Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Where the money SHOULD be spent

So the provincial gov't intends to bring in full-day kindergarten, or half-day kindergarten, half-day daycare, funded and controlled by the province. This is wrong in just so many ways.

My union, ETFO, opposes the use of staff that are not qualified teachers. Well, obviously the union is going to be more interested in increasing positions for teachers than in whether or not children need to be taught all day. And ETFO has said nothing about the benefits of children being home with their parent(s) rather than in school and daycare full-time at the age of 4.

It should be no surprise to anyone reading this that I am fundamentally opposed to full-day kindergarten, whether the day is staffed by qualified teachers or daycare workers. It makes no difference. The point is that kids are in school for a minimum of 14 years--the least we can do is ease them into it with just a 1/2 day for the first 2 years. And the only real benefit to this program is to the two-income families who will have more disposable income as a result of not having to pay for childcare for the two years of kindergarten. Even parents who chose to send their children for only 1/2 a day (they will, apparently, have that option) will inevitably end up pressured by teachers to enroll for the full day, and people are so committed to being mainstream and so terrified that not doing what everyone else is doing will somehow damage their child, that it will be a very small minority who don't opt for the full-day program.

I think if the gov't really wants to make a difference for the children of this province, that it should be mandated that every parent who enrolls a child in public school for the first time (at any age) must attend 30 hours of a parenting course.

(Pause here and listen to the chorus of outrage from my readers who are good parents. Read on.)

First of all, 30 hours is not that long. It is a 3 hour seminar once a month for one school year. The school board could offer the same seminar all month long at various times in various locations. Ideally, all the parents of the new JK students would attend the seminar at their neighbourhood school. In fact, childcare could be provided on-site!!

Now,I hear the thunder of anger over the idea that the gov't has any business telling people how to raise their kids. Well, obviously I feel the same way. So these would not be seminars to indoctrinate any particular parenting style. But it is pretty obvious to me from my 10 years in teaching (and my 5 years of going to playgrounds) that the majority of parents could use some help to problem solve in a few basic areas that most kids will go through. Furthermore, the majority of parents really don't understand what constitutes age-appropriate behaviour. Like, I have seen parents punish 1-year-olds for not sharing. And I've seen 10 year olds who go home from school to an empty house everyday.

If we could educate parents a little bit (while their child is only 4 years old) about how to build a strong relationship with their child and how to deal with a few problems that they might face over the next 10-15 years, I think we would see a major change in the children of this province. THIS is an investment in children that would really make a difference. Because we can pour money onto the kids by putting them in full-day kindergarten, but if they come from a home where the parents are completely unaware of how to help their children be the best they can be, then the money is wasted.

I would suggest the following topics to be covered at the parenting seminars:

  1. Building a strong relationship with your child
  2. The importance of communicating with your child
  3. Identifying your core values and how to teach them to your child
  4. Observing and building your child's strengths
  5. Discovering your child's weaknesses and how to challenge and encourage your child
  6. Your child is doing poorly (academically) at school: How you can help
  7. Your child is acting out (misbehaving) at school: How you can help
  8. Bullying: What it is and how to prevent your child from being a bully or a victim
  9. Finding a balance between work, school, leisure and family time
  10. Defining success: What are your goals as a parent?

Topics that are relevant to every parent, rich or poor, single or not, new or not so new, good or bad, actively involved or not-so-much. I think it could work.

Too bad nobody asked me what I think.

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