Torrance Choates: Parents are their children’s first teachers

Published 5:30 pm Saturday, May 13, 2017

In this week’s column, I will be discussing the home life of some of the children we encounter.  The goal is to give you a better understanding of where some of our students come from and at the same time to keep expectations high despite some of their living environments.
As many of you know, various students that we encounter come from unique backgrounds and home environments. We are going to take a closer look at the variety of home life that many of our children grow up in.
I have seen wealthy and privileged kids grow up to become nothing. I have observed extremely poor kids exceed expectations and go and to become successful beyond my wildest dreams. Ironically, one would think that the wealthy and privileged child(ren) would be the one that is most successful due to the child growing up in a loving home and (at least that is how it may look) was supported by both parents and who had the financial means to ensure their child’s success. On the other hand, the poor child or underprivileged child who has had a rougher background and has been exposed to harsher and rougher conditions can go on to become prominent. There are many factors that play a role in this.
First of all, let’s examine the affluent child’s lifestyle. In many cases, they get what they want.  Yes, they are the first to have a car, and money is not an issue. In many cases, for most of their lives they have never had to work for anything that they wanted. It was always given to them.  Doing this sometimes is very detrimental to the success of your child. It is important not to kill a child’s ambition by giving them everything they want. It is good for children to have to strive for things and having to work for things teaches them that hard work pays off. I believe that it is good to create balance if money is not an issue. Creating this balance may be a tougher challenge than one might ever expect, especially if the parent grew up not having and just does not want to see his or her child struggling. Inspiring your children to dream big and work hard can take a child a long way. Remember, giving them everything will kill all of this in a split second.
Next, I will examine the poor child and this is who I identify with because I consider myself as growing up poor. Many are exposed to harsher treatment, cursing, broken homes, drugs, prostitution, and violence. Sometimes seeing all of this at such a young age can have a detrimental effect all the way through adulthood. I find this to not be a color issue but simply an issue of socio-economic status. While it is important for us to not give any child a sense of entitlement due to various factors, I find it extremely important to know and understand where a child comes from; that way one will know how to better deal and work with the student. Make no mistake about it — we as adults must keep expectations high at all cost. No matter how rough conditions are this will give even the poor student a fighting chance to obtain the motivation and the desire to make it happen!
True learning, in my opinion, is when an individual gets a burning “desire” to achieve. I believe that all students can learn, maybe not at the same rate but all students can learn! Often times, when you see a positive change in a student’s behavior, this is when true learning starts taking place. I will point out that there is no excuse for students not to be successful, with all of the interventions, enhanced instruction, technology at your fingertips, along with teachers, administrators, school staff, personnel, and board members working jointly to make ensure that students succeed. I have watched teachers work patiently with problem students. I, as superintendent, have made it mandatory that a teacher must make 30 contacts per month, in order to make sure that parents are knowledgeable about their child’s education.
I have been education for 20 years; parents must create a balance. Sometimes you can give a child too much or sometimes you can give a child too little; both ways can ruin a child. I encourage you to find that happy balance.
Parents remember: “as always, you are your child’s first teacher!”

Torrance Choates is superintendent, Sumter County Schools.