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Approximately 30 years ago, when I was still teaching and also president of the San Pedro Youth Coalition, I wrote an article for the Coalition’s Youth Times newsletter with this same title. Given the reality that many of today’s K-12 students have not been “in school” since March 2020, I submit these recommendations and a comparison of then and now.

THEN: Make sure your child attends school as many days as possible.
TODAY: Make sure your child attends school when LAUSD reopens on August 16. 

Then, I was lamenting the reality of far too many students missing too many days of school and direct instruction for “questionable” reasons. Today, I am hoping as many children as possible will return to in-person instruction with their teachers starting this month. It is most obvious that virtual instruction, while a necessity, resulted in the vast majority of students today being anywhere from behind to far behind in their academic progress. Therefore, students need to be in the classroom with their teachers for the best results. Please be sure to enroll your child and have them in their desk when schools reopen this month. (Note: Praying hesitant folks get vaccinated, case numbers lessen, and schools open as planned on August 16.)

THEN: Be sure to monitor your child’s progress regularly with their teacher(s).
TODAY: Be sure to monitor your child’s progress regularly with their teacher(s). 

Monitoring your child’s progress and finding opportunities to support their academic achievement is arguably the number one responsibility of parents in terms of their child’s education. Unlike then, most parents today have an online portal on which they can monitor their child’s progress even daily. However, you should assume your child is “behind” and be sure to stay in direct contact with their teachers whenever possible. Direct contact means connecting early this school year with teachers via emails and/or phone messages (and hopefully return communications from those instructors) at least once a month (until unnecessary). Also, check-in daily with your child — Who cares if it bothers them? Comprehensive monitoring is your number one academic responsibility, which then requires the next step of taking advantage of the following checklist priority whenever possible.

THEN: Be sure to secure academic support for your child whenever needed/possible.
TODAY: Start off the year believing your child will need additional academic support and secure those resources starting now. 

Do not wait until the first progress report to identify and secure academic support for your child. Given the fact they are probably already behind, that will be too late. Most schools have received tens of thousands of additional dollars for expanded learning opportunities for students. I suggest connecting with your principal/teachers and seeing if supplemental academic support is available daily either before or after school. Also, many community-based organizations like the Boys & Girls Club provide daily academic support for students while also providing other extended learning day opportunities. Research these organizations ASAP and secure these limited community resources/spots before they fill up.

THEN: When contacted due to your child’s behavior, do not start from the position that “Johnny/Jamie” is innocent and the school is picking on him/her.
TODAY: Given the extended absence from school campuses, many students will have some real challenges returning to the school environment. 

Tens of thousands of children have not had to interact in person with their teachers and/or classmates for an unprecedented amount of time. Expect some challenges. We have observed this behavioral challenge with a number of youth who did not attend our club this past year while we were open but then attended our Summer Camp program. Many had a hard time following rules and interacting appropriately with so many others in their space; they haven’t had to follow rules or engage appropriately with their peers for far too long. If you get “the call,” work with your school personnel to help your child understand the behavioral expectations and have some patience, while at the same time working diligently with the school to develop acceptable behavior.

THEN: Children need more than just the “three Rs.”
TODAY: Children need enrichment. 

Your child’s optimum development should include more than just “readin’, ‘ritin’, and ‘rithmetic.” It is a proven fact that children that participate in the arts and other positive enrichment opportunities on average are higher academic achievers than their peers. They are also on average much more developmentally balanced than those who only focus on their schoolwork. Find enrichment opportunities for your child, whether at school or at community-based organizations like the Boys & Girls Club and many others. Fine arts, music, dance, sports, STEM, drama, and other enrichment opportunities are available in our community for your child. Sit down with them and discuss which one(s) will be best and be sure to sign them up right away. spt

photo of san pedro today author Mike Lansing

Mike Lansing

Mike Lansing is the Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Los Angeles Harbor.