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What things make our children successful in the classroom?

I want my daughters to be successful---personally, educationally, and professionally.

That sounds like a boring statement of the obvious. It is.

What's not so obvious is how to achieve that. There are many obstacles: personal foibles (mine and theirs), a larger world to work within, and so forth.

The key to achieving goals successfully is to break them down into realistic, smaller parts. We all need to feel a sense of completion and accomplishment. It motivates us, keeps us engaged. So I'm focusing on the here and now: school.

How can my kids be successful in the classroom?

As I researched factors that contribute to success in the classroom, I ran across a lot about assertiveness, primarily assertiveness with humility.

Ah ha, I thought, I'm not surprised.

But I am worried. Why? It's because of the feedback I consistently get about Patience from teachers.

I'd like to think that each and every teacher my daughter encounters is in the classroom out of a love of children and teaching and will encourage my daughter to love learning by supporting her as she is.

That's a fairly high---and unrealistic---expectation.

We're all biased with preferences. Some teachers simply will not like some kids. They'll be drawn to others. They'll feel a bit ambivalent about the others. I think my daughter Patience will more often than not fall into the third category.

As one teacher explained to me, kids like Patience are simply enough: smart enough, well-behaved enough, motivated enough, works well enough on her own, is self-disciplined enough, and so forth.

Although that sounds fairly positive as endorsements go, and appears to demonstrate that we've got a pretty good kid, it actually concerned me because what I heard was that my daughter is the kid the teacher doesn't need to pay any attention to and is the kid who just might slip through the cracks.

I imagine my daughter Patience will continue to be liked enough by her teachers, as she has been. I don't think she is overlooked, but I also don't think she stands out. Patience-at-home and Patience-at-school differ in many ways. One teacher assessed her as having "a quiet confidence that you might easily mistake for timidity or insecurity if you didn't pay close attention."

Close attention is exactly what I'm looking for. I'm Patience's best advocate, so I'm going to do what I can to foster the traits in her that will help her succeed in the classroom, but I also want to keep the bigger picture in mind.

What traits help children succeed in the classroom?

I suspect that the two I keep running across---parental involvement and assertiveness with humility---are the keys.

Will the traits that help her succeed in the classroom help her overall in life?

That's a bigger question, I think, than it appears on the surface.

I'd love your feedback about how parents should be involved in the classroom, how their involvement can help a kid succeed, and what types of kids are successful in the classroom. (Especially teachers and involved parents!) How does assertiveness fit in to this? What is appropriate assertiveness, in the classroom?

And in keeping with the theme emerging this week, this week's Hump Day Hmm is about assertiveness and gender politics. Take any angle you like, from school, to personal situations or professional situations. Discuss your experience, or tackle a public figure's experience. You guys had over thirty well-thought out and intriguing comments to yesterday's post...I'd love to see you expand on those ideas. Author Mom With Dogs, you who challenged us to turn the notion on its ear? I especially hope to hear from you tomorrow. :)

Next week...we're going to tackle the notion of free speech in writing, particularly blogging, considering that court cases are considering it fair to limit free speech on blogs and are definitely willing to use your words against you.

The following week, courtesy of Angela at mommybytes, "...describe an incident where you or someone was wronged, in what would normally be considered outside of the social norms, and how you reacted, how you wish you reacted and what is possibly the best way to inform these idiots that they screwed up if that is even possible." (Sorry it's a couple of weeks out, Angela! I already had this week's in mind and had promised the free speech topic a week or so ago. But I love your idea.)

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Melissa said…
You want all this in a comment?

Ok...check with me on Thursday, I can do a whole post on this one. But the short version: it's kind of a Venn diagram. You've got some overlap, but definitely some skills that are unique to each area, and some of those unique skills will actually hinder success in the other.

So, I've got a Hump Day Hmmm and a "Thursday Thinker" in the works...
Annie said…
How you describe your daughter in the classroom, is very like how I would have said I was as a kid. I was successful in the classroom - not *the* most successful academically - but certainly I did just fine - I was smart and just quietly got on with things. My parents were never involved in my classroom - it's just something that wasn't common in 70s/80s Irish schools - I don't think it is even to this day. They attended parent teacher meetings, and certainly maintained an interest in my school life.

