When I was asked by a Brighouse Public librarian to present to parents new to Canada on the topic of School Expectations, I had to stop and think: What do we expect of our students' parents? At the most basic level, we expect that parents will send their children to school having had proper nutrition, play, and sleep. If they can read at home, even better. This would have made a very short presentation, but an important one, as some of our students do come to school with fishy crackers and sugary drinks for lunch, they fall asleep at their desks, and are bored by any activity that does not involve a screen. Apologies! We know everyone is doing their best, but even when one of these three factors is true for a student, it is really hard for them to learn. It breaks our hearts. "If only they had some protein in that lunch, and a vegetable!" we moan. And then we wonder, how can we help?
I thought about the many questions parents pose to me when they are upset or just curious. These are a few.
When can my child use the bathroom?
Will they be safe on the playground at recess?
Why do you have combined classrooms?
How did you make those classes anyway?
How can I help my child with homework (especially math)?
How will you discipline the child who was mean to mine?
Is my child getting all of the attention he needs?
What is the new curriculum all about?
How can I communicate effectively with my child’s teacher?
So I added slides to my PowerPoint, not with answers to all of these questions, but with suggestions and language to use with teachers, to try to bridge the communication gap between home and school.
I think that the most important slide had these three suggestions:
• Normalize and support your child’s struggles – model a growth mindset rather than a fixed one.
• Put students in charge of homework when possible – help create routines and structure, but do not make it a power struggle.
• Support a child with challenging peer interactions. Help them know that your trust them to make good choices.
The first is the most important, as it informs the other two. When a child can be comfortable with uncertainty, resilient in the face of disappointment, and show grit and determination when challenged physically or intellectually, they will be much better prepared for school then with times-tables memorized. It is no wonder that the books by Carol Dweck, Angela Duckworth and Paul Tough are so popular. We are desperate to help children become thinkers – creative, critical and empathetic thinkers.
If we had one wish, it would be that students would come to school with curiosity. Hunger and thirst for knowledge can be fed and watered!
For a copy of the PowerPoint, or to ask me any questions, please contact me through mcneely.sd38.bc.ca