have high expectations for themselves because of what they see and endure in their personal lives? Whatever the case may be, it seems that we all must get on one accord if we are to do what is in the best interest of the child to ensure his or her academic growth.
As an educator, I don't expect every student to make proficient or advanced on the materials I give them. What I do expect, however, is that they show growth and improvement. I say this because each student comes to be at such drastically different levels, even if they are in the same grade. Proficient and advanced are labels and goals that statisticians want them to meet. But I know these students are not their scores. My goal is to ensure that they leave me in a better condition than which they arrived. If I've done that, then I've done my part. That's all any educator can really hope for.