Some days it seems like I have been an educator forever, but really it is only since I started substitute teaching during college back in 1980.

I have seen numerous trends in education, but there are several things that have remained constant throughout the years. These are things that help all students become better students.

Read to your children when they are little. Develop in them the habit of reading and imagining things in their head. Read them stories of far off places and different time periods and possibilities. Help them develop in their own minds a movie like imagination where they can “see” things in their heads.

Then read with them as they grow older, and let them read to you. It can be a lot of fun to read the paper together. Reading is a fundamental skill that too many students find difficult because no one read with them when they were little. When they have fun with you reading — they will continue to read.

Play with your children. They learn the most through play. Play simple games, play board games, go outside and play catch. Play tag with them. Let them know that it is OK to win and OK to lose and that sharing time together is important to you. I will never forget that my dad would go play catch with me even when his arthritis flared up.

You would be surprised the number of things children learn through playing together and playing with caring adults.

Help them learn a musical instrument. Make space in your life for the practice that has to occur for them to learn. No one sounds great as a beginner, but they get better with encouragement and music can be transformative in the way the brain works. Sing at church if you go and they will sing, too. If you play an instrument, play with your kiddos as they learn. If you don’t play yourself, make time to listen to the things they have learned.

Speak another language? Pass it on! Children learn language differently than adults do. They can learn several at once. Grandpa speaks Spanish? Great! Learn Spanish as well as English. My for all intents and purposes adopted son speaks Russian. I spent time learning the basics of the language so that we could have that in common, but I am still terrible at it. He is quite good at it.

In our busy lives it can be terribly hard to make time to do those kinds of things with our children, but it has a tremendous effect upon them. They grow, they learn, they become more than they ever knew they could be … in part because someone cared enough to make time to be a part of their lives.

Be the adult in their life that you always wanted to have in your own when you were growing up.

Dr. Stephen Duncan is director of fine arts for Galveston ISD.


(1) comment

Paula Flinn

Amen, Dr. Duncan! Keep up the good work! When I was a full-time teacher at BHS, I taught Reading for 12 years. I was hired to improve the TAAS scores in Reading, but i taught so much more! We had fun reading all sorts of magazines and learning reading skills. I cannot tell you how many former students I have seen who told me that I was their favorite teacher because I was the only teacher that believed in them. Of course some of them had given me a little trouble in the classroom, so I said, "Really? I bet you say that to all of your old teachers." Then we would laugh together. The two years that we were "Recognized" were when I taught Reading. It is the most important subject, for sure. Keep telling everyone, especially the parents.

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