This summer of 2016, I decided to do the unthinkable, at least in my mind.
I taught summer school.
It had been years, since I did.
With all the political, dark clouds looming over CPS (the forever “broke” line and a possible fall strike), I felt it would be wise to take the opportunity and increase my rainy day fund. I was actually excited for the chance to connect with the students and be part of their summer.
I have to admit that when I thought about summer school, I couldn’t help but to conjure up images of Mark Harmon and Kirstie Alley. Or, the two fun-loving horror movie fanatics who – yeah, you get the point. Any product of the 80’s knows what I’m referring to (millennials- feel free to Google it).
In case you were wondering, (spoiler alert!) my summer school experience was nothing like the one in the movie- thank God!
I can handle my own with the kids, and teaching is my passion. Overall, my 5 weeks of summer school were fun and informative. Learning is reciprocal, and the group I had did teach me some things.
You see, summer school (at least at CPS) is reserved for “low performing” students in grades 3rd, 6th, and 8th. Since they performed “low” on certain assessments or had poor attendance, the district mandates that they complete a summer program. If they do, they can pass to the next grade.
I drew a mix of 6 and 8th grade students. I know what you might be thinking. “Oh, wow! That’s a tough one!” Or, “Ouch! 5 weeks with teens and tweens!” But, I must say the grand majority of the kids were respectful, worked hard and were pleasant to work with.
But, (stories like these usually have a but moment) I did have to deal with some “shenanigans” that got me thinking.
I am a true believer that the apple usually doesn’t fall far from the tree, and so this summer school’s experience exposed me to some parenting decisions that had me shaking my head.
Let me start by saying that raising good kids starts in the home- with parents (or guardians).
As much as some might say extended family members, schools, churches, and neighborhood programs, aren’t responsible for “home training” our children.
We brought them (our children) into this world, so it’s our responsibility to point them in the right direction.
Now, all those things I listed above can “assist” in the laying of a solid foundation for a young person to build off of.
However, it is specifically the parent’s foot that has the privilege of giving a child the necessary swift kick in the rear and get them back in the right direction.
OK. Rant over, back to summer school. But, I think you’ll see a connection.
Six days into the program, I was called down during my morning planning time, to address a mother that was insisting that her daughter had missed 2 days of school, and not 3 days. Indeed, she was correct, there was a clerical error made. But, shouldn’t she be more concerned that her daughter missed 2 of the first 6 days, than protesting a typo.
Later, I received a letter from a student’s mother. The mother expressed concerns that her daughter was being bullied by three kids in the classroom. This was news to me, since the daughter had been agitating students throughout the program.
But, here is the crazy part. The irony of the incident is, in the letter, the mother threatened to come up to the school and tell both the principal and me off, if nothing was done about the situation. She even wrote- “don’t make me go up there.”
Hmmmm, I wonder where the daughter got her aggressive nature from.
The last week of the program, a mere 4 days before finishing- six of my 8th grade boys decide they are going to hang out in the park and ditch school.
Upon noticing that I had six boys missing from my class, I called the attendance office. I also informed a school security guard who responded “They’re at the park. They do that sometimes.”
Needless to say, after a quick prompting- Mr. Security guard was on his way to retrieving the six. All the parents were notified before the six were allowed to enter the class. They all walked in with heads hung low.
Over 24 days of summer school, my 22 students racked up 52 tardies. There was little regard for being to school on time.
Recently, I received a phone call from the person in charge of the summer school program for the area where I worked. They wanted information on a particular student. I’ll call him Albert (to protect his true identity).
Here is a brief background on Albert. He threw a chair at a teacher at his prior school. During summer school, he was sent to the office twice for cursing, was one of the six who ditched school, and missed 4 days (out of the 24). I must disclaim that three days worth of absences, were because his own mother pulled him out of the program. She was fed up with his behavior. She knew his missing those days would cause him to fail 8th grade.
But, (here we go again!) his mother now had called the school and was advocating for him to pass! The district called me and wanted to know what would have been his final grade, so they can determine if he could graduate!
My response to all of this.
Parents need to start being parents. Like I’ve told parents in the past, I/we teachers have your children for a year, but you, you have them for life. There is only so much I/we can pour into them, but you, it’s your responsibility to point them in the way they should go.
A few suggestions-
1. Stop looking the other way, or protecting your child when they make mistakes. He or she, will never take responsibility for their actions, if you are always making excuses for them. Sadly, one day their consequence – being aimless with no future, serving time in prison, or regrettably death- is going be more then you can shield them from, and by that time, its too late.
2. When another adult shares their concerns about your child, like a teacher, hone in and listen up. Be respective to the information. Try not to be so quick to defend. These are not personal attacks on your parenting.
3. Look at the situation objectively. It is better to fix mistaken behavior when they are young, then allow it to escalate.
4. Stop trying to be your child’s friend. Either you are asking your child to grow up too fast, by allowing them to do things that is not appropriate for their age. Or, you are not acting your age, and trying to be a teenager. Either way, the outcome will not benefit you or them.
It’s okay to have fun with your child, but there has to be explicit boundaries and expectations.
5. Stop giving your child everything they want. We are creating a generation of “entitlement” children, who feel they are owed something.
I don’t understand why kids under 14 need phones.
When I taught summer school, every student in my class had phones with wifi. Why? They were sixth and eighth graders. The things that electronic device will expose them to, and yet, parents don’t monitor them.
Girls will show up to class with no chip nails, pedicure, and weave in their hair.
Boys will have the latest shoes costing $200 bucks, Beats (headphones) and all the latest video games.
Yep, these things just maybe what Albert gets after walking the stage as an 8th grade graduate, this summer.