Working with Teachers
Teachers Say Parents Don’t Care…Do you?
More and more, teachers are saying that parents just don't care anymore. In fact, one local administrator told me that a good turn-out for a parent-teacher informational meeting was 20 parents in a middle school with over 700 students! What's misleading is that nationally parental involvement in schools has increased. When you go behind the numbers, though, we find that these statistics often reflect the attendance of one or two general meetings, school events or parent-teacher conferences. It does not reflect whether or not parents take an active role in their child's education.
Most of the statistics reflect passive involvement. To make a significant difference in a child's education, though, parents must be actively involved. According to the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (2002), children whose parents take an active role in their education:
However, for many years teachers have reflected that parental involvement has waned. Also, as children progress in school, parents become less involved. Do parents care less today? I don't think so. But I do think there are some reasons why this disturbing trend exists.
Schools have become bigger with more students per teacher in a classroom. Parents are working longer hours leaving little time to interact with their kids much less with their teachers. There are far more one-parent homes today leaving the adult fragmented and the children more on their own. Finally, with standardized testing being the sacred cow of education, I actually think parents have come to believe their role is insignificant, it's the teacher's job to teach-parents will help their kids develop in other ways. Of course with these factors and many others, it's no wonder parents have less involvement and teachers feel the weight of being isolated and solely accountable for a child's education.
How can we, as parents, bridge this gap and ensure our kids have a fighting chance to succeed? Here are seven ways you can change teacher's attitudes about parental apathy and help give your child every opportunity to succeed.
Make a phone call. Teachers typically have posted times when they'll accept and make calls to parents. Take advantage of this (you should get through easily as very few parents do this). Check-in with your child's teacher once a month even if it's simply to say, "Hey, my child is doing great, you're doing a good job." By the way, let your child know that you're calling his or her teacher-accountability is an extremely valuable character builder!
Send an e-mail. It's real easy. Your child's teacher will have an e-mail address. Use it! Sometimes it's far easier to send a quick e-mail and much more time effective for the teacher to respond. Another email bonus is the written record of your interaction which can help when offering support to your child.
Visit the classroom. When your child is younger (K-5), make a habit of visiting the classroom during class hours (just to observe) and during non-school hours (visit the teacher) during non-open house or parent-teacher conference time periods. Make an arrangement with the teacher in advance (don't just drop-in, respect the teacher's and student's boundaries) and choose a time that would be ideal for a visit. For older kids who will have many teachers, make a point of visiting each teacher at least once during non-open house or conference times. You'll get to know the teacher better which will help you to help your child.
Check homework. A lot of parents think checking homework is all about helping their kids achieve perfection. It's not. Sometimes getting the right answer isn't the objective but learning how your child approaches and solves problems is what's important. Let your child do the work. Teach your child good habits, like no TV until the homework is done. Check your child's homework daily (K-5), but as they get older, check the homework less frequently and engage in more frequent dialogue about their studies. Let your child own their grade and the rewards or consequences of their study habits.
Promote reading. Without question, the best way to learn is to read. Your child will be required to read and comprehend what they read through out their entire life. Learning to read well, and to read for pleasure as well as to learn, will make your child more conscious of the learning process. It will also help their brain develop more fully and provide them with an acute advantage in understanding and solving problems because their imagination will be more trained.
Understand what's expected of your child. Within every grade level there is a new set of standards your child must meet and master. Your child's teacher will be teaching to these standards. Because of the emphasis of test scores in public schools, these standards will be fairly rigid so you need to know what your child will be expected to learn. If your child has a different learning style that doesn't lend him/herself to this type of instruction, you'll be able to interact better with the teacher (and your child) in helping him/her meet these standards. No matter how your child learns, you'll have a grasp of where your child is expected to be with regard to educational development.
Have high expectations without high pressure. Let your child know that you believe he or she is capable of doing good work. Working with your child's teacher, you can develop high, but realistic expectations for your child. Let's face it, not every kid will be a whiz in math but as parents we can encourage them and find ways to make math (or reading or history) fun to learn. Making learning fun takes away the pressure of getting good grades. More often than not, the combination of high expectations and low-pressure leads to good grades.
These are seven great ways to help your child and change teacher's perceptions about parental involvement. Create a relationship with your child's teachers. Let them know what you're doing. Get feedback. Be open to advice. The more open you are, the more open the teacher will be to your input. When that happens you will have created a partnership whose purpose is to give your child the greatest opportunity to succeed.
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