Parenthood is a lot of responsibility as many can agree. From infancy to adulthood and thereafter, parents remain a significant part of their children’s lives long past adulthood, most of the time. Parents are usually advocates for their children. Ocassionally, a teacher or neighbor may do the same but the major advocating is always that of a parent.
With regards to education, parents make as big of a difference as a teacher, in fact, an even bigger one! The most successful schools have parental involvement whether it is fundraising, questioning, attending meetings and/or simply remaining in contact with school personnel. On the flip side of that coin, when things go wrong as they sometimes do, the voice of the parents invoke action and change.
Unfortunately, in urban communities, the huge majority of parents do not know where to go or what to do in terms of a crisis or a question. Can parents be blamed for not being resourceful? The answer to that question depends on a person’s opinion and this is not a forum for blame. Empowering parents is key. Some schools do outreach and some do not. Here are a few quick and easy ways that a parent can become more involved:
1) Make contact with your child’s teachers. Let them know that you are available at any time. If they do not call you then call them monthly or bi-weekly to ‘check in’. If a call is not possible, email them. Tell them about your child in advance in terms of nicknames, hobbies, medical conditions and where they struggle. This information and contact allows the teacher to know more about their student. It is also pulling them into the “village” as they spend a great deal of time together. It is also a benfit to the child to see that their parent and teacher are a team!
2) Look up the standards on line. Know what your child is learning. Know what he or she will need to know in order to be promoted. This information will guide conversations with your child as well as with the teacher. You might want to implement those areas where your child is weak.
3) Keep a log of conversations that you have had with school personnel, whether it is positive or not so positive. This does not have to be in preparation for a negative event. However, should one arise, you can hopefully use these notes to resolve an issue. These notes will assist during parent teacher conferences, help to keep you focused on areas that are worth celebrating as well as areas that may need a little more attention from you.
4) If or when feasible, volunteer to participate in school events. You may have an opportunity to be a chaperone for a trip, a member of their PTA committee or simply helping to set up for an activity. Get to know other staff members, ask questions, tell a joke. To build a relationship with those individuals that will impact the future and life of your child is priceless.
5) If you are unhappy about something, always reach out. To complain and not do anything is pointless. Schedule a meeting with a teacher or administrator. If that does not suffice, go through the chain of command. The pen is mightier than the sword, write a letter! Visit the District office, go to Headquarters, go to the Mayor, if needed. Just understand that you must follow through. To start a process and not see it through is not going to benefit your child.
6) If your child needs extra services with language, learning disabilities, tutoring, academic intervention services, accomodations for physical disabilities, evaluations, etc, call the school and ask for a point person to speak to. Inquire and follow up for what is needed to ensure your child’s academic success.
7) Speak with other parents, either at the school that your child attends or elsewhere. Networking is key. At some point, you may become a resource within a community of parents. There is always a wealth of knowledge available amongst those who have had experiences within the same forum.
If you have any additional suggestions, please post them in the comments area below. These are just a few general ideas. Any additional information would be appreciated.