Are We Expecting Enough from Our Students?

By David Engelsma

As students all over North America prepare once again to deal with exams as the end of another school year approaches, concerned educators are grappling with a question of their own. Are we demanding enough from our students? There is an increasing amount of evidence which indicates that many instructors are not - more schools seem to be awarding higher marks for achieving less. Grades of students entering colleges are getting better all the time, (32% had A- averages on recent transcripts), yet SAT scores continue to drop in vital areas. Top U.S. math students ranked at the bottom when compared to students from a number of Asian countries.

However, along with teachers in the classroom, apparently parents in the living room need to evaluate standards as well. Recently, an audience of 1250 parents was asked how many of their kids did regular unpaid chores. Only about 50 parents raised their hands. Then they were asked how many parents had done unpaid chores as children. Almost every hand went up. How unfortunate that words like duty, obligation, and contribution to the family seem to have been forgotten by many parents. Yet such qualities, when they are ingrained into our children at an early age have immense value for them now and in the future.

As Christian school teachers and parents, it is important that we do all we can to avoid being inundated by a wave of mediocrity. Our schools are taking the initiative by forming committees composed of a cross-section of our school community to assess how our curriculum, use of technology and modes of instruction can be modified and strengthened to properly prepare our students for a rapidly changing society. As parents, it is important that we also evaluate the standards and the goals we are setting for our children at home and in school. High expectations are a vital key to our children’s future. Let’s strive to make our children responsible, effective workers and stimulate them with challenging yet achievable goals. Here are some suggestions which may assist us to achieve this:

* Remember who’s who.

Standards are set by parents and teachers, not by popular vote of kids. Listen to your children but let them know clearly and early on that parents set the rules. Make expectations clear and don’t compromise them.

* Give them chores.

Regular, meaningful duties underscore responsibility to others. They teach responsibility and are much needed confidence builders. Such tasks impress upon our children that they are valued, important members of the family and of the school.

* Don’t let them quit.

In the words of the old saying, teach your kids to try, try again. Don’t let them give up too quickly on the playground, with chores, and homework. Math story problems are meant to be just that - problems which may not be solvable in 30 seconds or even in ten minutes.

* Don’t solve their problems.

Don’t step in and quickly take over when things go wrong - a quarrel with a playmate, a lost library book or a punishment for misbehavior in school. It may be painful to sit back and watch, yet each of these tough moments teaches an important lesson needed throughout life - that actions produce consequences. Let your children face the music and learn.

* Hands off the answer sheet.

No ifs, ands or buts: homework is the student’s responsibility. Make sure the task is done. Explain, clarify, but don’t do it yourself. This reinforces honesty and helps the child to stand on his own two feet.

* Be a scaffold builder.

Make clear that you expect the best that is in your child and help him to achieve those goals. Build scaffolding, a framework to work upward step by step. A scaffold-building parent when asked, "Where’s Thai- land?" would say, "let’s look it up together," and use the opportunity to teach the child how to use reference materials, tools which he will use again to move higher on his own.

May the Lord grant us thankful hearts to acknowledge Him for the Christian instruction our children may continue to receive. The Lord calls to each one in His Word, "Son (daughter) give me thine heart and let thine eyes observe my ways" (Proverbs 23:26). This is "the one thing needful." May the Lord richly bless this calling and all the instruction given our children in 1997 to the honor of His name and the extension of His kingdom.