Our Changing Children – Children Who Care Part 3

A Note To Parents…

It may not be readily apparent to people outside of education, but children as a whole are changing.  When I started teaching in Watts it was 1989.  I had 20 kindergarteners, 10 of them spoke Spanish in their homes.  I probably had 2 difficult children…. So that is 10%.  Difficult in kindergarten meant that  kids didn’t sit still, didn’t listen, shout out constantly, are unkind,  needed frequent reminders and sometimes hit or had their hands on others.  In a typical classroom today with 20 students in first grade I may have 5 or more who fall into this group. Sometimes there is a child who is so poorly behaved that they need to be sent home on more than one occasion.    That is at least 25% of the class that needs most of my attention and takes away from the education of the rest of the class. This year out of 21 students I have 7 who need extra reminders to do the right thing. That is 33%!  It seems to be  a trend that more and more children are not ready to learn in a group setting. Behaviorally they are already behind before they even walk into kindergarten.

One alarming trend is that we are placing the blame for poor performance on teachers and schools.  Last time I checked, I had nothing to do with what happens to a child, other than my own, before they started school.  I start the year concerned for those 25% who don’t know how to behave and for the 75% who will suffer because I can not give them the attention they deserve, and need, to meet their full potential.  My hands are tied.  I am obligated to teach every child.  And I want to do just that.  But I wish they came to me respectful, kind, cooperative and eager to learn.  Kindergarten and first grade are fun.  We could all learn so much if we could spend all of our time learning rather than teaching them how to behave.

So why are kids changing?  What is happening or not happening at home and in our society that is causing this increase in behavior problems?  It is true that poverty affects academic development and school readiness.  But I am talking more about behavior and attention issues.  I really don’t know the answers but I do have a few ideas.   Parents are busy and being a good parent takes time.  It takes patience and consistency.  It takes following through on discipline but not making the stakes too high.  Parents need to set reasonable but high expectations for behavior at home and out around town.  And parents need to instill respect for adults and others.  You teach respect by example.  Watch how you speak to others when your child is around.  Watch how you speak to your child and watch what you say about others.  These are all ways your child learns how they should act.  Tone of voice can be just as important as the words you use.  Weigh your words when you speak to your child.  Think about teaching kindness.  Most of what your child learns about how to behave happens before they ever get to school… and they learn it from you!

If you send me a child who knows how to behave, I promise to teach them well…

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