By now, most of us with school-aged children have settled into the routines of fall and the new school year. Of course, this means getting up early, packing lunches, driving here and there in our very busy lives and of course hearing about the school day at the dinner table.
If your kids are anything like mine, you likely hear stories about what their friends did that day, who the favourite teachers are and how they’ve done on their assignments. Of course, we always hope the stories are positive and that your child’s experience at school is a good one.
I’m often asked what parents can do to support their children as they make their way through school. It’s a great question, and one that has many different responses, depending on the moment.
Over the past school year, I spent time talking with young people in focus groups in all seven of our secondary schools, as well as parents through a series of community forums in every region of the district. In these discussions, I consistently heard two things that I think worthy of consideration and energy as a school system and as parents; being clear in our communication and having high expectations.
In today’s society, clarity in our communication is more challenging than ever. Social media, mixed media messages, political commentary and of course, coffee shop talk all create an environment where it’s sometimes difficult to ensure our communication is clear and understood by all.
This is no different for the kids in our lives. We all need clarity and we all do better when we understand the messages fully. As parents and educators, it’s never been more important for us to clearly share our pride, our disappointments when they inevitably come along, and of course, our expectations of young people.
The second theme I heard, shared with even more conviction, is how important it is for us to have high expectations of one another. From our students’ perspective, it was very clear to me that they want us to have high expectations. In fact, they need us to push them to be their very best and feel they do better when we set the bar high for them in whatever they’re doing.
Whether it’s school work, athletics or arts pursuits that our young people are involved in or as simple as their behaviour, it’s our shared responsibility to encourage them to put their best foot forward at all times, to reach as high they can and to achieve their full potential, whatever that may be.
Having high expectations not only sends a clear message to our kids, but it also gives them an opportunity to set goals and work hard to get there. Interestingly, as an aside, during the student forums, many students shared with me that they understand the realities of school and life being hard work, and that they are willing to do what it takes to be successful. I think sometimes as adults, we forget, and even underestimate the level of competence and work ethic of our young people. Let’s not be afraid of pushing and supporting them in this regard.
It’s always wonderful to see our children achieve and do well. I believe it’s our shared responsibility to always set high expectations of our young people and one another, and to clearly communicate those expectations.
As a system, TLDSB will continue to strive for clarity and we will do our best, alongside parents and caregivers, to make sure our students grow and flourish in an environment where they are expected to give their very best. As always, we appreciate the support from our communities in these endeavours, and wish all our families every success for another great year of learning.
— Larry Hope is the Director of Education for the Trillium Lakelands District School Board.