Editorial: Schools and parents

Wilton students, families and teachers have the first week of school under their belt.

Every fall the new school year is an amalgam of sameness and surprises, the comfort of old friends and returning routines, and the excitement of things to learn, unfamiliar faces, a new class with a different mix of personalities.

There are many challenges for parents in a new school year. One that’s both important and difficult is finding a comfortable balance on fostering achievement while letting kids be kids and have fun.

It’s good to encourage effort and learning with parental interest. Parents are right to have goals, and teach children to set their own. Success does not blossom from talent so much as it grows from effort. And youngsters, left to their own devices, will often just turn on the TV or the video game or text, text, text. Doing homework is no one’s first instinct.

But parents, especially in a high-achieving school district like Wilton, can overdo it. The habits of diligence and discipline are developed over time, through understated pressure and patient example. Yelling and slamming doors, threats and ultimatums, aren’t the key to academic success. This is gardening, not a race.

Strong learning and achievement come from a student who’s interested in the world, comfortable with school work, and eager to succeed — not one trying to earn affection with good grades or prove something by out-competing classmates, not from a student who’s frightened to fail.

Schools and classrooms should be welcoming, interesting, exciting, fun. School is social — it’s full of other kids — and learning to get along with other people and personalities is one of its great lessons. But, even when very well run, school can be stifling. These are groups — 20-odd children to a class. There’s work to do. Sometimes children will want to talk and fool around, but they have to work and be quiet. That can be hard. Teachers do the heavy lifting, but parents need to help kids adjust, support them when they struggle.

We all have to remember there are students of every stripe. Some will always make the honor roll. Some will always struggle. Some will perform like a shooting star. Some will lose heart. Not everyone will go to the Ivy League, or even want to. But each student deserves to be positively encouraged to do his or her best and cultivate special talents, no matter what they are.

It’s the teachers’ task to focus their charges on learning while keeping school positive and enjoyable. It’s the parents’ job to send teachers students who are really ready to learn — comfortable, positive, happy.