I had an interesting conversation with Miss E's preschool teacher recently. Apparently, at least here in Florida, Kindergarten teachers have a prescribed timetable they must follow every day. 'They' are imposing a uniformity across the board where every Kindergarten kid will supposedly be doing the same thing at the same time every day. Kindy teachers are finding this difficult as it cramps personal teaching style, and approaches that were heretofore very successful. I have to say as a parent, I don't like it either because it prevents a teacher reacting and working with the kids on the basis of their individual needs - and more kids like your daughter who are 'enough' will simply be left to quietly get on with things.

I think you hit the nail on the head - you are your child's own best advocate - maintaining consistency in how we nurture and educate our own kids I think will serve to maintain a certain balance amid the myriad personalities they will encounter in various teachers throughout their school career.
SciFi Dad said…
At the risk of being the unpopular one in the room, I will comment.

I have to question the motivation for your concerns. From my understanding, the evolution of it is this:
1. Child is not struggling academically, socially, or behaviourally.
2. Child is not performing incredibly well so as to warrant supplemental attention from teacher.
3. Therefore, from 1 & 2, child may "slip through the cracks".

Personally, I see this as a flawed conclusion. The intention of the public education system is not to provide each child with an IEP (individualized education program) nor with personal one-on-one time with an educator. If those are your needs/wants/desires, then your child should probably be in a private school, or should have tutors to supplement the curriculum.

From my perspective, your daughter is thriving unattended in a system. She is, by all accounts, succeeding without your involvement.

Parents who get involved in the classroom generally do so with one of a few intentions in mind:
1. To assist their own child's situation.
2. To maintain the loss of control that is experienced when sending a child to school.
3. To assist an underfunded and understaffed education system.

While most will argue they are there for #3, the majority are there for #1 or #2, and ultimately that only impedes the progress. School is for kids, not for parents to parent their kids while they're not in the house.

While a squeaky wheel may get the grease, it doesn't mean the other wheels are not functioning exactly as intended.

My apologies if this sounds harsh or argumentative. It is not my intention.
Anonymous said…
I think I already touched on the Hmm for this week today--I might have more to say about it tomorrow.
Julie Pippert said…
Melissa, a post sounds great. I am definitely looking for constructive suggestions. My main goal is encouragement. Also, I want to keep a solid checks and balances of expectations and involvement.

The parental involvement checklist I found sounds more or less like what we do already.

I admit I don't hang in the school or classroom, though. (I've got this little thing called work. ;))

Moms with older kids and more school experience repeatedly tell me this is a Big Mistake. They assure me the kids who do best are the ones who have parents in the classroom.

I confess that makes me bristle a bit.

I assume the teacher is in there to teach. And I'm pretty sure she does.

I don't mind visiting on special occasions but am really boggled, I admit, by this concept of "if you want a good education for your child you need to be in the classroom."


Annie, I hope I am hitting the nail on the head. :)

My own public school experience was dreadful. It was really obvious, too, as we moved. For example, I entered 7th grade really behind, and had to get tutors (mostly the teachers) in several subjects to catch up to that district.

I want to make sure Patience is doing all she can to get the best out of it, and that means I need to do all I can to help her get the best out of it.


Andrea, awesome! It will be later that I'm able to get out and read.
Robert said…
I could certainly write a whole post on this as well, I think, but here are my basic thoughts from my own experience as a student:

My mother was very active in my education, and it both helped and hindered me at times. It helped in that my teachers knew her, and I was well known by them. It also helped that she cared so much. It hurt, or I let her know it could, that she worked so hard to manage my schedule that it ran the risk of taking away my own ability to manage it. When a student gets too into having someone prod them through education, they can really be hurt when they get to college and have no prodding. Fortunately, we worked out a good balance over time - I just wouldn't tell her when stuff was due, but I'd tell her when I was going to work on it, and I always got it done. I was a very diligent, studious kid who cared about learning.

