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Opinions of Sunday, 24 August 2014

Columnist: Eyiah, Joseph Kingsley

Going back to school soon! What do we do?

By Joe Kingsley Eyiah, Teacher, Brookview Middle School, Toronto

Next month we go back to school! It is interesting to note the number of ads and sales targeting students going back to school this September! What do we do as parents, teachers and students when schools re-open in September? We need to plan ahead, give ourselves deadlines with the goals we set, get started and review our performances/goals for successes and look critically into our failures making amends where necessary from time to time.

As Parents:
Perhaps most parents become very happy when it’s September. That’s the time they “ship” their children (with all the headaches they give them at home) back to school and for that matter to the teacher after the long school break. This assumption notwithstanding, parents still have a lot to do for their children and those who teach their kids if we want a successful school year for our children.
Parents have the responsibility (I call it obligation) to ensure that their children are well fed, appropriately clothed and ready with all the school supplies needed before leaving home for school.
Once I asked a friend, “Do you know your child’s new teacher?” The reply was: “No. Why should I care to know? After all, all teachers are the same. I don’t care who teaches my child.” My friend was wrong. Unfortunately, that is the position many parents choose by failing to find out who their child’s teacher is from the very beginning of the new school year! Opportunities are there for parents to know their child’s teacher before they are summoned to the school on their child’s misconduct or poor academic performance sooner or later. In Ontario, parents are allowed to go with their child to the school’s first assembly to listen to the school authorities and meet in person who will be teaching their children. In Ghana, the same goes for open days and Parent/Teacher Association (PTA) meetings. As parents we need to seize such opportunities to acquaint ourselves with our children’s teachers before it’s too late. Also, we could request a meeting with the teachers or visit their schools a few days or weeks into the school year at our convenience. There is much to gain and nothing to lose if we team up with those who teach our children from the very beginning of the school year to ensure that our kids succeed at school.
It is also very profitable to supervise or monitor our children’s homework from school each night right at the beginning of the school year. Such early parental supervision of the child’s school work at home would leave no room for laziness on the part of our kids when it comes to school work. The early bird catches the worm! Check your child’s school planner every time he/she returns from school if possible. Make this possible and start as soon as the school year begins.
Many, if not all schools, send information and special permission forms with students home at the beginning of the school year. Parents must ensure that such letters and permission forms are carefully read, understood and those needed to be signed and returned to school are duly complied with. Let’s demonstrate the sense of responsibility for our children to take us serious.

As Teachers:
Teaching is a profession and those who enter it must demonstrate professionalism in their duties. It is the duty of every teacher to prepare for the school year. It therefore incumbent upon every teacher to go through the curriculum he/she will be teaching for the school year and plan the syllabus for the year or at least the term before the students return to school. This will help the teacher to identify the resources and materials that will be needed in the classroom for the teaching and learning process. I am highly impressed with the team work of teachers in Canada, at least as I know of in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). Teachers teaching the same grade level in a school meet to plan the syllabus for the year under a grade convener or a team leader. There is therefore uniformity and agreement on what is taught by the teachers using the provincial curriculum and expectations. Such teacher preparation ensures smooth classroom work for the school year provided class management is professionally handled by each teacher.
It is also important for the teacher to set classroom rules with students and see to their enforcement throughout the school year. Teachers are also obliged to support the school administration in school discipline from the word go! I personally believe in preventive discipline and admire the teacher who employs such administrative tool.
Team work with fellow teachers as well as parents is what I advocate for every teacher at the beginning of the school year. The teacher must introduce him/herself to the parents of his/her students as early as possible. Call home and talk to the parents of your students. Seek the support of parents to make sure your students succeed. Co-operation of parents in the teacher’s work is very necessary and the earlier it is sought the better!

As Students:
There is a Ghanaian adage that says, “no one drinks a medicine for a sick person.” Oh, how true! Students must know and understand that they go to school to learn. Though teachers are there to help them learn, much of how they succeed as learners depends on them (students).
The long vacation often causes students to forget most of what they have learned the previous year and since the early days of the new school year are used to revise stuff learned at the previous grade level students ought to take such days seriously. There should not be playing of truancy.
Also, parents buy a lot of school supplies for students at the start of the academic year. Students must respect and take good care of such supplies. In Ghana for example, students in boarding houses often lose their items to petty thefts.
Also, students are back to school. They should therefore cut the time they spend playing or watching television late into the night. Many students are late to school in the mornings because they don’t go to bed early. Punctuality, timely completion of homework and positive attitude toward studies are obvious hallmarks of success at school and all students ought to chalk them!
Though teachers in Ontario go to the negotiation table with Kathleen Wynne led Liberals government this month and teachers in Ghana continue their stand-off with John Mahama led NDC government, the Ebola disease is making school life in some countries (especially West Africa) precarious, it is still back to school time. Parents, teachers as well as students have specific roles to play to make the academic year a worthwhile.