The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

There are Limits to What the School Can Do

There seems to be some confusion between parents and schools

about what the schools can and cannot do.   Unless this confusion

is cleared up parents will be disappointed, and the needs of some

children  will  be  unmet.   Schools do not not have  the  staff,

resources  or  the mandate to fulfill all of parents’  needs  and

expectations.
Some  children  have had to face many adjustments  in  their

young lives.   Some have experienced loss either through divorce,

separation or death.  They may have had to adjust to living with a

single parent or  with a new family group.  Some also have had to

adjust  to  the reality of both parents working and having to  go

home to empty houses.   These are the “latchkey” children.   Most

children find ways of coping more or less successfully.   Schools

have the responsibility of understanding these childrens’s  needs

but  they cannot take the responsibility of fulfilling any of the

unmet needs of the children.
Parents should understand this,  but some feel that  schools

should  be perfect.   The children,  they  reason,  already  have

enough  to  cope  with,  and  should not have  to  encounter  any

additional problems at school.  These parents then try to  smooth

the  way in school.   They make requests for changes in classroom

placement  because either the teacher or the group has not  lived

up  to  expectations,  or  they  make  requests  for  changes  in

curriculum  because  their child is not being  challenged  or  is

overburdened.   When  the  school attempts to  accommodate,  it

sometimes is not helpful to the parent or to the child.
One  of  the  important lessons that a child  can  learn  in

school  is how to accommodate to different teacher  personalities

and teaching styles. (Exceptions are that a child should not have

to  accommodate  to a teacher who is sarcastic to the class as  a

whole  or who uses one or more children as scapegoats).  A  child

also  can learn how to be a responsible member of a group and how

to get along with the different personalities and learning styles

of her peers.  Whether she learns or does not learn should not be

dependent  on having a perfect teacher or being in a  class  with

perfect  children.   The  reality  is that  there  are  imperfect

teachers  and  imperfect  children,  and  she  will  continue  to

encounter  imperfect  people throughout her life.   A  child  can

learn in spite of the imperfection around her.
The same thing is true of a child’s life outside of schools.

She probably cannot change what the adults in her life are  going

to  do,  so  she will have to live with the reality of her  life.

Although it may not be easy, the child still has the potential to

learn  how to make wise choices and develop into  a  responsible,

happy adult.
Another  group of parents not only expect the school  to  be

perfect, they also expect their child to be perfect.  One example

is  the mother who interrupts a successful career to have a child

and then expects repayment in the form of perfection.  The  child

must  justify  the decision to give up working and  make  it  all

worthwhile  by  being successful.  This usually means  being  the

best:  top  of  the class,  star athlete,  accepted by  the  best

colleges, and so on. This is more than most children can give and

can  be  profoundly  discouraging to  them.

 
When parents and schools misunderstand their roles, children

suffer.  Whatever the reason, to avoid responsibility or to place

blame  when things go wrong,  it is the children whose lives  may

be damaged.   The most responsible parents accept their roles and

help  their  children in and out of school by  being  supportive,

encouraging,  and by monitoring the school and supplementing  the

program when necessary.

 

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