When parents are engaged in the school environment, students are more likely to be successful and have positive educational experiences, experts say. By showing interest in your child’s education and getting involved in what’s going on in the classroom, you’re sending an important message to your child.
“If you are engaged in your child’s education, they know that it’s something that is important to you, and something that they should care about because you care about it,” says Renee Wendt, a math interventionist at Dove Academy of Detroit, a public charter school on Detroit’s east side. “If you are indifferent, they may also take the same attitude.”
Marsha Lewis, assistant principal at Western International High School in the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD), agrees. She says parental involvement has a big influence on student success. “When students are first, parents have to be present,” she says.
Every family will find a level of involvement that feels right, and it’s never too late (or too early) to get engaged in your child’s education. If you’re looking for simple ways to get involved, or wondering how you can deepen your family involvement in your student’s education, here are six things you can try.
1. Dig in
If you are proactive about learning what’s going on in the classroom, you’ll always be on top of school events, activities and initiatives. Spend time on the school’s website, and any parent portals available, and make a habit of checking in often to learn what’s new.
“The DPSCD district website has information in not just one language, but four. They always do a good job of making sure parents have access to information. Stop by the main office and see what information you can find there. People in the office are more excited when you ask questions than when you don’t,” Lewis says.
At the very least, make sure your school has your current phone number so you can receive informational robocalls, Lewis says. “It’s important to be open to communication from your child’s school, and it’s a good way to increase parental involvement.”
If you’re just getting started, check out the Detroit Parents’ Guide to Schools Guide to find school profiles for each public charter and district school in Detroit, including information on a school’s points of pride and culture of safety.
2. Join in
“Most schools have a PTA, some even have meetings twice a month, scheduled in the daytime and in the evening,” Lewis says. “We understand and care enough about parent schedules to hold meetings for various schedules.” Your voice is critically important to your school’s PTA, and, together with other school families, you’ll be working to create a supportive environment for everyone. Don’t have time for a monthly meeting? Be sure to make time for the Parent-Teacher Conference so that you can stay informed about your child’s progress in school.
3. Read up
Some teachers send notes home in backpacks. Others create newsletters each week to highlight topics students are working on, classroom activities and upcoming field trips, Wendt says. “Same goes with social media. Follow your school’s Facebook page and see highlights of students and their accomplishments, upcoming events, and things you can be involved in,” she says. “We really do a lot of parent engagement through Facebook, and a lot of schools are using social media now, too.” Your child might just be surprised by how much you know about what’s happening in their school.
4. Bridge school and home
When you know what your child is learning, you can reinforce the concepts through home activities. “People say practice makes perfect, and it’s so true,” Wendt says. “Having your kids read to you, even exposing them to educational experiences outside of school will help tremendously. It doesn’t have to be a worksheet, but any real-life situation can help with math, reading, science and social studies. The more exposure they have, the more likely they will be successful in grasping whatever they are working on in school.”
5. Don’t worry about being too involved
As your child grows and becomes more independent, you may naturally change the type of engagement you have in their education. That’s OK. You may spend less time helping in the classroom and more time talking with your child about what they are learning in school, while continuing to stay up to date on what’s happening through websites and social media. No matter your child’s age, you’ll always be a parent, Lewis says. “My daughter is grown, but I catch myself saying things that I would have said when she was much younger,” she says with a laugh.
6. Consider yourself a partner
A successful education comes from a strong partnership between school, students and parents. Education can happen everywhere, not just in the classroom or at school, Wendt says. “Teachers want parents as their partners, and I don’t think you can take that too far,” she says. Every child’s educational experience should be based on a partnership.”