Back to School Parent Engagement Tips
Published on 9/12/18
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Welcome to the 2018-19 school year! As we work together in Building Our Future and helping to prepare our students for #SCSDSuccess, our families play a critical role. Here are some helpful tips from our school teachers and administrators on how parents and guardians can best become active partners in their children’s education.
TIP 1: Email is key when communicating with teachers
Since many teachers don’t have telephones in their classrooms, the best way for parents
to communicate with them is often via email or a messaging system like Class Dojo. If your school offers Class Dojo, the app is an easy way for families to communicate with teachers, receive assignments, learn about classroom news and more. And remember to be patient in waiting for a response! A teacher may not have the opportunity to respond to a message sent in the evening, but you should likely receive a response within a day.
Related: Let the teacher be your starting point
Do you have a concern about your child or his or her classroom environment? Contact your child’s teacher as a starting point. More often than not, an issue can be resolved directly with the classroom teacher as opposed to reaching out to a school administrator.
Related: Keep the communication flowing
Reach out to your child’s teacher when there is information that might be useful in school. Did something traumatic happen in the child’s life? It is important for staff to know so they can help support the student appropriately. Do you anticipate a big life change, or is your child struggling with homework? Notify your child’s teacher. This goes both ways, so if your contact information changes, please be sure to call the school to update it.
TIP 2: Visit during Parent Engagement events
When your child’s school offers a parent engagement event, use that opportunity to get involved and visit the school. While teachers would love to invite parents to be a regular part of the classroom environment, those impromptu visits often interrupt learning and can cause a change in behaviors and engagement of students in the class because a parent is visiting. If you would like to inquire about the next parent engagement event, please contact the school’s main office!
Related: School-wide/community events are not private time
Parents are often invited to take part in school-wide or community events. These events are not the time to engage in an individual conference about your child! Parents should speak with a teacher to set up a time for a phone call or meeting to discuss any issues or concerns.
TIP 3: Be a team player
School staff have their students’ best interest at heart and are happy to work with parents to find ways to best assist students’ learning.
“From my perspective, the best thing that we can do is to be a team in your child’s learning,” Syracuse Latin fourth grade teacher – and SCSD parent – Sophia Burden said. “Your child will have more success, and we will all have a positive experience together, if we ensure that your child sees us as a team with a united front. Teachers and parents should assume they each have the best intentions; have open and honest conversations about what your child does very well and may need support in; and ask questions for clarification and understanding of one another.”
“Sometimes, parents had negative experiences when they were in school,” Webster kindergarten teacher Katie Cleveland added. “Try not to apply those feelings to your child’s experience. Speak positively about school to your child, and if you have concerns, address them with the teacher or the school.”
Related: Know the school/classroom disciplinary policies
Families are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the Student Code of Conduct in student handbooks, as well as the SCSD Code of Conduct, Character and Support. These codes cover expectations and consequences for not meeting them. It is important for families – and students – to know what is expected at school, and for families to support the school's consequences when expectations are not met.
“It is easiest for students when school expectations match the ones at home,” Syracuse Latin kindergarten teacher Holly Giannuzzi said. “That way, kids see both environments as safe and caring places that work together as a team.”
TIP 4: Get involved!
Whether kids are just starting kindergarten or entering their last year of high school, there are many good reasons for parents to volunteer in school. It is a great way for parents to show they are interested in their child’s education and support the school community.
Parents should contact their child’s classroom teacher to find out about how they can get involved. Opportunities might include being a room parent, helping prepare materials at home, chaperoning field trips, joining the PTO, attending school concerts, reading to the class and more.
Related: Attend Parent-Teacher Conferences
Attending parent-teacher conferences is a great way to stay engaged and informed. These are usually held once or twice a year at progress reporting periods. Conferences are intended to start or continue conversations with your child’s teacher and discuss strategies to help your child do his or her best in class. Meeting with the teacher also lets your child see that what happens in school will be communicated to those at home.
“Try to meet with your child’s teachers face-to-face at least once a year,” Grant Middle School teacher Tiffany Duquette suggested. “If you’re not comfortable with English, you can always request a translator!”
Related: Be a reading buddy
Read to your child at home (in any language!) for at least 15 minutes each day. This can have a huge impact on your child’s literacy skills. Libraries are great resources for books; so are the Dollar Store, Goodwill and thrift stores. If you are struggling to find age-appropriate books, ask the teacher if you can borrow some from school!
TIP 5: Take attendance seriously
Students should arrive in school on time every day, ready to learn. If your child is sick, a parent/guardian should notify both the school office and the classroom teacher (when possible). If your child is missing multiple days of school due to illness, please check with classroom teachers about any work that needs to be completed. Whenever possible, try to schedule appointments after school or during school holidays.
TIP 6: Encourage independence at home
Help your child develop a sense of responsibility by encouraging him or her to be independent at home. Assigning age-appropriate responsibilities such as completing homework, unpacking and packing their backpack, and cleaning up after themselves are a great start.
“School is all about helping kids learn to be independent,” Syracuse Latin Principal Kelly Manard said. “As parents, we want to ensure the very best for our kids and that they have everything they need, but it’s OK for them to make mistakes and take risks. This is their time to learn how to navigate social relationships, take care of their personal belongings and try new things. We want them to be responsible for themselves and to learn to take ownership for their actions. It’s all part of the social/emotional learning that takes place at school!”
Related: Stay involved (all the way through high school)
When students enter high school, many parents want to give their children some freedom to navigate their education on their own. While it is important for students to advocate for themselves, it is also important for parents to be aware of their children’s progress in classes. Communication between teachers and parents is a key piece of student success. In addition, it is important for parents to be a part of the community of the school. Attending concerts, games and theatre productions are a great way for parents to be part of the community of their child's school.
TIP 7: Prepare for life after high school now!
Many families don't start thinking about life after high school until their child's junior or senior year. It is important to start setting your child’s post-high school goals in their 9th grade year and continue working toward them throughout high school.
“Ensure your child is in contact with their School Counselor and that he or she is investigating college, military or career options for after graduation,” Corcoran Administrative Intern Meghan Snell suggested. “In addition, make sure you and your child are aware of their current grades in their classes, how many credits they have and how many credits they need to graduate
. If they begin to fall behind, make a plan with teachers, counselors and yourselves to ensure your child can achieve their post-graduation goals!”
TIP 8: Help enforce content learned in the classroom
Parents and guardians are also encouraged to reference our SCSD Parent Engagement Notebooks (PEN) for activities that they can do at home that will enhance the content your child is learning in school. To receive a copy of the latest PEN, please contact Chief of Staff Monique Wright Williams: firstname.lastname@example.org