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Hey Buddy, Can You Spare Two Hours?

January 10, 1998|AMY K. WEISBERG | Amy K. Weisberg lives in Woodland Hills. She teaches second grade at Topanga Elementary School

As I watched my children standing on the school stage singing their well-rehearsed holiday songs, I felt the warm peaceful feeling of tradition. The children were decorated with handmade snowflakes, antlers and gift wrap. The parents were engrossed and listening with full attention--until their own children finished singing. Despite multiple pleas from the principal, parents got up and left; by the end of the program, only about 50 parents in the huge auditorium were left as the chorus sang the finale.

How can we teach our children respect when their own parents don't exhibit any? How can parents proclaim to put their children first, yet be unwilling to take two hours to watch the entire holiday program?

Many parents used their cell phones during the performance. Some parents pushed teachers, aides and even other children out of the way to snap the perfect photo of their child.

I am concerned that this behavior teaches our children bad lessons: It's OK to be rude sometimes. I'll watch you, but then it's back to work. I hope this program doesn't conflict with my work schedule. I am not interested in the school performance but I'll show up to avoid feeling guilty.

The last group of students standing before an almost empty auditorium surely felt this.

If these are our children, our investment, our future, don't we owe them at least two hours of our time? California has a state law that allows parents or others who want to devote time to schools to take off from work up to 40 hours per year without pay, to assist in classrooms, volunteer at schools, attend parent conferences and school performances. How many people take advantage of this?

As both a teacher and a parent, I am frustrated by the message our children are getting.

We must be willing to put our children first or suffer the consequences when they become the caretakers of our society.

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