A boy of five, on the first day of kindergarten, asked his teacher, “When am I going to learn to read?”She said, a bit absently (for there was a lot going on), “Oh, that won’t happen until next year,in Primary One.”He didn’t say anything, but an hour or so later she noticed that he had left when no one was looking. He walked out of the room and continued home. He went up to his startled mother and said, “I’ll go back next year…when they’re ready to teach me to read.”
Everyone knows what they want from education. Parents want their children to be successful- or perhaps simply to learn to read. Teachers want to create a terrific curriculum, encompassing not just intellectual skills but athletics, music, art and socially adept behavior –or, perhaps, to have a high performing class. The Principal is concerned about meeting deadlines and the requirements of the State and Board of Governors. The child wants to learn- whether it’s to read right now, to dive into the swimming pool, to build things, to play music, to make friends, or simply to be himself or herself.
How then do you bring all these disparate aspirations together around the things people have in common –in this case their connection to a school? Here it is necessary for a group of people to build a sense of commitment together, to develop images of the future we want to create together, along with the values that will be important in getting there and the goals they hope to achieve along the way. Unless there is a shared vision there is no way for a school to move forward.
Unfortunately many people still think that “vision” is the job of the Principal or the Board of Governors. But visions based on authority usually only work in times of crises and when the crisis is over, people will fall apart, back to their fractionalized and disparate hopes and dreams. They will never know the potential that comes from creating a shared vision of what their school, their classroom and their community might be.
Catalyzing people’s aspirations doesn’t happen by accident; it requires time, care and strategy. To support this creative process, people need to know that they have real freedom to say what they want about purpose, meaning and vision with no limits, encumbrances or reprisals. Principals and Community Leaders must put aside their fears that people will run out of control if they are given a voice.
Shared visions have a way of spreading through personal contact and communication is vital. All day long communication occurs between teachers and students. During the evenings and weekends in a day school and during holidays for a boarding school it occurs continually between students and parents. But between teacher and parents there is little communication often reduced to a Termly communication on a Report: a group of letters and numbers, perhaps with a written comment or two. Important knowledge is not being shared effectively.
Parents and teachers should regularly communicate with each other but, sadly, this is rarely a learning experience. The teacher has a folder of notes about the child’s strengths and weaknesses. The parent listens as the teacher runs down the notes. Sometimes the teacher listens while the parent vents frustrations and, at times, anger. Both sides leave and a ritual that ought to be fascinating for both sides seems to end up being lackluster and frustrating. After a year or two many parents stop going to school and some teachers wish they could as well!
It is sad that far too often parents and teachers often see each other as enemies, yet if they both took time and communicated EFFECTIVELY and LISTENED to each other then this situation would not arise.
Education is a partnership between home and school for schools cannot do the job alone. Sadly though parents often renege their responsibilities and this is when things start going wrong, for parents fail to understand what the school is trying to achieve. Parents feel they are educators because they themselves have been to school and have all the answers. It is not quite as simple as that for there are many complex issues to deal with.
If a child’s education is to be successful parents have to work hand-in-hand with the school, supporting its ethos and mission, being fully involved in parental projects, taking an active interest in progress being made and making positive suggestions for further development, for “education is the health and future wealth of a nation”.
– By Dr. Roy K. Lillyman (in the pic above, Principal and CEO of Thomas Adewumi International College, Oko, Kwara State.)