Time is tight for everyone, but especially for busy parents. I know, I am one! But we should all try to make an effort to be involved with your child’s school and classroom as often as possible. Why? Well, let me tell you all about it!
I’m not talking about the fun video calling app either. Getting to know your child’s teacher(s) is so incredibly important. This team of educators is with your baby for a solid 8+ hours a day, and they teach her all sorts of things to boot! You want to know this person or people, and you want to know her/them well.
You can start by attending back to school nights, meet the teacher days, and parent teacher conferences. Additionally, find out if there is a room parent. This is typical in elementary and primary schools. Room parents organize large events, like class parties or class teacher gifts. They also find out what the teacher needs in terms of supplies and support. Many room parents also hold the class roster, with names, addresses, and contact info for every family. You either want to be this person or find out who this person is.
Showing up often to class or school events also helps the teacher to get to know you as a real person. Many teachers are terrified of parents. I know, I am one. We feel constantly judged for not doing enough or over stepping our bounds or whatever. Show your teacher that you care about her as a human being, while still wanting the best education possible for Junior. Ask about her hobbies, interests, or hometown. Then share your experiences. I bet that you might have more in common than you thought!
Fun story: I started this blog, and writing in general, after a student’s mother told me that I would be good at this. She is a professional writer with several non-fiction children’s books under her belt, and she coached me through the beginning stages. Face time paid off big time!
Getting in that face time and knowing your teacher on a more personal level will help you to get more information. While a teacher makes a genuine effort to treat every single family the same, the natural tendency is to gravitate towards people that also treat you well.
For teachers, this could mean offering gratis extra help after school or during recess. It could also mean flexible scheduling to get those meetings in at a time that works for you. I have been known to show up well before school, skip lunch, or stay late just to meet with a parent. With parents that I feel very comfortable with, I have no issues being very honest with them. When going to parents with bad news, it is easier on everyone if there is already a pleasant personal relationship. It makes problem solving a little more smooth, and creates a platform from which to move forward.
If you are a regular, teachers start to see you more as part of the teaching team. Yes, you are part of the teaching team by default, since it is Team Your Kid. But if you are not present, it is hard for teachers to believe that. When everyone feels united, things go more smoothly. When you are an ally, teachers want to share. They like to share grades earlier than they might otherwise be released. They like to share helpful hints, like IEP testing request how-to’s, that might not be totally kosher to bring up. They might share upcoming volunteering opportunities so that you can get in there first.
Know Your Kid
When you show up at school on a regular basis, or even just for field trips, your child knows that you are invested in her AND her education. By taking off work, skipping that meeting, and being there, you have made her a priority. You are saying loud and clear: “You, my child, matter. Your class matters, your school matters, your education matters. It matters to me!”
Kids might seem like they don’t want you there, but they desperately do. They want you to come and see that presentation, to ride the stinky school bus to a field trip, to know their friends and teachers. They want to be valued, and they want to be valued BY YOU!
When kids know that you are involved actively, they also tend to take education more seriously. Students know that they can’t skate by with so-so grades or minimal effort, because you will find out. They know you will have meetings with teachers, and that plans will be made to help improve performance. Behavior missteps will be documented and shared, and kids will face consequences on perhaps two fronts. I know that I worked harder because I knew that both my parents AND my teachers would be disappointed if I didn’t try.
Getting involved in your child’s classroom and knowing his teacher(s) gets you things: slightly better treatment, willingness to go the extra mile, insider knowledge about academics and field trips. Plus, you have earned brownie points and created awesome shared memories with your kid!
So, email your kid’s teacher and schedule a sit-down meeting, or even just email her to say hello. Find out about volunteer opportunities, and take advantage. The only thing you have to lose is nothing.