Schools are finding creative ways to reach out to parents. Some involve e-mail and interactive voicemail systems. Others focus on language and making parents feel welcome in school.
Teachers know that parental involvement motivates students, which improves student behavior and attendance. But many schools find it challenging to involve parents.
Parents’ Associations, or PTAs, are a powerful nationwide organization with local affiliates that are active in most schools. They help teachers and school leadership to keep parents informed and to raise standards in the classrooms.
PTAs often coordinate the production of newsletters and information fliers, keeping the entire school community informed about current events, issues and accomplishments. They also provide a forum to discuss any concerns or problems in the school environment.
Many studies have shown that children do better in school when their parents are involved in their education. Involved parents understand the challenges that schools face and become part of the solution by supporting improving education both locally and legislatively.
PTAs organize fundraisers and other initiatives that supplement the school budget and enhance students’ learning experiences. They also host educational workshops, guest speakers and field trips to broaden students’ horizons beyond the standard curriculum. They offer parents guidance on navigating the educational system, understanding their child’s learning style and supporting them at home.
The teacher–parent communication that occurs during parent–teacher conferences (also known as parent–teacher interviews, parents’ evening, or teachers’ meetings) is the primary forum for parental involvement in schools. These face-to-face interactions give teachers and parents the opportunity to discuss their students’ progress, academic strengths and weaknesses, social behaviors, and any issues that may be impacting a student’s performance in school.
These meetings are important for the development of the student. However, the interaction between a teacher and a parent can sometimes be transactional. This is not the fault of the teachers or the parents; rather it is a result of many factors.
Over-involved parents may pass their own anxiety and fear of school onto their children by constantly contacting the teacher for every little issue. This type of over-involvement can actually backfire, impeding the student’s ability to problem solve and cope with challenging situations. The ideal situation is for the teacher and the parent to become equal partners in assisting the student with their educational goals.
Parents who participate in school-based planning and management teams gain a unique understanding of the professional side of education. They are able to provide feedback that helps create a program that meets local educational needs, is sensitive to the community’s diversity and doesn't compromise high performance expectations and standards.
The involvement of parents is also crucial in establishing a strong bond between the home and the school. When children see that their parents and teachers work together in a respectful partnership for their success, they become more motivated to do well in school and have better attitudes towards learning.
However, parental involvement should not be overdone. Helicopter parents who constantly contact their child’s teacher about every little problem can actually cause more harm than good. O'Keefe warns that over-involved parents who are overly controlling can pass their anxiety onto their children, which may lead them to have negative feelings about school. The best approach is to find a balance of autonomous support and active participation in a student's educational process.
Parents who take a proactive role in their children’s education tend to have more confidence in the quality of their child’s schooling. They can also help their children develop good learning habits and make academic progress. They may also encourage their children to pursue further educational opportunities and become involved in community service activities.
Involved parents can be a tremendous help with classroom projects like art or holiday celebrations, class fundraisers, and lessons where you could use an extra set of hands. Some schools ask volunteers to assist with office tasks like distributing and collecting forms or magazine collections, sharpening pencils, or hole-punching and binding class work.
Find ways to communicate with volunteers easily so that they can get questions answered quickly and let you know if they can’t fulfill their volunteer duties. Nothing burns volunteers out faster than not feeling valued and appreciated for their support. Make sure to provide training and clear expectations for the tasks you ask them to perform.