Pres. Sandra Feldman: Great Expectations
Sandra Feldman, President, American Federation of Teachers
no mystery about what it takes to turn schools around: rigorous
expectations for what students can and must learn, and order and
respect in the classrooms. The following are some suggestions
for achieving what parents and teachers both want from schools.
take it for granted that your children know what you expect from
them. Tell them, show them and help them achieve the goals you
have in mind.
You expect them to read. Reading aloud can be fun, especially
with younger kids. You play all the parts -- villain, hero, clown.
Make sure there are books and magazines in the house geared to
their age level. Become a regular in the children's library. It's
packed with books that have exciting and beautiful cover pictures
that attract kids.
Designate a quiet time. Make sure the TV is turned off. Let your
children see you reading, and talk to them about the books you're
reading. You'll be surprised where the conversation can lead.
Expect hard work from your youngsters. Get to know your child's
abilities and needs; then set realistic goals based on this knowledge.
Have a long-term vision but take small steps to reach it. Monitor
progress. When you're interested, they're interested.
Start developing good work habits early. Let your kids suggest
the best time for doing homework, perhaps directly after school,
after some play time or after dinner. Stay with the same time
every day so it becomes a habit. Keep in mind that children need
physical activity and movement -- they've been sitting in school
for hours. Make sure the work area has good lighting and enough
space to spread books open, and is far enough from the television
to avoid distraction.
Be generous with praise for work that's well-done and finished
on time. Encourage your child to reach for more, to try things
that are harder. Emphasize that failure is in not trying -- that
mistakes are what we learn from. After-school clubs, if they still
exist at your child's school, also help stretch the mind. If there
aren't any, get other parents to join you in a campaign to have
them set up.
need to know that hard work and responsible behavior add up to
success. Teachers can't teach if some youngsters are acting up,
preventing others from learning, so children need to be prepared
before the first day of school for the kind of behavior expected
of them. Nor can teachers bring out the best in their students
without asking them to stretch their minds and lift their sights.
After parents, teachers are the strongest advocates for your child's
learning, always striving to improve the teaching environment.
That's why the AFT advocates:
courses that will help all students reach their full potential.
citywide curricula, including explicit grade and course goals,
so that parents, students and teachers all understand what's
promotions, so a New York City diploma stands for a superior
grading, so students and parents know where they stand.
classes, so teachers can monitor each student's progress, offer
individual help, keep order and enable all students, including
those who need more intensive assistance, to succeed.
Ask your school's administrators what they are doing to meet these
goals, what they expect to accomplish by the end of this school
year. Are there workshops and programs offered for parents? Has
the school linked with cultural institutions and businesses in
the community for classroom enrichment? How does the school ensure
that no child "falls through the cracks?" The Board of Education
recently approved stringent new rules for discipline in schools.
Have you received a copy of the school's discipline code? Your
questions and requests may make good things happen.
takes a good deal of time and effort. Seek opportunities to communicate
with your child's teacher. It can't be emphasized enough -- kids
perform better when they know their parents really care about
what they're doing. Join the parent organization at your child's
school and make sure they hold some meetings at a time that's
convenient for you. Look for the parent association's newsletters
and flyers, they give an inkling of what's happening at the school.
Help set up after-school clubs and summer programs at the school.
Whenever possible, take your child to visit museums, historic
sites, parks and zoos. If you can fit these activities in, you'll
enjoy them just as much as your children. No one ever said being
a parent was easy -- it's a big job but when success comes, it
comes for all of you -- and there is nothing sweeter.
Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax:
(212) 481-3919. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of
the publisher. © 2002.