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Superintendents: Parents need to be child’s primary teachers

POSTED: March 4, 2010 11:35 p.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield discusses some principles of parenting Thursday while Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer watches during a luncheon hosted by WomenSource at the Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center.

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Hall County School Superintendent Will Schofield was the lone lion in a den filled with lionesses at Thursday’s WomenSource luncheon.

Joined by his Gainesville counterpart, Merrianne Dyer, the pair was on hand to deliver guidance to about 100 women and group members on parenting and discipline. Despite being outnumbered, Schofield delved into his personal relationships with his three children and years of experience as both teacher and superintendent to urge parents to stay involved with their school-aged children.

“For 24 years I’ve had the blessing of working with tens of thousands of other people’s children,” he said. “As important as academics are, and they are more so than ever, I don’t think we can ever discount character and how we treat our fellow human beings. So teach (students) to learn to love ... and teach them to love to learn.”

Schofield knocked down ideas of teachers as students’ only source of instruction. Parents are their primary teachers, he said.

“I expect the school to support (my children), but I am their primary teacher,” he said. “I would challenge you not to give up your right to be your child’s primary teacher.”

No subject was off limits during the hourlong candid discussion, including drugs. Dyer shared her fear of substance abuse in students, who have been known to replace the sugary candies inside of Skittles packages with multicolored prescription pills or over-the-counter medications they find in their homes.

“They’re starting to put controls on this but the thing that scares me is not only the children that are doing this and eating them,” Dyer said. “What if a younger child saw (the candy package) in an older sibling’s book bag or left on the bus?”

Schofield took a hard line on preventing substance abuse in the home, saying students should not have unlimited privacy. TV-watching is banned in his home and his kids work on a home computer shared with parents in an open area.

“We all think it’s somebody else’s kids that are doing things, myself included,” he said. “One of the things I’d ask you to do is be nosy with your kids. ... There will be no secrets in our house.”

Both urged parents to back off from pressuring their children too much in academics. Online sites provide grade and assignment reports for each student that parents can access, which can create problems for some teachers who are pummeled by messages from parents after each grade is posted.

“To try to push the heck out of them academically is sometimes a huge mistake,” Schofield said. “I think what we need to be wise enough to do is discern where our children’s gifts and passions are. You want your child challenged. You want them frustrated just a little bit but not to the point to where that they just begin to hate what you’re asking them to do.”

WomenSource is a 2-year-old nonprofit organization that was created in a collaboration between the Junior League of Gainesville-Hall County, the North Georgia Community Foundation and the United Way of Hall County. They connect women in the community to professional resources.

Elisabeth Baldwin, president of the organization’s board of directors, said Dyer and Schofield were selected as speakers to offer a more unique perspective as parents.

“I feel confident with folks like that leading our education system,” said Baldwin, who is the mother of 2-year-old twins. “They raised some points that maybe we couldn’t have raised.”



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