Hard to believe, but in a few weeks schools will open their doors and the summer vacation will have ended. Thus, it’s time for parents and teachers to think about what we can do together to assist our students to get off to a great start.
Just recently, I came across a report card dated June 1906. I was amazed to read the message from the school to the parents: “The principal and teachers desire the assistance of parents to secure excellence in character, thoroughness in scholarship and perfection in attendance. Cooperation between parents and teachers is one of the most efficient methods of insurance against failure.” There was another message below the parent signature line: “The best records in school are obtained by those pupils who make the most thorough preparation in study at home.”
Times haven’t changed much; even 111 years ago the schools knew the importance of parent participation and the role parents have in the education of their child. This is the same message educators continue to espouse to parents: be involved in your child’s education.
I also pulled out the booklet that I used to send to Belmont parents when I was principal and the message states, “As parents you are the child’s first and most influential teachers. As educators, we welcome and encourage you to work with us in providing the best education possible for your child. The roles of parents and teachers cannot be entirely separated. Their responsibilities frequently overlap. Parents constantly do things that assist children in learning, and teachers often relate to children with parental affection and encouragement. In the minds of children, these two groups of people are virtually the most important adults in the world. Therefore, it is important that we work together for the good of the children in our care. Looking forward to meeting you soon.”
The message in this column is we can only succeed if we all work together, and that parents play a major role in their child’s success. Thus, all schools need to be receptive to reaching out to parents, and making sure they feel welcome and that schools want them to be part of the learning process. Schools, in the words of philosopher and author Dr. Haima Ginott, need to do the following: “To reach a child’s mind a teacher must capture his heart. Only if a child feels right can he think right.”
This brings me to the parents’ role in the education of their child. Research shows no matter what the parents’ income or background was, students with involved parents earned higher grades and test scores, enrolled in higher-level programs, attended school regularly, had better social skills, showed improved behavior, and graduated and went on to post-secondary education. Even with very busy schedules, parents can make a real difference in their child’s education by encouraging them to talk about their day and by listening to them explain the events at school. Talking to your child about school sends a message that you value their education, and the discussions provide an opportunity for children to use language they are learning in school. Parents need to develop good management practices at home, such as homework time and packing their children’s backpacks before turning in and placing them at the outside door.
Speaking of backpacks, parents need to retrieve them as soon as their children come home and get those papers out. Sign permission slips and add appointments on the family calendar. In addition, routines can be a potent force in keeping everyone on the same track. Consider a checklist for the simple tasks of who gets to use the bathroom first and what’s for breakfast.
Research coming out of the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory has found the best predictors of students’ achievement in school are when families create homes that encourage learning, express high, yet realistic expectations for their children, and become involved in their children’s education at school and in the community. Research also shows children are more likely to succeed academically, and are less likely to engage in violent behavior, if their families are involved in their education.
Parents also need to make every effort to meet their child’s teacher early in the school year. It is always best to make an appointment to meet with your child’s teacher to introduce yourself and let them know you are there to support your child’s learning. Taking time to meet and introduce yourself and your child to the principal is also a way to let your child know other adults at the school are there to help. These are especially good ideas to use if your child has special needs, or if the family may be going through difficult times such as divorce, an illness or death of family member, or a recent or pending move.
Other ideas I would suggest parents do:
• Learn everything you can about your child’s school
• Review the school’s handbook and the district’s website
• Contact the teacher immediately if your child doesn’t understand an assignment or if you notice a change in your child’s behavior or school performance.
• Participate in parent meetings and conferences and special events at the school. Join the school’s parent organization. Remember the importance of reading, for reading is a key to a successful school year.
Here are some other tips to consider:
• Read to and with your child every day (including weekends)
• Make sure your child sees you reading regularly
• Talk to your child about what you are each reading. In addition to keeping your child on track, regular reading activities with your child will help you spot any possible problems in plenty of time to work with teachers and prevent them from becoming serious.
So, practice day-to-day reading and include writing by having your child write in a journal about the day’s events. Be consistent and have this done perhaps before bedtime. Best wishes for a great school year, and should you need any advice please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.