I'm not suggesting that teachers, school staff, and other support staff are unimportant. They obviously are and will always be important. I'm suggesting that the best schools have parents helping in diverse and meaningful ways. There seems to be an underlying belief that the parental role is limited to making sure your child is punctual, homework is complete, and permissions slips are signed. Parents can and should do so much more.
Yes, there are the basics: PTA meetings, parent-teacher conferences, and open houses. The basics, as in each parent should already be attending these events. Participation in these activities doesn't constitute getting "involved". Complaining without constructive suggestions and personal investment isn't getting involved. So if you have a problem and have no intention of removing your child from the school, bring a solution with your issue.
How To Get More Involved
I know, every parent is busy. Everyone is busy to an extent. I'm not suggesting to volunteer 4 hours a week, or even 4 hours a month. Even 1 hour per month can make an impact.
Contact the school with your idea(s). Start with contacting the school with your ideas and how you can help. Again, if you have ideas, suggestions, or criticisms, be sure to include how you can be a part of the solution. In my experience, schools are always open to parents' suggestions. The deflating part is when the conversation begins and ends with the idea.
Inquire on what the school needs. New computers, improved security, keeping the school grounds clean. Sometimes it's just being available during recess. Usually a school has a "wish-list". Ask about their aspirations and determine if you can help.
Be realistic. You don't have to develop a new academic standard or spend all week volunteering. Determine how much time you can give and plan accordingly. You'd be amazed by how many kids value even a 5-minute interaction, even if it's a chat about the weather.
Be consistent. This is true in life, but certainly true if you are working with kids. There is always excitement at the beginning of a project, and sometimes frustration builds when you hit a road block. Stay consistent. If you say you're coming the first Monday of the month from 9:30-10:00am to help with snack time, then do it.
Put away your pride. If you are an artist and can help with the art program, then awesome. If you are a professional and the school needs someone to manage snack time, then do it. There is no shame in helping a school improve, regardless of the task. Sometimes you have to sacrifice your personal aspirations for the good of the school.
You Are Helping Your Kid, Even If They Don't See You
We depend on schools to foster academic achievement in our kids. Sometimes we mistakenly ask them to take the lead to foster emotional and social development as well. That's not their job, it's the parents job to lay the emotional and social foundation of our kids. The school provides emotional and social opportunities.
By being more active in their school, you are teaching your kids to be engaged in the community, the spirit of volunteering, and that you are invested in their school experience. Your school involvement can boost your child's self-esteem, self-confidence, and the parent-child relationship.
So do you want your child to attend a great school? It starts with you.
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