Torrance Choates: Home is where excellence begins

Published 3:15 pm Monday, February 27, 2017

In this week’s column, I will be discussing the importance of keeping a promising learning environment in the home to reinforce learning at school.
Each school year brings many challenges, excitements, and disappointments. I hope every child comes home talking about how great their school is and how wonderful their teachers are. We encourage you to continue, or initiate, the conversation. Each day, ask your child or children to tell you about something they learned at school or even to talk about a new friend. This increases their learning rate and also makes the family stronger. Our staff works diligently night and day to ensure that your child has a first rate, standards-based education. As we strive to give that education to every child, I challenge parents to be a vital part of this experience. Here are some things to consider:
1). Exposure: It is important to minimize the amount of negative exposure our children hear and see. Too much negative exposure at a tender and young age may begin to shape their character in ways that are harmful.
Examples of negative exposure include: offensive and vulgar music, TV shows, cursing in the home or community, drinking alcohol or doing drugs in public. The bottom line is, we have to be role models for our children. This is very difficult in a day and time when it seems that many people do not have the love for their fellow man they once had.
2). Eating dinner as a family: Evening mealtime used to be a tradition where the entire family sat around the dinner table to eat and talk. Many great discussions came out of this traditional activity. How this has changed. Dinner now is quick, the quality and preparation required to make dinner has dissipated, and quick TV dinners are readily available. Once the food is prepared, each member of the family goes into his or her own rooms to watch TV and eat. The family tradition of eating supper together is nearly extinct. We need to get back to eating with the family again. It is vitally important for families to rebuild this effort of eating supper together just like our grandparents and great grandparents had done.
3). Technology/video games: Children are constantly talking on their cell phones and playing video games. I have had some students who were so caught up in video games that they stayed up all night and were too sleepy to function in school. Going to the grocery store with mom or dad used to be exciting. Great conversations took place along the way. Now, nearly everyone seems so engrossed in their Facebook, Twitter, or some type of live streaming that they don’t talk to anyone. We need to set parameters and boundaries in regard to technology so we can keep conversations alive. Our technology is awesome, but we can’t let it take over our everyday lives.
We need to make sure that after 12 or 13 years of schooling, we produce a college-ready student. Parents are an essential partner in helping to achieve success.
As the Sumter County Schools superintendent and on behalf of the administration, teachers, and staff of the Sumter County School System, I am thankful for the Sumter County Board of Education for their continued support of Sumter County’s number one priority: the students. I also thank our teachers, parents, and community for making the Sumter County School System an excellent school system. We are getting better every day in every way. The potential for Sumter County Schools to be the dynasty that it once was is astronomical. Again, it will take this entire community to come together.
In my next column, I will discuss how we can bring all of our students together when there is division. Just remember, “Better Schools Build Better Communities.”

Torrance Choates, Ed.D., is superintendent of Sumter County Schools.