It’s that time again—back-to-school. And although parents are busying themselves purchasing school clothes and supplies—or lining up for one of the giveaways– it’s also time for parents to “stay woke” when preparing their kids to go back to school. Given the challenges in our school system and community at large, parents whether married or single, must stay vigilant about what’s going on and equip their children with a mindset that will help them get over the obstacles they face – despite the stacked-up odds. That mindset begins with the parents.
Staying “woke” might be hard to do. But ask yourself this question: What are your expectations and awareness level? When you become aware of what’s going on with your children, community and government, then you can raise your expectations of what you want for your children and encourage them to raise expectations of what they want for themselves.
Here are some things parents should stay woke about…
- Lack of School Funding Same old story, right? Unfortunately Chicago education is about politics. According to CPS Chicago, Governor Rauner used his veto power to cut $250 million in education funding for Chicago Public Schools. Lack of funding continues to leave children, especially those of color, at a serious deficit. What should you do? Get involved. Let your legislators know how you feel. Attend town hall meetings and let your voice be heard. Run for your Local School Council; support your teachers, stay in the know so you can make an informed decision about what you will want for your child’s future.
- Safety Some good news for a change: According to Chicago Public Schools, incidents of crime have dropped by 32 percent along Safe Passage routes since the 2012-2013 school year when Mayor Emanuel implemented community based Safe Passage routes. However, parents must continue to do their due diligence in keeping their children safe. Keep close tabs on your children no matter their age. Just because they are teens doesn’t mean parents can loosen the reigns. In fact, that’s when students need the most guidance. I know it’s hard to do especially when you’re holding down a job or two, but woke parents go out of their way to make those arrangements when they can’t keep an eye on their students. One way is to keep tabs is to keep kids busy. Nail down where your children are going and what they will do once that dismissal bell rings. What are they doing beyond the Safe Passage routes? It’s common sense to know it’s unsafe for kids to have the run of the streets unsupervised. And yet, many parents allow it. Playing video games at Peewee’s house (especially when his Mama isn’t home) may not be the greatest option either. You don’t know who or what may be there (thugs, drugs, firearms…) Know who their friend’s “people” are. Consider enrolling your children in After School Matters, an organized sport, or an academic program. If they are home, establish rules, delegate chores, restrict visitation otherwise there will be consequences. Let them know what those consequences are, and act on them consistently. Don’t forget to have “The Talk” with your children – boys and girls. They must know how to properly engage with police. Lay down YOUR law before school begins so they know what to expect. Your kids need to be in a safe environment and a tightly run one, whether you’re present or not.
- School Performance The Achievement Gap is still a major issue. The disparity between Black and White school performance hasn’t closed much in the last 50 years. According to data from the 2013 National Assessment for Educational Progress, the average Black student scores at just the 22nd percentile. All the more reason to stay woke about your children’s progress. You may not realize it, but you are your child’s first teacher. Educators may have your sweeties seven hours out of the day, but you’ve got your children the remaining 17. Learning begins and ends at home with you.
Learning starts at birth. Did you know that reading, talking, singing, hugging and playing with an infant actually grows the baby’s brain? From age zero to three is the most critical brain growth period. But it doesn’t stop there. As your children grow, exposing them to learning outside the classroom places your kids at an advantage. Here’s a suggestion: When you go to the store, pick up a couple of workbooks, puzzles and flashcards and work with your kids 15 minutes a day. Take a trip to the library for books. Instead of mindless games, download fun learning apps they can play on your phone. Expose your teens to learning opportunities in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) through camps, programs and workshops. Some camps may be pricey, but that doesn’t mean give up. Find affordable workshops through local community organizations, colleges, the park district, or ask other parents. If you want your munchkins to love learning and do great in school and life, they have to feel the love from you. Keeping them busy and involved is how you show it.
