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According to the American Psychological Association, studies have shown when parents are involved in their schools, kids flourish.
But for parents who work full-time, participating at school can feel like an impossible task.
Sure, being the room mom or dad might be out of the question, but establishing good relationships with teachers and staff is still possible. And it doesn’t require dozens of hours of service—especially if you go about it strategically.
Yes it does.
In fact, research shows a strong relationship between parent engagement and educational outcomes, including school attendance, higher grades, and classroom test scores.
In addition to establishing clear lines of communication between you, your child, and their teachers, being actively involved shows your child that you value education and support their efforts.
Start the year off on the right note by attending your school’s back-to-school night or open house.
Take this opportunity to introduce yourself to your child’s new teacher and ask about opportunities to pitch in, but don’t let this be the only time you put your name forward and offer assistance.
Most teachers are overwhelmed with a sea of new faces and may not remember which parents expressed an interest in helping. Follow up a couple weeks after school begins with an email or a phone call. If you have a specific skill or interest, be sure to let the teacher know, and give an idea of your availability, however limited.
Utah law requires that volunteers pass a criminal background check before working in schools. Check with your school district office or get the forms from your school’s administrative staff. The process involves a brief form and a fingerprint scan. It is free and only takes a few minutes of your time. But be sure to finish your background check early in the school year so you’re ready when that chance to chaperone the Hogle Zoo fieldtrip comes along.
Full-time working moms and dads with only a few extra hours each school year can still take these opportunities to open the lines of communication and contribute to the classroom.
Email your child’s teacher about something positive. Teachers often only hear from parents when there’s a problem. Stand out from the crowd by sharing when an assignment inspired your child or when he or she came home with a great classroom story. This is a great opportunity to remind teachers that you’re ready to help and listen.
Join your school’s PTA to stay informed. Even if you can’t organize a fundraiser, attending PTA meetings will familiarize you with the school’s current concerns, upcoming events, and volunteer opportunities. Attendance can also help you establish a network of other parents you can call on for support and advice when you’re faced with a problem.
Help with just a single, early annual event. Many schools hold events early in the school year: homecoming dances, Halloween parties, teacher appreciation week, book fairs, etc. If your time is limited, focus on helping at one of these early events to put a face to your name with teachers, staff, and other parents.
Offer to spend a single day helping in the classroom and you’ll gain a more thorough understanding of your child’s day. You might be surprised what you can learn about the instruction methods, the teacher’s expectations, and the classroom dynamic while you’re collating papers in the back of the room.
Offer to help outside the classroom. Teachers and staff often need help with tasks you can do at home. Prepping kits for an elementary craft, organizing games or treats for a class party, and even enlisting chaperones for a school dance are all things that can be done after hours.
Make sure you’re receiving the school newsletter. Many schools use Peachjar and similar services to aggregate handouts into a single weekly email. If you aren’t getting these emails, you’re missing out on most information being sent home about upcoming events.
Log into your school’s parent portal weekly. Each district uses different tools; Provo City School District uses PowerSchool, while Alpine School District uses Skyward.
Most districts do offer a portal of some sort, so find out which system your school uses and get instructions for logging in by calling the district office or visiting the school district’s website.
A well-managed portal can be a working parent’s best window into the classroom. Parent portals contain critical information like your child’s missing assignments, current grades, and lunch account balance as well as teacher contact information, and a way to update your contact information.
If your student is in middle school or high school, ask his or her teachers if they use a student portal like Canvas for managing assignments and sharing course content. If so, make sure both you and your student can access it.
Attend parent-teacher conferences and ask specific questions. The national PTA offers grade-by-grade guides in English and Spanish. You can use these to understand what concepts your child should be learning and the questions you can ask to make sure their performance meets or exceeds expectations.
Your child’s education is a team effort between you, your child and the teacher. Demonstrating your commitment early will help both your child and his or her teachers know they can come to you with problems and concerns. Having a finger on the pulse of your child’s classroom can also help prevent you being blindsided by assignments, classroom events, and disciplinary problems.