Heading to work Monday morning, I saw a woman taking her kindergartener up the hill for the first day of school.
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The little girl was happy and skipping along, the mother not so much.
The girl grew tired of carrying her doll and tried to put it in the stroller her mother was pushing. And then—
“PICK THAT UP! I TOLD YOU YOU COULDN’T BRING THAT THING TO SCHOOL, YOU DUMMY!”
You hear that sort of thing all the time around town. Kids called bastards and dummies and worse. And then we are surprised when the kids don’t learn well in school—because when you drill into a child’s head that he is a dummy, chances are he’ll be a dummy—even if he’s smart.
Yes, the schools are inadequate. Baltimore City has the worst attendance rate, the worst dropout rate, the lowest achievement of any school system in the state. But they’re working on it, and unfortunately we aren’t.
The teachers in our schools are dealing with a lot of kids who are essentially raising themselves because their parents are unable or unwilling to do it for them. And the teachers have these kids for six hours a day—the parents have them the other 18. On weekends the poor kids are mostly unsupervised.
Walk into any elementary school and you will see teachers endlessly encouraging, explaining, praising, willing “their” kids to learn.
And then, unfortunately, many of these kids go home to a parent who screams, belittles and sneers at them—wrecking what the teacher has done.
We have to stop ignoring, neglecting and belittling our kids and expecting the schools to fix the damage. Times are hard, and that means we have to work harder. We need to read to our kids from birth. We need to explain numbers, words and colors to our toddlers. We need to take them to the library. We need to nurture them.
And most of all, we need to praise them when they do well, and hold our frustrated screams when they don’t. And we must never, ever call them “dummy.” Or worse.
Helping in our schools does not take extra time. We can help our schools by simply treating our children with respect.
We—the adults—are the biggest problem with our schools. We need to take responsibility for our own children. We need to stop passing our children along to a giant bureaucracy for mothering. We need to stop behaving like dummies ourselves.
by JACQUELINE WATTS