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The Importance of Parent Engagement
Every family is different, and there are many ways parents can get involved and support their child’s education, even with limited time and money. More than just volunteering at school or joining the PTA, parent engagement includes all the support parents provide at home and in the classroom. Making sure your child is prepared to go to school every day, attending parent meetings and school events, and even communicating the value of education to your child, is considered parent engagement. When parents are involved, they are more informed, make better decisions and are a stronger voice for their children.
WHY SHOULD PARENTS ENGAGE?
When parents take the time to be involved in their child’s education, it shows their student they care and that education is a family value. Getting involved also gives parents the opportunity to make sure their child is receiving the quality education he or she deserves.
Parent engagement doesn’t just increase the likelihood of student success but can lead to stronger relationships at school. Relationships matter. Whether between parents and teachers, teachers and students, or students and parents, positive relationships open lines of communication.
Students who know they have caring adults in their lives looking out for them and encouraging them are more likely to thrive in school.
Parents can better monitor their child’s progress and support learning at home when they keep in touch with teachers and school personnel.
Teachers can provide a more personalized learning experience when they know more about their students’ home lives, challenges, and interests.
An excellent way for parents to get to know their child’s teachers is through parent-teacher evenings or events. Most schools host “open house” events at the beginning of the school year or new semester. Monitor school calendars, newsletters, and social media for opportunities and dates. Parents that can’t attend meet-and-greet events are welcome to set up individual conferences with teachers. Most teachers can be available before or after school hours when they have an early warning. If time or transportation is an issue, schedule a “get to know you” phone call or send an email introduction. Just making contact early, or before problems arise, can have a massive impact on how teachers view student potential and partner with parents to best support their child’s education.
Making The Most Of “Out Of School” Time
Learning doesn’t stop when students leave the classroom; how children spend their time outside of school is equally important. Quality after-school programs and activities can help improve a student’s academic performance. After school or summer programs are great chances for students to explore their interests, receive tutoring, and meet new friends.
There are many free or low-cost programs available to students of all ages and interests. Programs with expensive fees may offer scholarships to help cover costs or may adjust their rates based on household income. While some programs are open to all who are interested, keep in mind some popular programs may have wait-lists or enrollment requirements.
TYPES OF PROGRAMS
School Programs: Many schools offer tutoring, club activities, sports, and other programs after school and during the summer. Parents can contact their child’s teacher or school to find out which programs are offered when they are available, and how to register.
Community Programs: There are a variety of community and faith-based organizations that offer after-school programs, summer activities, and even overnight camps. Some examples of community organizations that offer high-quality programs include The Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
Summer Programs: During the summer months, students can lose the knowledge they gained during the school year. Help growing minds stay active by participating in summer programs and activities. In addition to programs offered by schools and community organizations, some local colleges and universities offer programs for advanced students or those with special interests.
Volunteering: Volunteering is a great way for students to gain hands-on experience and foster a sense of community. Not only do volunteer experiences help students develop important career skills, but they also look great on college applications.
Online Programs: For those with internet access, here are a few of the most popular free learning websites.
• Khanacademy.org – activities, videos, and subjects for all grade levels
• Brainpop.com – videos and lessons with fun games and quizzes for all ages
• E-learningforkids.org – high-quality online lessons for children ages 5-12
Family time can be learning time, and learning doesn’t have to be formal. There are many ways parents can encourage learning at home. Read with children (even if just for 20 minutes a day), go for walks, play catch, and cook together. By asking questions, having conversations, and spending time together parents help children learn.
Parents As Advocates: How To Be A Voice For Your Child
As parents get involved, they become aware of the school, district, and state policies that affect their child. School policies can affect a student’s learning and overall well-being. Parents are partners in their child’s education and should be included in the policy process. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen, and parents may need to fight for changes in the law to ensure their child receives a quality education. Being an advocate is not always easy, but parents who push for change can positively impact their child’s education and that of many others.
TIPS FOR PARENT ADVOCATES:
1. Be Aware And Know Your Rights
Parents have a right to know what is going on in their child’s classroom and school. School administrators and teachers are expected to provide parents with information on how their child is doing, school policies/safety procedures, and information on available programs and resources. Parents have the right to request their child’s records on file, progress reports, and any curriculum used in the classroom. Teachers and administrators are often very busy; it may be difficult to get a hold of them, or they may be slow to respond to requests. Parents will have more success connecting with teachers and staff when they are respectful but also persistent. When possible, plan meetings and records requests in advance and early in the school year or semester.
For parents that prefer to speak in a language other than English, schools are required to provide translation support and written materials in your preferred language. Again, request meetings well in advance to ensure a translator can be present.
2. Follow The “Chain Of Command”
When children face challenges in school, it can sometimes be confusing for parents to know who they need to talk to or who has the authority to make changes. A general rule of thumb is to follow the “chain of command.” Traditionally, the best place for parents to start if their child is having issues is with the classroom teacher, followed by the school administration, school district staff or board members, the state department of education,
and state legislatures.