Getting Involved

untitled3Parent involvement. What is it like at your school? Are there lots of parents participating and helping at your school? Do you see parent volunteers come in and out of classrooms all day? Are there community members pitching in to read to students or fix up the playground? Are there parents hosting class parties, fundraisers, and other functions?

Or do you have few, if any, parent participants? Maybe it isn’t a high priority at your school. Maybe the parents are too busy with their jobs or other responsibilities. Maybe parents do not know they can volunteer at your school.

Perhaps you have heard of charter schools. Basically, these are public schools that operate with slightly different rules than your neighborhood school. These rules allow them to try different things than a “regular” public school. Many charter schools require, or strongly encourage, a minimum amount of parent volunteer hours at the school. I believe everyone agrees parents can do a lot of good for a school by sharing their time and talents there.

At an elementary school I worked at, we strongly believed in the value of having parents in our building as much as possible. Whether that was volunteering, working, meeting with a teacher, or attending an event, if they were part of our learning community, it was a good thing. We sent home regular newsletters advertising opportunities to volunteer at the school in every classroom. We hosted all kinds of events for parents, from music programs to lunch dates with your child. We tried to fill all part-time positions (and even some full-time positions) with local community members. Finally, we communicated with parents as often as possible, through phone calls, email messages, newsletters, and our website.

One of the key facets of President Obama’s vision for a 21st century education is “asking parents to take responsibility for their children’s success.” One important way parents can do this is to be a visible part of the school their children attend. At Quantum Learning, we believe everything speaks. Everything that we do as parents at a school sends a message to our children about learning. When we are present at the school, it sends the message “I care about you at school. This place is so important that I want to be part of it, too.” I am working on this myself with my daughter (a 1st grader) – a few weeks ago, I shared lunch with her at the designated “parent-child table.” What a great idea!

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  1. #1 by Chris Olson on March 15, 2009 - 2:06 pm

    Christian, thanks for this great article. I am constantly thinking about how to get more parents involved meaningfully in our school. I recently stumbled upon an idea that has been really fun, and involves parents directly with their kids. I direct a school musical every year, and this year, we are doing South Pacific. I started a facebook discussion group for my cast, and, on a whim, invited parents, graduates,teachers, and interested community members to join. We have serious topics going (character development, memorizing lines, body language) but have also had fun with trivia questions, light-hearted joking with each other, etc. It has been a fantastic thing for the families, graduates,teachers, and community members, as well as for the students.I am hoping to expand the people involved and use it to take students to a higher level of performance. Thanks for the inspiration… I will continue to look for more!

  2. #2 by Jessica Tyler on March 22, 2009 - 11:41 am

    I teach in a very low socioeconomic school and parent involvement is a major issue. Most of our parents are single, work days and nights, and we have a huge hispanic population. I teach Kindergarten and there are some parents I do not meet until Graduation night in June. I send home notes and try calling (phones being disconnected) with no success. At PTA parent conferences I am lucky if I see 2 parents. Please if anyone has any ideas please share.

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