ANOTHER school year has started, with more confusion than usual because of the H1N1 flu virus.
Though most students (and their parents) rejoiced when classes were postponed, I was disheartened to hear that certain families did last-minute trips to neighboring countries, negating whatever benefits could be had from the cancellation.
Sometimes sacrifices have to be made.
How can children learn to delay gratification and pleasure if the parents themselves cannot do so?
In the Ateneo, we are asked to reveal if members of our household have been abroad in the past weeks to help contain local outbreak.
This is a good move. Schools can ask students and parents to fill out questionnaires in this regard. Hopefully, everyone will be honest.
Recently, in a seminar in an exclusive school, I learned that several elementary teachers were also anxious about school opening. ?Forty rowdy boys can be a handful,? I said.
?It is not the boys that we dread,? replied a savvy teacher, whom we will call Miss A. ?It is their parents.?
To encourage the teachers to speak freely, I promised not to reveal the name of their school. But I discovered that their observations applied to many grade schools where students ?are born not with one, but two, silver spoons,? as Miss A put it.
Teachers dread the Overbearing Parent (OP). This father or mother somehow manages to insert himself or herself into various school activities, whether as official parent representative or unofficial class adviser or expert.
?But many parents should be active in school,? I said. ?I myself help in activities when I can.?
?You are not in school every day,? Miss A replied. ?You don?t hang out at the Parents? or Administration Office or try to get into the Principal?s Office. For the OP, career niya ang eskuwelahan, kahit hindi siya guro [though not a teacher, the school is his/her ?career?].?
Many OPs while away the time gossiping with other OPs. ?They really have nothing else to do,? Miss A continued. ?They talk about the smart boys, the failing boys, the good boys, the bad boys. I wish they would get a life.?
What makes matters worse is when the OPs try to use their clout in improper ways. The teachers recounted instances when children of the OPs failed certain subjects.
The OPs tried to change the report card entry by lavishing gifts (microwave oven, flat-screen television) or making overt threats (?We are alumni who contribute a lot to the scholarship fund?).
Do these tactics work? Sometimes, depending on the power of the OP.
?Sadly, the children of these parents often end up like their elders,? Miss A said. ?They may or may not be popular, depending on their barkada [peer group]. But they frequently bully other kids. They have conduct problems, which their parents deny.?
At the opposite end is the Negligent Parent (NP). This father or mother never attends school activities, sends the yaya to parent-teacher conferences, and places upon the tutor the responsibility (and the blame) for the children?s performance.
Sometimes the NP is absent because of work (such as overseas workers), but I was shocked to learn that often the NP was absent ?for practically no reason at all,? said Mrs. B, a veteran teacher.
?I had boys in my class who were flunking,? Mrs. B said. ?The parents missed many appointments with me. When I asked the boys what their parents were doing, the boys were honest. One boy said his mother was in the parlor. Another boy said she was in the gym. Still another said his mother was going on a tour of Europe.?
Amusing as these might sound, they have repercussions. Children yearn for structure and the presence of their parents. Some will do practically anything to get their parents? attention.
What happens to the kids of NP? ?The kids either act up or clam up,? Mrs. B said. ?Some are rowdy in and out of class, they tease others, they get called into the Guidance Office a lot. Kulang sa pansin kasi. Others are extremely shy. They have no friends, they spend recess or lunch in the library or in the computer room. It is painful to watch them.?
These kids may grow up resenting their parents? absence. One of my former college students said of his parents: ?If they do not want to be there for us, why did they have kids in the first place?? Bitter words, but wise.
Strike a balance
What do teachers wish parents to do then? Strike a balance between OP and NP. Parent-teacher conferences are important, and every parent should try his or her best to attend them.
When schools ask for parent volunteers (for scouting, sports day, field trips), by all means, parents should help out as much as they can. There is nothing wrong with being the parents? representative, or befriending the teachers or the principal -- just as long as parents do not interfere in school matters or try to influence their children?s grades.
Miss A is right: Get a life outside of school. Though we love our kids, our lives should not revolve around them. They have to learn to deal with things in their own way.
Of course, we need to be there for them. We ensure that they do their homework before play, listen to what happens in their day, and model good behavior ourselves.
E-mail the author at email@example.com.