Op-ed: Back to school starts with parents
- John Lagimodiere | October 04, 2017
And the cycle has begun. Ever since my children became school aged, my New Years Day isn’t January 1st. It is whatever date the government sets as the first day of school that really turns my calendar. It is the true start of a cycle that Saskatchewanians can really wrap their heads around. There is no big change on January 1st. It is still cold, dark and winter.
On the first day of school however, there is excitement, new beginnings and challenges. And the fact that the school now has the kids for a better part of the day to deal with that often-soul sucking behaviour of a teenager after weeks of summer vacation (I’m bored! Can we get slurpees? He started it! She started it! I hate you! Can I have money! What is this rash? Sound familiar?) is such a relief. That is the time I become so very grateful to have the teachers responsible for teaching, inspiring and disciplining my children.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love my kids and I try to teach, inspire and discipline them to the best of my ability. But man, it is hard and tiring. So, the help from the school system is a welcome respite from the pressures of parenting.
That’s why I try my best to support my children’s schools and out teachers. They do our job and more for ten months of the year for our kids. So, I volunteer to speak in class and with teachers and last year even coached high school curling. (yes I did that….we didn’t win much, but lots of kids curled and had fun and that’s what it is all about). I was asked to coach because there weren’t any teachers available to take on the extra curricular activities.
Our schools are short of resources. Recent provincial budget cuts have seen a loss of resources for our most vulnerable. Aboriginal support workers have been cut in a division in Saskatoon. These folks were the one on one contact with Aboriginal students. These employees were the direct support for students and teachers. Support workers checked in on students. Knew what was happening in their lives and helped guide them through classes and most importantly, life. They are gone now. Add on top of that average class sizes of close to thirty students and you have teachers that are stressed with class and curriculum management, let alone acting as a confidant and social worker. I can see why teachers get burned out.
On reserve, the challenges are bigger. In a chronically underfunded system, reserve schools need all the help they can get. Prime Minister Trudeau has pledged to unplug that money and to fund the schools at par with the mainstream. It has been very slow in coming, but those in the know tell us that movement is happening in the education portfolio. Let’s hope that’s true. But if the government isn’t doing it, who does the responsibility fall on?
That is why it is incumbent on the community and us as parents to help shoulder the load. Many businesses put their money where their mouth is. They sponsor buildings on campus. They donate school supplies and backpacks to folks in need. They take partnership schools and invest resources locally. That helps so much.
But really the rubber hits the road with us as parents. It is up to us to feed our kids well. Make sure they do their homework every night. We have to inspire them to read (Words on paper. In a book. Not YouTube or on a screen. A real. Live. Book.). We have to be involved and aware of what is happening in that school on a weekly basis. We have to support the teachers. And if you are seeing gaps in the system, we have to work with the school to fix them. If that means lobbying government or changing how we vote so be it. But that takes time. Sometimes the solution can come from the parent’s knowledge, network or just plain old volunteer time. That school is our school and we should do our best to make it the best.
Even despite the lack of resources, our schools pull off amazing things to bring in the students and make them at home. Welcome back powwows. Hair cuts and proper clothes supplied. Lunch programs. Elder supports. Cultural programming like never before (more on language please!). Personal sacrifice of time and money. They do amazing things, but they need our help.
Education is the most important thing we can offer our children. You should be involved. The teachers and our kids need us.