The yellow buses are on the move again, and your child’s bookbag overflows with textbooks and new supplies–another school year begins. Now all that’s left is to make sure homework’s always done, tests are studied for, and expectations remain high, right? Well, actually only if you also go to school once in a while, thus staying informed and in touch. Says Arthur Pober, “. . . Nothing has a more profound effect than parents who get involved.” Even if you’re working full-time, opportunities abound to make a contribution.
First and foremost, attend parent nights to connect with teachers and familiarize yourself with their goals and requirements. Rotating from class to class, you’ll also discover why some teachers/courses are favored over others. Don’t say you’re too tired or busy—just be there. Make the time or risk sending the message that education is not a priority. Says student Diana Leary, “My mom shows up for every parent’s night. . . . It makes me feel good that she cares about what’s going on with me.”
Volunteering is another way to help your child and the entire school community. Say the editors of Middle Years: Working Together for School Success, “The more visible you are, the more educators will be able to communicate regularly with you.” There are gardens to be planted, art work to be displayed, and demonstrations to be made. Regardless of your talents and expertise, helping out in classrooms or tutoring students will always be appreciated. And to always be in the know, be sure to join the home and school organization.
There are also fundraising opportunities, such as sending in goodies for bake sales, making monetary contributions, and/or buying magazines, candy, wrapping paper, or whatever else your school is selling to raise money. But don’t stop there. Consider joining with others to create a parent/teacher cookbook with the proceeds going back to the school. You can also chaperone dances and field trips, help out with the school newspaper or literary magazine, assist teachers with photocopying and decorating bulletin boards, even calling parents to confirm absences. In other words, don’t be among the countless parents who say they value school life but remain uninvolved.
It’s also important to quickly learn as much as you can about the school’s rules, procedures, key personnel, etc. In other words, familiarize yourself with its . . .
1. Principal/assistant principals, secretaries, counselors, reading specialist, speech therapist, and librarian.
2. Calendar of holidays, in-service and conference dates, special events, etc.
3. Discipline procedures and responses.
4. Daily, late arrival, and early dismissal bell schedules.
5. Attendance office number and policies regarding tardiness and absences.
6. Nurse’s phone number.
7. Policy on excessive absences.
8. Counseling services and scheduling appointments.
9. Grading system, interim reports, and report card schedules.
10 .Honor roll requirements.
11 .Emergency closing number.
12. Physical education regulations and required attire.
13. Athletic programs and policies.
14. Shoe/dress code and steps taken when violated.
15. Homework and test-taking policies.
16. Lunch schedules and lunch loan policy.
17. Bookbag policy.
18. Student photo dates.
19. Gifted program and qualifications for inclusion.
20. Busing rules/expectations/discipline procedures.
21. Parent-Teacher Association offerings/meeting dates.
22. Awards system and assembly dates: academic, athletic, etc.
23. Student Council grade requirements and election dates.
24. Chaperoning and volunteering opportunities.
25. Website address for up-to-the-minute happenings, closings, etc.
What it all comes down to is that going back to school isn’t just for kids. Parents are part of the equation, too, so be sure to show up and be among those who do far more than just pay lip service to the importance of education. The choices are countless, the message is clear; the time to get involved and make a difference is now. No regrets.