Where Are The Parents?

Shoe-tying lesson in a Fairfax County school  Photo credit: Washington Post

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

A story in today’s Washington Post enraged me, amused me, and filled me with admiration.

It starts off with a first-grade teacher in Fairfax County. She had expected that her incoming students last fall would be behind in reading and math due to the pandemic. She was surprised that they also could not perform basic tasks such as tying their shoes, cutting along a dotted line with scissors, squeezing a glue bottle to release an appropriately-sized dot, or simply twisting a plastic cap off and on.

My reaction was: WHERE ARE THE PARENTS? Isn’t it enough that you expect the school to teach your kids reading, writing, and arithmetic? You also want the teachers to teach your kids how to tie their shoes and cut along a dotted line? Are these the parents who are demanding that the schools allow parents to be more involved in schools? They need to become more involved in their kids first.

The story goes on to describe how teachers all over the country have had to deal with kids’ social problems arising from having to stay out of school due to COVID restrictions. I can appreciate their situation. However, I could not help being amused by this observation: “Things were especially difficult for incoming first-graders, she said. For these students, who had never before set foot in a school, the concept of walking in a line between classes — while refraining from touching other children nearby — was wholly foreign.”

My thoughts went back many years to when 40+ of us set foot in Mrs. Jones’ first-grade class in Virgilina Elementary School. That was the first day any of us had been in school. I don’t recall any problems learning to line up to go to the cafeteria or the assembly room in another building. I don’t recall a lot of trouble learning to sit still in our seats or learning to raise our hand to speak. (I do remember having to sit in the corner for talking too much to my friends!) Ah, but these are just the reminiscences of an old fart about the good old days.

I was impressed by the creativity, adaptability, and dedication of some of the teachers. One kindergarten teacher in Philadelphia set up a “Reading Buddy” program in which kindergartners are paired up with fifth-graders for a half hour each week to read a book together. Then there is the reading specialist in Fairfax County who set up a mailbox outside her room and promised students that, if they wrote her a letter, she would have a reply for them the next morning. She has kept her promise, although sometimes it meant spending two hours in the evening to respond to all the letters.

Teachers are doing their part. Now parents need to do their part.

By the way, I did not realize kids still had lace-up shoes!