According to the Center for Public Education, scholars at the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory “found that students with involved parents, no matter their income or background, are more likely to:
- Earn higher grades and test scores, and enroll in higher-level programs
- Be promoted, pass their classes and earn credits
- Attend school regularly
- Have better social skills, show improved behavior and adapt well to school
- Graduate and go on to post-secondary education.”
So what is the best way to be involved? Amy Lenz, Fifth Grade teacher at Stuart Hall School, said one of the best ways for you to take an active role in your child’s education is to communicate openly and honestly with his/her teachers. Knowing when your child is doing well and when he/she is struggling is important information for you as a parent, just as it is important for a teacher to understand what factors at home and outside of school may be affecting your child’s behavior and academic work. The most effective way to communicate? Face-to-face meetings, such as parent/teacher conferences.
Why are parent/teacher conferences so effective? Mrs. Lenz said there are a myriad of reasons:
- Face-to-face meetings help develop the teacher/family relationship that is vital to student success. Email works well for classroom updates and calendar items, but is usually not the best tool for discussing your child’s progress.
- They allow parents to get first-hand information about whole child progress rather than simply what is on the report card.
- If a child is experiencing any difficulty, conferences provide an opportunity for discussion to occur whereby blame is avoided and a solution-focused approach is adopted.
- Communication between home and school helps a teacher know a student better, which in turn helps the teacher to teach the student more effectively.
- Once the door has been opened, it is easier to communicate because everyone feels more comfortable.
Beyond parent/teacher conferences, are there other ways to stay abreast of what is happening in the classroom and at school?
- Classroom and school newsletters are a great source of information.
- School websites often include important news and a calendar of events.
- Many teachers are helping students stay organized by requiring them to keep planners that list homework and upcoming assignments. If your child has a planner, ask to see it and be sure he/she is using it.
- Programs like Google Classroom, that enable students - as well as parents - to see what has been assigned each evening and what larger projects may be looming, are becoming standard in many schools.
- If your child does not have a weekly folder that comes home with graded work, ask to see his/her graded assignments. This will help give you an idea of how he/she is doing academically. If you have questions about how something is graded or see by your child’s grades that he/she is struggling, don’t hesitate to contact his/her teacher.
- Other web-based programs, such as the one that Stuart Hall uses called ParentsWeb, allow parents and students to see grades and progress reports online.
- Do you love your smartphone? Check out a recent article by EdTech that lists “ 4 Apps to Foster Parent-Teacher Communication,” and ask your child’s teacher and/or school administration to consider implementing such a program if one doesn’t already exist.
As your child gets older, you may find that some teachers require him/her to take a more active role in the conferences. These are called student-led conferences and as a parent, you prepare for them just as you do for a traditional conference - review the report card, arrive on time, and have questions prepared. The primary difference is the student leads or participates in the conference, reviews his/her progress, and sets goals for the next marking period.
Looking for other ways to be involved? Attend parent coffees and field trips, or consider serving as a room parent or as a lunch or classroom helper. Be active in the Parent/Teacher Association, and help with special events such as Field Day and school picnics. No matter how you are able to be involved, knowing that you care and are interested in what your child is doing, can positively affect his/her attitude towards school, classroom conduct, self-esteem, and motivation.