By Gustavo Ramirez, Guidance Counselor / Education Consultant
As the new school year begins many educators anticipate having to deal with “difficult” parents. These are the parents who are seen only at registration or “sometimes” picking up report cards or paying school fees; they are not actively involved in their children’s careers at school everyday. These parents have or want nothing to do with the PTA. They have far more important things to do. Yet, these parents have high expectations of their sons/daughters and of the schools. Translation: schools (administrators and teachers) do your job! Whenever these high expectations are not met, i.e. when the son or daughter is failing a class (or more) and/or having discipline problems at school, it means that the school is not doing its job. That’s when overworked and underpaid teachers need to watch out! Harsh and negative criticisms as well as tongue-lashing accusations will be pelted at them for not doing their jobs! How dare they make a parent lose time off from his/her precious work to have to come to school?!!!
Difficult parents firmly believe that they have no role/responsibility whatsoever in their children’s education, and that it’s 100% a school’s job to educate their children. According to these parents it’s the responsibility of the school alone to improve discipline and raise academic standards. Thus, these parents demand that teachers perform at unprecedented levels to “make” the students learn! In today’s 21st Century, it’s unbelievable that difficult parents include not only many poor or immigrant parents whose only concern is trying to survive from day to day, but also many successful working professionals, males and females. Difficult parents, whether they have had a formal education or not, do not seem to realize or understand that their involvement and daily input is vital and extremely necessary for their children to succeed in school. These parents just don’t understand that educating a student, no matter at what level, is a daunting task that requires a concerted effort on the part of every member of the community – starting with parents.
Many years of school records show that students of “involved parents” stay in school, are promoted (pass) more often, have better social skills, and usually move on to higher education or start working right after graduation. Yet, one of the key challenges facing schools today is a lack of parent involvement. Many parents don’t bother, or even try, to establish a learning environment at home for their children who are in school. A learning environment is created when parents “support and promote” their children’s education, regardless of the parents’ level of educational achievement, whether they’re rich, poor, or in between. Parents who support and promote education take part in school activities, volunteer at school, advocate for their children, and consequently help them to feel safe and respected at school.
Regardless of parents’ personalities or financial status, when it comes to supporting and advancing their sons’ and daughters’ education, it is very easy for them to slip into the category of being “difficult parents”. Paying for your child’s academic education (tuition, textbooks and other school-incurred expenses) and sending him/her to school everyday is NOT enough! To be supportive, parents must carry out specific responsibilities at home and at school to help their sons and daughters succeed in school. High expectations of students and schools are meaningless when parents don’t walk the walk, but only talk the talk. To help create a learning environment and stress on their children the importance of hard work (studying, completing daily homework and school projects) parents can turn off the television for an hour (or more) each school night and supervise their children as they complete homework. No television, electronic games, or cell phones for an hour will allow students to concentrate on school work. (Record the novela or T.V. show!) Why bother send your children to school everyday if you could care less whether they do homework everyday, or have no idea what they send and receive on the computer? Parents who review school rules and current events at school and in the news with their children show that they “care”. Most importantly, parents are responsible for teaching their children respect and common courtesy and expecting it from them at home.
To better monitor their children’s school work, supportive parents try to develop positive working relationships with their children’s teachers and school staff. Once good relationships are established, these parents are then able to approach teachers whenever the student(s) may be having problems or difficulties at home. (Teachers must deal with that as part of their job!) Above all, parents who establish clear behavioral and academic expectations to guide their children through school encourage their children to meet and surpass their potential. On the other hand, difficult parents constantly project a negative attitude toward the school or its staff, and their attendance at school functions such as parent-teacher conferences is always low. Parents who make every effort to stay informed of school issues such as school board elections, curriculum and graduation standards and requirements for passing from one class to another, and school decisions that might have a significant impact on their children’s education are the ones who fully promote and support their children’s education. I extend a warm and tremendous “thank you” to parents who, by example, help their children to develop positive mindsets toward school and learning! My passion continues to be educating young Belizeans in the best and most fruitful way possible.
Author’s Note: I salute the dedicated SPHS teachers and school administrators who graciously accept the challenge of dealing with some “difficult” parents!