Teachers, peers and society play major roles in a child's education. But parents are a child's first teachers. And home is a child's first classroom.
Schools can - and do - spend enormous amounts of staff time and money trying to compensate for what is sometimes missing in children's homes. But if a child is to succeed in school and in life, it is important that parents and other adults provide a solid base of support from the preschool years through the school years.
The kinds of support children need from parents is not necessarily or solely financial. Children need parents who can help them learn how to think clearly, parents who ask their opinions and respect what they hear, parents who find the time to share themselves and instill solid values.
Of course, our children don't come with instructions (there were certainly times I wish mine had). But recently, I ran across a short, but fairly complete Parent's Pledge. It provides a good checklist for parents who are, indeed, a child's first teachers.
1. I want my child to have the best possible education and I realize that strong school systems are essential.
2. I will provide a home environment that will encourage my child to learn.
3. I will help my child build a small but meaningful home library.
4. I will insist that all homework assignments are done each night.
5. I will discuss at dinnertime what my child has learned at school each day.
6. I will include stimulating books among the presents I give my child.
7. I will review newspaper stories and television newscasts with my child and discuss how the news may affect our lives.
8. I will meet regularly with my child's teachers.
9. I will remind my child of the necessity of discipline in the classroom - especially self-discipline.
10. I will help my child appreciate and enjoy the excitement in learning and the thrill of an inquiring mind.
To keep this pledge, parents need support: businesses that create family-friendly workplaces and give parents the flexibility to occasionally volunteer for duty in their child's classroom. Parents need communities that value the important role of parents and offer programs and services that promote the healthy development of children. And parents need schools that reach out to families and communities with information about school programs and student progress. Families want to belong. Teachers and students need parents' involvement. It's a two-way street that will lead our children to happiness and success.
Reprinted with the permission of the Nebraska State Education Association.