Parents must be proactive in education

By Helena Rodriguez

Is the glass half empty or half full?
I consider it half empty.
My daughter, Laura, my niece, Crystal Diaz, and my cousin, Danielle Madrid, graduated from Portales Junior High School last Friday along with 180 other students. We in the Rodriguez clan made a big deal out of it with a cookout, cake, flowers and all. You’d think the girls were graduating from Harvard.
It used to be that junior high graduation was the end of formal education for many folks. My dad, Julio, never completed junior high. He had to quit school and work in the cotton fields to help his family who were migrant farmworkers in Texas.
How times have changed.
As for Mom, she graduated from Portales High School and attended Eastern New Mexico University for a year. She quit and later went to beauty school. After marriage, she went to work in a different field.
I consider Laura, Crystal and Danielle’s eighth-grade graduation at Greyhound Arena last week as only the halfway mark, if even that. They still have four years of high school, followed by at least four years of college, as I so often remind them.
Here’s a good illustration of the notion that “You never stop learning:”
As the girls begin high school this fall, I’ll be working on a master’s degree. Crystal’s mom, Nana, as we call her, will still be working full-time at Head Start and taking classes at night towards a degree in education, and even Danielle’s mom, my aunt Patsy, who has been a special education teacher in Clovis for years, wants to work on a master’s, too.
Laura’s educational career up to this halfway mark has been filled with many successes and failures, although I feel we’re on the right track now.
I know, I know, it’s summertime and our kids deserve a break. So do us parents. But I feel summertime is also a great time to sit back and reassess what’s going on and learn from past mistakes so our children are even more ready to learn when school bells ring again in August.
Laura’s educational ride has been like a rollercoaster; like that old-fashioned, bumpy rollercoaster they have at Six Flags Over Texas that has one of the country’s only remaining wooden tracks. I hope this year’s rollercoaster ride is more smooth sailin’ like the mighty Titan at Six Flags, which glides oh so smooth at 80 mph. At least that’s what I’m told. I climbed to the top of that thing, only to chicken out.
Laura was doing great when we lived in Hobbs. She was making the A-B honor roll up until fourth grade. Then in fifth grade, we moved to Abilene, where school standards are higher, and Laura was lost. As she went into middle school in sixth grade, she started hanging around the wrong kids while I was getting wrapped up in my own career and was working overtime at the newspaper. Finally, it became a crisis; Laura was flunking three classes and I was getting constant calls from teachers, so I quit my job and we moved back to Portales.
The first year back was the hardest. In seventh grade at PJHS, Laura still had a lot of attitude in her and her grades were going up and down. This past year was the most stable year Laura has had in awhile. Her grades have gone up, and I attribute that to the fact that I was home with her after school this past semester. I plan to keep it that way this coming schoolyear. I’m taking a light load of classes this summer and plan to work with Laura on her reading skills.
I expect next year to be our best year yet. It’s critical. Laura will be in high school.
I’ve seen firsthand how much difference it makes when a child has a parent home after school. I know not every parent can do that, but keep in mind, the choices we make as parents directly affect our children. I also know this firsthand, not only as a parent, but as a journalist.
I spent two years in Hobbs as an education reporter and when I worked in Abilene, I followed a kindergarten student and a high school senior around for a school year, reporting occasionally on their progress. Parental involvement was a significant factor to their successes.
I also did some substitute teaching in Portales last year, and from what I’ve seen, teachers simply can’t do it alone. Parents must be proactive in their children’s education.

Helena Rodriguez is a staff writer for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: