Without a doubt, the greatest indicator of student success in school is parent involvement. Many parents know that it is important to help their children with homework and curriculum-related activities, yet there are many other ways that parents can become involved that make a big difference - to students, parents, and the school community as a whole.
One of the best ways to be involved with our child’s education is to make sure that we understand the policies and processes of our school and that the school understands the needs of our child. While each child is an individual from a unique family structure, they are also part of a group that has a job to do. Schools provide resources to help families establish environments to support their children as students. Take advantage of parent education programs and other opportunities to connect to other parents.
Most schools have as a top priority clear communication from home to school and school to home. Weekly emails, graded papers, notes and flyers, social media and signs posted in and around the school are meant to connect schools and families in the interest of meeting the needs of kids. When something is going on with our child, as much as possible we should try not to blame the teacher or ourselves. Adopting a no-fault attitude is crucial to keeping lines of communication open.
When my daughter was in kindergarten, I spent every Wednesday afternoon copying, cutting and creating materials for her teacher. When my son was in fourth grade I worked with 15-20 other fourth graders to remediate their math skills twice a week. Those are the only times in 20 years that I have been able to volunteer at school during the day. Yet I have served my kids’ schools every year by making phone calls, arranging for guest speakers, creating scrapbooks, baking cookies, making audio books, shopping, providing child care during evening PTO meetings and more. To volunteer means to support the goals and children’s learning in any way, at any place and at any time – not just during the school day. Reach out to the school to offer your services.
Schools genuinely want parents to provide input as leaders and representatives. Decision-making is a process of partnership where school personnel, parents and community leaders share their views to create goals and take action to improve student achievement. Be sure to answer surveys from the school. When you have a complaint, take the time to think of a solution and share it with parent leaders or representatives. Better yet, serve on the PTO or campus improvement committee.
Collaborating with the community
The purpose of school is to prepare students to take their place in their communities as productive citizens. Integrating community businesses and organizations into school programs increases student awareness of careers and options for future work, as well as builds awareness of community needs. Businesses can also provide resources that support student learning. Investigate your company’s policies for donating goods and services to schools or serving as a guest speaker, mentor or tutor.
One of the best starting points for getting involved with your child’s school is at an Open House or Back to School event. If you try something and it’s not a good fit for your gifting or schedule, don’t give up! School is such a big part of every kids’ life that we really need to know what’s going on there in order to stay connected as they grow up.
Best wishes for a terrific school year!
Sheryl Holton, Director
St. Philip's Academy
Based on information from Partnership Center for the Social Organization of Schools. Joyce L. Epstein, Ph. D.