As a teacher, I have often wondered how best to involve parents in the education of their children. In my school experience, I’ve often heard that children learn from what we do, as well as what we say. And a couple of recent experiences in my own home, with my own children, have shown me exactly how important it is to be actively teaching my children, as my parents did for me, by being the type of involved parent in their curricular and extracurricular education: I need to educate them by my example.
A few days ago, in conjunction with the national observance of Columbus Day, my children were exposed to what I felt was a one-sided, celebratory portrayal of Colón. For reasons too numerous to mention here, it was important to me to address the presentation with the person who spoke, and to speak with and teach my own children that evening. I talked to them both about what was missing from the presentation they witnessed, and about my speaking up and meeting with the presenter.
The lessons I hoped to impart were at least two-fold: first, that Columbus was an explorer who brought knowledge of the new continents back to Europe at a time when they could exploit that information, and then took slavery, disease and oppression back with him on his second journey to colonize in the name of Christianity; second, and more important, is that I taught them how to speak up, even to people who have authority over them, when they believe that something is wrong, or someone is wrong.
I’ve written before about the importance of teaching children that they can change the world only if they speak up, and that they have a moral responsibility to make the world a better place by speaking truth to power when necessary. As a parent, it’s imperative that I make this lesson clear by acting in the same way I expect them to act.
The second event was a sixth-grade science project which landed (to my surprise) on our dining room table late the night before it was due. Tired as I and my wife both were, we both realized that this was an assignment that our son would need our assistance to complete, a truth that was confirmed by the title of the assignment, “The Family MythBusting Project”.
Knowing nothing about the project (my wife had a little more information that I did), I had to read the directions and help him navigate his academic work. By working with him – running to get supplies, asking him questions to see what he had learned, having him teach me what he knew, letting him stay up a little past his bedtime to finish and staying up with him working – we showed him that his education, that his work was important. While the veracity of Power Balance Bracelets isn’t life-changing (he determined that they don’t really work), the memory and impression of his parents spending the time with him, challenging and learning with him, supporting him as he educated himself will.
I started this blogpost by saying that I am a teacher. Todos los padres son maestros. All parents are teachers. We teach children by our example what is important, what they should focus on, how they should interact with each other and others, and how they impact and affect the world.
If we complain about teachers, but don’t speak to the teachers themselves, then we are teaching them cowardice. If we have issues with their schools, and we take those issues to the schools, we are teaching them to be assertive and have an impact. If we speak Spanish at home but make sure they learn English, we are teaching them to have more tools in their toolbox. By speaking up for bilingual education in schools, for smaller class sizes, for qualified teachers, for equitable distribution of education resources and attention from local and national governments, for Mexican American Studies Departments and Curriculum, for Indigenous People Day and whole host of other issues, we are teaching our children that they have value, that their education has value, and they should raise their voices to secure their birthrights.
When we do that, that is the moment they learn. Es el momento en el cual entienden. We are educating them by example.
- Toronto Schools Promote Multicultural Teaching and Learning (indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com)
- Barack Obama on Education (education.com)