Parents help make the grade

Published 10:46 pm Wednesday, October 5, 2011

By Basim Mansour

One of the great thrills of running a business like mine is the inherent opportunity to springboard into a wide array of community involvement: food drives, blood donor programs, children’s Christmas parties, car washes for breast cancer research, and so on. Today, I cite a specific community activity that thrills me no end: being asked to guest-lecture at area high schools.

I’m always excited to share my business experiences, because invariably, I find I get as much as I give. And that fulfills something my daddy always impressed on me — that learning should never stop, no matter your age. Let me illustrate.

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One day recently at an area high school, I was sharing a tidbit of corporate culture that works very well for our company, the notion that away from the office, problems at home can spin out of control and impede on-the-job-performance.

Indeed, in our routine skills-and-training classes, I’m always encouraging our department managers to engage an employee if they sense something is amiss on the home front, offering where possible to be an ally in solving a problem before bad goes to worse. It’s not always possible, but valued employees are certainly worth the effort.

This prompted a young student to raise a hand and introduce a parallel dynamic about how in her household, the dysfunction between her parents and herself was a constant roadblock to her being an otherwise better student. And I was blown away by the nodding heads, her fellow classmates in agreement over her not-so-unique perspective.

I’ll admit on this particular day, I was visiting a secondary school surrounded by some of the least tony neighborhoods in the area. But students from all economic strata deserve caring parents or guardians actively involved in their loved-ones’ education. Can anyone deny our schools would be better and our students benefit more with initiatives fostering vibrant, two-way interaction between the home and the school?

Poll after poll shows the general public believes parental involvement represents the key to improving our schools. While fundraisers, PTA, booster groups and the like are significant, just as our company is willing to cross cultures and be “home helpful,” the same logic applies to “school supportive” parents actively involved from their neighborhoods.

And all efforts matter. For example, be sure your children begin their mornings with a good breakfast. Provide time and a quiet place for home study. Set limits on TV viewing. Discuss career options with your students, especially those in high school. Talk with them every day about their school experiences; ask about their homework.

You might also inquire of the school whether their teachers encourage classroom visits or email sharing. And tell your family and friends how proud you are of your children’s scholastic accomplishments. Believe me, kids will notice.

Finally, like me, if you feel so inclined and have life experiences you’re willing to share, volunteer to guest lecture to classes; it’s highly rewarding.

These represent just a few ideas my wife and I are embracing as parents of two young ones we love beyond words and will do anything for, especially when it comes to their schooling.

As the great national debate continues on school choice, private versus public schools, vouchers, tenure, new-world classroom priorities, reduction of red tape, school compliances and such, we’ll not lose sight of what I believe matters most: parents actively sharing-in and making the difference-in their children’s education.

After all, who knows and loves the student more than the parent?

Basim Mansour is president of Michael and Son Services, founded in 1976. Visit his website at