With my oldest child finishing up the 2nd grade school year, I've been a little reflective on my involvement in his school life and wondering why more parents aren't actively involved. My experience with my son's charter school this year has been rocky to say the least, and has forced me to make the decision to find a new school -- more on that in another post. My 8-year-old son, Cameron, is a straight "A" student, never had a single bad behavior report and is loved by all the staff and faculty. Yet I had the most difficult time with this school. I learned just how critical parent involvement is to the education system and to the child.
Without going into too much detail, I can say that instances of problems with grades and communication plagued my son's school life. How a well-behaved child with near perfect grades managed to have so many issues I will never understand. But my biggest takeaway from this year is that as a parent, it is my sworn duty to know what is going on at school and communicate with my child's teacher -- parent involvement. I also learned it wasn't necessarily my place to try and change the teacher's classroom policies (no matter how nonsensical they seemed to me), but to work with him or her and communicate any concerns.
I was shocked that I would be the only parent from my son's class who showed up at parent nights. And Cameron's teacher gave me some insight that made my heart heavy for the other children in her class. In so many words, his teacher stated that it was the parents' responsibility to communicate with her about any problems they notice on progress reports and otherwise, not hers. Parent involvement is key to your kid's success in school. If the parents don't care, she doesn't care, but she would do everything she could to work with parents who reached out to her. If you're not involved, teachers assume you don't care. Unfortunate, but true. You have to show the teacher, not to mention your child, that you care.
Now, I remember a time when teachers came and visited students at their homes and they reached out to parents rather than waiting for the parents to do so. But this is a different time. However, don't get me wrong about his teacher, she was passionate about teaching and was doing her best with a classroom of 33 or more kids at a charter school with very limited funding and resources. And while we didn't see eye-to-eye on some things, and I had to stay on top of her concerning issues I had that we needed to fix, she did work with me each and every time I needed her.
At a particular parent night, I was again the only parent there to talk with her. She showed me stacks and stacks and stacks of papers with grades of zeroes, as she wondered where the other parents were. The class averages in some subjects were well below failing, yet few parents showed any concern. I'm a WAHM now, but I know what it's like trying to find the time work outside of home and take care of home, especially as a single parent. But I couldn't slack up on my involvement in my son's school life. As a parent you hate that school is even an issue; you hope that everything is perfect, but it isn't.
I guess my advice here is to be involved in some way. If you can't volunteer in your kid's classrooms or chaperone on every field trip, at least stay abreast on what's going on at school and communicate with your child and his or her teacher. We have to stand up as advocates for our children. No one else is going to do the job. Show your child that you care. Parent involvement is an absolute must.