Help children achieve despite obstacles

Published 10:24 am Tuesday, July 20, 2010

In my second year of teaching, I found myself leading an advanced English class for the first time. I assumed the gap between the advanced students and the other students would be significant. It was, but not for the reasons I anticipated.

Sure, a difference existed in some of the test scores, but not all. Over time and observation, I found the true reason for the gap came down to two factors: \parental support and individual expectations.

I came to see the students who worked hardest came from homes where parents were involved and raised their children with high expectations for success.

Some of those kids are blessed with two full-time parents who earned college degrees, but that’s not true for many of my best students.

Some of my highest achievers come from single-parent families in which the parents never attended college. In some cases, the parents did not finish high school. In several cases, children have little or no contact with parents and instead live with other family members. Yet, in the homes raising successful children, the parents and guardians work hard to support what’s going on at school.

Most important, those parents and guardians set the bar high for their children. They want the absolute best for their kids, and they make many personal sacrifices to ensure their children have every opportunity to be their best.

As for the kids who do not achieve, in many cases the parents simply aren’t involved or they don’t hold their children accountable.

The parents have no plan or vision for their children, and because of this, the children suffer from a lack of direction and goals.

It’s our job as teachers to love, nurture, and teach them all, regardless of their home situation. Some of my most improved students come from difficult homes where they receive little or no support, but they chose to achieve.

If you know a child from a home where the support and expectations are low, you can do something about it. Become a mentor or encourager. Shine a light on the path to success and achievement.

As teachers, that’s our calling, but we sure could use some help. Even more important, our children need all the help they can get.