- Student Behavior and Accountability If you set expectations low to no or don’t follow up, your children may likely slack off, get caught up in a tangle of failures and not recover. It becomes a spiral of disappointments and frustration for the children, the teachers and you. One thing parents need to do is make kids accountable for their actions or lack of them. Consider corrective consequences when they don’t study and rewarding ones when they do. There should be consequences when they act a fool in school too. It is frustrating when teachers have to play parent with your children. Setting expectations on behavior begins with you. Remember, you’re their first teacher. Lay down the law before your child sets foot in that school. And promise to follow through. Keep in mind, if they are struggling, there is a reason. The expectation from YOU is that you find out what that reason is. It’s not always about being lazy and hardheaded. It might go deeper e.g. bullying, hormones kicking in, undiagnosed learning disabilities, anger issues, unchallenging work… any number of things. Bottom line, you want them to be the best they can be. Talk about college and careers starting in 5th grade so they can start thinking about their future. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) is the future. If they are creative, add the “A” for art in technology to create STEAM. They may not always reach the top, but they will soar trying to get there. Here are some resources to check out:
STEM (STEAM) and Career Information
Educational app resources:
- Parental Involvement Meeting the teachers, attending school functions, volunteering – generally showing up – makes a positive difference in your child’s academic and behavior performance. Wait, did somebody just think out loud that they are too busy and tired? Dear Parent Who Thought That: The struggle is real. You work hard. I know you can’t find the time. Last year you either had to work, was too tired, or you forgot. You were a ghost. Unfortunately, too many schools in urban communities are haunted by parent ghosts. But if the student gets in trouble, you best believe parents angrily appear, poised to curse out the teacher. But check this out: In an article published by Childtrends.org, titled “Parental Involvement in Schools,” it states that, “Students with parents who are involved in their school tend to have fewer behavioral problems and better academic performance, and are more likely to complete high school than whose parents are not involved in their school.”
This year, stay woke, by committing to show up at your children’s school. Take time to make the time, because believe me, you will NOT find it. How do you do that when there is no time to find? You plan ahead. You know the routine: The upcoming parent-teachers meetings, field trips, conferences, etc. Before school begins, alert your supervisor that you want to take personal days throughout the year for events such as these. When you get the schedule, you can highlight the days and lock it in your phone. In fact, write it on a wall calendar too. The school calendar may be available to you on their website before school begins. Check it out. Tape that flyer to the ‘frig as a reminder. If you can’t make it at all, arrange back-up – and a back-up for your back-up. If you keep ghosting, you will be doing your child a disservice. Stay woke, parents. Show up.
- School Shopping on a Budget Remember, second hand is fine—and it saves you money. If you choose to buy new, avoid expensive designer stuff. Is it worth throwing down $200 for a pair of sneakers your child will grow out of or get stolen? This is where many parents go wrong. Don’t spend your hard earned dollars on hype. Make sure your purchases are aligned with school dress code policy and your budget.
Regarding school supplies, get a jumpstart on the supply list. Bet you’ve got some pens and pencils hiding in between your sofa pillows, in the junk drawer or winter coat pockets, old book bags, etc.… You might not need to buy any! Also, take advantage of community Back-to-School festivals for free backpacks and supplies. Does your child need a home computer or laptop? Check out these resources:
Low cost computers and Internet service:
Back-to-School Illinois: http://b2si.org/
- Check-ups and Immunizations This year, do not forget to schedule doctor and dentist appointments for your child. Appointments can get backed up in the office so it makes sense to schedule them ahead of time. Community Back-to-School festivals may offer them as well. Usually you’re supposed to visit your doctor at least once a year, the eye doctor once a year, and the dentist every six months. Keep medical papers in an envelope and put in a safe place. If you are a parent who doesn’t believe in shots for your children, find out – like right now – what is the school’s policy on this. It would be horrible to drop your kids off and the school denies admittance because they didn’t have up-to-date shots or you forgot the papers.
And while you’re at it, schedule an appointment for yourself. Parents get so caught up taking care of other people, you neglect to take care of yourself. Don’t forget about you. Stay woke about your health and well-being. Get regular checkups. Get those teeth cleaned and fixed. Eat more fruits and veggies, less fried foods. Exercise more. Lose weight. Obesity can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and other life threatening diseases. And while you’re at it, let go of those unhealthy relationships too. Clear out ALL those toxins in your body and your life.
Health and Wellness Resources
CPS Office of Student Health and Wellness at (773) 553-3560,
Edye Deloch-Hughes is cofounder of Hughes Who Productions, www.hugheswhoproductions.com, a Chicagoland game development company; and she is the author of two books, a parenting guide, “Raising Hell or Raise Them Well” store.bookbaby.com/book/Raising-Hell-or-Raise-Them-Well and a children’s book, “I Like Gym Shoe Soup.” Contact her at raisinghellorraisethemwell.com or firstname.lastname@example.org