Whose Responsibility?


Blog post written by Bob Spear, Retired Executive Director of NELMS (New England League of Middle Schools)

I continually hear about how students lack responsibility and good habits of citizenship. Frequently little or no parent support and parental skill are mentioned in the same sentence. It is a tough spot for educators to be in. If we “blame” them, it looks like we are innocent ourselves. Not saying anything simply prolongs the problem and builds frustration.

It seems to me that the school can expect support and appropriate behaviors from parents but often, these are not articulated or widely disseminated. As a follow-up to Chris Toy’s post a few weeks ago, I was interested to see this “article” from a listserv I belong to supported by NMSA (National Middle School Association) and created by John Norton. Here, you can find a top ten list of parent responsibilities and perhaps, the parent organization in your school can take this on as a most worthwhile project. I am hopeful that in this New Year, many schools will address this issue. The reasons are many but the result often leads to failure, frustration, stress, and poor public relations.

“Educators around the country agree that parenting trends in recent years have provided additional challenges to our schools,” middle grades principal Melba Richardson says in this article from NASSP’s Middle Level Leader newsletter. The times, says Richardson, “have certainly evolved from the days when students were expected by parents to take complete responsibility for their actions.” She describes the formula for student success as one part educators, one part student motivation, and one part parental support. For another spin on the same issue, see MS teacher Heather Wolpert-Gawron’s series, posted at 3 different blogs, and highlighted by the SmartBrief ed newsletters. She begins at Huffington Post, with her 10
top family responsibilities: http://huff.to/hwg-triple

“The home life must follow some foundational rules to contribute to the equation of student success to avoid a student’s failure:

  1. Get the student to school… on time.
  2. Make sure the kid is fed… on something other than Snickers.
  3. Make sure the student has had proper medical care.
  4. Communicate with the school: show up to meetings about the child, have a way to reach out with questions or comments.
  5. Be accessible. Make sure the school has accurate phone numbers. Make sure calls are returned.
  6. Know where the student goes after school.
  7. Make sure the student has a place to work and a routine time to do homework.
  8. Follow the homework to its destination. Many times, parents let go of monitoring before the student is ready. Check to make sure the work was done. SEE the kid put the work in their bag before school.
  9. Learn how kids change from year to year. A student who is an A-student in fourth grade might be struggling to make Cs by middle school or might never find a passion for learning until high school. Students are constantly trying to redefine themselves, and it is not always the school’s fault if a student is trying on a costume that we all disapprove of.
  10. Share honestly what a student has a tendency to do socially, academically, and behaviorally. Don’t leave that knowledge for the school to unearth. It wastes time in solving the problems. Be upfront with the school, and work together to provide consistent structure as soon as possible.”

What ways can schools promote parent responsibility and help be a strong partner in the education of their children. We’d love to hear what you are doing or an idea you might have.

MiddleWeb is a biweekly newsletter, featuring web-based resources “of particular interest” to middle grades educators and others dedicated to the academic success of young adolescents. You can subscribe by emailing norton@middleweb.com. Please put SUBSCRIBE in the subject line.


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