We've all heard about what some top factors for future personal success are. Some say it's the teacher, some claim it's the child's ability to persist, some say it's small class sizes. I'm here to say it's the parent....period.
Now before we more forward I should describe what I mean when I say 'success'. Having been a teacher for the last 14 years, I'm that last person to tout success as synonymous with large accumulations of money. As the rich will tell you, money does not always bring happiness, but that is a whole other blog post. Success in it's broadest form and in the least bring about a sense of personal satisfaction in one's accomplishments. To some, it very well might include large accumulation of money, but to others the aim might not be anywhere near lofty financial gains.
Back to parents. Have you all heard the term, "a face only a mother could love."? I am always tickled by that term. But in it lies a HUGE truth. Only involved, loving parents hold the one key piece that can make a world of difference in that child's future; and that is true, unconditional love. Only we know our child so deeply, so intimately, that we are in the MOST unique position to help him pave a path for himself that will be personally meaningful and fulfilling. Yes, good teachers are great, yes, a great school can be helpful. But an involved and loving parent is by far more effective at getting a child to future success. I have to make a distinction here for not all parents are involved in their child's life and not all that are involved have the child's best interest in mind. Some parents raise their child using their own personal agendas and not the child's; a phenomena I find to be even more harmful than non-involvement.
An involved, loving parent will find activities that match the child's interest, an involved parent will advocate for the child's needs to the teachers, to the school, to the District, to congress if needed. One very powerful story I carry with me about parent involvement is the story of Mark Zuckerberg's childhood. His parents recognized early on that he liked computers and hired a computer programmer to teach him what they could not. Mark's father said it best, "The best thing I can say is something that my wife and I have always believed in," he said. "Rather than impose upon your kids or try and steer their lives in a certain direction, to recognize what their strengths are and support their strengths and support the development of the things they're passionate about."
Unfortunately the American school system is misdirected in many ways and are not really structurally set up to be as supportive as they could be. One major problem with it is that is does not seek to, 'recognize children's individual strengths' and support it's development. The American school system, especially in the past 10 years, simply cares about how 'smart' you are and placing each individual on a strictly academic continuum; losers on one side and winners on another. A better school system has everyone winning and no losers. A better school system would be asking, what are our kids smart at? Our national obsession with 'College-readiness' is a way to keep some people up and some down. Must all kids excell academically in order to lead a successful life?
My 6-year old son loves to gloat, to anyone who will listen, all he knows about the universe and looks puzzled when he notices that not everyone finds all his 'facts' fascinating. I always tell him that everyone single person on earth has the potential to be an expert at something they love to do and that each human being must find out what that special something is in the course of our lives. I always add that what fascinates him might not fascinate others and that's perfectly normal but oh, what an amazing gift it is to know what fascinates you at such a young age.