December 6, 2008

A Contract For Change

Parents, neighbors, teachers, police, et al who are concerned about student behavior might try creating individual binding contracts. Education has changed - sometimes for the better sometimes for the worse. Parenting, policing, and community involvement have been on the roller coaster too. As adults deal with the ups and downs, often the kids are given more freedom than they can maturely handle.


Free Behavior Contract
Sample 1
Sample 2

Just as parents sign leases with rules and regulations, they have jobs with rules too. Of course schools have rules, society has rules, but who is actually teaching them? Do we still have civics or social studies classes or have they been boiled down to an all-encompassing label of history?

How effective are those parent-teacher conferences? There are parents who are deeply involved and concerned and there are those who present themselves as angry adults with the emotional level of a teen. They were probably given too much freedom and not enough guidance early on and the result carries into parenting. And there are teachers who are dedicated to their students and there are some who are there to work.

Instead of a public dog and pony show that allows neighborhood venting and political attacking and counter-attacking, we need a more thoughtful and private approach. For starters, the schools, both elementary and high, should have mandatory assemblies for students and parents with the police. I’m not referring to Officer Friendly who may make an impression on a 7 year old but not on a 15 year old.

So how would the contract work? Adults are rewarded at work with promotions, raises, maybe bonuses for jobs well done. Kids are often rewarded with toys and freedom because they whine until they get their way. Parents will cave in to stop the noise. Threatening to remove the toy or the freedom after the fact have proven the parent is not in the role of power – the kid is.

The schools know which students/parents are at risk. After these assemblies there should be break-out groups with the favorite teacher or principal for parents/student(s) to work up a customized contract that all three sign. Parents and the co-signing teacher should have progress follow-ups on behaviors both at home and at school.

The last thing students need is too much free time and gadgets to play with. For the price of unwholesome junk food – just two days worth – would pay for a 10 week park district activity. We’ve all heard the financial gripes over the price of programs but $10 for 10 weeks? That is $1 a week. A Big Mac, Fries and soft drink with tax is how much? How much do mom and/or dad spend on Chicago taxed cigarettes? About $8 a pack. The same goes for that six pack of beer or other liquor. Mom and Dad could forfeit one pack of cigarettes or liquor or bypass the junk food snack purchases and enroll their kids in an activity that would teach teamwork and provide a more positive social setting than roving the streets.

And Rogers Park businesses could pitch in and help too. Even though the economy is in the toilet, a tax-deductible donation to sponsor an indoor soccer, basketball team, (boys and girls) dance or music activity and in the spring outdoor field activities, would be a proactive assist to parents whose kids may be struggling. Healthy snacks might be a viable donation too.

Neighbors who have the knowledge and skills to help with fundraising or mentoring ideas could offer their time or write a check to sponsor one child for one activity. North of Howard has high school and grammar school students who would benefit from being active in the new Gale Park Community Center. Most of us work harder when there is an incentive involved don’t we? Kids need incentives and guidance too.

The above are viable concepts to help solve a problem in our neighborhoods. It’s time to put the grudges aside and promote the asset at 1610 Howard Street.

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