The longer I am in teaching, the more I feel that the biggest factor in (the vast majority of) students’ academic success is their parents. Although there have been instances where a teacher or other school faculty member has had the power to turn a kid around, I believe that the most fundamental element is the parent.
I was reading a book at the beach yesterday titled, “Do You Know Enough About Me to Teach Me?” that chronicles the perspectives and stories of four different urban students – some of whom are high achievers, some of whom are low achievers. The book considers a kid who lives in a single-parent household, and whose mother works one job from 8am – 3pm and another job from 4pm – 11pm. This child has no supervision when he comes home from school, and therefore no one to remind him to complete his homework or to ask him how his day was. The kid ends up watching T.V. for hours upon hours until his mother returns home from her second job, around the time that he would be going to bed. No studying or learning is accomplished in those 7 or 8 hours between when the boy comes home from school and when his mother comes home.
This particular story actually reminded me a lot of myself and my tendencies growing up – I was definitely a kid who was inclined to plop down on the couch as soon as I came home from school and watch hours of television (Pokemon, duh). In middle school, when my dad was traveling in China and my mom was the only parent supervising me, I would watch TV/play computer games until I heard the garage door opening, and then I would run to the kitchen table and pretend I had been doing homework the entire time. In high school, even though I participated in sports teams, I would still get home in the afternoon before my mom would get home from work (my dad was in China through my high school years as well). My first action taken after getting home was NEVER to get my books out and start my homework. I would usually sit on AIM (haha, remember that?) and the internet until, once again, the sound of the garage door opening signaled my mom’s return home.
If my mom hadn’t been there to watch over my shoulder, I probably would have stayed up on AIM until 2 AM every night and would have copied my homework assignments from classmates in the morning rather than taking the time to complete it myself and actually learn the material.
Long story short, as an adolescent, I never had the discipline to sit down and do my homework without my mother’s supervision. I certainly had the dreams and aspirations to do something great, as I’m sure most kids do, but I didn’t have the foresight to realize that my actions in grade school would affect my life thereafter. If it hadn’t been for my mom’s badgering and the countless arguments with her about the importance of time management, I don’t know if I would have learned the good homework and studying habits that ended up being the foundation for my eventual success in high school and college academics.
Do you think you’d be where you are today if it weren’t for your parents’ guidance?