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Parents need to pitch in to help teachers help kids
PUBLIC SCHOOL teachers are discouraged. They complain about the lack of support from parents and administrators, about undisciplined students ill-prepared to learn, about pay freezes and long, uncompensated hours, and about pressure to produce achievers regardless.
Some of those complaints deserve a "welcome to the 21st century" response. Many workers in all professions are struggling with frozen wages, layoffs, pay cuts, and lack of appreciation. But it's also true that teachers carry special burdens. For example, they bear the brunt of the blame when student achievement scores are low. That's not entirely fair, for teachers can mold only the clay they've been given.
Parents can and should do more to help their children succeed. Dr. Ben Carson is head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In a recent speech (available on YouTube), he made it clear that his beginnings could have foreshadowed a far different life. Instead, "I had a mother who believed in me," he said.
Born into poverty and a single-parent home in Detroit, Dr. Carson and his brother were initially doing poorly in school. The other kids called him "dummy," he said, and he struggled with poor self-esteem.
Mrs. Carson, who had only a third-grade education, was concerned about her boys, and prayed for wisdom. And she came up with a plan. Although she herself was illiterate, she made the boys turn off the TV except for three or four hours a week. With all that extra time, Ben and his brother had to read two books a week from the Detroit public library and write book reports for her.
Dr. Carson hated it. All the other kids were out playing and he had to do this extra work. His mother's friends criticized her for her strict rules. But Mrs. Carson stuck to her guns. And after a while, Ben began to enjoy the books.
"We were very poor, but between the covers of those books I could go anywhere, I could do anything," he said. Reading the biographies of achievers, he began to see a common thread: "The person that has the most to do with what happens to you is you."
He decided that poverty, which he hated, was only temporary, and he began to work his way out of it. He graduated from high school with honors and earned a degree from Yale and a medical degree from the University of Michigan before going on to his specialty.
Mrs. Carson had many disadvantages. One of 24 children, she was married at age 13 to a man who turned out to be a bigamist. Impoverished, she was raising her boys on her own when she decided to improve the quality of her "clay"
Teachers can't be expected to do it all. Parents--even busy parents, poor parents, or single parents--can and must pitch in with nurturing and discipline. Then, and only then, will our students become masterpieces.