To all my friends with their kids still attending school. Don’t let your child be another statistic. Parental Involvement In Schools is needed as much as it ever has, maybe even more. Beef up your school IQ and then teach your child to fight his/her own battles.
What I am sharing with you in this post is wisdom for public school parents that I cultivated over a span of 30 years – teaching kids, consulting and coaching educators (from superintendents to the senior office manager), working in the private sector as HR Director, and now sending my own kids to public schools. Read it – twice if you have to. I know it’s a long read, but believe me when I tell you that your children will be grateful that you did – especially if they’re struggling in school right now.
My Original Thoughts About Parental Involvement
Not too long ago I wasn’t a big proponent of parental involvement in schools. I had been a teacher, an advocate, and even a parent trainer who taught about parental involvement in schools. After all that what I concluded was that parental involvement in schools didn’t help the educator. My philosophy switched to the following: The best help a parent can provide to a school is:
- Make sure your child has a good night’s rest
- Feed your child a complete and nourishing breakfast before school
- Make sure your child starts homework assignments right after school
- Discuss the homework and look at it before your child goes to bed
- Reward your child for excellent performance, incentivize your child for very good performance, make it clear you expect better for mediocre performance, and hold your child accountable with consequences for sub-par performance
The Personal Experiences That Opened My Eyes
Had it not been for the repeated complaints my 15-year old daughter shared with me about her chemistry teacher, and my unimpressive interactions with my 12-year old daughter’s middle school principal, I would have remained oblivious to a harsh reality. That is that even if you do all the right things at home, and your kids show up to school every day, on time, and ready to work, they will still be assigned unaccountable, lazy, and half-hearted educators. At least some of them will be this way.
I thought that by setting high expectations for my kids, and providing a nurturing environment that put a high price on education, I had done enough. That is what my parents did, and it worked for my sisters and I. Having upheld my end of the bargain, I expected the teachers to reciprocate by checking for understanding, taking time to answer relevant questions, and making time to address the needs of students whom he or she couldn’t help during class. But, I was wrong.
The Best Parental Involvement In Schools Happens At Home
I thought that my kids had the advantage of having a first teacher, me, that is over-educated and willing and capable of assisting them with any assignment on any topic. My parents couldn’t do that for me.
On top of that, knowing how adults are in general, I am also teaching my kids how to fight their own battles, and respectfully persist when an adult on the school district’s payroll didn’t give adequate response to a concerned student’s inquiry – no matter how annoyed that adult got. It’s amazing how unwilling some of these adults are to do their jobs right.
With all this knowledge of how school personnel should behave, and after teaching my children how to behave in schools I thought I could refute these tired approaches to parental involvement in schools still taught at parent institutes. And you know what? I was correct.
The Fruits of Teaching My Kid To Persist
My 15-year old visited her counselor twice, requesting a transfer out of her chemistry class. She explained that the teacher lectures. He doesn’t teach. The counselor naively shared that she couldn’t help, because if she did, she would have to transfer out all of the other students that had made the same request. Apparently, there are plenty. She indicated that she had already spoken to the teacher, but that she would again.
My kid simply asked “Well if you are telling me that so many students are complaining about this teacher, and you say that you’ve talked to him already, don’t you think there’s a problem that’s not for us (the students) to be dealing with?” The icing on the cake came when my kid said she would check in with the other chemistry teachers herself to ask if they had an open desk in their seating plan.
Sometimes We All Need a Reminder of What Our Job Is
Who knows what happened next, but my kid says her chemistry teacher has been teaching slower, and taking time to answer questions thoroughly. And guess what the students did as payback? The greatest number of students turned in their last completed assignment on time than for any prior assignment in the whole semester. Guess what they saw him do for the 1st time all semester? Smile.