James E. Payne: Parents play a key role in children’s education - The Buffalo News
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James E. Payne: Parents play a key role in children’s education

Education begins at home! I grew up on the East Side of Buffalo, specifically Fox and Broadway, during the late 1960s and early ’70s. In my community, education was emphasized and academic success was of critical importance for my family and neighbors. There was a visible sense of pride when any of the children achieved academic or athletic success. During this period teachers were viewed as partners in the intellectual development of our children and the community understood its importance in relationship to providing support to our teachers and administrators.

Now I am fully aware that times have changed and communities are nothing but neighborhoods where individuals are basically concerned with material gains as opposed to investing in the intellectual development of their children. Many have chosen games and clothing over the value of discipline and hard work.

I grew up in a community were parents required that their children would burn the “midnight oil” in order to learn. My grandparents and my church stressed the importance of academic achievement. We were encouraged to do more than just run a football or shoot a basketball. And in all of our endeavors, we were encouraged to reach for the stars.

But not until recently have I heard the voices of dissent so comfortably blaming the failures of the Buffalo School System in relationship to our children on everyone except the first teacher in a child’s life – the parent(s). Can you imagine going to school and not knowing your ABCs, having a limited knowledge of numbers and having no idea of your home address or phone number?

Considering my behavior, I am sure there were times my parents wished that I had forgotten my phone number and address! But I remember when these were essentials for a kindergartner and no self-respecting parent would send his child to school not having a reasonable foundation and knowledge of the fundamentals.

I am inclined to believe that teachers are being forced to do more than just teach. Certainly it should not be the sole responsibility of a teacher to address the intellectual and educational deficiencies of a negligent parent who is more concerned with what is on a child’s head than what is in it!

How can we effectively educate our children by demonizing their teachers and ignoring the importance of parental involvement and commitment in developing a global student who understands the importance of excellence?

One of the highest levels of absenteeism in Buffalo occurs within kindergarten, a grade that is significant in relationship to developing the necessary skill set regarding confidence in learning and enhancing foundational skills for future learning. We also know that the earlier a child is in school, the higher the potential is for success. Whose fault is it when a child is not in school – the teacher or the parent?

Research has shown how important it is for parents to be involved in the educational process of their children in school and at home. When parents are invested, children do better and go further in school. A home environment that encourages learning is more important to student achievement than income or cultural background. The earlier parental involvement begins in a child’s educational process, the more effective are the results.

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