Being a parent who is also an educator has given me insight into how our behaviour as parents influences our children's in school. From my experience in the classroom, here are five resolutions parents can make this new school year to encourage a greater sense of responsibility from their children.
Deal promptly with school documents Nothing embarrasses a student more than being one of the few who has to say: "My mother [or father] forgot to sign it", or "I did not see my parents last night because I was in bed before they came home."
You will always be your child's first teacher and most ardent supporter. So make it a habit to check with your child if anything needs to be signed: health forms, permission slips for school trips, dates for parent conferences, and tests. Make a note of the relevant dates in your calendar, and give the signed documents back.
Last academic year, when students needed permission for a trip to the Hong Kong Science Museum, one of my conscientious students asked to speak with me at the end of class.
She said her father was in Africa on business and could not sign the consent form. Before I could even respond that consent was necessary for insurance purposes, she pulled out her phone and showed me a text message from her father that gave me permission to sign. Her father also apologised for not being able to e-mail, due to lack of internet access.
It was one of the most impressive lessons in teaching responsibility that I have seen as an educator.
Schedule time for homework Students routinely complete homework in school corridors and cafeterias, and I have seen students being encouraged to do it on the ferry or the bus.
Jeanne Shay Schumm, author of
How to Help Your Child with Homework, points out that "without a routine, it's too easy to put off".
Doing homework should also include organising files, packing school bags according to the next day's schedule with adequate stationery and writing instruments, and reviewing topics or making own notes during weekends
Get children to school on time This includes getting them to bed on time and ensuring they are rested enough to be focused and attentive throughout the day.
Laying clothes out before going to bed prepares students to embrace the first day of the rest of their lives.
Be proactive not reactive Taking a proactive role isn't the same as being reactive. There's no need to react to every comment your child makes about school.
Try not to make suggestions about which texts would make better reading, different ways to solve equations, and so on. Believe that teachers are professionals, and let them get on with their jobs.
While it is important to be alert to instances of bullying, or homework being left unmarked, it is also important to teach your child that finding fault is not reason enough for a poor performance . That's because IB or IGCSE examiners do not provide special dispensation for poor teaching experiences when they are allocating grades. See the big picture. Stay positive and help your child to see that, too.
Get involved Parents who get involved in their child's school activities help to enrich their experiences. For the Science Museum trip mentioned earlier, I was unable to get enough parental supervision, despite several e-mail requests. The parent representative for the class expressed her disappointment, adding there was usually a small group of parents who volunteered during the year.
Students beam with pride when their parents volunteer to help in activities they are undertaking at school. So at least once a year, make it a policy decision to offer your time for something. That could be making tickets for the graduation ball, or cooking a dish for the school fair. It could be just for a couple of hours.
Seeing your children on their own "turf" will help you understand them better. Shared experiences make for stronger bonds.
Anjali Hazari teaches IB and IGCSE Biology at an international school in Hong Kong