Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Secret To The World's Best Education

Autumn always means school whether you are six, or sixty.  And with the start of school, comes the annual deabte, in-fighting, and discussion about what is the best educational choice for our children.  The private school snobs who snear at us public school people, or the public school rejects who feel forced into private school because of a local system that doesn't meet their needs.  The arguments go both ways, everyway, and all around the issue.  I find it disheartening that everyone misses what is important in these discussions.
Eight years as a GED examiner for the state of Oregon (plus 18 credits college level education classes), has taught me much.  Through my profession, I have seen EVERY reason why kids don't succeed in school, from the military "brats" who can't bear to start yet another new school their senior year of high school, to the home-school kid who let his mom do all the talking, to the home-school kid who was in a nutshell, spoiled.  When I say we have seen every reason for NOT succeeding in school, I am not mincing words.  From pregnancy to personality conflicts with a teacher to conflicts in the family to prison; we have heard it all.
So let me share a secret, as I listen to parents argue, sometime vehemently, for their choice of education and why it is so damn awesome.  The secret to the best education for your child is.....be involved!!!  I can hear the groans: people want to hear about a particular school or program that will crank out the next Albert Einstein. They want an easy answer with no thought behind it.  They want to pay their tution and call it good.  But after seeing dozens of program graduates walk through my door, I can tell you that NOTHING replaces a good parent. 
Being involved can mean a hundred different things.  It can mean working full-time and making sure you check homework at the end of the day and making sure there is engaging conversations at the dinner table.  It can mean being a stay-at-home parent, and volunteering in your child's classroom.  Sometimes it means home-school for kids who need more attention, and it can mean public school for those trying to meet friends from a new neighborhood.  Maybe for your family it means private school education so your kids get a lesson in the values you cherish most. 
Being involved DOES NOT mean forcing kids into a top-notch program they aren't ready for, because you heard great things.  It doesn't mean doing your kids homework, so they have the best grades.  (On a side note, ask me about the number of straight A students I have seen fail.)  Being invovled means looking at our children, knowing their personalities, knowing what we really want for our families, and making a decision that may not work for the rest of the world.  That takes a whole lot more work than simply sending our kids off to harvard and hoping for the best, because even Harvard has it's failures-they just don't like to talk about them. 
Parenting is a tough gig.  You take work home with you AND on the road, the job description changes CONSTANTLY, and not much appreciation, but the worst part is the never-ending criticism we give each other.  The people who should understand the best, as they are in the trenches with me, seem to be the ones quick to question what I am doing.  I understand why-the job is filled with self doubt!!!  But I wish we could rise above it and be more supportive of each other.
So what is the secret to the world's best education?  The parent, the parent, the parent.  Long, hours, no pay, and little reward for 25 years.  The world's best job, eh?