As published in the Bottom Line of the Las Cruces Bulletin – August 14, 2020
by Tracey Bryan
COVID-19 has pulled all of us out of our comfort zones. “Normal life” has become very far from normal, as what we love about closeness and community has been replaced by social distancing, masks, and Zoom.
And there’s certainly nothing “normal” about the way this school year is starting, as students will be learning remotely at least through Labor Day. Whether working or not, parents and grandparents are taking on a far more active role in their children’s education than ever before, though without a doubt, parents have always been the children’s first teachers.
Even though we didn’t choose this, I want to encourage parents of something that was true even before COVID. You, as active participants in your children’s education, are directly tied to the educational outcomes of your children. You are so powerful and impactful, in fact, that the Federal legislation that funds public education, the Every Student Succeeds Act, has explicit goals for schools to increase “parental engagement” in education, though I’m certain they weren’t thinking in pandemic proportions.
Studies have consistently shown that students with involved parents, no matter what their income or background, were more likely to:
- Earn higher grades and test scores and enroll in higher-level programs
- Be promoted, pass their classes, and earn credits
- Attend school regularly
- Have better social skills, show improved behavior, and adapt well to school
- Graduate and go on to postsecondary education
Parents are also the odds-on favorite to be closest and know their child’s interests and abilities best, and then be able to work alongside teachers to cultivate those gifts throughout the child’s educational journey.
My favorite analogy to describe this is like a car heading toward a destination. While a child is young, parents are making the decisions and driving the car toward the destination of the child’s future place in this world. As the child grows, gradually, the parent moves out of the driver’s seat into the passenger’s seat. The student is learning how to drive, but the parent can provide navigation and support, as they continue together towards the destination. While the destination may change over time, the consistency of encouragement and support from the parent (not backseat driving, mind you), helps the student grow in their own confidence and decision-making along the journey.
But don’t feel like you have to go this alone. Our school districts have spent the summer preparing teachers to do what they love to do – investing in children – in this new virtual environment. They are on the frontlines of our “new normal” with you and can point you in some pretty helpful directions. Each of our county’s three school districts are providing additional help for parents on their websites, as well, to make remote learning the best it can be.
Now is also a great time to help your children think about those destinations for their educational journeys. The more clear the destination, the better able you and they will be to make decisions along the way of how to get there.
The Bridge of Southern New Mexico and Workforce Talent Collaborative set up NewMexicoTrueTalent.org to provide a one-stop-shop for free links and information about career exploration, videos of the kinds of amazing careers here in our community, and the different ways to get there. Don’t miss my personal favorite – Why I Work – which helps young people think about the life they want to have in the future and then navigate some different directions to help them get there.Someday we will emerge from these COVID times, and I think in many ways, we will come out stronger than before. Parents understanding their great value and exercising their ability to help their children learn will, I’m certain, be one of the greatest lessons we learn.