Benefit of the Doubt
Schools that value good home/school relations do not make erroneous assumptions about a parent or a family when they do not seem to be involved. These schools recognize that parents and caregivers deserve the benefit of the doubt.
Professional educators understand that while we may be very concerned about the welfare and education of our children, there may be times when we're unable to attend school functions such as open house. Many forces can make it difficult for a parent to come to the school, or to be involved in a child's education. The demands of a job or the necessity of a second job, the challenge of finding child care for young children at home, difficulty with transportation to the school, or concerns about safety in the neighborhood around the school are all valid explanations for a parent's physical absence from school.
For some parents, coming to school has been associated with trouble, and they are nervous about meeting with teachers. Other parents really want to get involved in school activities, but they get the impression that this will take a lot of energy and time, both of which may be in short supply.
Good schools understand the realities of family life and give parents the benefit of the doubt when they don't seem involved in school affairs. Some schools have found ways to make it possible for parents to stay in touch with teachers without always having to leave home. Newsletters sent home each week carry news about classroom and school activities. Some schools have call-in times (with some in the evening) that make it easier for parents to talk directly with teachers. Phone "chains" can be set up that allow parents to "pass the word" about school activities and events, or to discuss ways parents can contribute to school life. Answering devices or voicemail systems allow teachers to record daily or weekly messages to parents.
Technologically advanced schools have Internet sites or email connections that tie home and school together electronically. Some teachers have created (or have had their students create) videotapes of themselves and their classrooms -- a technique that brings open house to everyone.
Parents who feel left out of school affairs need to be assertive and ask principals and teachers how they can be involved. Research shows us that when parents are more involved in school, kids behave better, like school more, and most important, learn better.
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