One of the many struggles facing grade-school education is parent/guardian participation. For teachers, it can be trying to get parents involved in their child’s education. For parents, it can be a struggle finding appropriate ways to get join in.
Pima Butte Elementary has one of the strongest records of parental involvement in the Maricopa Unified School District. Second-grade teacher Yurosha Rastad credits the school being small and within a tight boundary in Rancho El Dorado.
“My parents are amazing,” she said. “I have so many parents donate their time. We would have a field trip to the zoo, and 20 parents would volunteer. One comes in all the time to make copies for me.”
The school also has good participation in special events like Math Night, Water Day, a mother-son barbecue and a father-daughter dance.
But schools typically struggle to keep parents involved.
Mobile Elementary School teacher and 21-year education veteran Cindy Koontz of Maricopa suggested careful, calculated scheduling.
Parents looking to get involved at their child’s school should first look at various programs such as parent-teacher organizations and athletic booster clubs, Koontz said. Then, she said, compare your availability to the schedule of meetings and events for the specific programs to determine which is right for you.
Naturally, some parents have more free time than others. Some are stay-at-home parents or have flexible schedules that allow for more involvement. Others work long hours and are less available.
To those parents who are unavailable to take an active role in programs like PTO and athletics, Koontz said there are other ways to stay involved, the most important of which is maintaining communication with their child’s teachers.
Meet the Teacher Nights are also some of the best ways to get to know teachers, Koontz said. In her experience, it is an underappreciated event she wishes more parents would capitalize on.
“We want as good a relationship with the parents as with the students,” Koontz said. “Those face-to-face meetings help with that.”
She understands many families have hectic lifestyles, making it difficult to attend these events and become part of certain organizations. However, she feels involvement is not limited to simply volunteering for PTO.
Some teachers, she said, log daily updates in a student’s notebook or planner. This method gives the most transparency and the best “active” communication a parent can hope for. These daily progress reports are sent home, sometimes requiring parental signatures and, thus, creating a “paper trail” following a student’s educational path.
Whatever parents do, Koontz said, it is important to remember “teachers and parents are a team.”
“We’re people just like parents are,” Koontz added. “At the end of the day we always look back and see something we could have done better.”
This story appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.