Research shows that family involvement with a child’s school is essential for the child’s success. But that doesn’t mean you've blown it if you’re not president of the PTA. Here are 10 basic suggestions for busy parents.
by Debra Weaver
A minimum of whining, no calls from the principal’s office, good grades, and lots of learning! That’s what we parents want for our young learners, but how can we best help them? A variety of studies show that one factor makes a huge difference when it comes to students’ attitude, attendance, and achievement: family involvement in school.
That is the conclusion of A New Generation of Evidence: The Family Is Critical to Student Achievement, edited by Anne Henderson and Nancy Berla in 1994, a summary of no fewer than 150 research studies on parent involvement with schools.
Unfortunately, work schedules and other commitments make it difficult to be as active with our children’s schools as we’d like. Here are 10 suggestions for busy parents and guardians that you can incorporate into your child rearing style. Doing just a few of them will make you part of the team with your children’s educators.
1. Attend the school open house and meet the teachers and staff. It’s easier to have a relationship with them when you’ve met face to face.
2. If you know your child has a problem with, say, skipping assignments or getting overwhelmed with big projects, let teachers know up front. Tell teachers you’d like to know if this problem occurs. Be sure you follow up at home to keep the child on track.
3. Email is an excellent tool for communication between parents and teachers. If your school’s teachers aren’t already using email to update parents, ask if they can. Email eliminates phone tag (not to mention the possibility that the student will delete a message from school on the home phone!).
4. When a teacher does call or email with negative news, remain calm and focus on solutions that will help your child succeed, instead of getting defensive with the teacher or angry with the child.
5. If you do have a criticism of the teacher, make it in private, away from the child. “Criticizing the teacher in front of students undermines the teacher’s authority in the classroom,” says Mary Manning, who teaches chemistry at Imagine College Preparatory High School in St. Louis.
6. Read and act upon notes and newsletters from the school. This lets school staff know you’re supportive, and you can show your children you know what’s going on there.
7. Schools often provide ways that parents can help the school without being there during school hours. They may need parents to make phone calls or to work the concession stand during an athletic event.
8. You may be in a position to give more than your time. Teachers often request that parents collect and donate supplies, like empty egg cartons for an art project. It’s a small thing, but when parents pull together to make a project happen, it’s a big help.
9. Depending on your field, the school may need your expertise. For example, parents in the sciences could help arrange a field trip to their place of employment. A parent in government could get a guest speaker for class.
10. Remember when you visit the school to follow the procedures for visitors. Most schools have lists for visitors to sign in and out and may require visitors to be accompanied and wear name badges. These precautions are for the safety of students and staff, so abiding by them makes for a more pleasant and productive visit.
Debra Weaver is a writer and educator with 12 years of classroom experience and more in youth programs. She has written pieces for a variety of electronic and print publications, including the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series.© Photo by Dmitriy Shironosov | Dreamstime.com