Building a Strong Parent/School Relationship

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Did you know that when parents are involved with schools, their children do better in science and math?

Building a strong parent/school relationship means parents and schools communicate actively with each other. By getting involved, you show your child that you value school and education, and you increase your child's chances for success.

Schools vary a great deal in how they communicate with, work with, and welcome parents. Even so, there are things parents can do to build a relationship with their children's school. Here are some of them:

Get to know your child's teachers.
When school opens (or any other time your child gets a new teacher), go into school and introduce yourself or call or write a note. Make an appointment to get acquainted and to talk about your child. Describe your child's particular strengths and interests or areas where your child may need extra help. Teachers appreciate families who take the time and make the effort to come to school. They don't always understand the realities for someone who can't come to school, but a phone call or a note can explain and help connect parent and teacher.

Ask questions about math and science. For example:
Can I visit a science or a math class?
What is your approach to math and science?
Will my child have science and math every day?
Will my child be placed in a particular ability group?
If so, how are the placement decisions made?
What "hands-on" materials do you use?
Do children learn math and science in their native language?
What if my child is having problems?
Are there things I can do at home to help my child with math and science?

Ask the teacher to stay in touch with you.
Ask to be kept informed if things are going well and, especially, if they are not. Make sure the teacher knows your name, has your phone number, and knows what time is easiest to reach you. If problems do arise, it is so much easier to handle them if you already know your child's teacher and have a comfortable relationship with him or her! You can establish a relationship in person, by phone, or by writing notes.

Spend time in school activities.
There are many ways to be involved. Each school has its own activities. Parents can check with other parents or with the school administrative offices to learn what opportunities exist. Here are a few general suggestions:

Parents can get involved with the Parent/Teacher Organization or other parent groups. If your PTO/PTA doesn't welcome all parents, change it! The PTO/PTA meets regularly and is a place to discuss your children's education. You can learn ways to advocate for your child. You can meet other parents who may share many of your hopes and dreams as well as concerns and worries. As a group of parents, you have more power than you do individually. Examples of other parent groups to join are bilingual advisory committees, Chapter 1/Title I Parents, ASPIRA, NAACP, Urban League Parent Councils, and so on.

Look for ways to volunteer at school. Sometimes teachers can use an extra pair of hands in the classroom. Sometimes parents can help by making phone calls from home or baking for a school event. Sometimes there are jobs that need to be done in the school library, or parents are needed to take children on field trips.

When a parent offers to help the school in any way, it tells the children, the teachers, and the school administration that this adult cares about the education of his or her child!

If your child's school offers parent-teacher conferences, be sure to sign up; if the school offers science or math workshops for parents, try to participate; and if there are meetings about the math or science program, try to be there.

Learn what science and math courses your child needs in order to go to college or technical school.

Ask guidance counselors to explain what course work is needed to meet post-high school plans such as college or technical training. They should be able to explain what standardized tests children can or should take and when to take them. And they should help explain what the results of these tests mean. Sometimes too few guidance counselors for too many students, or lack of understanding of each other's languages, makes it very hard for parents to get necessary information.

If you cannot get the answers you need from the guidance department, don't stop looking. Try the school administration, try teachers, and try other parents who have children in college.

Ask the school to sponsor an information session for parents on course selection and college or career planning. Or ask a local church or community organization to sponsor a college and career planning session.

Monitor homework.
Be sure your child is doing his or her homework. One way to let teachers know that you support homework assignments is by signing the homework sheets.

Find out what tests are given and how the tests are used.
A major purpose of tests should be to help find your child's strengths and weaknesses and to provide help when needed. Paper and pencil, multiple-choice, and end-of-the-chapter tests alone will not tell enough. Ask your child's teacher if there are other ways your child's learning is measured and to explain them to you.

Ask the teacher to describe the "hands-on" science and math activities your child will experience in class.
Find out if your child gets to use equipment, not just watch someone else use it. Find out if there are problems for children to solve in groups where they can use real materials. If you feel there is not enough active, "hands-on" learning or too much textbook reading and answering end-of-the-chapter questions, take action. First, discuss your observations and feelings with the teacher. If you are still not satisfied, explore ways you can get school and community groups to push for more "hands-on" science and math in your child's school.

Stay involved! It may take a lot of effort, but it's worth it!
As children move through middle school and high school, they may want their parents to be less involved. But don't quit! Keep your ties to the school. Be inventive if you need to! Think of ways that keep you connected and are comfortable for your child. Going to a football game or a school play or back-to-school night might do the trick. Strong parent and school relationships can make a difference in a child's future, a future in which knowledge and skills in math and science will play an important part.

Credits: National Urban League, Inc.

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