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Elementary School: The Foundation for Academic Success

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Before your student ever went to school, you were his first teacher. If you value education, achievement, and learning, then your student will too. You are not only your student's first teacher; you are her best teacher, and your involvement in her formal education means the world to her. In order to convey that commitment to education, you have to be involved in the life of the school.

I always quote former vice president Al Gore in my workshops. "We have to have parent involvement to raise successful kids," he said. "The most promising approach to improving our schools may be the oldest and most obvious: getting families more involved in their children's education."

So be involved! Get to know your student's teacher, keep up with the classwork and curriculum, attend school events, and know what is expected of your student. Encourage enrollment in cultural events, extracurricular activities, and math and science enrichment. Even at this tender age, your student can learn the benefits of volunteering and building a network of supportive teachers, administrators, and community leaders.

I know from hearing countless parents tell me they don't have time that there is a real gap between parental work hours and school volunteer hours. You're busy. We're all busy. Regardless, I still tell parents, your student's school needs you, and your student needs you at school. Do what it takes to put in the time.

Showing your "face in the place" sends the message to the school and to your children that school is important to you and the family. A lot of times my then-husband and I were unable to attend events, but we always sent snacks or money to help with supplies. Sometimes we would take a lunch hour and spend it in the school cafeteria instead of at work.

Stumped for what to do at your child's school? Try any or all of the following:

  • Join the PTA.
  • Bake for a bake sale, or help plan one.
  • Act as a lunchroom or playground monitor.
  • Chaperone field trips or any events that take place away from school.
  • Help plan and chaperone dances, proms, or graduation ceremonies.
  • Act as a classroom helper, or volunteer in the computer lab.
  • Organize or assist with a club or special interest group.
  • Help out with the gym or sports activities.
  • Help prepare press releases or write grant applications.
  • Work in the library.
  • Sew costumes or build sets for theatrical productions.
  • Help out with any arts, crafts, or design projects.
  • When all ideas abandon you, ask your child's teacher!


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From Say Yes To College: A Practical and Inspirational Guide to Raising College-Bound Kids by Sharon Chandler and Elizabeth Crane. Copyright 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, click here or on the book cover.


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