By Dr. Anthony Policastro

As a Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician, I had a large number of patients with school-related learning problems. My role was to support both the parents and the children.

The reason for that is simple. I used to tell parents that the most important factor in education is the role of the parents. Multiple research studies have shown that 80 percent of a child’s learning is related to the way the parents approach education.

If you think about it in terms of basic hours, that becomes obvious. From the time a child is born until the time that they begin school, the parents are the teachers. They teach them how to talk. They teach them how to play games. They teach them how to interact with others. 

They teach them other good habits. That may include respecting adults. That may include not using foul language. That may include religious experiences.

When the child is ready to go off to school, they have less than eight hours of class per day. They go to school 180 days a year. Therefore, they attend class one third of the day. They attend class one half of the year. If you do the math, that works out to one sixth of their school years in a classroom. It also means that they spend the other five sixths of their time with their parents.

For that reason, parents continue being the primary teacher. We know that their beliefs are things that will stamp a child as they grow. I have written in the past that studies have shown that 85 percent of 18 year olds have the same political beliefs as their parents. The other 15 percent are the rebels who will oppose the parents on every front.

That is true in multiple other areas. For example, a few years ago, I taught religious education classes at Our Lady of Lourdes. I had a seventh grade class with 19 students. Class began after the 8:30 a.m. Mass ended. Class was over before the 11 a.m. Mass began.

The expectation was that the students would attend church with parents either before or after class. What was very apparent was that for almost all the students, they were dropped off after the 8:30 Mass and picked up before the 11 a.m. Mass. They never attended a Mass. For some reason, the parents thought that my role was to teach the children the importance of going to Mass when they grew up.

That was not my role. My role was to support the parents in what they were teaching their children about religion. If they were not attending Mass, then that was the take-home lesson for the students.

Once a child is prepared to go to school, the second most important thing in education is the student themselves. They have to be willing to learn. They have to treat the teachers with respect. Those attitudes are taught by the parents. 

Once a parent prepares a student and the student is prepared, then the third most important person in the process gets involved. That is the teacher. Teachers are there to provide formal support to what the parents have started at home.

They are there to make sure the child learns to read and do math at the appropriate level. They are there to help with social interactions that the students have with each other. They are not there to replace the parents.

They have the students for one sixth of the year. Therefore, they have a difficult job. Most teachers do that job very well. They are not thanked often enough for that. They are not paid well enough for that.

Parents who point a finger at a teacher are pointing the other four fingers back at themselves as the old saying goes. It actually should be five pointing back since the parent has the child five sixths of the time.

COVID update- I have pointed out in the past that surges tend to last 75 days. The most recent surge began in late November. February 13 was 75 days. It is, therefore, not a surprise that the national number of new cases dropped from 318,000 last week to 220,000 this week. That is the lowest number since the week of April 11 last year.