Teaching path can lead child to bright future

September 03, 2002|By Raimonda Mikatavage

PARENTS MUST get involved in the education of their children and help create a learning environment in the home.

A positive attitude toward learning and life in general comes from having a sense of purpose. Because kids are not yet preparing for careers, many flounder with no real purpose or professional goal in their young lives.

Many kids and teen-agers, if asked to "wave an imaginary magic wand and become whoever they want to be," simply cannot imagine themselves as anything, as per a portrayal on one Annenberg Foundation-funded television program on school dropouts that was shown on public television in Carroll County.

Many kids can't even guess at a profession. They go to school and "hang out." Many do not see studying and learning as a purpose with a tangible, specific result.

Their parents need to create a real purpose, and here is one way to do it: Starting from the first grade or now, if your kids are not sure what they want to be when they grow up, loudly and enthusiastically encourage them to become teachers.

The reason for this is threefold. First, by encouraging the teaching profession, you define a purpose for your kids.

Second, in a knowledge- and service-based nation, teaching, communication and training skills are needed in every profession, in traditional and nontraditional settings. Teachers are not just found in schools. Teachers and instructors are practically everywhere.

Third, promoting the teaching profession solves the ever-elusive role model dilemma. The child is staring at a role model for more than six hours every day, Monday through Friday.

Many younger kids automatically want to be teachers but hear their parents mumble, "Teachers don't make enough money; it's too hard." And the dream dies before it ever takes root.

As they grow older, young people see pop stars and want to be like them. This is when parents could say, "Do you know who taught Britney Spears to dance? A choreographer. That's a teacher." Or, "Do you know who taught Michael Jordan to jump so high? His coach. That's a teacher."

Even if your child complains that a teacher shouts or isn't fair or is picking on him, you can squeeze in a lesson: "Help the teacher. You'll appreciate it, when you teach someday."

Parents who don't create respect and awe for teachers should not wonder why their kids only respect MTV. And the trouble with not guiding kids at all, or encouraging them to become doctors or lawyers, is that, unless a parent or family member is in that profession, the main role models will be on TV dramas.

Plus, the double-edged sword of promoting your own profession to your children is that during the rebellious teen-age years, they may shun your profession automatically. A kid will see many teachers, but you may be the only lawyer he knows, and sometimes only for a few hours on some evenings. Simple mathematics: You plus the profession equals out the window.

Parents should plant the seed - a purpose with a real face-to-face role model. Your kids will tweak their dreams when they are ready. And when they do, let them chase their passion, armed with as much research and encouragement as possible.

Raimonda Mikatavage is a Carroll County-based executive producer of a PBS series on ethnic cultures and achievement and chair of the Maryland Advisory Council for New Americans.

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