Back to School: A Cornerstone of Opportunity

A new cycle is about to begin and a fresh start is about unfold. General George S. Patton Jr., said it so well "It is only by doing things others have not that one can advance." And to millions, education and schooling is, in part, an opener to that opportunity to advance.

The days are getting shorter and the sun makes it appearance in the morning a bit later. The last few days of summer are being savored by most of us while outdoor family gatherings are being ushered in before the close of the season. The golden rod is turning yellow and the thermometer is beginning to register a slight cooling trend. It is time to take note... school classrooms have had a thorough cleaning and the school corridors are polished to a shimmering gloss. The fall athletic schedule is already underway and the school buses have had a final inspection. The school bells have had their time pattern scheduled and the classrooms reflect "a readiness for business." It is that time again: a NEW school year and a fresh NEW start and another opportunity in the words of Gen. Patton "to advance."

This column today shares several suggestions for entering students and their parents or home providers as well as a suggestive note to the schools. In short, to the students we say: BE prepared, BE positive, Be ambitious, and Be there. Going back to school or going to school for the first time there may be, for most individuals, feelings of anticipation and excitement or uncertainty and anxiety or maybe just a mixture of all of these. Your columnists know all about this; we have been there. We, too, have gone through this anticipatory set; it is something you just don't forget.

Most all of us-- students, parents, teachers and others-- recognize that school plays a most important role in the life of every learner; and it will for the next 180 and then some school days of this school year. Make no mistake about it, age related, every student is responsible for his or her own actions and work habits and has a responsibility to help to make good things happen. And, most experts recognize too that parental or home support plays a vital role toward the academic success and the emergence of a positive learning experience. In fact, the foundation of a child's being is so importantly, positively or negatively, home-centered. Most all agree, including students, that parents and significant care givers ARE or SHOULD BE the child's best cheerleaders and tone setters. As we see it, this parental role is indeed a special privilege and a vital parental "homework" responsibility.

Good organization and a respect for a solid work ethic are essential foundational starters. A productive day at school begins six hours before a student's head hits the pillow the night before. One can help a child become a better student with better organization. For example, assist your young child -- and older students have self-responsibility in this regard--to organize their time efficiently and effectively. For starters, limit television, interactive computer games, idle chatter on the telephone, and endless loud background music. Eliminate distractions. Getting enough physical exercise is essential for providing a person with a healthy lifestyle. And a healthy style means much for young learners. There are four watch words that hold a vital key: sleep, eat, work, and play. It is essential that young minds and bodies have enough sleep every night to perform at their best. Also, young minds require a healthy breakfast to start off a good work day. Good food gives a body and brain the energy it needs to function properly. When these two power- houses, enough rest and good food, are combined with sufficient exercise and responsibility for completion of home or work chores, the learner is off to a great start for a healthy "learning workday." And work to learn and learn to work is an essential prime life-long success skill.

Effective communication between school and home is essential in the education of a learner. The communication channel must go both ways. The school and the home EACH have a piece of the picture of a student's development, and EACH can be most effective when information is shared. Clear communication between school and home helps ensure that teachers and parents are responsive to the unique needs of each student and that is what supports the overall learner development. There are few things more hurtful to a student than an "uncaring overbearing" attitude of a parent or a "vindictively unfair " attitude of a teacher.

Working together as full partners--parents, teachers, and administrators -- can create a caring and sensitive school climate which respects and responds to students' differences as well as their similarities. The centrality of this partnership is the student, the focus of the partnership is to maximize the potential within each learner so he or she may achieve all of which she or he is capable. This, we believe, is the essential underpinning of a quality education experience.

John Locke, a great American forefather said it nobly-- "The improvement of understanding is for two ends: first, our own increase of knowledge; secondly, to enable us to deliver that knowledge to others." America's noble experiment-universal education for all citizens is a cornerstone of our representative democracy. And it is through excellence in education we can help to maintain the freedoms and liberties we know and treasure. Indeed, education opens doors to advancement and it opens our minds to the truths of virtue, freedom and security. It has been said "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." How true that is where quality education plays such a key and vital role in a free and open society. Clearly, so significant is the essentiality of maintaining high educational performance expectations and action standards as the necessary cornerstone for a free and enduring society. John Locke and Gen. Patton knew what they were talking about. And that is how we see it FROM OUR PERSPECTIVE.