Tell Us What We Can Do to Help Our Children 

This is the communication age, I read that everywhere. They say we're talking less now but we're texting a whole lot; that's the new communication. Whatever the medium, it seems that we have all joined this age of instant communication. What would Mark Twain, who complained about the telephone, say? I for one hate being interrupted by my iPhone, messages, WhatsApp, etc. but what can I do? The messages can be important, so I'm even responding, begrudgingly. When it comes to home-school communication we're a long way from the "communication age". In spite of all this electronic buzzing, communication between school/teachers and parents is still in the 20th century (gulp!).

My talks to parents from many walks of life and geographical locations lead me to believe that today's parents are not satisfied being bystanders to their children's education. They want to be players. One parent said to me "why is it that I know what my children are doing at school (albeit from the scraps I glean) but I seldom know why?' 'If I don't know what the objectives are I can't make a meaningful contribution".

Some teachers would say that's the way it should be.

 "Let me teach him, the subject matter', the teacher says, 'and let the parents teach him to be a mentch".  Some teachers would add that too many parents who try to teach their children achieve little more than mutual frustration and the teachers later need to unteach what they taught.

But, that too begs the question. Why can't teachers make better use of this great resource, the parents, other than on Career Day?

One new high school I consult with collects attendance data every morning and posts it on their website. (Parents can access the information through a code; it is not available to students). They also post test results and other ancillary information. The result is more parental interest and involvement. Other schools post all homework assignments every night.

Imagine visiting your son's class website and learning what the teacher plans to do for the next period of time. You will know what is being taught, when assignments are due and when a test is scheduled. Imagine the teacher posting what parents might do to further expand the project horizontally; to broaden the information and the experience, now that's the "communication age."

Let us say for example, that the class will be learning about medieval Jewish scholars and the life and times of Rabbi Shlomo HaYitzchaki, RASHI. The teacher suggests additional readings and tangential information sources, all voluntary, of course. This middle school teacher also suggests contrasting a particular commentary of Rashi with that of the Ib'n Ezra, for a fuller appreciation of Rashi. This history class has now become so much more robust and the parent, who is studying with his child, has enriched both the student and himself.

Now, I would not go so far as to suggest that teachers lesson plans be posted but I do think that an outline each unit the children are learning and the main objectives should be posted, along with suggestions for possible parental follow up and enrichment activities.

Think of the educational benefits and the social benefits of closer cooperation between the school, the teacher and the parents.

The down side is that in some cases a teacher may rely on the parents and some parents will have neither the time nor the patience to work regularly with their children. Some parents may become too involved and morph into a major pain. Then again, do we have the right to ask this of overburdened teachers?

It seems to me that the possible benefits outweigh the possible problems.

The kids today are bombarded with so much extraneous stimuli; their formal education occupies an increasingly diminishing part of their time and experience. If there were some way to increase their 'on task' time in a non threatening way, we would be well advised to consider it.

Like many other issues there will be resistance on the part of those most affected. So I suggest let's start small. Perhaps the PTAs could offer a grant to teachers who go beyond the "call of duty". I think some parents may wish to help with some of the computer work involved, some may help coordinate supplemental out of school activities. Regardless, schools would be wise to consider the possibilities.