When it comes to back to school, parents are probably the most excited: let’s be honest, we’re in dire need of some time to ourselves by the end of summer and somewhat of a normal routine. When the time comes though, we place a lot of trust and faith in our schools and teachers each year and often don’t realize how much of an impact we as parents have on our child’s learning, or just how many opportunities we have to become involved in our child’s learning. The truth is, parent involvement has more of an impact on the overall child’s well-being than that of the teacher they see every day. Here’s why and how.
Why Parents Should Get Involved:
It’s the almost-too-annoying question that seems to come without fail the second we walk in the door and drop our book bags — mom or dad, exclaiming with excitement, asks “how was school?” Before you can quickly mutter “fine” they will spit out “what did you learn?” Those questions, while seemingly simple, are actually very important and the first step to becoming involved in your child’s learning. Showing interest in your child’s education, even by asking how their day went or what they learned, shows that you value learning and care about what they are doing in school. While some children may be self-motivated when it comes to their school work, most will need outside motivation and having parents that place emphasis on school means they too will most likely place a higher priority on academic achievement.
Studies also show that it is important that home and school be related, rather than two very different places. Show your child that school and home are connected and that you are invested in their learning. If the two are related, through discussion and active parental involvement, children are much more likely to develop open relationships with their parents, healthy friendships, and are less likely to make poor decisions when it comes to their behavior.
According to the Partnership for Family Involvement in Education, children with involved parents:
- Get better grades and test scores
- Graduate from high school at higher rates
- Are more likely to go on to higher education
- Are better behaved and have more positive attitudes
- Are shown to have higher self-esteem
So, How Do I Get Involved?
Volunteer in Your Child’s Classroom
While schools often look for volunteers at sporting, extracurricular, and fundraising events, it is often overlooked that individual teachers can use an extra hand around the classroom, too. Teachers are tasked with a great deal of lesson planning, grading, organizing, researching, designing, constructing, copying, and the list goes on… all of which goes on behind the scenes, after all of the teaching has been done for the day. While planning periods are often incorporated for such tasks, they are all too often used for meetings or tutoring or are simply not enough time to get everything done. Ask your child’s teacher if they could use some help on occasion to make copies, re-do a class bulletin board, organize bookshelves, or perhaps label class binders. Being present in your child’s classroom not only gives you an opportunity to get to know the teacher as well as the content that is being taught, but it also allows you the opportunity to get to know your child in a school setting, and gives your child the opportunity to see that you are taking time out of your day to be there. Being consistent, even if it’s once a month for an hour, is enough to have a successful impact.
If volunteering in your child’s classroom is not possible, ask the school about other volunteer opportunities. The front office, school social and academic clubs, and the school library are also great places to ask for volunteer opportunities.
Join the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA)
PTA’s (or PTO’s) are a great tool for becoming truly engaged in the decision process of your child’s education. The PTA’s purpose is to bring together the parents, teachers, and administration to serve as a type of forum to discuss any issues and concerns, promote quality education within the school, and encourage parent-teacher involvement. Parents can choose their level of involvement by joining the PTA, simply attending meetings, or volunteering to support their projects and activities. But, simply being part of the PTA in one form or another provides the parent access to a number of helpful resources, such as relationships with the teachers and administration, relationships with other parents, up-to-date information on school events and activities, policy changes or concerns, educational resources, and an opportunity to be an advocate for your child.
In this digital age, most teachers have made staying connected with the classroom at home very easy. Thanks to anything from handy apps to class websites, you can log in daily to check your child’s homework for the night, upcoming projects, the lesson plan for that week, or even their behavior chart from that day. Be sure to ask your child’s teacher at the beginning of the year if he or she will be using an online forum, and if so, be sure to check it daily with your child. Plan a daily sit down with your child to go over that day’s homework or to plan out in advance any projects, or discuss their behavior if necessary (this means to praise, too!). Use this tool to stay connected with your child’s teacher as well. Leave lines of communication open so that you are aware of what is happening in the classroom and what you can be working on at home to help your child succeed while at school.
Establish a Designated Homework Routine
Decide on a time and specific place in your home where homework is to be done each day after school. While some children may work best right after a snack and short play period after school, some may wait until after dinner when they have more parental help. Whichever time schedule works best for your family, be sure to remain consistent. Make sure children have a well-lit space, plenty of supplies – pencils, paper, or a computer if necessary — and keep all other distractions to a minimum. Motivate by offering praise as your child works, and offer your help if a child is having trouble. Don’t be afraid to seek help from a teacher if your child seems to be struggling with a specific concept. Monitoring your child on their homework is one way to find out if your child may need extra tutoring in an area. We all have our strengths and weaknesses.
Become a Class Parent
For those with younger children, some classes will offer the opportunity for a parent to step up and take the role as the class parent. The class parent is responsible for disseminating information, helping the teacher organize class parties or activities, organize class fundraisers, and/or collect funds for various class activities, among other things. This role is an integral part of bringing the class together as a small community and is a great resource for building relationships with the school as well as other parents. Becoming a class parent is a great starting point to becoming an active part of your child’s education. If the role is already spoken for, offer your talents (photography, crafts, baking) or time anyway, as both will be appreciated.
Whether you choose to take a more active role within the school or choose to provide support while at home, maintaining a bridge between your home and school can have lasting effects on not only your child’s education but your family unit as well. Parents not only benefit from a well-rounded relationship with their child but also gain confidence in themselves as parents. Who couldn’t use a little boost?