You are your child's first teacher. The early childhood years are the most critical to a child's success, especially in education. High parental involvement in a child's education is responsible for raising achievement in literacy nearly 28 points above the national average, even after factoring in many other social attributes of communities.
As a former high school English teacher with nearly 20 years of experience, I can attest that schools need and want parents to partner in educating children—which must begin sooner than later.
Parents and teachers should have a partnership
When a child becomes a student, a parent becomes a partner with both with their child and with their child's teacher. This requires a dramatic shift in mindset for child and parent as parents never stop being their child's teacher, but parents must now share that role, and be able to accept that other adults will help educate their child.
Parents must be willing to hear feedback from someone else about the child's need, deficits and successes. It can be humbling and difficult to consider someone else's opinion regarding our children and is easy to become defensive to feedback. But if parents are partners with teachers, they are more willing to listen and consider the feedback.
Partners also offer feedback, ideas and insights. Full responsibility is not handed over, rather, forces are joined in a common goal.
How to get involved with your child’s education
Getting involved with a student's educational journey isn't limited to visiting or volunteering in the classroom. Helping children succeed in the classroom means communicating with the teacher on a regular basis and being proactive in knowing how they are progressing.
Parental involvement is a proven strategy for increasing student success, yet three in five K-12 teachers (58%) say fewer than 25% of parents get involved, according to a University of Phoenix survey. In fact, only a handful of parents (6%) were fully involved or participating in their child's classroom.
The survey asked K-12 teachers how they would like parents to engage in the classroom. The top responses included:
- Communicate regularly with the teacher (63%)
- Don't wait until there is an issue to connect with the teacher (62%)
- Ask about areas for improvement for their child (59%)
- Donate supplies to the classroom (55%)
- Volunteer in the classroom (38%)
It takes hard work and involvement to ensure today's students progress as individuals. One of the most fascinating experiences as a parent is watching our children discover and choose whom they are going to be.
I volunteered in my daughter's second-grade classroom and was taken aback by how silent she was. My gregarious, energetic daughter almost disappeared once the lesson began. I was sure she had thoughts to add to the discussion, but she sat in silence.
Once we got home, she said, "I didn't want to be impolite and interrupt, especially if I was going to be wrong." I knew then that I had work to do to support her journey as a student. I read books on malleable intelligence and growth mindset and let her know that she was the driver of her own growth.
I also tried to encourage discussions at the dinner table of mistakes I had made that led to success and took every opportunity to encourage her to speak up around adults, and to advocate for herself.
Teachers want students to be heard in the classroom and communicate their needs. There is nothing more painful as a parent than to see our children struggle but as adults, we realize that it is sometimes our struggles that ignite the greatest growth.
Working together, parents and educators can prepare each child for a path to success. After all, it does take a village.