Too often, we assign the responsibility for the social and academic prospects of our children exclusively to our school system, its administrative staff and teachers.

Whenever incidents occur in school that irritate, anger or enrage us, we are too quick to suggest the school system is at fault and that corrective measures must be taken to prevent unacceptable student behaviour from disrupting the intended role of learning.

Step back for a moment and consciously reflect on the causes of the aberrant behaviour in our schools. There are no simple answers to the multitude of issues affecting our education system.

Having said this, I have acquired my own opinions on the subject.

Schools are not daycare centres; they are places of learning. Teachers, as much as they may try, are not social workers. They are educators qualified through experience and very likely two or more university degrees. They are experts in their subject areas.

Teachers don’t get to choose the composition of their classes, which inevitably consist of students with great potential and high motivation together with those lacking adequate learning skills or, in some cases, even the basest understanding of acceptable behaviour.

Teachers often rely on the assistance of consultants, guidance counsellors, teaching assistants and volunteers to work with those who are academically or behaviourally challenged.

In my Grade 6 class, our teacher had a way of segregating her class by level of “learning behaviour.”

After the first set of tests, based on our scores and attitudes, she divided us into five rows: University Ave., College St., Madison Ave., Industrial Ave. and Skid Row.

Today, such action would prompt school boards to call in counsellors for those of us profiled as suitable occupants for seats in Skid Row. At that time, however, most of us viewed it as motivation, albeit with parent provocation, to work harder and move into a more advanced row. For most of us, this worked.

To me, the biggest problems facing schools today are parental expectations and student attitudes.

With the possible exception of early education and kindergarten teachers, it is hard for a teacher to instil the “attitude” every student should possess to learn effectively.

That’s because attitude is primarily a homegrown phenomenon.

It is up to parents to ensure they bring children to the school system who will embrace the opportunity to learn, socialize properly and participate in the extracurricular activities that interest them.

Sadly, many parents are failing in this responsibility.

We drop our kids off at school with the expectation that teachers will magically convert them into the leaders of tomorrow without any consideration for the personal baggage our children bring or do not bring from home.

I am not a teacher, but as a parent I have concluded that without the willingness of certain teachers to assist with various problems that our own children encountered in high school, they would not be as successful as they are today.

There is not as much wrong with our schools today as we may think. Government is making every effort to comfortably integrate all minorities into the mainstream through a variety of language programs and curriculum modifications.

The real tragedy is that the prejudices, disagreements and juvenile crime so visible on our streets, and not eliminated in our homes, make it into our classrooms.

Public and Catholic school education is free to all students, paid through property and income taxes. It is an entitlement from which we all certainly benefit.

What is needed is for parents to work harder at home to instil a positive attitude in their children toward education. My father said to each of his children, “If you think education is expensive, try not having one.”

So, let’s at least as parents and community members accept our responsibility before we criticize those managing and teaching in our schools. Sure, things can be better. But remember, the first step is taken in our homes.

Source: Toronto Star