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Chuck Brooks: Back-to-school messages to keep in mind

Labor Day weekend has arrived. The State Fair ends Monday, teachers and kids will return to the classrooms on Tuesday, and I will continue to drink my coffee as Retirement, Year 3 begins.

Recently I came across this item from a Portugal school; apparently posters were made with five messages on each poster and they were hung in the halls of the school. The poster's message attempts to answer the questions of what is the responsibility of the teacher and what is the responsibility of the parent. Having taught 33 years, I fully support this poster. I hope it might prove helpful to anyone still engaged in the field of education, parent or teacher. I hope it doesn't antagonize anyone, but if it does, it wasn't my intention. If you're ready, take a walk with me. I'm hoping you'll find it worthwhile and thought-provoking.

Belief 1 — "We would like to remind you that magic words such as 'hello,' 'please,' 'you're welcome,' 'I'm sorry' and 'thank you,' all begin to be learned at home." Simple fact: These are simple words to speak. They are also simple enough to teach. With each passing year of my career, fewer kids used them. Even now, when I proctor ACT tests on a Saturday morning, when I hand out materials, I'd say about half of the kids in the room waiting to take the test will say "Thank you," as I give them a test booklet. And I always make it a point to respond with, "You're welcome," so they know their politeness hasn't gone unnoticed. It's so simple and if it starts at home when they're young, I think it has lasting positive effects.

Belief 2 — "It's also at home where children learn to be honest, to be on time, diligent, show friends their sympathy, as well as show utmost respect for their elders and all teachers." This has a whole lot in it that requires discussion. Honesty sort of speaks for itself. It's a no-brainer, but I can tell you time and time again where a parent would lie for their child to cover for them. If the parent lies, the child sees it as OK to do as well. I know some people don't think punctuality is important, but there are many times in the life of an adult where being on time is a must or a courtesy. Complete this sentence: "If one is diligent, one is ..." I think we can agree diligence is a good trait.

Belief 3 — "Home is also where they learn to be clean, not talk with their mouths full, and how/where to properly dispose of garbage." The garbage component of this belief likely comes from behaviors witnessed in the lunchroom at school or the classrooms or the hallways. The part about not talking with mouths full of food, well, how do you argue with that? It's sort of like smacking gum consistently. Learning to groom one's self pays off as kids grow into adults. The school nurse tells students to wash their hands after using the bathrooms to avoid unnecessary illnesses; it's something kids should be doing anyhow. Simple lessons and easy to teach at an early age.

Belief 4 — "Home is also where they learn to be organized, to take good care of their belongings, and that it's not OK to touch others." I've seen students who come to school with graphic organizers and who have put my organizational skills to shame. Being organized is something I had to improve upon in my adult life, especially once I began my career. Organization helps breed success. However, I've seen the opposite with kids who pull out folders and have no clue where to find items when they need to find them. When the school gives all freshmen school planners, it's because we want to get them started in the right direction in high school. The planner plays a small role, yet it can make for fewer frustrations if they treat the planner as it was intended. Taking good care of their belongings is simply smart. My parents bought me items and then said, "If you lose it, you buy your own." As for touching others, who's going to argue with teaching that at a young age?

Belief 5 — "Here at school, on the other hand, we teach language, math, history, geography, physics, sciences, and physical education. We only reinforce the education that children receive at home from their parents." Teachers are always happy to reinforce Beliefs 1-4 in the classroom. However, if teachers have to teach these behaviors in conjunction with their curriculum, their jobs become more difficult; sometimes neither the student nor the teacher wins.

Many parents are teaching these behaviors at an early age. I suspect their children's school experience is more pleasant as a result. Think about it. If nothing else, it's good discussion for later.

Next week, I dedicate the column to the RHS Centennial Celebration. Time to party!

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