Teachers all over the country are gearing up for the beginning of school, and that involves training. I'm excited to provide training this week for teachers at two churches, one in Austin and one in Houston. I'll be sharing practical ways teachers can connect with parents and involve them in the educational process. Understandably then, I've been giving a lot of thought to the teacher's role in parent involvement.
But there's another side to this equation, and that's how parents can seek to be involved in their child's education. Teachers can do their best to encourage parent involvement, but if parents don't want to be involved, teachers can't force it.
That's why I've decided to write to parents to help you understand your role, then to seek involvement in your child's education, both at school and at church. First, before we get to methods, let me address motivation. Parents sometimes think that only trained teachers are able to teach, and this causes parents to 'back off' and stay away from their child's school. The truth is, parents remain the primary influencer in their child's life, even after children reach their teens. It's good for parents to respect the gifts and expertise of teachers, but it's not good to over-value the teacher's role and under-value parents' own role.
Plenty of research exists to show that children whose parents are engaged and involved with schoolwork perform better in a variety of measures. Parents bring much to the equation that even the best teachers cannot duplicate:
- Parents know their own kids, and can help tailor content and teaching style.
- Parents have one-on-one time that teachers just don't have.
- Parents model their approach to learning by instilling a work ethic.
- Parents model an interest in education by getting involved, and children see this.
Assuming this gets you motivated, how should you get involved? Let me suggest five starter steps. Where you go from there will depend on the particular wishes of your child's school.
Step 1. Tell your child's teacher you are interested in what they do. Express support for them and thank them for their work each day. Teachers are people too, and they are more likely to seek you out if you express your support.
Step 2. Take advantage of opportunities the school or church affords, like parent conferences, open houses, and drop off or pick up times. Whenever you are on campus, read posted notices, and check out the classroom to see what the children have been doing. This will give you more to talk to your child about on your ride home.
Step 3. Read carefully everything your church or school gives you – handbooks, calendars, and take-home notes. They've put lots of time and effort into sharing important information with you.
Step 4. Ask an administrator or your teacher what you can do to help. Your assistance is an investment in your own child's education.
Step 5. This may be the most critical: Extend the learning from the classroom to home. Research suggests that the number one way to help your child is to reinforce what they've learned at school. Just think about it—if you take the time to repeat an object lesson or discuss the teaching point from your child's class time, you send a strong message that what they learned is important.
Scripture indicates that parents are responsible for their child's growth and development, more than churches or schools. So don't simply out-source your child's education. Remain actively involved. When it comes to your child's education, both secular and sacred, the buck stops with you.