Be best teach­ing aide your child ever has

The New Zealand Herald - - Editorial & Letters - Al­wyn Poole Al­wyn Poole runs the Villa Ed­u­ca­tion Trust.

Some as­pects of the New Zealand ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem are a mas­sive mess. It is also pretty much stat­ing the ob­vi­ous that the Bali Haque re­port on chang­ing the “sys­tem” and im­pos­ing more bu­reau­cracy, cen­tralised con­trol and lim­its on parental choice will fix things in the same way that punch­ing a hole on the star­board side of a boat to bal­ance a gash on the port side — so that the ship sinks eq­ui­tably — is a “fix”.

Here is an im­por­tant point. The Gov­ern­ment is not re­spon­si­ble for your child’s out­comes. Schools are there to help, and we should have high ex­pec­ta­tions of them. How­ever, if you are a par­ent, how your child does through his or her ed­u­ca­tion is your re­spon­si­bil­ity.

The res­o­lu­tion ev­ery New Zealand child needs is that their par­ents, if they have not al­ready, make the de­ci­sion to be fully in­formed and in­volved in their child’s ed­u­ca­tion.

In her fab­u­lous book, The Smartest Kids in the World, Amanda Ri­p­ley taps into the re­search to show that our coun­try is the one na­tion in the Western world in which par­ents read­ing to their chil­dren has the

Great par­ent­ing is pri­mar­ily about love, bound­aries and ac­tive at­ten­tion.

great­est de­vel­op­men­tal sig­nif­i­cance. Your child’s lit­er­acy is your re­spon­si­bil­ity. Chil­dren need their mums and dads read­ing to them and need to see their par­ents read­ing.

One of the best news items I have read this sum­mer was the huge in­crease in the num­ber of New Zealand-au­thored books sold as Christ­mas presents. Our Villa Ed­u­ca­tion Trust schools have a 10-book chal­lenge over the break and we also have a key aim in 2019 of hav­ing ev­ery one of our 500 fam­i­lies fully in­formed and in­volved in the day-to-day.

Your child’s nu­mer­acy is also your re­spon­si­bil­ity. Chil­dren need to see and hear their par­ents pos­i­tive about maths and will­ing to learn and sup­port even if they find it dif­fi­cult them­selves. In this sub­ject at­ti­tude is a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor.

Par­ents need to be ac­tive and to en­sure their chil­dren are too. Limit screen time to half an hour a day (an hour tops). The same key fea­tures of grow­ing up that made the “good old days” good still ex­ist and are not ex­pen­sive — beaches, trees, bi­cy­cles, clubs.

Par­ents need to be an ac­tive part of the school day. Help or­gan­ise your child/ teenager the night be­fore and get them off to school pos­i­tively in the morn­ing. Take the or­gan­i­sa­tional stress off their shoul­ders to set them up to learn. Get to know all of their teach­ers and make your­self known. Un­der­stand what the school is try­ing to help your child achieve — from Year 1 to Univer­sity En­trance (the goal the vast ma­jor­ity of our stu­dents should be aim­ing at). Feed­back be­tween teach­ers, stu­dents and fam­i­lies is one of the key suc­cess fac­tors. Ac­tively seek out feed­back, of­ten.

Talk to your child at the end of the school day. Be spe­cific in ask­ing about their ex­pe­ri­ences and learn­ing for the day. Don’t ac­cept a grunt for an an­swer. Look at their books. It might be for­mu­laic but ask for five pos­i­tives be­fore lis­ten­ing to the whinge. Ask how you can help.

Great par­ent­ing is a choice and it is rarely de­pen­dent on what you have or don’t have. It is up to par­ents to turn around the ed­u­ca­tion sta­tis­tics — in­clud­ing the so­cioe­co­nomic and eth­nic dif­fer­en­tials. Great par­ent­ing is pri­mar­ily about love, bound­aries and ac­tive at­ten­tion. Plenty of ac­tive at­ten­tion. It is about role-mod­el­ling the things you would like your chil­dren to be­lieve are of high value. The op­por­tu­nity to be a great par­ent has not been negated by high­tech so­ci­ety, some­times the choices sim­ply need to be more clearly, ac­tively and con­sis­tently made.

Make the res­o­lu­tion and fol­low through. Don’t leave the life op­por­tu­ni­ties of your young ones up to schools or bu­reau­cracy — they might try but only you have the tools. It might not seem like it ev­ery day but your chil­dren will love you deeply for car­ing about their minds and their progress.

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