According to a landmark study by Walberg (1984) in his review of twenty-nine studies of school–parent programs, family participation in education was twice as predictive of students’ academic success as family socioeconomic status. Some of the more intensive programs had effects that were ten times greater than other factors.
Remember, teachers and administrators have a very big job in front of them, often with hundreds of students to differentiate, direct and place. You and I, on the other hand, have a much more targeted job as parents. We just need to make sure our children are not being overlooked and we need to let their teachers know that we care and are committed, that we are invested and involved in our children’s educational future.
Sometimes that can be done by something as simple as requesting a meeting and showing up to hear how your child’s year has gone. If you are asked why you want to meet, the answer is simple – “ I care about my child’s educational development and I would like to have a brief meeting to discuss how this year went from your perspective as his or her teacher.”
At the end of the year, everyone is gearing up for summer. But, having a 15 minute meeting to ask these questions could make all the difference for a correct placement and strong start next year:
1. How do you think ______________’s year went this year?
Insert your child’s name. The more personal you can make this, the better.
2. What was he or she really good at?
Challenge your child’s teacher as an educator to think about your child objectively as an individual. Your child’s teacher has spent an entire year with him or her and has probably observed your child in settings and with peers in ways that you have not. Get whatever precious insight you can from this person who has witnessed your child in action all year. That can help you guide your child in her ongoing development.
3. What were his or her challenges?
Never refer to your child as bad or confirm negative stereotypes. Listen carefully and openly to whatever issues or challenges may have arisen and agree to try to work on them with your son or daughter over the summer.
4. What do you think his or her strengths are?
Push the teachers, all teachers, to find the positive. Note that this question is different from “What are they good at?”. For example, Mary could be really good at singing, but her major strength is the way she can get all the other kids to focus on the song and work together to get all the harmonies and melodies to come out right, i.e., leadership.
5. Which teachers do you think would be good for my child next year?
This is a critical question. Remember, you don’t know the entire school faculty and, as a parent, you may not know who is good with different temperaments and abilities. Your child’s teachers probably do. And even if they cannot tell you directly, just asking them will trigger them to be on alert for your child’s best interest in ways they may not have done before.
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