Students across the nation have returned to school and are fully engaged in their classes. Soon their parents can expect to receive a progress report of their child’s academic performance.
Some will be fine, meeting or exceeding expectations for their grade level. Unfortunately, a significant number will already have fallen behind. Their academic success will be in jeopardy unless someone intervenes. To parents, teachers, administrators and community members, I say that someone is us.
It’s up to us to work as a cohesive and collaborative support system for our children. That will mean holding ourselves and each other accountable to ensure that each student has been taught and has learned the required coursework for their grade level and is ready to advance to the next grade, without remediation, by the end of the school year.
We are expecting a lot from our children, but what, in turn, should our children expect from us?
As parents, students should expect us to be actively involved in their education. We must ensure the learning-readiness basics are mastered at home: sufficient sleep, on-time school arrival, safe after-school care, and quality homework assistance, provided either by us or someone we find to help, such as a student in a higher grade, a college student, or a nonprofit organization, like 100 Black Men of America, Inc., whose local chapters offer mentoring and tutorial programs. Then we must move to an even higher level of engagement. For instance, we should communicate regularly with our child’s teachers. Join the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) at our child’s school. Attend school board meetings. Advocate for the needs of our children, their school, teachers and district. Educate ourselves about the best available education options in our communities, from traditional public schools to nonprofit charter schools.
If students do their part and we as parents do ours, then our children also should expect their teachers and administrators to provide instruction, experiential learning opportunities and school environments that breed and boost success. Our children should expect their teachers to demonstrate that they believe that all children can learn at high levels. When some children fail to make the grade, they should expect that their teachers and school staff won’t let them flounder, but use proven intervention strategies to get them back on track. Our children should expect their teachers to be capable and well-trained professionals who teach in compelling and creative ways.
Our students should also expect the support of people in their communities (even those without school-aged children), because these students are destined to impact the community through their positive contributions or negative degradations. Visit a local school and ask how you can volunteer. Partner with a local school and offer your services or the expertise and resources of your company or organization. Serve on a local school council. Get involved as a tutor, mentor, guest speaker or member of a booster club. Stand with school boards and policy-makers to advocate publicly for high-performing schools and better teacher evaluations and student assessments. All are vital ways community members can support our students’ overall success and make a difference in their lives.
We at 100 Black Men of America, Inc. know that our children are more than capable of being academically successful. Let’s provide access to educational opportunities that equip students to be competitive. Let’s set high expectations for student achievement, remove obstacles to progress and provide proper interventions and support systems. We will demonstrate our unwavering belief in our students by working side by side with other concerned parents, teachers, administrators and community members throughout the school year. Let’s put our children’s needs before politics and make our nation’s schools the best they can be, so all of our students can become the best they can be.
(Brian L. Pauling is the national president/CEO of 100 Black Men of America, Inc.)