An Experienced Educator’s Advice to Parents: Firm and Kind

By Dr. Rick Bavaria


To everything there is a season, and this is the season of my farewell. As I approach nearly fifty years as an educator – in the classroom, as an administrator, in the public and private sectors – I recognize that it’s time for me to step back.

In this, my final Dr. Rick blog post, I write my thanks and everlasting gratitude. I also take the chance to give some final advice – as I do with my graduating seniors on their last day of class. (They always show up for this last day. Attendance is high, even at the peak of “senioritis.” I take it as a compliment, deserved or not.)

First the thanks.

Teachers often have to wait years to see the fruits of their labors. To those beloved students who over the years have maintained contact, invited me to weddings, christenings, dinners, class reunions, and memorable life events, I thank you deeply.

To those talented colleagues whose skills, practices, and knowledge I plumbed and from whom I shamelessly stole, consider it a shared experience, a compliment. I thank you deeply.

To those treasured mentors who got me through each new and challenging stage of my career, whose wealth of experience and common sense helped me to grow and pay it forward, I thank you deeply.

To those parents who, through their involvement in their kids’ learning, kept not only their daughters and sons on the straight-and-narrow but their kids’ teachers, too, I thank you deeply.

For those small but life-affirming accomplishments – the reluctant readers who miraculously become avid readers, the “aha moments” that light up a room and a face, the lives turned around – I give deep thanks.

For those inevitable setbacks that put life in perspective and stiffen the resolve – the kids who gave up, the ones who got lost, the ones whose lives were more difficult than I could ever imagine – I keep you deep in my heart.

For the feeling of pride I feel in this messy, unique, never boring, sometimes sad, daily funny, and completely embracing profession of grace, I give deep thanks.

And – despite occasional misgivings – for the persistent feeling of hope I feel for our future, for our youth, for our communities, and for our nation, I give deep thanks.

And to readers of the Dr. Rick Blog over the past decade, to the parents and students who have contacted me with thoughts, ideas, opinions, and, from time to time, a scolding, I thank you deeply.

Now the advice.

I can do this in two categories.

1. Be firm in your expectations. Children learn best when adults have clear expectations. What you expect from your kids reflects your beliefs and values. Give your children the lifelong gift of a love and respect for learning. When they’re in school, expect them to learn, to behave, to listen, to think, to organize, to take good notes, to study, to go to class, to read, to compute, to participate, to choose good friends, and to follow directions. Get them academic help when they need it, informal or professional. Study buddies help. So does your staying in contact with teachers and the school. I’ve written blogs about each of these.

2. Be kind in your actions. Children learn best when adults are firm yet kind. Give them plenty of time to play, to create, and to talk with you daily as you listen. Model good learning behavior, read with them, get them a tutor when the need arises, encourage and support them, insist on helpful and healthy routines, and above all, stay positive – especially when staying positive seems impossible. (“Mom, the science fair’s tomorrow. Got any ideas?”) I’ve written blogs about each of these, too.

So there you have it. Firm and kind. Works every time.

I wish you every success, and forever warm thoughts.

Dr. Rick