Why parents matter in Federal Way schools

School starts on Tuesday, and everyone’s excited. But what about the parents?

I recently came across an article about some Federal Way students extolling the virtues of teachers and how important teachers are. I will readily acknowledge the importance of teachers and the impact that peers have on one another.

However, the most important teacher in a child’s life is not the one at school, but the one found at home. Rarely do people talk about the absolute importance of parents in a child’s life. They’re even more important than any teacher or any peer.

It all starts on the day of a child’s birth, when the doctor hands the newborn to the father, who looks on in amazement with a big smile, full of hope, and at that moment, a belief in the divine.

Far too often, parents have been the convenient scapegoats for the failures of the school district, failures of a child and failures of society at large.

I believe those allegations are wrong. I believe most parents absolutely do the best they can.

Often, the importance of parents go unnoticed, except when there are parent-teacher conferences, and you have to show up.

There are schools, school districts and teachers who welcome parents. But just as often, some districts and teachers, despite what they say, view parents as a pain, who only want them to be around at fundraisers.

Who will the child go to in the midst of the rain? Who will a child go to when they are in pain? They will go to the parents. Often, conventional wisdom has said that peers have the greatest influence on a child. Not true. When a child is at a sporting event or a school play, they don’t look for a peer or a teacher. Their eyes scan the crowd, looking for approval and the loving eyes from a parent.

I have a daughter, and until I became a parent, I never knew what love was or what it meant. I hesitate to write too much about her because I will get all teary-eyed. So I will simply say that, without a doubt, she is the best thing that ever happened to me in my whole life.

Society gives out lots of awards for the best teacher, staff, employee, bus driver, etc. I wonder if it is now time to acknowledge parents. Everyone can’t join the PTA or be a soccer mom. Often, mom and dad are the unsung heroes, going to work and worrying about the negative effects society puts on their children — and sometimes feeling helpless about what to do.

Recently, the state of Maryland enacted a law that allowed and encouraged school districts to acknowledge the importance of parents. They did that by setting aside a special fund, where a parent who has overcome obstacles but still made a contribution to the school and school district, would get $500 for Parent of the Year and $250 for runner-up.

It’s a small amount, to be sure. But the symbolic importance is undeniable.

I believe the Federal Way School District should consider following Maryland’s lead and implement a parent of the year program.

One other thing — to any young person who reads this, please write a little note to mom or dad, using just three words: I love you.

No excuses.

Federal Way resident Walter Backstrom: wkbackstrom@aol.com.

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