Dear Resident

by  

Welcome to the first “Back-to-School” edition of RJ. This is the first edition of RJ to be published prior to the opening of school and I would be remiss in my efforts and commitment to RJ’s readership if I did not take this opportunity to address you on the subject of education.

I once read “The purpose of education is to guarantee a successful adult life.” And to that I would like to add, “Without education, you are left to life’s other, less desirable devices.”

And our community lives with the results of these less desirable devices every day. I read this over 15 years ago in an education manual and it has stuck with me ever since.

For all intents and purposes, everything that we see and hear would lead us to believe that education is an American Priority…NOT! One has but to observe – not watch – observe the daily news shows which chronicle the day-to-day life of America, telling Americans what they need and want to know. Unless there is an event of catastrophic proportions, there is only one subject that gets more airtime and coverage than any other: SPORTS. Daily newspapers come equipped with a Sports Section. Sports, that’s the American Priority.

And sports stars command millions of dollars in salary each year. Not for educating children, building homes or saving lives. They command millions for bouncing, kicking, striking or throwing a big, small, round or sphere-shaped ball, other object or sometimes other person. And America loves it. We set aside special time to support and cheer them on. We dress like them, no matter the cost. We hang their pictures on our walls and hang on their every word. Can you imagine how well educated our children would be given the same kind of attention and support that sports command? In countries where students excel, sports stars are paid much, much less money than they are in America and understandably so.

Before I continue, I must tell you that in addition to writing for RJ, I am an employee of the Chicago Public Schools. My children and I also are products of the Chicago Public Schools. I like to think of myself as an advocate for children and education. Here in Chicago, over the past few years, it would appear that children and education are receiving more priority at the city level.

Chicago, however, is a conglomeration of varied communities, usually based on economic levels and race or the lack thereof which usually results in melting pots such as the Uptown Area, where I lived at one time. In Chicago, education has always been either a community priority or not a priority at all.

Communities that work together for the benefit of all of its members generally prosper in all areas, especially education. The Options for Knowledge Program, allowing children to attend school outside of their community, proved to be a great educational opportunity for my family.

But in addition to education being a community priority, education must also prove to be a home priority if our children are to be successful in school, resulting in a high school diploma.

I would ask that each household in our community examine itself to find its priorities. If education is not a priority, it should be. If education is a priority, it should be one of the top two.

There is only one other Entity that can have a more profound effect than education in shaping our minds, our lives, our future. Education is a foundation on which to build.

The Board of Education, with new testing guidelines and bridge programs designed to ensure that a student arrives in high school with the skills necessary to succeed, is only a third of the equation. Most of our students complete eighth grade successfully.

High School is where we start to loose ground. Students need a great deal of support in high school. Parents have to watch more closely and check more often to make sure that their student is on time, on task and on target. Students must come to school each day on time with the necessary tools (completed homework assignments, books, paper, etc.) prepared to listen, learn and participate in class. Parents must make sure that students arrive on time each day, with the necessary tools and a loud and clear expectation from parents that they are to listen, learn and participate in class. Parents must support students, their school and the educational process if their student is to be successful. This is what they do in the homes of communities where education is a priority.

In communities like ours, there are many other things that can factor into whether or not a student can/will successfully complete high school. One such factor is family history, which actually affects every area of a child’s life. A student’s chances of completing high school are less when their parents, older siblings, extended family and past generations have not completed high school. It quietly says that education is neither important nor necessary to the family and no one is expected to finish high school. Another factor is family and economic problems which can impact a student’s ability to get to school and perform well when they do. Student socialization is also a factor. High school students, especially freshmen, can suffer more than they benefit from the freedom to socialize that high school provides.

First-time high school parents: your student should have more work in high school than elementary school, not less. They will have homework every night. There are no study periods, so they didn’t do it in school. If you don’t see them with books, doing homework, there’s something wrong. And actually ask to see their work. And actually read it and ask questions about it. It can educate you too. Make sure that your words are not the only thing that says you expect your student to do well in school.

If you say you expect your child to do well in school and you let them stay out late at night, you don’t mean it. If you’ll pay for a pair of the “new” Jordan gym shoes but complain about a class fee, you don’t mean it. It’s not so much what you say as it is what you do.

For students and families that need help and support, there are many sources. But you must seek them out. More importantly, you must help yourself first. There are some things that only you can do for yourself. If you have any questions or concerns, do not wait. Contact your student’s school immediately. It is easier to keep up than it is to catch up. And while your student may not be a genius in school, I am always amazed by the things a student can get their parent to believe. If it does not sound believable, it probably is not true. Parents, the truth is only a phone call away. Human nature does one of two things: It does what it has to do. Or it does what it can get away with. Don’t let your student get away with anything. A student who knows that their parent will check on them is more likely to be where they should be, doing what they should be doing.

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