One of the early scenes on the popular TV show, “Wayward Pines” has the local school administrator/teacher (in one of the more over-the-top impossibly creepy roles in recent TV history) tell a mother, “You just feed them and keep them safe, and we’ll take care of everything else.” This is not far from the attitude we seem to get from many in the education world, though they certainly would not put it that bluntly. Most of the advice is kinder and gentler, but basically sees parents in a supportive, not creative or productive, role, when it comes to education.
There are many resources on the web for educators and parents alike on how best to engage parents in their children’s education. The opinions vary from the all-encompassing (here) to the very limited — and even adversarial (here), and everything in between (here, and here). The common thread is that parents should create a good place for learning, should set a good example, should show value in education, and help with homework.
To be fair, there are maybe some parents who feel that they should have a secondary role. If they are not highly educated themselves, or if they simply don’t have the time, and prefer to leave it to whatever institution they have put in charge to handle it (government, church, private school). It seems that unless you are a homeschooler, your role in your child’s education is necessarily a supporting one.
Let’s use the analogy of a movie set, where “an education” is a movie being created, and a child is in the cast or crew. To take the approaches above, the role of the parent is…well…an avid supporter of the project, maybe an investor (“executive producer”). Sadly in some cases they are more a future purchaser of the DVD. The more generous and democratic of educators will take a different approach, where parents are granted film credits, even operating the camera, script manager, or any number of roles (volunteering in the classroom).…but more often than not, the parents’ role is the manager of the trailer where the student (actor/crewmember) sleep, and not much else… maybe craft services.
Another way of looking at it is that the parent is basically a talent agent. They help negotiate the terms, but after that, they are not involved in the production itself. This is closer to the truth when a private school is involved, because the parents have to choose to pay for it, and if they are paying for it, they feel they should not be doing much of the work.
The truth is, though, that parents not only can be, but in most cases should be, integral and involved in their child’s education. The most extreme version, of course, is homeschooling, where parents are producers, writers, and directors, and will get their scripts, sets, shooting locations, and creative ideas, as well as crew and equipment, from any number of sources…just like a school does. But some parents are understandably overwhelmed. Even if they are sufficiently educated themselves, it can be daunting to make sure their students get all they need. It would be like saying, “hey I’m pretty handy and can fix stuff, so let me be a general contractor.” There is an administrative skill set there that not all parents feel they have.
Perhaps, though, the right balance is that the “education movie” is always an adaptation, with their child in the starring role, and parents are the novelists. After all, students are humans first. They are complete beings, and their education is more than just schooling. A novelist is very often QUITE involved in the script (though they aren’t always the writer of their adapted movie script), and the optioning contract can be such that they have to be, or the movie doesn’t get made.
If this is the case, then the role of a parent is to choose the right balance between giving the “experts” (directors and producers, as well as the more technical experts on cameras and sets and lights) enough leeway in their respective areas of expertise to provide a coherent story that is both real and relevant, while staying true to the character and meaning of the story and its star.
So if all the world is a stage…parents may not be on it, and they may not run the backstage…but they have created all the stories, and there is no show without them. That is their role, and it would behoove us not to forget it, even if, to be fair, the parent really only writes the first few chapters of the novel. The student has to write the rest.
IndED is an educational enrichment program for homeschooled, public and private school students. We offer Clubs and After School Programs, as well as a Full-curriculum option with a dedicated Mentor, a Personalized Learning Plan, and access to the project-based learning opportunities at the Hub in Downtown Leesburg, VA. For more information, please check out: www.inded.us .