This is a piece by high school teacher social studies teacher Marc Urbach. The piece will appear in the Monday education page but here is an early look.
By Marc Urbach
Students need great teachers in the classroom but that is only half the story. I only see my students for 50 minutes a day while their parents see them for several hours. What do they do with all of that time?
Over the years, I have asked my students and the answers have stayed the same — watch television, listen to music, play games and now YouTube and Facebook.
Do any of these activities help with their schooling/studies? No.
Why do they do all of these activities? Because “they want to” and because their parents let them. Many parents do not have the courage to set limits with their children. If parents are serious about their child becoming successful in school and in life, they will implement the following rules.
No television, computers, video games until you are earning all A’s.
No listening to music until you are earning all A’s.
No playing sports until you are earning all A’s.
No going to the mall or friends’ houses until you are earning all A’s. Now you might say this sounds a little tough or rigid but in my world it is perfectly normal for the children and parents.
I belong to an Orthodox Jewish synagogue and this is how many parents interact with their children. Do the children complain? Not at all. They are perfectly happy with their situation. In some houses, there is only one television set and the child only watches it when the parent says so.
The children go to school at 7:30 a.m., get home at 4:30 p.m., play outside for an hour and then do homework for four to five hours with a break for dinner. Some play sports and have to adjust their schedule and study extra hard to maintain A’s. They become doctors, lawyers, engineers; this has been the culture for many Jews for centuries. (I was not raised this way and I have suffered from being raised in a secular environment)
Why are these students different? Because their parents set limits for their children and greatly care about their children’s future. Some parents are the opposite and allow their children to play sports even when they are earning only C’s and D’s.
Ask yourself this question, why does the average student in a private school score higher on the SAT than the average student in public school? You might say the parents are wealthier or have a better house, computers in the house or two parents at home. But I would say the biggest difference is the students’ brains.
Why are the brains different? Many religious-schooled students do not watch television, listen to music, spend hours on Facebook, get involved with boyfriends/girlfriends, play sports (limited, maybe only one) or waste their time at home.
I have been teaching for 11 years and I have never seen anything from the county that outlines basic common sense guidelines for parents to get involved with their child. Nothing.
And this is another fault with public schools: lack of leadership. We have complete secular leaders who do nothing to help these children. They don’t even have the courage to explain to students why we have a moment of silence in the class. They don’t have the courage to send home a letter to parents outlining the steps that parents should take to help make their children successful.
The problems seem to be getting worse. In my time teaching, student writing abilities are declining. Their reading abilities and comprehension are declining. The 2011 critical reading scores on the SAT were the lowest in 40 years.
The students are much more distracted with all of the electronic junk they bring to school and the computer distractions at home. They are more distracted with all the garbage on television. Pumping billions more into the system is simply a waste if parents fail to do their part.
Marc Urbach lives in Dunwoody with his wife and daughter. He teaches Social Studies at a public high school in metro Atlanta.
–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog