Parent participation has been known to put more strength behind advocacy for better programs in schools. An attentive teacher goes a long way in making a lasting impression on a child for the remaining years of their educational and occupational life. Together, parents and teachers have an opportunity to influence a child to live a positive and fulfilling life. There are several avenues through which school, home and community can come together.
Organizations such as the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) were started to create a space for teachers and parents to collaborate under common goals. First, the PTA creates solutions for both parents and teachers who find it hard to bridge the gap between home and school by providing plans for communication. The PTA strives to involve parents by teaching them how to help with homework, get involved with the sports teams or after-school clubs and generally increase parent volunteer hours at the school. The PTA also works with teachers to help them learn how to communicate effectively with parents over issues like report cards, where parents and children may become defensive rather than open to finding solutions.
Homework is a perfect opportunity for parents and teachers to collaborate, as the student is taking home what she learned in class and attempting to assess her understanding at home. Failing at a homework assignment is a potential source for great frustration, and often the only adult available to help is the parent. If a parent cannot afford a tutor for his child, he should make an honest effort to learn how to help with homework and long-term assignments by talking with the teacher. The teacher will most likely have positive solutions to roadblocks that students will face as they complete assignments, as an assignment is designed to challenge and test knowledge. Most teachers will be pleased to receive polite calls or emails that convey the parent's interest in his or her child's education.
After-school programs are a great opportunity for parent involvement, as schools are constantly looking for volunteers to stay and help after school hours. Stay-at-home parents or parents who can get off of work a little early once or twice a week are excellent candidates to help with sports teams, clubs and student organizations that come together after school. A parent can coach, sit in and help with student council meetings or oversee after-school clubs such as writing, language or student newspaper clubs. Students who stay after school to continue participating in academic programs or clubs are showing that they want to apply what they learn to a greater cause. Parent participation is positive reinforcement for their good behavior.
During open houses, teachers, school staff and principals get to show parents all their school has to offer. Rather than simply using an open house to attract parents and students to that school, an open house can serve has a launch point for igniting parent participation. If parents come to any event all year, they are sure to come to the open house. This is the best opportunity to convince them that their participation is needed. Advertising school clubs, sports teams and community involvement at an open house will make a parent more likely to return and volunteer.
Within schools there will always be greater issues to address, such as funding for after-school or arts programs, or the improvement of health and nutrition in schools through cafeterias and physical education classes. Town meetings held for parents/guardians and teachers will ensure that there is open communication about sensitive issues. These scheduled times for debate and problem-solving will make it less likely for a teacher to get an angry call from a parent about an issue that could have been solved responsibly. It is helpful to hold these meetings once a month after work hours so that most parents can attend.
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