A parent is a child’s first teacher. The connection can be so unique that sometimes not even words need to be exchanged in order to gain insight into a child’s thoughts or feelings. Yet, when it comes to formalised education, it is then considered a teacher’s role to nurture a child’s curiosity, creativity and communication skills in a strategic, systematic manner. There is no doubt that parents and teachers play two differing roles in a child’s life, yet a child requires both to coexist and partner as one. So, what is the role of a parent? How does this role differ from a teacher? And, how do these two roles intersect?
What is the role of a parent?
Before birth, parents and children share a bond that like no other. They are the first people to impart knowledge, values and habits. A parent teaches their son or daughter how to walk, talk, throw and catch a ball, use cutlery and basic life skills needed in their day-to-day lives. Parenting involves modelling, disciplining and preparing children to build resilience in an educational or social setting. It is the commitment to mould skills and attitudes for a child that prepares them for both personal and academic endeavours. Parents playing a critical role in facilitating the connection between what children learn at school with what they experience outside of the classroom.
Studies show that parents who actively engage in their child’s school life can influence and positively impact their education. When students observe teachers and families working alongside each other, they inevitably are more invested in the learning journey. By embracing diverse learning experiences and activities outside the school, parents become a defining factor in a child’s overall academic journey. Studies also show that parent aspirations and expectations for their child’s education are significant factors that can impact academic outcomes. Conversely, low engagement from a parent in a child’s education can weaken a child’s academic outcomes, especially if the parent show a low sense of efficacy. Therefore, it is vital that a parent aims to have a healthy balance of school engagement whilst maintaining a balance of perspective, trust and support in the professionals at school.
What is the role of a teacher?
A teacher is a child’s co-constructor and mentor throughout their learning journey. The role of education not only involves the teaching and assessment of knowledge and skills, however, it is also more importantly to develop personal growth by establishing strong foundations for a positive mindset and the ability to deal with adversity.
A teacher empowers a child to dabble in experiences, uncover their passions and assists in shaping those interests into something more meaningful. Above all, a teacher builds a child’s literacy and numeracy skills, heightens their curiosity for life and opens their minds to be creative, analytical and critical in their thinking.
When I think about the children in our care, I want to ensure they leave our classrooms better equipped to deal with the world around them. I appreciate that schools are microcosms of life, however, within them we should challenge, encourage risk-taking and set definable boundaries. Children should make tangible academic and social gains each year and be future-focused on new targets whilst reflecting and celebrating current successes. I believe that all children are capable and have the potential to achieve and should not be hindered by the age or grade boundaries.
How valuable are teachers in Kindergarten to Year 2?
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, “A substantial body of research now tells us that for every dollar invested in early education, we see greater return than if we were to invest it anywhere else on the education timeline. At age 15, children who attended at least two years of formal preschool are outperforming those of their classmates who did not.”
Research is permeating to the surface regarding the staggering number of high achievers correlating to those students who participated in Pre-Prep education. What then should we take from this research? Early Learning is an imperative component of a child’s educational journey. It lays the foundations for a successful academic future and offers children a headstart in developing early literacy and numeracy skills as well as admiral work habits. Parents can, to some degree, teach their own children how to spell, read and write and complete basic mathematical computations, but we must not gloss over the fact, that because we have the knowledge, does not mean that we can teach or transfer the skill in a similar manner to a university-trained professional. Teachers have the complex role of juggling their core business of teaching and learning with engaging and socialising students across the length of the day and ensuring the wellbeing of all of the children in their care. Whilst the academic emphasis in the early years of schooling is to intentionally teach Literacy and Numeracy, it is also ideally opportunistic for our young learners to participate in a range of specialist classes across the arts, language, sport and technology that help develop the foundations for a child’s overall cognitive, social, behavioural and emotional development.
There is no substitute for a nurturing and positive school environment. Each child comes to school everyday with the desire to be better, build on their learning and current understandings and increase their self-esteem. When parents and educators partner with common goals, the outcomes are markedly improved than when the two parties work in isolation. Consistent language, boundaries and reinforcement are all integral components of the idealist childhood journey.
Miss Melissa Schoorman is the Head of Junior School, Deputy Principal at Toorak College.