As for assertiveness with humility, I definitely learned that over time. My second grade teacher wrote that I 'talked and talked and talked' but by third and fourth grade, I had a really good relationship with my teachers. I think the key for me was to learn when humor was okay, and when it was not, and to learn that they wanted students who took interest in the subject to learn more than students who took interest to be contrary. I certainly was contrary at times, but I learned mostly to consider their opinions before speaking up. Sometimes it is better to keep quiet when you disagree than to make sure your opinion is heard. As a young student, it's almost always the case that a teacher is more knowledgeable on a subject, and taking them to task is dangerous business. Anyway, that's my two cents on the matter. I finished top of my class, so hopefully that's a good endorsement for my philosophy as a student.
Gwen said…
I'm kind of with SciFi Dad. I wonder how much your own distressing school experience colors your perceptions of Patience's, even though I know you already think about this.

Research says parents need to be involved, but sometimes I think parents take that way too far. Why do you need to be in the classroom yourself? I think Angela covered that pretty well in her post last week about the PTA.

But you're asking for advice: I think you help your kid by providing her with other learning opportunities--the zoo, nature walks, reading books at home. You support the school by making sure homework gets done (but not by you! lol), that your kid gets enough rest, is well fed, clothed appropriately, respects the teacher regardless of your personal feelings about her or him (and that last one is HUGE). And then you let the rest of it go, a little bit. Being good enough is way better than so many other alternatives. So you celebrate that, because it's worthy of celebration.

As you are well aware, success, to me, doesn't equal being a superstah. It means being content, exhibiting grace under pressure and having people to love who love you back. That's the hard stuff, the stuff that school isn't going to touch.
Julie Pippert said…
Sci Fi Dad,

I'm not sure that any answer to your charge will not sound defensive, but I'll give it my best shot!

You asked about the motive behind my concern. Here it is: I love my daughter a lot. That's the main motive. I want the best for her. I want her to do her best and get her best out of school. Not per se THE BEST but *her* best.

I think it's fair enough to have a discussion about the constructive ways I should be involved in her education and classroom. Teachers and more experienced parents often have great ideas and perspectives.

As I said to Melissa, a lot of parents preach that you HAVE to be in the class. I think of that as the teacher's territory and she's pretty good about inviting parents in when she wants or needs them.

I don't like to intrude, plus I have work. But I do like to go in now and again.

I don't blog about every little minute thing or larger thing that happens with Patience and school that would provide you with the level of detail I guess you'd need to understand why I want to make sure I'm encouraging her as she needs. I hope that people give me benefit of the doubt with that.

The upshot is that I don't happen to think that "in the classroom" is the only or even necessarily the best way to be involved as a parent. There's wisdom in knowing when to go in and wisdom in knowing what to do at home. I strive for that.

However, we'll simply have to agree to disagree on those points, I think.

I do think I should and need to be involved wisely in Patience's education. I do think it's good to heed the teacher's invitations and go into the classroom at times, too.

I don't think a child should have to be top or bottom of the lineup to get attention. Even average joes like my Patience need one on one time now and again, too. I haven't actually met a teacher who disagreed with that.

In fact, most teachers I know and talk to are frustrated because strictures prevent them from being able to provide rotating occasional one on one attention to kids as they need.

My daughter is generally doing well in a good classroom with good teacher.

However, there is usually in general some room for improvement, or at least it's fair enough to keep lines of communication open in case a room for improvement area arises.

I'm just not into "sink or swim" or "lord of the flies" style parenting, so although she might be doing okay unattended, I will still be there for her.

Also, I don't think anyone agrees our schools are a well-oiled machine running properly. That said, I haven't advocated per se being a "squeaky wheel." I've simply advocated remaining mindful and involved.
Emily said…
I wrote a 27 page response to this post. And Blogger ate it.

I hate that!

Basically, I think that parental involvement is a double edged sword: Helping children feel connected to the work they are doing.

But students can feel stifled in the classroom with their Mom always standing over their desk.

At our school, parents play key roles in the running of the system. There are things that just wouldn't happen if parents didn't step up and get involved. One year, they were short on reading group teachers. Rather than scrap the whole program, a few parents from each grade were asked to come in and lead groups of 4 or 5 kids during their reading groups. I think the students benefited from having the individual parental involvement, but my daughter, probably least of all.

My daughters have always been at grade level, well behaved, responsible, and forgettable. It's frustrating to watch that dynamic. Their parent teacher conferences have gone much the same way since preschool:

"________ is a joy to have in class." Read-She sits still when I need her to.

