With the announcement of Obama’s blueprint for NCLB
(which is mostly broad statements, and details not yet known), the commentary heard most often is back to the blame game
: it’s the parents’ fault or it’s the teachers’ fault.
While I maintain that it is not conclusively one or the other, I was struck most by the commentary that claimed parents didn’t value their children’s education. That just doesn’t sound right to me. Of course, there are some bad parents out there, but what makes so many people think that the majority of parents are apathetic about their children’s education?
The general consensus is that the lowest-income schools are the ones that get the least amount of parental support. However, instead of assuming that it’s because parents don’t care, what I know from having been a resident in one of the largest districts – LAUSD – with one of the highest poverty rates in the country is that most parents are simply trying to survive the day.
When I returned to Los Angeles (because my family is here), I had no home, no job, no car, no checking account and two children who were turning 3 and 6. My ex-husband had destroyed my credit with his drug habit, and I didn’t have a college degree yet because when I graduated high school, I was under contract for a television series. Life just happened and there I was at age 30 with two kids and very few marketable skills.
I started getting back on my feet, but with every gain, there was a new challenge (not to mention the ex-husband drama, a continuing saga). We ended up moving 4 times in 5 years as a result, and with every move came a new school for the girls. I stressed (and continue to stress) every summer break, trying to obtain quality, affordable summer child care. I went back to school and obtained my degree by attending classes two nights a week and on Saturdays and worked full-time.
I know that some teachers and parents at their schools thought I didn’t care about my kids because there were a lot of things I couldn’t attend. I couldn’t attend PTA meetings because they either took place during my workday or on nights that I was in class. I couldn’t attend a science fair because something came up at work. I didn’t sign off on my children’s homework half the time because they did their homework with my parents while I was in class. To this day, I’m still not always sure what time their schools let out because they go straight to their after-school program.
What I was doing, however, was
vastly important in my ability to care for them. I knew I had to get a degree in order to ever be in a position to make substantially more money. A year after I obtaining my degree, I received a promotion that bumped me into a new tax bracket. It was worth it.
When we were attending LAUSD schools, the parents I knew were in similar situations. One was a nanny who had to be there for other people’s children in order to provide for her own. In another family, both parents worked in grocery stores, where their schedules changed weekly. One was living in a shelter after leaving a husband that abused her. A lot of the single parents I know have done what I’ve done: gone back to school while working full-time to give their family a better chance. Some are going for their GEDs, some are going to nursing or technical schools, and some of them are going to college.
It’s not that we don’t care. We’re trying to make up for our own mistakes. We’re leaving bad marriages. We’re accepting that our dreams are over and trying to find new ones. We’re facing our own set of consequences and trying to set a better example for our children.
It’s not that we don’t care enough to help our children with their project, but we may not be able to afford the supplies. It’s not that we don’t ask our children about their homework, but sometimes those questions are asked in phone calls during breaks at work or in class. And when we get home late at night from work or school, we’re making lunches because the ones at school are too expensive (and we make too much under federal guidelines to qualify for the free ones). We’re scrounging up quarters to get the PE uniform laundered since we don’t own washers and dryers. And we have to get our own homework done.
If schools want more parental support, then they should ask us parents what support we need. Provide child care at the PTA meetings. Have a Homework Night once a week, where parent and child can work on homework together. If we forget to sign the homework, don’t make our child miss recess. If our child is having trouble with a subject, give us resources to help them more effectively. Hold workshops for parents on financial trouble, buying a home, help us understand our children’s physiological development stage. We the parents look to the schools and teachers as the experts. Help us to see beyond how to get through the day, and how to see bright futures for our children.
- The Best and Worst of Our Charter School Experience
- Parental Involvement Through the PTA
- Confessions of a Problem Parent
Tags: Parenting, poverty
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