Sunday, June 17, 2007

Dads in the Halls

This article appeared in today's Times about a program at Franklin High School to encourage fathers to check out their student's school.

I think most of us know that women tend to be more of the faces in the halls at most schools. It happens, it's our society, it's our culture and it's not a slam on dads (especially on Father's Day - shout out to all the dads!).

Parental participation (and appearance) drops off a lot in middle and high school. It's likely a combo of burn-out (parents tend to give their all in elementary school - don't let this happen to you because you will be needed on down the line), kids trying to push you away (again - completely ignore their cries because your chances of crossing paths while working at your child's middle/high school are slim to none and they will ignore you anyway) and it is sometimes less obvious about how to help.

There are lots of ways to help at these levels that (1) don't involve actually being at the school and (2) are one-shot deals. Your PTA should have a list of them online and/or give them out at the beginning of the year.

As the co-PTSA president for the next school year at Roosevelt, I'm going to ask a couple of things of parents that tie in with this article. One, make a commitment to give 2 physical hours to your child's school (not counting attending a school function). If every parent/guardian could do that, it would be amazing what could get done. Two, make a commitment for one time this year to go to your child's school during school hours and walk the halls during lunch/passing period and sit in one class (doesn't have to be your own child's). It could be an hour or two. Have you been in a middle or high school or do you just think you know what it looks like? Pop into a bathroom, the library, the gym. It will open your eyes and allow you to see what it looks like, sounds like and what is may be like for teachers. It may allow you to get a better feel for what your child's day is like.

You are likely to be shocked. Not because of mean kids or bad behavior but you will see dress and behavior that would never have been allowed when you were in school. Most kids are pretty loud but consider that they no longer have recess and the passing period/lunch are their only breaks during the day to let off steam. But you'll come away knowing your child's school in a better way than any "So how was your day?" answer ever could.


Anonymous said...

I would also highly recommend that parents observe their high schooler's classes once a year. I did it to understand my daughter's perspective about the classroom experience.

I am a Seattle Public High School graduate and can tell you that there is less discipline in the classrooms now, unfortunately. After 16 years as a volunteering parent in the Seattle Public Schools, I believe that discipline in the classroom is the number one problem in our schools. How do we get it back?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Kathleen, I wish I knew.

I've posted several times on this issue because it is so troubling. I'm planning on having a conversation with our new principal and ask for his commitment to this issue.

I'm puzzled by teachers' reactions which are mostly a shrug. I'm guessing they are so overwhelmed that they try to maintain enough order to get through the class and reach as many students as possible.

In the end, parents need to tell their kids, not just assume they know, that there are behavior expectations at their schools. And it's not just about not yelling, running, hitting but about settling down when the bell rings, coming to class prepared and most of all, not contributing to behavior that makes it difficult for other students to learn.

Anonymous said...

I'd be curious if the same discipline issues are found in private schools as well. Is this a public school problem or a generation problem or both.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think it's both a generational problem and a public school problem. With private schools they hold the stick which is if your child doesn't behave, your child is invited to leave. That's what makes it private school. I'm not saying that the kids at private schools are angels (probably not) but their schools just won't put up with it. (I was speaking with a parent in Northern California with a child at a private high school about this issue. She said their school has a low tolerance level for bad behavior or rudeness to teachers. She did say, however, that parents who are large donors get a lot of leeway on behavior/grades.)

I say it's a generational problem because OUR generation has allowed our children to be this way. I would guess that 99% of the staff/teachers at any given school would never have been allowed to get away with the stuff that occurs today when they were kids. So why do any of us put up with it? (I am guilty of this as well on a personal basis but my son well knows my expectations for school behavior.)

I know every generation worries about the younger generation so maybe it's overblown worry but I've read articles recently about young workers who want a gold star for being on time and a raise in 6 months. We might be raising a generation of kids who have high expectations of what they should get rather than what they should give.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what Melissa said, especially:

"We might be raising a generation of kids who have high expectations of what they should get rather than what they should give."

I have taught at both private and public schools and can tell you this: kids are kids, and kids from every socioeconomic strata tend to act somewhat entitled when dealing with teachers. Public school "bad behavior" is a lot more in your face; private school kids are a bit more sophisticated in their disrespect.

The common denominator, in my experience, seems to be parents who constantly enable their children, helping them out of any difficult or challenging situation.

Whether kids are in private school or public, they need to STRUGGLE. This is when learning happens, and character is built. I feel like we measure "progress" in this country by how much easier we make things for ourselves; unfortunately, this type of improvement isn't helping us become better or wiser individuals, I fear.