"A mind once stretched by a new idea can never regain its original dimensions." ~Oliver Wendall Holmes

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

PT Conferences

Parent Teacher Conferences were on Wed/Thurs this week. I think this was the lowest turn out that we've had in my three years here. Some people mentioned that it might have been because the weather outside was sunny and nice. I dont have numbers yet to say what percentage of my students' parents showed up, but I would estimate it to be somewhere around 40%. Usually we have a turn out of 60% or more.

One of the biggest obstacles we face as a school is the attitude that parents pass on to their children about the value of education. I cant tell you the number of conversations that I have with parents that go something like this....

Parent: How is ______ doing in your class?
Me: Right now their grade is not passing because they are missing too much school.
Parent: What can _____ do to bring their grade up?
Me: The biggest thing that will help their grade would be to come to school everyday.
Parent: Yeah, I know, but sometimes they just dont get up in the morning and go.
Me: Is their someone at home in the morning who can wake them up and make sure they go to school?
Parent: Yeah, I'm home in the morning and I tell them to get up, but they just dont.
Me: Well, when _____ comes to school, s/he does a really great job, but s/he just needs to be here everyday.

Sometimes instead of the parent saying that the kid wont get up in the morning, they say that it's because they missed school because the family went on vacation to anchorage for a week to do some shopping. Or sometimes its because their kids just isnt feeling good. Or sometimes the parent doesnt say anything at all.

When parents are not supporting the education process, their kid grows up not valuing school/education. When parents are not making education an important part of the child's life, it is next to impossible for us (teachers, principals, etc) to combat that. In order for a child to consider school/formal education important, the parents have to instill that value in their children. This negative attitude about school can be passed on to kids in many ways. It can be blatantly obvious, like a parent telling a kid out and out that school is a waste of time. It can be a parent that takes their kid out of school for weeks at a time just to go on vacation in Anchorage. It can also be something as subtle as saying to a child, "I'm so happy today is a day off school." or "Thank God you dont have to go to school today" or "I cant wait for spring break so that you can stay home from school" All of those little things eventually build up and if a child hears repeatedly that the parent is happy when the kids get to stay home and disappointed when their child has to go to school, eventually the child will begin to think that going to school is a negative thing.

Over and over, this attitude is being handed down to kids at an alarming rate. In order for kids to consider education important, they have to see that their parents consider education important as well. How can a teacher convince a child that school is important if the parents have already convinced them that it is not?


KuskoMama said...

The attendance level is disheartening... I guess if you are accustomed to it it's still sad to see it drop.

I've said things like "I can't wait for you to be on Spring Break" but it's not because I don't value their education. It's because I like them being at home, and enjoy the extended break from the "school routine".

I also have a couple of friends who are doctors (and presumably value education quite highly) but pulled their kids out to go to Hawaii and attend CME with them. If I'd had the opportunity to take a kid with me to Washington DC I would've done it in a heartbeat - education isn't confined to the classroom. Another friend pulled her kids from school for a month because she was having a baby in Fairbanks and having a c-section, and they were accommodated. But yeah, sitting at home or sleeping in - that's pretty sad.

I would assume there's also a difference between the elementary grades and high school... elementary work is pretty easily packaged for travel.

How does this apply to kids who are involved in sports? I know there's a lot of travel/excused absences for that - they must have a GPA minimum but still, they travel a lot!

Anonymous said...

Realistically, what are Yupik kids options? If they want to remain in the community, I can see why they might devalue education. How many opportunities are there? If they leave the community, what happens to their extended family? It seems to be a cultural clash of lifestyles and values. I don't have any answers but I can empathize with the problems.

If you inspire just one child to choose his or her own future, you will have succeeded.

Have courage and keep doing the wonderful job you have been doing.