Schools are in need of strong lead­er­ship, struc­ture

The Covington News - - Religion -

QUES­TION: What im­me­di­ate changes would you make in ju­nior and se­nior high schools to im­prove the learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment there?

DOB­SON: Most im­por­tantly, we must make schools safer for stu­dents and teach­ers. Guns, drugs, and ado­les­cence make a deadly cock­tail. It is un­be­liev­able what we have per­mit­ted to hap­pen on our cam­puses. No won­der some kids can’t think about their stud­ies. Their lives are in dan­ger .

Yes, we can re­duce the vi­o­lence if we’re com­mit­ted to the task. Armed guards? Maybe. Metal de­tec­tors? If nec­es­sary. More ex­pul­sions? Prob­a­bly. No-non­sense ad­min­is­tra­tors? Def­i­nitely. When schools are blessed by strong lead­er­ship, like the leg­endary Joe Clark at East­side High School in Pater­son, N.J., they make dra­matic progress aca­dem­i­cally. Above all, we must do what is re­quired to pacify the com­bat zones in ju­nior and se­nior high schools.

We will not solve our per­va­sive prob­lems, how­ever, with the present gen­er­a­tion of secondary school stu­dents. Our best hope for the fu­ture is to start over with the youngsters just com­ing into ele­men­tary school. We can re­write the rules with th­ese wideeyed kids. Let’s re­design the pri­mary grades to in­clude a greater mea­sure of dis­ci­pline. I’m not talk­ing merely about more dif­fi­cult as­sign­ments and ad­di­tional home­work. I’m rec­om­mend­ing more struc­ture and con­trol in the class­room.

As the first of­fi­cial voice of the school, the pri­mary teacher is in a po­si­tion to con­struct pos­i­tive at­ti­tu­di­nal foun­da­tions on which fu­ture ed­u­ca­tors can build. Con­versely, she can fill her young pupils with con­tempt and dis­re­spect. A child’s teach­ers dur­ing the first six years will largely de­ter­mine the na­ture of his at­ti­tude to­ward au­thor­ity and the ed­u­ca­tional cli­mate in ju­nior and se­nior high school (and be­yond).

QUES­TION: I made a lit­tle offhanded com­ment the other day about my daugh­ter’s hair, and she cried for an hour. I didn’t mean to hurt her. I guess she’s just more sen­si­tive than I thought. Do I have to walk on eg g s h e l l s around her?

DOB­SON: You should al­ways be mind­ful that your daugh­ter is lis­ten­ing to what you say about her and that she’s “read­ing” the sub­tle at­ti­tudes that you might like to con­ceal. Kids are ex­tremely sen­si­tive to their par­ent’s love and re­spect. That’s why adults must learn to guard what they say in their pres­ence.

Many times I have been con­sulted by a mother re­gard­ing a par­tic­u­lar prob­lem her child is hav­ing. As Mom de­scribes the de­tails of the boy or girl’s prob­lems, I no­tice that the sub­ject of all this con­ver­sa­tion is stand­ing about a yard be­hind her. His ears are ten feet tall as he lis- tens to a can­did de­scrip­tion of all his faults. The child may re­mem­ber that con­ver­sa­tion for a life­time.

Par­ents of­ten in­ad­ver­tently con­vey dis­re­spect to a child whom they gen­uinely love. For ex­am­ple, Mom may be­come tense and ner­vous when lit­tle Jimmy speaks to guests or out­siders. She butts in to ex­plain what he is try­ing to say or laughs ner­vously when his re­marks sound fool­ish.

When some­one asks him a di­rect ques­tion, she in­ter­rupts and an­swers for him. She re­veals her frus­tra­tion when she is try­ing to comb his hair or make him “look nice” for an im­por­tant event. If he is to spend a week­end away from the fam­ily, the mother gives him an ex­tended lec­ture on how to avoid mak­ing a fool of him­self.

Th­ese sub­tle be­hav­iors are sig­nals to the child that the mother doesn’t trust him with her im­age and that he must be su­per­vised closely to avoid em­bar­rass­ing the whole fam­ily. He reads dis­re­spect in her man­ner, though it is framed in gen­uine love.

The first step in build­ing a strong self-con­cept in your daugh­ter is to be very care­ful what you say and do in her pres­ence. Be par­tic­u­larly cau­tious about the mat­ters of phys­i­cal at­trac­tive­ness and in­tel­li­gence. Th­ese are two pri­mary “soft spots” where boys and girls are most vul­ner­a­ble.

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