The yellow buses are rolling again, and your childs bookbag brims with textbooks and recently purchased suppliesanother school year is in full gear. Now all thats left is to make sure homeworks always done, tests are studied for, and expectations remain high, right? Well, only if you, too, go to school once in a while, thus staying informed and in touch. Says Arthur Pober, What do children need to do their best in school? Fine teachers, the latest textbooks, state-of the-art classrooms? All help, but nothing has a more profound effect than parents who get involved. Even if youre working full-time, opportunities abound to make a contribution.
First and foremost, attend parent nights to connect with teachers and familiarize yourself with their goals and requirements. Sitting in those uncomfortable desks and rotating from class to class, youll also discover why some teachers and courses are favored over others. Dont say youre too tired or busy—just be there. Make the time or risk sending the message that education is not a priority. Says student Diana Leary, My mom shows up for every parents nightsometimes shes the only one there. It makes me feel good that she cares about whats going on with me. Meanwhile, dont wait to contact teachers if you notice a change in your childs attitude, effort or grades, and inform them of any special needs or issues that may negatively impact performance. And when you set up a meeting, inform your child beforehand and be prompt, since it will take place during teachers only free period; when the next period begins, your meeting ends. And dont become defensive when hearing negatives. Instead work together to problem solve and learn strategies to try at home. Afterward, share most of what was said, focusing on the positive but addressing concerns, too, and the steps to be taken.
Volunteering is another way to help both your child and the entire school community. Say the editors of Middle Years: Working Together for School Success, The more visible you are, the more educators will be able to communicate regularly with you. Some suggestions:
Into gardening? Create a butterfly or wild flower garden..
An artist? Help out in art class, do a demonstration, assist with the annual art show..
A computer whiz? Help out with internet searches, creating web pages, etc..
Love math, reading, grammar, history, or literature? Share your passion by making presentations and/or do some tutoring..
Sewing is your thing? Help kids fumbling in sewing class, make costumes for the drama club, etc..
The culinary arts are your calling? Help out in the home economics classroom, create a parent-teacher cookbook, and so on.
There are also fundraising opportunities, such as sending in goodies for bake sales, making monetary contributions, and/or buying magazines, candy, wrapping paper, or whatever else your school is selling to raise money. But dont stop there. You can also chaperone dances and field trips, help out with the school newspaper, assist teachers with photocopying and decorating classroom bulletin boards, even calling parents to confirm absences. In other words, dont be among the countless parents who say they value school life but remain uninvolved. Along with attending meetings and volunteering, quickly learn as much as you can about the schools rules, procedures, key personnel, etc. In other words, familiarize yourself with its . . .
1. Principal/assistant principals, secretaries, counselors, reading specialists, speech therapists, and librarians.
2. Calendar of holidays, inservice and conference dates, special events, etc.
3. Discipline procedures and responses.
4. Daily, late arrival, and early dismissal bell schedules.
5. Attendance office number and policies regarding tardiness and absences.
6. Nurses phone number.
7. Policy on excessive absences.
8. Counseling services and scheduling appointments.
9. Grading system, interim reports, and report card schedules.
10. Honor roll requirements.
11. Emergency closing number.
12. Physical education regulations and required attire.
13. Athletic programs and policies.
14. Shoe/dress code and steps taken when violated.
15. Homework and test-taking policies.
16. Lunch schedules and lunch loan policy.
17. Bookbag policy.
18. Student photo dates.
19. Gifted program and qualifications for inclusion.
20. Busing rules/expectations/discipline procedures.
21. Parent-Teacher Association offerings/meeting dates.
22. Awards system and assembly dates: academic, athletic, etc.
23. Student Council grade requirements and election dates.
24. Chaperoning and volunteering opportunities.
25. Website address for up-to-the-minute happenings, closings, etc.
What it all comes down to is that going back to school isnt just for kids. Parents are part of the equation, too, so be sure to show up and be among those who do far more than just pay lip service to the importance of education. The choices are countless, the message is clear; the time to get involved and make a difference is now. No regrets.