The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


April 12, 2013

Carolyn Tubbs, guest columnist: Parents, teachers can improve education together

JOPLIN, Mo. — I agree wholeheartedly with Anson Burlingame’s assessment (Globe, April 4) that hard work could remedy many of the current problems in education.

Let me give you an “insider’s view” to our current educational status. I see two underlying problems: lack of trust among parties involved and taking public education for granted. Communication is the solution to these ailments — communication that is achievable by hard work.

First, lack of trust: From the outside looking in, parents say, “Why haven’t they taught multiplication tables by now?” From the inside looking out, teachers say, “Why can’t they feed them breakfast before they send them to school?” There is obviously a disconnect between the two primary adult parties in a child’s education.

When our country was a more agrarian-based society, parents and teachers knew each other locally. They communicated with each other in town and at church, and they trusted each other. Today’s fast-paced, digital society is much more complex, layered and disconnected, with parents and teachers often not knowing each other — and not trusting each other.

Second, taking the system for granted: In my mother’s day, she graduated eighth grade and wanted to get a high school education. But she couldn’t get her high school diploma because she had no transportation into town in rural Arkansas in 1931. So she repeated eighth grade, just because she liked to go to school. She yearned for a high school education, but it was out of her reach.

Today public education is a given. Education is there for the taking. However, sometimes education is not highly valued because it is so readily available and so ordinary in our society. Several years ago in the Carthage School District there was talk of eliminating advanced placement and dual credit classes. Over 300 parents and students showed up at the next school board meeting to speak up for the programs that they valued. If American public education were in danger of being completely removed, patrons would suddenly rise up and demand it. But, because it so available and free to each family, we expect it to be there and be working well, without our involvement.

So, Mr. Burlingame’s panacea of hard work has merit. The hard work should be at the local level of education — parents and grandparents should make it a point to know their child’s teachers. Teachers should (and we are urged by our administration to do so) contact parents with praise or concern for their students. Grandparents can volunteer to help in elementary-school classrooms with activities; teachers are grateful for a helping hand. My neighbor volunteers at his grandchild’s school once a week to listen to children read. He has told me of some striking experiences. The Lutheran Church in Joplin sponsors a Bright Futures group where members can sign up to volunteer at grade schools. In secondary schools, active parents sell tickets to ball games and help teachers with extra-curricular activities. There are many other such opportunities to get involved with our public schools.

Likewise, teachers should consciously plan for parent communication — emails, phone calls, a post card. They should consistently keep parents in the loop about their child’s experiences at school. As teachers and parents work together, they will gain a trust for each other and will not take the tremendous job of education for granted. Communication builds trust and respect for the hard job of being a parent or a teacher. Parent-teacher connectedness will enhance the mutually inclusive roles they play in the education of their children.

As an observer of human nature, I know that what we do is much more powerful than what we say to young people. If students observed their parents and teachers communicating and working together to understand and improve public education, I know it would be a positive influence on students’ attitudes about and practices of acquiring an education.

Caroline Tubbs lives in Joplin and is a teacher in the Carthage School District.

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