Parenting – Getting Involved in School Life

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Showing up for meetings and volunteering at school are among the best ways to help not only your child, but his/her teachers and the entire school community, as well. Don’t be among the countless parents who acknowledge the importance of school involvement but nevertheless keep their distance. Talk is cheap; it’s your actions that matter.
And that goes for dads, too. Moms usually take the lead, but fathers need to show up at school, too. Indeed, according to the National PTA , students perform best when both parents are involved, adding, “Men and women think differently and bring different perspectives and skills to school and PTA activities.”
Echoing those sentiments, Philadelphia’s Mayor Michael Nutter recently said, “Fathers can, should, and must play a critical role in the education of their children . . . That would really help your children and this entire city.”
Rocky Vitale, a long-time Naugatuck, Connecticut Board of Education member and involved parent, put it this way: “I think quite a few years ago dads were busy working, sometimes two jobs, and really didn’t have the time. Now with two-income families, they have to make the tough choice about which one is going to go to the meetings . . . Whether you’re a man or a woman, it’s important to show your kids that you’re involved in their education, especially at the younger ages.”
Actually, it makes a difference no matter how old your child is. Say the editors of The Middle Years: Working Together for School Success . “The more visible you are, the more educators will be able to communicate regularly with you.” And that’s a big deal. A very big deal.
And, although just walking into a school can, for some parents, be intimidating, staying away is not the answer. Come in and add your voice to the life of your child’s school.
For starters, join the school’s parent-teacher organization and attend meetings whenever possible. Most schools alternate meeting times, holding them in the morning one month and in the early evening the next to accommodate everyone’s needs-so no excuses.
Attending such meetings will keep you informed and afford opportunities to make suggestions, voice your opinion, and become familiar with teachers and administrators, as well. The bonus: as your comfort level rises, so will your ability to support your child’s academic efforts.
But don’t stop there. Show up, too, for Back-to-School Nights and parent-teacher conferences; that’s crucial. And then, whenever you can, volunteer your time and expertise, by . . .
o Serving as a teacher’s assistant photocopying, putting together handouts, decorating bulletin boards, etc.
o Assisting in the main office by calling parents to confirm student absences, doing routine office work, and the like.
o Chaperoning field trips and dances.
o Working on the school newspaper and/or literary magazine helping with typing, proofreading, compiling, and/or distributing.
o Supporting fundraising efforts by sending in bake sale goodies, making a monetary contribution, and purchasing sale items.
o Sharing your expertise in a particular area, such as math, science, or reading, by serving as a guest speaker and/or tutoring kids before or after school.
o Offering your computer know-how by creating teacher web pages, doing Internet searches, offering tutorials, and so on.
o If into art, helping out in art classes, conducting demonstrations, painting scenery for student performances, and assisting with the annual art show.
o Lending a hand in sewing class and making costumes for the drama club, and so on.
o Sharing your culinary cooking skills by assisting in home ec classes, putting together a parent-teacher cookbook.
o Helping plant a butterfly or wild flower garden.
So take it from here. However much you choose to do, by getting involved in school life, you’ll be making the statement that education is one of your top priorities, as is your chld’s academic success and well-being. And have no doubt: when you decide to make a difference in this way, everybody wins.

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