I love working on the family side of education through my consulting business. Collaborating with families interested in working with the school system, not just parallel to it, is one of the best parts of my job. I find that parents who utilize the good ideas from school, in their home, reap the benefits that come with consistency. Behavior plans, academic lessons, and social skills should be a shared vision between the school staff and the family. Following my ten years of working in the school system, I have some good ideas about how to bridge the gap between school and home.
Your child’s teachers are some of the most important people in their life. For nine months, they spend more time with these folks than they do with anyone else. It is extremely important for you, as a parent, to have a good working relationship with your child’s teachers. Of course, it will take more effort if you work full-time or have other kids at home, but time spent communicating with those teachers will benefit your child enormously.
Attend school meetings
If you can do nothing else, attend the basic school meetings. Back to school night, parent-teacher conferences, and school open houses are essential. Introduce yourself to anyone working with your child (teachers, principals, librarians, specials teachers, paraprofessionals, office staff, nurses, etc.) and let them know how excited you are for the upcoming year. This opens the line of communication between the house and the school, and sets up an ongoing relationship to kick off the school year.
If your schedule allows you to spend some time volunteering at your child’s school, take advantage of this opportunity. Once a week, once a month, or as availability dictates, your help is always welcome. However, that does not mean you should show up at will. After you have penciled in a few days that would work for you, coordinate with the teacher to let them know that you are available to them. Set up days and times so there are no surprises. This also allows both of you to plan ahead. Be on time and reliable. There is nothing worse than a no-show parent or one who interrupts class. Most schools have an open door policy, but scheduling time in advance will get you big points. Be ready to do whatever task they provide. Many teachers will save up their most boring and mindless tasks for parent volunteers. Take this time to get to know the teacher as much as possible. Small talk is a great way to break the ice without coming off as smothering. Do not gossip about other students or teachers. This is not the time to gripe about the school or staff. Stick to questions or concerns about your child only. Finish all jobs or work until your time is up.
An open line of communication with the school can really help at home. Allow the school to reach you several different ways. Starting the year with good communication will set the tone for the remainder of the year. Contact the teacher with any questions you have. Be available to answer questions, or to hold a discussion about your child. It is very important you know what is going on with your child’s academics, behavior, and social skills regardless of your personal schedule. Obviously, you will want to communicate with your child regularly. Be sure to tell them when you speak to their teacher so they know that you are aware, involved, and that you care about what is going on in all aspects of their life. Children whose parents have good communication with teachers usually have much better behavior and are more successful academically.
Showing your appreciation to teachers and staff at school is a great way to get involved. However, gift-giving does not mean that you have to shower your child’s teacher with gifts. I think most teachers actually feel uncomfortable in this situation. Kind words and a little note go a long way towards showing appreciation. Be sure to include any positive feedback your child has about a specific experience, task, or study topic. Also, do not forget the other people at the school that your child refers to or talks about. Special educators, paraprofessionals, office staff, and specials teachers are often overlooked at holidays or other teacher appreciation times. If you are interested in providing an actual gift, some easy ideas are:
- Send a gift card to a supplies store or their favorite coffee shop
- You can bring in breakfast or lunch one day for the classroom staff or school staff
- Provide fresh flowers for their desk
- If you live close to the school, host a happy hour for the staff
- Send a card with a nice note, and offer to volunteer
There are many ways to be involved with your child’s school and, more importantly, their education. In the next few weeks, as families get back into the swing of school, I will be blogging about how to tackle education issues at home including ideas about an after-school schedule, homework challenges, and improving academic skills.
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