Schools that want to involve parents need to understand the impact of school-related tasks (e.g., homework or coming to open house) on the child and on the family.
Teachers may give what for most students is a simple half-hour homework assignment. In some families, however, getting the homework done may be a major event. If a child has learning or attentional problems, or if he says: "The teacher didn't tell us what to do," a single activity can turn into a major battle which can go on for hours and cause tension for everyone. Planning and executing long-term assignments can be a nightmare for families -- one that often ends with Mom or Dad "pulling an all-nighter" to finish typing a paper.
Parents and teachers should talk to each other periodically about the impact of homework on the family. Some teachers send home "test" homework, telling kids to do as much work as they can in 30 minutes and then stop. Students might also be given one assignment that must involve a parent, and another one on which parents are not allowed to help. This allows teachers to check the quality and impact of work done with -- and without -- adult assistance.
For most children, having a parent come to an open house is a positive event. They look forward to this evening as a time for parents to meet their teacher, sit in their seat (or try to), and see their work. For other children, the thought of parents coming to school may create anxiety, especially if they are worried about the teacher talking about their "problems," or if they are not proud of a project that the teacher has displayed for the event. Children with separation problems, or who are afraid an older sibling may neglect or tease them, may not be able to tolerate a parent's absence for an evening. In these situations, teachers and parents need to talk and work together to develop effective solutions.
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