Parents Can Build a Positive Bridge Between Home and School
Morning drop-off at school is the time that parents relinquish all control. As they watch their children disappear through the school door, parents can only hope their children listen in class, take turns on the playground and eat something more than just Oreos for lunch.
Hoping to gain insight into their children’s schoolwork or social interaction, some anxious parents lurk in the school hallway or bombard teachers with questions at afternoon pick-up.
For a child to achieve independence, social and academic success in school, a parent must discover a happy medium between being present at their child’s school to allowing their child to spend the school day without Mom or Dad in view. While research shows children develop better social skills and improved behavior when their parents are involved at school, too much presence can hinder their children’s ability to figure things out for themselves.
Union School District’s Roy Clark Elementary School Principal Theresa Kiger encourages parents to relax and trust that teachers will contact them if their child is struggling. Children, she says, must have an opportunity to explore their independence at school.
Many teachers have a preferred method for communicating with a parent, such as email, an evening phone call or a note home in a child’s backpack. Usually scheduled several weeks into the school year, the fall Parent-Teacher conference, Kiger says, is the best time to begin that line of communication.
“Parents can begin the school year with a journal of their child’s strengths and struggles, so they will have something to refer to when Parent-Teacher conferences begin in the fall,” Kiger suggests.
“Be on time to your child’s scheduled conference time. Schools schedule conferences on a tight schedule. It is always better to be a few minutes early,” she said. “After your conference, follow-up with your child about areas of strength and create a plan for attaining new goals. Keep their papers as a reminder of possible questions you may have regarding objectives or how to reinforce concepts. Children love positive feedback, and building a positive bridge between home and school is a win-win.”
If a child develops a negative attitude toward school or if he begins to struggle with homework, a parent should contact the teacher.
“Should a situation arise with a child and a concern for their growth and development, a meeting between the parent, principal and classroom teacher is appropriate,” Kiger said. “A simple, quick conversation can solve misunderstandings.”
Volunteering at their child’s school offers parents a sneak peek at their children’s social interactions with peers. And volunteering allows parents to become acquainted with other parents as well as meet their children’s friends.
“Schools greatly appreciate volunteers and can always use parental help in all areas of the school,” Kiger said. “Positive ways to volunteer are vital to a school’s success. You can get involved in your child’s classroom, chaperoning class trips, assisting with class parties, sharing your musical talents, assisting the arts, music or physical education teacher, being a guest speaker for your career, or reading with students. Share your talents and strengths with the school leadership, teacher and Parent Teacher Association (PTA). Get involved.”
Tulsa Public Schools Carnegie Elementary PTA President Mandi Dixon says the PTA plays a vital role in matching parents to school volunteer needs. Dixon, mother of Carnegie 3rd grader Mia and kindergartener Kate, says parents can find positive ways to help in their child’s school, and the PTA plays a big role in helping parents be engaged in school and classroom activities.
The Carnegie PTA kicks off the school year with an annual Block Party where families meet teachers, the principal and staff members. The PTA Welcome Wagon is designed specifically for helping incoming families acclimate to Carnegie
“By giving the families a warm welcome, we help initiate their connection in the Carnegie community,” Dixon said. “We have a traditional kindergarten breakfast on the first day of school and, of course, a Back-to-School Night in September where parents are encouraged to come sit in the classroom and engage with teachers and staff and ask questions.”
Carnegie parents can engage in their child’s school and classroom by volunteering in such activities as Art Sparks art enrichment, Junior Great Books, Science Enrichment, Chess Club, Math Club and Robotics. The PTA, says Dixon, provides volunteers for field trips for all grades.
Parent volunteering and PTA involvement also help parents realize that they are not alone in their concerns and excitement over their children’s first years of school. The Carnegie PTA holds open forums on a monthly basis to discuss current activities, issues and concerns that may arise in the school community.