As a teacher, I once arrived at my classroom early in the morning to find a father of one of my students quite upset. I shakily ushered him into the classroom where he proceeded to lecture me about what his son had missed out on in school, up to that point, and what he believed he needed to learn.
The student was a sixth grader and had some difficulty reading. He had recently been assigned to my middle school resource class for students with learning disabilities. Deep down I was relieved that this father’s irritation was not so much with me but at the previous teachers in elementary school.
His son, as I understood him, had been stuck in a basal reading program. No one had provided the child any phonics. It was this dad’s opinion, based on observation, that his child required some work on sounding out letters and words. So I tried to work out a plan where I would do just that with his child, on a daily basis, as we worked on his reading difficulties.
The child, like all of my students, was intelligent. Unlike some of my other students, he was also motivated to learn. The little quirk in his schooling was reading fluency. The dad sought to get him the best individualized help he could.
I never did understand the Dad’s breakdown in communication with the elementary teachers, because I knew those teachers and they were some of the best. However, the district, at the time, was pushing certain programs. When a school adopts any one particular regimen, it might not always be the best program for every individual child.
I also think this dad might have left that interchange thinking he had upset me. But that couldn’t have been further from the truth. I had tremendous respect for a father who cared so deeply for his son and was able to discern what he needed academically. He’d been a tough parent, but respectful in his approach to his interaction with me.
We have a lot of fathers like that today. But we need more. We need more fathers to ask about the Common Core State Standards and visit their children’s schools to learn more about it. We also need them to attend board meetings and speak out. They need to gather information and to advocate, respectfully, like my student’s father, for their children.
That is why an Individual Educational Plan is so critical in special education, and, I would say, for all children. And that is why Common Core State Standards will not work for all students either.
Every single child, after walking through the schoolhouse door, warrants an individual rundown as to what they need in the way of learning. This should include a determination of their interests. The goals might be different, yet they will be no less important.
And every parent, dad’s included, deserves to be acknowledged as to what they think their child needs in the way of academics and social skills.
Parent/teacher communication is critical.
With Common Core State Standards, however, the parents’ voice is cast aside for the most part. There is little room to accommodate a child who must march to the same drummer as all the other students. The goals are too rigid.
Most schools have teacher meetings at the beginning of the year, but I think children require something more formal. This is the place where good assessment is required. Tests that tell parents and teachers how a child is functioning and what will help them learn are critical. Good teachers know how to pull together that information and apply it to whatever they teach.
And good fathers are necessary to the process. Dads are sometimes more objective than mother’s who might be struggling to balance work and mothering. Their observations matter just as much.
In my years teaching and parenting, I’ve known many fathers who have gotten very involved in their kid’s learning, active in their public schools, and their lives in general.
So on this day in your honor, I salute you! Now continue supporting your public schools. Lend your voice to how they should work and make your child’s needs known.
Have a great day!