An Open Door
In schools that value family involvement, parents are welcome in the school at appropriate times and in appropriate ways. What can you do to open the schoolhouse doors and keep them open?
There are lots of helpful and non-intrusive ways that parents can be involved in the life of a school. Some schools have set up parent/teacher reception areas, where a pot of hot coffee becomes a morning magnet for parents who can meet other parents and stay tuned in to what's going on in the school. A bulletin board -- on which parents can post messages, ideas, or volunteer certain services -- can become a valuable resource to teachers and parents alike. Parents can coordinate and run this area.
Sometimes the crowded hallways of a school make it difficult for parents to visit the building in large numbers, but a very warm feeling exists in elementary schools that encourage parents to escort their children to the classroom at morning drop-off. Teachers and parents develop much closer relationships when this happens, especially when they both resist the temptation to focus on kids' problems at this time.
Lots of very positive things happen when parents host teacher appreciation luncheons or when family breakfasts or luncheons are held by grade level. Parents are always welcome to serve as chaperones on field trips, or when they work in the office or media center. In some schools, pairs of parents serve as hall monitors or tutors for kids who can just step outside of the class for a little academic support or some TLC.
Every year, American Education Week, sponsored by the National Education Association, provides a more formal opportunity for parents to visit schools and classrooms. The bottom line is that schools that actively encourage parents to be in the building, on the bus, or in the classroom are schools in which kids learn better and behave better.
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