Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Get involved in your child's school

Enrich your child's learning, help your teacher, get involved.

I despair when parents complain that their kids aren’t getting what they need from their school.

I despair, not because the children aren’t getting what they need from their school, but because we parents have been conditioned to accept those terms lying down. And I strongly believe that if your child is not getting what he needs from school, you can change things.

We parents need to recognize our power. We need to ignore the “stop” signs that have been put up around us—Stop! You can’t participate in school. Stop! You we can’t go into the classroom. Stop! You can't change the curriculum.

School is not some sacrosanct chamber. It’s where our children spend the vast majority of their time during the day. School is where our children are living their lives.

And if they’re not getting what they need from school, we can change that. As parents, we need to change that. We need to add stuff, we need to get the teachers to add stuff, we need to change stuff.

We can raise money for great books if that’s what’s needed—or just make a donation to the classroom of appropriate books (with input from the teacher, of course). We can find interesting programs that are being offered and get them incorporated into our school’s curriculum. At our school, for instance, the parent council funded a chess program so now all of our kids, from grades 1 to 6, get instruction in chess once a week.

We can talk to the teacher and the principal to find out how we can help. Taking a look at our own skill set is a good place to start. That’s how I arrived at the idea to do a weekly current events session in my child’s class. I’m a journalist and I love the news, so I simply asked the teacher if he’d be interested in my bringing newspapers to the kids once a week.

How about buying a few sets of Boggle or Scrabble and introducing your child’s class to a weekly game that gets them thinking and spelling? Or researching excellent fun learning websites on the Internet, so that when your child’s computer time comes around, the teacher has some good options to offer the kids.

Or how about introducing chess to your child’s class? Chess is actually extremely easy to play at a beginner level; once you know how each piece is allowed to move, you’ve pretty much got it. (It only gets hard at more advanced levels.) You can teach yourself how to play, buy or borrow a few sets and then – presto – you’re bringing chess to your child’s classroom once a week. And as our chess instructor will readily point out, the game teaches children how to think ahead, which is a valuable life skill.

If you can throw off the shackles of “parents should not interfere in school” and get involved, there are thousands of ways in which you can customize your child’s learning, help the teacher and enrich the school’s curriculum. And that’s a good situation for everyone.

I'm not suggesting some radical, half-cocked approach here. I'm talking about taking your ideas to the teacher or the principal and letting them know what you can offer and why it would benefit the school. Working with them as a partner. And of course, the benefit to you is that your child will then be exposed to new and extended learning. I mean, like, don't just do stuff for other classrooms - do it for your own kid's. It's a win-win.

2 comments:

Ian @ Tidy Books said...

My son's school is very good like this. While they dictate the topics they actively seek ideas and involvement from parents. They're even running workshops this term that parents are encouraged to attend.

I agree, parents can make a difference.

Great blog post.

The Book Chook said...

Great post, Joyce! Thanks for shining the light of reason on this subject. I truly believe if teachers and principals are approached with solid ideas like these, they will be delighted.