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Robert Archer: Advice for parents as school begins

“So, what’s going on over at Shadle?” is a question I’ve been receiving a lot lately, especially from friends who will be deciding to which high school they will be sending their own kids.

And, I admit, I have to pause before I answer. This year will be my 11th year at Shadle and my 22nd year teaching high school English, so I can appreciate parents coming to me for advice. And I want to be honest with them, for I know that Shadle has had a few “issues” over the last few years – some of which have made the news; others of which have not.

But that statement can literally be said about any school in the district, in the state, and in our country. So, although I can appreciate the natural trepidation from well-intentioned parents when they hear something (whatever that “something” may be), I also want to make sure that they understand all parts of the story.

And the other parts of that story are twofold: (1) My own son has attended Shadle for two years now, and I have never had a single qualm about his attending there (in fact, I’m particularly proud that he’s a Highlander); moreover, he is flourishing in all areas there; and (2) I personally know what goes on inside a Shadle classroom regularly. Therefore, I can appreciate firsthand how positive of an experience Shadle Park High School can be.

Again, that previous statement can literally be said by some other parent about any other school in our district, in our state, and in our country, so I want to use my and my son’s experiences at Shadle to extrapolate some useful advice for all parents to help their children write their own positive, enriching success stories at whatever school they attend.

Have your student get involved. My son is involved in varsity tennis, marching band, jazz band, pipe band, pep band, chess club and the National Honor Society, and he loves his active involvement. However, there are at least 50 other clubs, activities and sports in which he is not involved. Trust me, parents. Your children can find something that interests them, and any active involvement would help them experience more buy-in about their school.

You, too, should get involved. Open House night, teacher conferences, athletic events, music concerts, drama performances, volunteer opportunities, etc. – there are so many ways to become an active, participating member of your child’s house of education. And, yes, I do realize that for some, getting to the school regularly is more difficult than for others. However, to demonstrate unequivocally to your child just how critical education is, you should make every effort possible to be there as often as you can.

Have your student challenge himself or herself. One of the biggest pet peeves I have as an educator is when I notice students who obviously need to be in Honors or AP-level English classes, but they tell me they don’t want to “work that hard.” And then, to trump that epically lazy response, their parents agree, thereby validating their laziness. Remember that school is meant to be a place of education, and education never occurs unless students are challenged to do something they’ve never done before. Working “that hard” should be a requirement.

Expect your student to have homework and to get it completed. There is always some sort of homework for my classes. Studying for Friday’s vocabulary quiz, or reading the independent-reading novel on which there is a report due in two weeks, or working on that essay that’s due in three days or reviewing the grammar notes we just took today – my students have something they can be doing to further their academic output in order to experience more success. Please do not allow your children to tell you they don’t have homework. They do.

Want more out of school for your child than you got out of it. As parents, we want our children to be more than we are. So, no matter what your own experience of school was, make sure your child’s experience is even better. It will be worth it – both for you and for your child.

Robert Archer is an English teacher at Shadle Park High School.



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