It’s that long hard stretch in the middle of the school year – when the weather is gloomy and the next vacation seems far away. Kids are restless – and so are their parents! We search frantically for someone or something to blame – the weather, the teachers, the whole system! We need to take a deep breath and reframe our attitudes. (Think of what positive role models we’ll be for our children!)
Educating our children requires a partnership between parents and the school. This is why we must choose our children’s school wisely; it must be a place that reflects the values we want to inculcate in our kids and a place we are proud to partner with. If we feel hostility to the philosophies or personalities at the school, our children will respond accordingly. (There’s always one teacher who makes you crazy – depending on the age of the child, I have found it necessary to acknowledge the teacher’s challenges in the classroom while reinforcing my child’s need to be polite and respectful; I won’t reveal my success rate here!)
But in general we need to work together with the teachers and the administration. We need to be our children’s advocate but also demonstrate our own respect for the hard work of their educators and our empathy with their frustrations. “How can I help you? What can I do to make it easier for you?” are always welcome questions. Appreciate the challenge in running a school (I would never want that job!) or even teaching a classroom full of energetic adolescents (I would never want that job either!) and your attitude becomes more appreciative and grateful.
We can’t just shut the door in the morning, breathe a sigh of relief and go about our business.
We can’t just shut the door in the morning, breathe a sigh of relief and go about our business. We need to be actively involved in our children’s educational lives – and not just by paying tuition and/or taxes. We need to show them their learning matters to us.
This is true of all their learning. If we treat some classes as jokes, so will they. This is an attitude that will then generalize to other subjects and therefore needs to be nipped in the bud. This is particularly true when our children are involved in Jewish studies, in learning our Torah, its values and its precepts.
Frequently groups of parents get together and complain about the quality of their children’s Jewish education. We forget how lucky we are that there are Jewish schools for them to attend, how recently Jews throughout the world were denied those opportunities.
The rabbi who married us told us that his grandfather’s family was too poor to send his father to yeshiva. So his grandmother sold her stove to pay for his education. This was in Poland (and you think winter in New Jersey is cold this year!). Our history is replete with stories of sacrifices parents made so their children could study. And up to today where day school tuition continues to increase (and tuition tax credits remain a pipe dream), parents and families are still sacrificing. But we should (try to) take pleasure in the sacrifice and the opportunities. Instead of complaining about carpool, we should think of the Jewish mothers throughout the generations who were willing to do just about anything (like sell their stoves!) so their children could get a Jewish education. Think of it as (quality?) time with your children.
I confess to being a little grouch about homework. But that, too, is a mistake. We should welcome the opportunity to reinforce the important ideas and values that our children are imbibing at school – at the very least we shouldn’t yell at them!
The school days can be long, the quality of the teachers can be uneven, our children’s ability to sit still and process the information varies – there are lots of areas of potential and real frustration – but in the end we need to appreciate how lucky we are to have so many talented teachers who are willing to give (at their salaries, it is giving!) their time to educate our children and so many schools available for them.