"_______ is engaged and a good student. She is right were she should be as far as grade level." Read-I cannot possibly think of ways to challenge your daughter. I have my hands full with other students, and your daughter is blending in so well with the technicolor wallpaper.

This past fall, my 4th grader's teacher mentioned in passing, that she thought my daughter might have "a touch of ADD that has gone undiagnosed thus far, because she doesn't have the associated behavioral issues." She was polite and engaged so no one has noted the quiet struggle. That is, I think, the definition of falling through the cracks. And it has happened despite my involvement.
Julie Pippert said…
Hi all, I think I need to clarify. I did ask about parents in the classroom but for points of perspective and experience. I feel like that's the big question: in the classroom or not, and if so, then when and how?

I hope it doesn't linger in minds that this is the ONLY way I think parents can be involved so let me show you the best checklist I've seen that I agree with about involvement:

1. I know how much homework my child has each night.
2. I review homework and check papers daily.
3. I attend PTA and school board meetings.
4. I spend one-on-one time with my child.
5. I provide maps, globes, dictionaries, and other reference material at home.
6. I attend extra-curricular activities.
7. I meet with my child's teacher regularly.
8. I make sure my child has a nutritious breakfast each day.
9. I make sure my child gets enough sleep and daily exercise.
10. I frequently praise my child for effort as well as achievement.
Emily said…
I completely agree with all points on this check list.

It's more a common sense parenting checklist, isn't it? This boils down to being engaged with our kids on a day to day basis. I don't think there's any debate about the importance of that.
Jenny said…
As a teacher and a parent, I'm finding this to be a fascinating discussion. My oldest daughter will be starting kindergarten next year and she will attend my school. I'm doing this for convenience, but also because I firmly believe she will receive a higher level of instruction here than at our neighborhood school (which is a good school, just not as fantastic as where I teach).

I put all of that on the table before saying that I believe that one's school experience is only a small part of their life. What you do as a parent is much, much more important. But, your child will spend quite a bit of time at school and you have every right (and responsibility) to ensure that that time is well spent.

I don't think that you have to be in the school for that to happen. Going in sometimes is worthwhile, especially when invited for special events. Regular communication with your child about school and with the teacher about your child is more important. I'm guessing that you have parent/teacher conferences once or more a year. So, you are meeting to talk about your child some. I highly recommend emailing or sending a note to your child's teacher every once in a while asking about their progress. More specific questions will receive more specific answers. For example, if your child has been talking a lot about something they've done in reading, email a question about how she is doing with that skill or how you can help support her mastering that skill. The more you know about what is going on in school, the better you can help support and push her learning.

You will likely feel differently about different teachers. You child may have teachers that 'get' her and you don't need to think about what is happening in school that year. And she may have teachers that don't which can make you feel you need to be involved more.

As a teacher I love talking to parents because it helps me understand my students better. It is also reassuring to know how supportive their home-life is.

I'm not sure I've added anything really useful here. But you've got me thinking. (I will say that I thought your checklist looked darn good.)
Julie Pippert said…
Emily...your story really strikes a chord in me.

I agree the checklist is common sense and probably not going to foster any disagreement (although you might hear me defer a bit about oh say #3 for example).

The debate might be---if I read people correctly---whether parents ought to ever be in the classroom and if so, in what way?

I'm really interested in doing what I can to make sure, for example, my kid will ask a question if, for example, she needs clarification,and encouraging things that will help her do her best.
Liv said…
Since you mentioned it, I'm not a big fan of me being in the classroom with my son in particular. I do not think he benefits from the distraction. My daughter does pretty well with me there, but ultimately, I think the place of education in some ways is to place a gap between the dependence on parents in day to day life. This should function as a bridge to becoming an independent adult.
Unknown said…
Julie, I am totally riveted by this whole thing. We have lived in two public school districts here in CT with a seemingly large population of moms hanging out at school during the day for what seems like fairly significant amounts of time. Some seem to be taking on some major volunteer efforts (re-organizing the library) and others just seem to be there a lot. It remains a mystery to me - and often my own feelings of inadequacy get the best of me - when I am present and able to get into school I am not part of the school-mom crowd thing, so there is this little line between working moms and moms who are at home. I am both and neither -I do work, part time from home, but it is my lack of day care for two younger kids that prevents my actual presence at school. Though, I need to talk myself out of a tree - my son doesn't seem to miss me there and seems successful enough. I did miss one reader's theater b/c it was during naptime and I had no sitter. Sigh - but I tend to then judge all the more available mothers - which is really kind of bratty of me. I need to really focus on what I think my kids needs. I think he is fine, but this conversation is great food for evaluating that. Thanks!
SciFi Dad said…

