By Meg Curtis, PhD
The first time my son came home with illiterate comments on his school papers, I gasped. How was he supposed to learn correct lessons if his school work revealed his instructor’s ignorance?
Little pitchers may, infamously, have big ears, but little eyes absorb—and copy—every image they see, too. In fact, they magnify those images because they come with grades for THEM.
Thus, the first test for teachers appears right in the margins on every student’s papers. Take that dictionary down, and check the instructor’s spelling. Fact-check that work like an editor.
No need for argument exists when the proof comes right into parents’ hands. Create a portfolio of the student’s work, which will be valuable for all concerned.
Listen when teachers speak at meetings and conferences, too. Are they speaking nonsense? Ask permission to record presentations and lessons when parents are allowed to visit classes.
As the costs of education increase, parents can accept responsibility for ensuring their hard-earned dollars accomplish school districts’ stated objectives. No lesson is more important this this: Monkey See, Monkey Do.
Check those textbooks, too, pulling out as many dictionaries and encyclopedias as needed. Texts with political agendas CANNOT replace those famous THREE R’s: Responsibility, Responsibility, Responsibility.
Parents who do not stop illiterate teachers in their tracks must accept the bill for the failures to come. Employers cannot afford to accept apologies, either. It’s NOW OR NEVER for them.
College instructors CANNOT redo twelve years of mistakes. They CANNOT even begin to teach students who come to them without an adequate foundation in Math, Reading, and Writing.
If responses to questions about inadequate teacher preparation consist of indignation and excuses, yank that kid out of that school ASAP. It is NOT the parent’s responsibility to keep teachers happy.
So, overseeing homework means much, much more than helping Junior or Sis with projects. In fact, if a majority of a student’s assignments consist of pictures and collections, that class is already off the Math, Reading, and Writing track.
This task of oversight need not be overwhelming. Just set aside time on weekends, right along with time for sports and entertainment. Families thrive when they learn together, and the time for learning is ALWAYS NOW.
In my son’s case, the next step was interviewing the principal at another school. She couldn’t believe her eyes when he pulled out his paperback copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology.
He looked sheepish, since he carried it in his jeans’ pocket, where it had suffered considerable damage. She turned to me with a steely glare. This one wasn’t going to get away, it said.
“Are you looking for a school or shopping?” she asked me.
“Can you keep him safe and give him honest grades?” I asked her.
Since I declared that shopping was not on my schedule that day, she agreed that a school cannot function otherwise. That principal and my son set off down that hall fast, afraid that Mom might change her mind.
We kept our bargain. Never did I have to consult with her about illiterate comments on papers. Never did I see projects in place of papers and math problems and as many books as my son could carry.
Neither one of us expected to be popular in this mortal life. She was the disciplinarian at her school. My son was mad for a considerable period of time about switching schools.
What can I say? Better well-read than dead. She kept him physically, intellectually, and spiritually alive. Both of us considered our duties a sacred calling.
The only time she smiled at me occurred when I purchased a bee-hive candle for her. THAT was my son’s going-away present when he left for high school. Some make it, and some do not. I assume she planned, as usual, to maintain the light.
So we succeeded at more than we bargained for. At his high school, one of his teachers used my son to correct other students’ papers. He became a lawyer. Perhaps, teaching never seemed to him an honest game.