Being an Educator
Connecting Parent to Child

This reflection and analysis of my educational purpose comes from my own vivid educational experiences. Education was crucial in my family. My parents sacrificed for their children's education. Both my parents earned a doctorate. Both of my parents were professors. Because of this they were very much involved in my education and schooling.

One of the many goals and purposes of education is to connect the child with his/her community of which family is a part. Schools tend to separate children from families. Early educational thought held that schools were going to rescue children from their parents. Schools are social institutions which do not practice good social skills when it comes to dealing with their student's parents. Parents are considered the enemy in their own children's education by too many school systems.

As a first year teacher, I had two students with whom I was having a great deal of trouble. I was teaching in a private boarding school for boys grades 5-9 in a posh area of Connecticut. Now the question has to be raised: "Who sends a kid away to boarding school in grade five?" In speaking to the headmaster about these two boys, he suggested I wait until after parent's weekend, and discuss the young lads with him then. Parent's weekend came and I was anxious to meet the parents of my two wayward lads. Well, it was not a pleasant encounter. Both father's were abusive and the mother's off-putting. No affection, no concern, just the facts from me. One father asked if he wanted him to give his son a "whipping." In addition, both sets of parents were divorced. It was at that point I realized why some parents shouldn't have children. The weekend passed and I had my meeting with the headmaster in regards to our orphaned pups. These kids needed parents, that was as plain as the nose on my face. However, the solution was that I was to be their parent. This was unacceptable. Instead I suggested that the boy's parents be the parents. The headmaster laughed and said that that wasn't going to happen. Well to make a long story short, he was right and he was wrong. In the case of one boy, the parents never returned to the school and didn't answer my phone calls or letters inviting them to visit. In fact they pulled their son out of school and sent him to public school to save money. He died, the next year, in a car accident while driving under the influence of alcohol. In the case of the other boy, the headmaster was wrong. I was able to get both parents to visit on separate weekends. The boy became less of a problem and more receptive to his lessons and sports and the community. I am happy to say that I am still friends with him and both of his parents nearly 20 years later. The point of all of this is that education should foster community. Community includes family. Today I use the virtual community of the Internet to have my students communicate with their wired parents on a daily basis. Parent's nights are an enjoyable time for me as I meet many of the parents with whom I have electronically spoken. This urge of mine to involve parents was instilled in me at an early age. My parents were involved in my education.

Two incidents in my own schooling reflect my own parent's involvement. The first occurred in third grade. My third grade teacher was new and believed having the student write hundreds of times I will not... will instill better behavior. Well I was her Bart Simpson. I stayed after school more times per week than not. My parents were not aware of this until a I had a rather bad day at school. My teacher assigned my the task of writing "I will not talk in class" 1000 times. Well I could clearly not do this after school, so she allowed me to take it home. When my parents came home they were proud that I was dutifully doing my homework. After a couple of hours their curiosity was raised, since I didn't usually spent this much time on homework. When my mother saw what I was doing, she snatched the paper and went downstairs screaming for my father. He and she came up furious, not at me but at the assignment. I remember this distinctly, they said nasty things about my teacher. They told me I wasn't to write any more of this. They both drove me to school the next morning and we all went straight to the principals office. They didn't wait long. While I sat outside, in the main ofice, they went inside the principal's office and closed the door. I never wrote I will not... again, until this paper. My parents removed me from that public school and put me into a private school the next year. My parent's intervention showed me that they cared for my pride and my esteem when my teacher did not. It took my parents to step in and remind the school about a social obligation. The lesson was: If the school has a problem with a child, involve the parent. The second occurrence also involves a switch from public school to private school. After three years in a private school, I returned to public school for junior high. Everything was fine until 8th grade. I was going to a public junior high in Connecticut and the "new math" was being brought in. As two highly educated people themselves they were curious about its implementation. Both my parents were good in math and we, the kids, were doing fine. As my dad said, "If it ain't broke don't fix it." Well we were immersed in this "new math" thingy. I got along but my parents were having a devil of a time with it. I remember telling my sisters how I was teaching mom, an Economy teacher, about math. We laughed about that. I remember my grandpa, an MIT graduate, looked at it and motioned me away. He claimed he was too old to learn "new math" when old math did him just fine. This amused me. Well, I knew I wasn't long for this school. My parents and other parents spoke about this at weekend get togethers and all the kids would sit on the perimeter and listen. Finally the day came and my parents took me to school and we went to speak to the guidance counselor for advice on private schools for me. They were thinking boarding since there weren't any day schools for the upper grades in the neighborhood and they didn't want me in the local public high schools with this "new math". As I reflect on it now, it seems ironic that an intended reform actually had an opposite effect, it drove kids from the schools. I loved math, I was good in math and this "new math" was just another problem to solve. I remember teaching many others the tricks of the "new math" in class. If it weren't for "new math" I probably would never have gotten to know a young girl whom I was going to marry seven years later. I was having fun with math before "new math" and after "new math". But it wasn't "new math" that made it fun. At any rate I left this public school for a private boarding school.

One of the functions of education is a process of socializing the young child. Parents are part of that process. For me teaching is easier if I have the parents involved. I feel comfortable with them. I enjoy their children and their children know I know their folks. On one particular report card I gave a student a U for unsatisfactory. I knew this would bring his father in on parent's night hopping mad, probably like my dad. Well on parent's night he comes to see me first and demands to know why I hadn't called him to tell him his son wasn't doing well and added, "I thought we were friends." I started to laugh and told him we were, but since I knew he probably wouldn't be coming in on parent's night, I wanted to guarantee his presence so I could chat with him for awhile. He slapped me on the back and we chatted awhile until some more other parents came in to see me about their child. Parent involvement is crucial in my job. That is why I allow my kids to break a NYC BOE Internet policy of "No receiving or sending of personal email." They write to their wired parents and the parents love it. One mother came in and told me it was great and that she and her daughter were finally communicating. Without the parents I can't teach. If I can't teach society is the worse for it. Parent involvement in their children's education is one of my goals and purpose for teaching. To me, it is just plain common sense to involve and encourage parents to be in their child's education.