In my analogy, the students were wheels, not the education system. (What I was trying to emphasize was that from the story you told, your daughter seemed fine and needed no attention to avoid slipping into a crack.)

I think your subsequent comments clarify your question, and with that clarity, my comment seems moot.

To that end, I respectfully slink back to read what others have to say.
Kat said…
This has turned into a heated debate here and I think you were simply asking how involved a parent should get? When is it time to start worrying your child may not be thriving in school or getting the attention needed to help them be their best?

For the most part I see a parent doing exactly as you stated in your list. It is when you start to see negative behaviors in your child (bad attitude towards school, bad grades, bad reports from teachers) that you need to be more involved.
I think I was much the same as you describe your daughter in school. Most teachers didn't pay special attention to me. And that was okay. But in my school career there were a few teachers that I did really gel with. I'm sure she will find those teachers down the road too.
Anonymous said…
I wish I knew, Julie. I am so frightened of screwing it up by being too overbearing or not involved enough.
cinnamon gurl said…
I can't really answer any of your questions because Swee'pea's only two and I have no idea.

However, I find it really interesting that you didn't define your use of the word success. Is it all A's all the time? Is it nurturing a lifetime love of learning? Is it a child reaching their full potential?

When I think about my top priorities for my child(ren) at school, instilling resiliency is important to me, and I hope for their happiness and survival. Of course, I've always been an underachiever myself... and success came at a severe social cost for me too, way back when.
Robert said…
I want to further clarify how my mother was involved, because I think she did a good job with it. She helped out around the school when I was in lower grades by being an "Apple Mom" which meant she helped kids learn to use the Apple computers we had available, and in using them she helped them learn a few basic math or reading skills. She was rarely in my actual class, but she definitely got to know my teachers well. One thing I definitely learned from her example that I intend to emulate: she was an advocate on my behalf to my teachers, but she was an advocate on their behalf to me. If a teacher and I did not get along for some reason, she worked to try and find a happy medium (so I would work harder or the teacher would understand me better). She did not have to do that often at all because I was generally a "good kid" who didn't cause trouble. She definitely did some things that bothered me because it felt embarassing (like talking to a teacher to see how I could improve when I really had an A but she did not understand his method of grading), but overall she was great at helping me to understand things better and helping my teachers to relate well to me.

In short, advocacy as a parent can help a child learn to feel more comfortable in the learning environment without being stifled by constant presence. I knew my parents would back me up if my teachers were not doing enough for me, and I knew I had to hold up my end of the bargain by doing my best to achieve the goals of my education.
Angela said…
Oh good LORD, Julie. Could you please, just once, write something trite and pointless...something worthy of a quick "great post" comment? Do you ever (ever) stop thinking? How many calories do your posts burn? I think this is how you maintain that lovely figure of yours (heh).

I think that what you are doing makes beautiful sense, and as a working mom, I also "bristle" when I am told that classroom involvement from parents results in higher achievement. I really doubt that this is true--and if it is, that may be political more than anything else. I also know that school is small part of a child's life and that what goes on at home is of greater importance...but as someone who had a very bad elementary school experience...I have to say that what went on at school had a tremendous effect on me. When school experiences are bad, I really think that these experiences become a world of their own, and that planet can eclipse all others. And when there are problems at home and in school? *Sigh*
S said…
I agree wholeheartedly with liv.

And, like cinnamon gurl, I'd be interested in hearing how you, Julie, define success. And how the researchers whose articles you've reviewed define success.
markira said…
As a stay-at-home mom with both kids in school (grades 2 and 7), I have to say that I do not believe that your presence in the classroom is a prerequisite for your child's success. Far more so is your checklist (although I have never attended a school board meeting...I *am* in our very small K-8 school's parent volunteer group). Your help and support at home is essential. Making sure that your child is still showing a willingness and (hopefully) an enthusiasm for learning is critical.

