If you are a parent or guardian, you are recuperating from the aftermath of "Back-to-School Shopping" and making sure your kiddos are set for at least a month. Each and every year it's the same thing, you receive an email or letter in the mail giving all the requirements for the upcoming year with a registration date included. Within the first 3 months of school you have parent/teacher conferences, report cards, a Holiday or two thrown in and probably weekly reminders of events, projects or news to come.
If you are a parent that works or a single parent that works, there isn't enough time in the day to barely take care of everything, including yourself. (This blog isn't about how to pamper yourself. That will come in due time). However, you have obligations to fill outside of the children and school. Right? Absolutely! But what's very important and should be included is active involvement in your children's school experience. Of course I know it's not easy going to the school constantly for those "pesky" meetings. But did you ever take time out to really think about how a little time goes a long way? Did you know that there are many resources available to help you advocate for your children?
There are many benefits to actively participating in your children's educational experience. It's beneficial to teach children outside of the classroom so they can be well rounded in their knowledge of themselves and their environment. It is also just as important to have your child into extra-curriculum programs outside of school to help them adapt socially.
How do you play a part in your children's education? Well first off, it's always good to stay abreast of what's going on at their school. Get acquainted with the faculty, educational organizations and the school's district. Yes, I know that the last thing you want to do is spend time after work at a PTO/PTA meeting or meeting up with the teacher for Report Card pickup because you work long hours or just plain tired. Think of it this way, would you rather go to school because there was an incident that could get your child suspended or expelled? Or would you rather get to know the teachers/staff so there can be some preventative measures by knowing the school discipline code, and getting the facts to develop your own data to access a situation? It’s better to be proactive than reactive.
Right now there are several schools that have been closed, in dire need of repair, overcrowding or just unfair practices that most parents (and some teachers) do not know of. Why is that? The lack of time-investment and our trained behavior has created us to be reactive to situations that could have been prevented.
I served on a Local School Council and PTO/PTA of my children's schools for years. I learned firsthand how important it is to post meeting notices, send home notes so parents can become actively involved and how parents had voting power. Yes you read that correctly, parents have voting power in their school districts.
Local School Councils and PTO's are at your children's school to help serve you and your child. They are great resources to assist you and your children with knowing your rights. These organizations are set up to help serve as an advocate for you and your child. They are created to be a voice for you and your children.
So again, why is it important to attend pesky meetings at school? To show presence of a well informed parent/guardian for your child.
In my experience in working with the school organizations, I've seen how children with challenges and lack of parent involvement are cared for, or not cared for. The only time the child's parent come to school is when they are being disciplined with expulsion or suspension. Sometimes that could be too late. It is much more of a task to assist a parent that has ignored notes and meetings than it is assisting a parent that is actively involved.
This is not to shame parents for lack of involvement but open the eyes of parents/guardians to know that if you do not have the answers or the not too sure how the school develops decisions for children. As my husband would quote Grace Hopper; "It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission". Asking a lot of questions help as well. If you can't help with homework, find out who can. If you don't understand the school's disciplinary code, ask questions. If your kid isn't comfortable with a policy, get the facts, ask questions, and find out you and your child's rights. Honestly, there are many teachers (especially public schools) that would take advantage of the lack of knowledge a parent has to abuse their authority.
For instance, a coach colleague of mine and recently experienced an incident with her son's high school where he didn't want to stand for the pledge of allegiance. Thanks to her diligence, I learned a lot about student's rights. I had an idea that students had rights based on religion, but I had no idea that if a child simply do not want to stand for the pledge or the National anthem they do not have to have a religious reason.
Here is brief statement from the American Humanist Organization:
The American Humanist Association is currently leading a national boycott of the Pledge of Allegiance to educate students about their right not to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. Many students object to the Pledge because its claims of “liberty and justice for all” are not realized in American society and because the words “under God” in the Pledge marginalize atheists, humanists and other nontheists as unpatriotic.
More information about the Pledge of Allegiance boycott can be found at BoycottThePledge.com.
Just like the American Humanist Association that is an advocate for human and civil rights, the PTO/PTA, Local School Councils and many more want to advocate for you and your children. Had it not been for my coach friend knowing how to be well informed, or knowing how to be an advocate herself for others with her coaching practice and writing; she could have considered it a lost cause.
So again, I implore you to take extra time to invest in your children. One to two hours a month visiting the school, going to a parent information night or participating in your children's education is the best investment money can buy. As a matter of fact, if you buy luxury items for your child more than you participate in their education, you are teaching that material wealth is better than a wealth of knowledge and participation.
Start the year off with empowering your household and reaching out to your school advocates. Because in the long run you will either be an ally or an adversary of your children's schooling. Either way you and the school are the major influences in their lives. Remember it takes a village to raise a child.
For More information on your local school organizations follow the links below:
PTO - Help your Parent Teacher Group Succeed
American Humanist Organization
To Read more about the Student that refused to stand for the Pledge on WGN:
Student Says Teacher Tries to Force Him To Stand For The Pledge of Allegiance