Over the course of the last couple weeks, I’ve found myself thinking quite a bit about my role and responsibility in my own kids’ education.
This group of friends happens to be a few years ahead of me and my husband when it comes to child rearing. Their children have all graduated high school, a few are still in college, others are recent college grads entering the real world, and the oldest are married with, or almost with, young children of their own. These friends have become more than neighbors over the last twelve years; they are trusted advisers who tell it to us straight. And I was ready for a little straight-talk on Sunday.
I asked them a simple question about their upbringings: “Were your parents involved in your education when you were in middle and high school?”
Without exception, they all said that their parents were “hands off” when it came to school. No parent called teachers. No parent checked grades on a regular basis. No parent harped about getting homework done or questioned grades on tests. Some of them even said that they weren’t sure their parents ever saw a report card. We all had the same experience -- parents who set expectations, modeled acceptable behavior, worked hard, and left the burden of handling education in the hands of their kids. Our parents didn’t micro-manage us. They didn’t hover. They let us navigate our own education, make mistakes, and figure it out. And we all did.
How and when did society shift? When did the responsibility of educational ownership shift from the kids to the parents? When did parents decide that their role in their child’s education was to manage it -- every day, for every assignment, with every minute detail.
As parents we’ve become obsessed with ever-present online grades, missing and incomplete assignments, student/teacher relationships, curriculum, semester grades, course selections. We don’t even let our kids walk or ride their bikes to school anymore.
Do you remember your parents ever doing ANY of these things?
Of course they didn’t. They left the responsibility for our education in our hands.
So when I sit in a staff meeting at school, and we talk about all the interventions, accommodations, and modifications we make for this generation of students, as well as all the opportunities we create for parent and community involvement, I wonder why.
Would this generation of kids, those we’ve at some point all found irritatingly entitled, spoiled, and unmotivated, be better off if we hadn’t been so involved? Did we created this monster ourselves?
Would our kids be better off if we backed off? If we placed the responsibility of school back on their shoulders? If we intentionally allowed kids to succeed by their own devices? I’m more and more convinced treating our kids as our own parents treated us would not only ensure a next generation of confident children who have learned how to navigate life, but a next generation of children who have discovered that effort and attitude reap untold rewards.
Let’s trust we’ve laid the right foundation and believe in the strength of our kids again -- so they can succeed in their own “Big Game” called life.