I was a very gifted student, yet rather than pushing the school to constantly pay attention to me and provide me with more and better opportunities, my parents often chose a quieter path. They reasoned that even though I was reading books myself at 2, if I was coming home from kindergarten and first grade excited because we learned about the Letter People that day, then I was benefiting from my school experience.

I am finding this myself with my own children, and really, your involvement with the school will depend utterly on each child's individual needs. For my son in 7th grade, who has organizational and time management issues that probably stem from an undiagnosed ADD problem with no negative behaviorals, I need to keep on top of his schoolwork and work with his teachers more. They would easily let him slip by with B's (which, hello, still above average), when we all know that he is intelligent enough for A's. Many times teachers are held back by not knowing how much they can rely on support and assistance from a parent, too. If you go early to a teacher and discuss particular issues of concern, most will be very willing to work with you on specifics. If you have no specifics, they really cannot help you. If your child appears content and is showing no visible signs of any problems *in the classroom*, they have no way of knowing whether the child is different at home, and really cannot research it. But keep in touch. Tell them what you know your child to be like at home; they will tell you if that differs from what they see in the classroom.

My daughter, on the other hand, has no difficulty with any school matters at this point. So I am in less touch with her teachers. She is very, very bright, but rather than constantly pushing that at the teachers, I am looking at her level of contentment, whether she shows excitement and enthusiasm about school, how her social skills are developing. She finds ways to learn beyond what is taught at school (she and a friend are currently helping each other learn multiplication tables during choice time), and I think that is a fabulous skill to develop.

I mentioned I am in the volunteer group. I do a lot of volunteering around the school, but none of it is in the classroom. I volunteer at special activities, I chaperone field trips, I make things for class parties, I attend the concerts and plays and dance performances and other things my children's classes put on, but I stay out of the classroom itself as much as possible.

The point is, do what you can. But don't feel that if you can't (or won't) be in the classroom, that you are dooming your child to failure. It is what you do outside the classroom that will make the difference. It is your caring, and your support, and your constancy.

My two cents. mk
jeanie said…
I have found volunteering in school has been beneficial in a different way - my daughter's teacher actually takes notice of my child, and there is nothing like a little bit of notice taken for you to get a bit of feedback.

The best thing for me was to make time (outside school hours) to also talk to the teacher about concerns that I had.

The worst thing is that it is assumed that you must not work if you volunteer therefore you should be on call for that mug painting project tomorrow.

Or the f'ing tuckshop for the next two weeks.

Oops - lets not get carried away - my child had a problem settling in to a new school, me being there helped. I was able to be there, but not everyone has that luxury.

Every child is different, every situation is different and every solution will be unique.

Good luck!
Julie Pippert said…
I understand the curiosity about my definition of success.

But IMHO my definition of success isn't really relevant to the discussion for two reasons:

(a) I wanted to hear YOUR ideas on it, and
(b) What I do was not the subject under evaluation and discussion.(See a above.)

Although (somewhat unfortunately) what I (allegedly) think and (allegedly) do has been the discussion (somewhat erroneously).

I say somewhat erroneously because I didn't, until comments, say what I do (or don't do) and thus assumptions were made. I omitted this because I didn't want it to be the focus. Yet. I wanted to hear thoughts on my questions.

That's exactly why I said somewhat unfortunately, as well. I had expected and hoped that my questions clearly presented a desire for this post to be about you and your thoughts.

So I really appreciate the feedback I did get about your experiences, opinions, and input. It's been really helpful and useful to hear how others think about this and approach it.

That was definitely the point of this post---I had questions and solicited opinions to get a broader feel of points of view.

I hadn't really wanted to debate my perceptions, especially because they are still forming and in process.

However, because people I like asked, my idea of success is security---secure in her learning, secure in her efforts, secure in her accomplishments, and so enough in herself that crap doesn't matter (so much). Secure enough to be assertive, and secure enough to be humble---all at once.

I think as parents we need to ask: what can I do to make my child secure?

I think a lot of parents ask: what can I do to make my child special.

