A parent's report card: What's your grade?

A parent's report card: What's your grade?

by Cheri Alphonse Hayes, ED.S
Shirley Lanham Elementary

It is one week into the school year and the children are settling into their routines at school. Many parents have already immersed themselves in the school community. Most importantly, they are talking to teachers, asking questions, lending a helpful hand, and making a difference right now. Did you attend your child’s school Sneak Peak last week? Have you met your child’s teacher? Will you be present at Open House?  Make it a point to be there. Hear the teacher’s expectations firsthand. Know the consequences for late or missed assignments. Be sure to get a Parent Handbook or ask for the web address where it can be found online. Ask yourself the following questions:

1. What is my child currently learning, studying, homework assignment or project?
2. Are the teacher’s and/or school’s goals aligned with my goals for my child’s academic success?
3. What are my child’s academic strengths and weaknesses?
4. Is my child a social butterfly, a bully or a loner?
5. Does the school have my most recent contact information?
6. When is the next school event? Is my presence required?
7. When does the School Advisory Committee meet?
8. The last School Board meeting I attended was on ______________?
9. My child’s favorite teacher is __________because _________?
10. I support my child’s school’s PTA/PTO!

Yes or No

These are just simple questions to determine your level of involvement in your child’s education. When s/he was in preschool, you probably attended most, if not all functions at school. Now they are in elementary, junior high or high school, are you as involved? If you can honestly answer eight or more of these questions, you are on the right track and have a great handle on your child’s academic career. If you answered five to seven of these questions with great confidence, there are simple ways to become more involved, even without leaving the comfort of your home. Finally, if you answered one to four questions, you are not alone. Across the globe, schools are challenged every day in establishing active parental involvement groups within their buildings. Parents are busy. Parents are shy. Parents don’t feel welcomed. Some parents believe it’s the school’s job to do it all.

What do you think? Remember, above all, YOU are your child’s first teacher and will always be. Before your child entered the school building, there were endless hours of reciting the alphabet, counting, singing, reading books, talking, asking questions and many more activities. These are all teachable moments that parents create every day without realizing the power in their hands. As a nation, academically, we are challenged! It’s time to step up and create a community of world-class learners who want to be successful and want great things in life for themselves and their communities.

Joyce L. Epstein, Ph.D. Director of the Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships and the National Network of Partnership Schools (NNPS), Principal Research Scientist, and Research Professor of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University encourages parents and schools to collaborate in educating children simply through Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork as a way to build the home-school partnership and keep parents involved. Furthermore, Dr. Epstein, along other researchers, developed the Keys to Successful Partnerships: Six Types of Involvement to boost parental involvement across the nation.

Type I – Parenting: where everyone takes off their “labels” and collaborate to help parents cope as well as learn various approaches to parenting. Schools also are of parent of this type of involvement as they can serve as facilitators, mentors, or provide the space for workshops so local agencies can reach all parents in the community.
Type II – Communicating: there is no room for open communication if the school does not have all your most recent updated contact information and you do not have the contact information of your child’s teacher(s), school, principal, nurse, counselor, cafeteria manager, or librarian. You would be surprised to know how much these people really know about your child. An open flow of communication is the easiest way to get most current information about schools’ current events and inform the school of your child’s needs. If an open-door policy is not an option at your child’s school, phone calls, emails, and text messaging may work. Bottom line, being “private” is not an option when it comes to your child’s education.

Type III – Volunteering: this two-way street should be open at all times. You do not always have to volunteer in your child’s classroom. Try other teachers, offices, and the cafeteria. Is there a better way to get to know a teacher first-hand? In fact, you may not be required to assist during school hours. There may be take home projects you can complete in the evenings, right at home. There is not a school in existence that cannot use additional hands, bodies, and/or brains. If your school tells you there are no volunteer opportunities available in the building, ask to volunteer in their district office. The opportunities are endless!

Type IV – Learning at Home: brings us back to being our child’s first teacher. Get involved with homework. Find out the current standards your child is being introduced to at school. Dissect the curriculum to get a better understanding of what exactly is being taught. Ask questions. Again, ask questions. We do not have all the answers. Ask for help when it’s needed to help your child achieve success. Schools can also create and share learning opportunities for parents and children to complete at home. Extend the classroom experience. Take your child on a field trip to enhance their learning. Some museums are free. Read with your child. Forget their age! Make it happen… The competition among their peers and with students nationwide has to be challenged. Students do not feel this particular aspect of rivalry until they apply for college admission, scholarships, awards, and grants. Be an advocate for your child and influence some decisions that are made at school with your involvement.

Type V – Decision-Making: stop talking and put that energy into something positive. Most parents have no idea when decisions are being made at their child’s school, but feel the after effects and wonder why they didn’t know. You don’t know because you weren’t there! The PTA/PTO is just one way to get involved in decision-making. Ask your administrator about School Advisory Council/Committee, School Governance, and School Board positions and meetings. Build strength in numbers and create a group of active parents who can represent you and your child’s school when needed.

Type VI – Collaborating with the Community: the community is not limited to students, teachers, and parents within the school. The community refers to all stakeholders who are working in the best interest of the students’ and school’s success. This opens the door to businesses and local agencies that are willing to partner with schools to promote health, wealth, happiness, learning and success for all.

So, how’s report card looking? Are you a proud active parent who works towards the success of your child, school, and community? What will you do differently moving forward to achieve this? No one expects change to occur overnight. However, your mindset should be the first thing to adjust when making changes. Open your mind and know this is not just another task to overflow your plate. Understand it’s an effort towards progress that your child will be able reap the rewards.

"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." -Alvin Toffler

Epstein, et. al. 2009. School, Family, and Community Partnerships: Your Handbook for Action, Third Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.

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