What role do schools play in parenting?
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Have you ever wondered where a parent’s role ends and the role of the school begins? It’s a question worth thinking about. After all, these two influences are by far the largest in the vital childhood years.
The key thing to note is that schools do not exist to take over the role of parents.
Some parents choose Christian schools as partners in training their children towards godly adulthood. Regardless of which school you choose, however, it’s still the parents’ role to do the parenting.
No matter how good, a school (where your child spends about 30 hours per week for 40 weeks of the year) can’t substitute for the 24/7 love, support and guidance the home is able to provide.
So, where does the school come in? Schools are responsible for providing high-quality learning opportunities that meet the needs of students within a safe and supportive environment. They should foster a student’s intellectual, emotional, physical, social and spiritual development and nurture them to become responsible citizens.
It’s important to remember that parents are crucial partners in educating their children. Research has proven that children do better, stay in school longer, and are more engaged with their schoolwork when schools and families work together. Children with engaged parents also go to school more regularly, behave better, and have better social skills.
Getting back to the original question, a school can never replace the essential role of parents. However, choosing the right school can be a huge help in parenting your children. When school and parents work harmoniously, children are likely to have the best outcomes of all.
School values and family values
One key way to foster a harmonious relationship between school and home is through ensuring you share similar values.
Every parent wants a home where peace, joy and a relaxed camaraderie are the order of the day. Nobody likes living with tension at home.
Raising children who constantly challenge boundaries, question your authority, bicker or break rules can be extremely tricky.
One reason why parenting can be difficult that you may not have considered is a conflict between school values and family values.
For example, if your family values say, “We treat each other with respect”, but the school does little to manage bullying, there’s contradictory messaging between home and school. If the school teaches, “All truth is equal – you get to decide what’s true for you”, this clearly opposes the Christian belief in God’s absolute truth.
A major disconnect between the values being taught at school and those being taught at home will be a real challenge for parents to manage.
Before deciding on a school, ask yourself, “Will the school’s values contradict our own, or will they support and encourage what’s important to our family?” When school and home foster the same values, parenting becomes a whole lot easier.
How to be a good parent
As British education reformer and author Katharine Birbalsingh, CBE, explains in Battle Hymn of the Tiger Teachers, “Parents don’t always understand .... that the way to run a good school is to demand more from both pupils and parents” (p. 221). Research has consistently indicated that home life is the single biggest influence on a child’s academic results.
Given the significance of parenting on a child’s academic success, following are five ways parents of school children can be ‘good parents’ in relation to school life.
1. Read school communications
Good communication is crucial in any relationship. The relationship between school and home is no different. Some schools, like ours at ACC, go out of their way to keep parents informed about what is happening at the school and with their student.
Taking the small amount of time and effort needed to read school communications is a great investment in a positive partnership. It will help you:
- stay on top of developments around the school, such as changes to timetables or uniforms
- be aware of co-curricular opportunities, such as sporting activities, music programs or hobby clubs
- prepare in advance for any activities your child may be involved in, such as excursions or sports days
- monitor and engage in your child’s progress, by reading reports and attending parent-teacher discussions, for example.
2. Give teachers the benefit of the doubt
Does your child come home complaining about a teacher or a subject? When things aren’t going as well as you’d hoped at school, it can be easy to blame the teacher.
It’s true that quality teaching is vitally important to student success. However, many other factors play a role, including the students’ motivation levels, interest in subject content, behaviour and home situation.
Remember, most teachers enter the profession because they want to make a positive impact on the next generation. At ACC, our staff are dedicated to helping students fulfill their potential – academically, socially, physically and spiritually.
Yes, things sometimes go wrong. But please give teachers the benefit of the doubt. Most issues can be easily resolved with a little planning along with open, honest and respectful communication.
3. Encourage your child’s teacher(s) regularly
Teaching can be an extremely rewarding profession. The joy of seeing students ‘get’ new ideas and grow as people is hard to match. However, it can also be stressful. In fact, data collected by the Australian Council of Education Research before the COVID-19 pandemic showed 58 percent of Australian teachers were already feeling ‘quite a bit’ or ‘a lot’ of stress in their jobs – higher than the OECD average of 49 percent.
A report compiled by the Telethon Kids Institute shows teacher stress is related to many factors, including excessive workload and working hours, poor student behaviour, aggression from pupils and parents, and false public perceptions about teachers.
Furthermore, they point out that teacher stress can negatively impact student learning. Conversely, receiving recognition for their work is a protective factor against teacher stress.
Encouraging your child’s teachers will therefore support both teacher wellbeing and your child’s learning.
Here’s some ideas for encouraging your child’s teacher(s):
- affirm them with your words (here’s 45 suggestions for things to say or write in a note)
- let them know you’re praying for them
- say positive things about them to other people, including your child (and never criticise them in front of your child)
- respond to their communication, even if it’s just acknowledging you received it
- send an encouraging message on their birthday or other special occasion (or just at random)
- send a small gift of appreciation.
4. Engage in school activities when able
Another way to build those vital bonds between home and school is to attend school events whenever possible. Showing your face around the school helps teachers, and your child, know you’re actively engaged in their education.
You don’t have to become the next tuckshop coordinator or sports day screamer. Find ways to get involved that suit your personality, such as helping out in the library if you prefer a quiet environment or supporting students with Math or reading. Even little things like introducing yourself to teachers and attending annual awards ceremonies signal your involvement.
5. Raise issues with a partnership mindset
As we noted above, parents are vital partners in their child’s education. Likewise, schools partner with parents on each student’s journey from donning backpacks for ‘big school’ to walking out the school gate for the last time.
When issues arise, aim to keep this important partnership in mind. It can help to focus on your shared goal – that of supporting your student to fulfil their potential and become all God intends for them.
When the best interests of your child are kept front and centre of every interaction, issues are much easier to resolve.
Schools as ‘positive influencers’
Although parents are the biggest early influence on their children, school has a huge impact on your child’s development. As we discussed earlier, the wrong school may lead to a conflict between family and school values, leading to parenting dramas.
School occupies a huge chunk of parenting life, too. Just think of how many times you’re likely to drive back and forth over your children’s school years!
Schools are also more than centres for education. By their very nature, schools are communities, where people come together for teaching and learning. They also form friendships, find mentors, receive guidance and develop character.
It’s therefore vital that you choose one with a positive influence. When things are done well, both students and parents can benefit from the friendships and shared experiences of being involved in a positive school community.
By choosing a school that supports your child in all areas of their development – and shares your values – you are giving your child the best chance of becoming a godly young man or woman and succeeding at whatever God wants them to do.
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