I think my child is special and I want her to know she is to me, but I don't actually aim to make my child think she is Special.

And, FWIW, I try to balance the weight of my posts, too. I do think, but also think that's okay. I can also be fluffy, silly, funny and so forth, and often am on my blog...sometimes quite deliberately to lighten the atmosphere.

Julie, going to lay her weary raw back on a fluffy pillow to watch politicians debate now.
S said…

I think as parents we need to ask: what can I do to make my child secure?

YES! Yes.

PS Did you love love love the "denounce" versus "reject" part of the debate?
In kindergarten, we were quite active with our eldest. We volunteered in class once a week, we went on field trips, offered help/donations whenever there were special events, etc. Our motivation for doing this was to follow up our son - our first born - as the anxious parents we were, but I believe a consequence of our presence was that it made my son more noticeable to his teacher. We became friendly with the teacher, and, again, I would say that helped my son.

Would he have been equally successful without our involvement? Fundamentally, I believe he would. C is good at sticking up for himself (assertive, if you like), and he is a reasonably good self-starter. He is well-behaved and therefore generally well-liked by his teacher (not unlike your girl, by the sounds of it).

My youngest son is a very different type, and I believe he needs an advocate to look out for him much more than C does/did. B boy does not 'look out for number one', he has attention deficit and a host of other issues. He is a more 'challenging' child - he needs a second, third or fourth look before you 'get' him. For him, our involvement makes a huge difference, IMHO. He would not be getting as much positive attention if we as parents had not worked up a certain amount of good will with his teacher.

From the above I realize I am accusing teachers of playing favourites...which is not my intention. With one exception, we have always had fabulous teachers who absolutely sought to do the best they could for every child in their classes. However, I do know that with the ballooning class sizes that are a fact of the public school system, teachers can only do so much for each individual child, and therefore, it is important for the children to be visible. Either through their own doings, or by someone else speaking on their behalf.

PunditMom said…
For better or worse, that's why we ended up not choosing to send PunditGirl to our local public school and opted for a small private shool instead. In this era of teaching to the test even from the earliest grades, we knew that that factor in combination with PG's personality would put her in exactly that position -- the kid who is not a genius and the who does not need extra help. No need for special attention because she won't listen or behave. We saw her getting lost and feared she would learn to hate school.

We wanted her to go to the public school because we believe(d) in the system and wanted the diversity ours would provide. But in the end, we knew we owed it to her not to be the "enough" child.
Anonymous said…
And one more thing - can you fix my English for the Hump Day Hmm topic? I wrote it in a rush and forgot to add FIX THE ENGLISH at the end of the comment. (I can't even say what is wrong with it, but it just doesn't sound right or as polished as it could be). No problem on waiting, I'm in no rush!
Aliki2006 said…
Wow. I am just now having the time to sort through all these thought-provoking comments to you equally thought-provoking post.

I have much to say. Too much. I think I will try and put all this into a post of my own.
cinnamon gurl said…
I very much agree with your secure vs special thinking. I hope my comment didn't make you feel judged or anything, I just find that you are always very good at spelling out your assumptions and biases and all that, so I was curious. Thanks!
Anonymous said…
My mother worked for the school system as a secretary. This was a good thing because it allowed her to have the same schedule as us until we were old enough to stay home alone in the summer/vacations. Although the teachers and administrators were still very much "authority figures," they were also just "people," with known personalities, because they were my mother's co-workers, so that was a plus.

It was "bad" because when I skipped school, she always, always knew. Lord knows, I never did get any special treatment just because she worked there.

While I do volunteer in the art class, and I would like to continue to volunteer at the school in a similar capacity for as long as I am able (certainly if I had set working hours, I would not insist upon going to the classroom), my main reason is to show my kids that there is a connection between school and home, and for me to get to know the children in their classes.

I believe the REAL involvement in their education does not take place in the school, but in the home - checking the homework, providing a learning atmosphere to support and supplement the school.
niobe said…
I don't usually talk about it and I'm sure it wouldn't work for every parent or every child, but I've taken a strictly hands-off approach to my son's school and it's worked out very well. My involvement has always been all but non-existent, though I'm sure I would have taken a different approach if I had seen that he was having problems. Obviously, your mileage may vary.

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