To jump right in, parents want to belong, information, teacher contact, to encourage AND challenge their children in school settings. As we contemplate and plan for the next academic school year, although many aspects of teaching and learning may change, in theory and in practice, parents need to be regarded as a ‘standard’ component of and vital partner in their child’s education. It is your plan, but their child’s overall well-being is their central focus. They want it to be your focus too. Some things will remain unchanged among parental concerns. Parents may have added concerns, in fact. Expect the probability of new concerns, plan for them, and your responsiveness should be solution-focused and sensitive to trauma and cultural differences. For now, parents still want these things:
Parents Want to Belong
- I want to belong and I want my child to feel he belongs in all learning environments.
- Welcome me to the school-don’t shut me out. My presence at school is not to encroach upon your areas of expertise. I am there to support you.
- Invite me to school and with frequency. Let me see how my child is doing in your classroom on a typical day[You don’t have to announce my visit to my child. The surprise of it all works for me.]. Take initiative.
- Ask me for my input, but do not intimidate me.Talk to me in words that I can understand-no jargon. Take it slow, pausing occasionally to ensure that we are on the same page. I want to be included so that I know what to do at home.
- Tell me how I can participate in school activities. Suggest classroom, department, school or district level ways for my involvement. If nothing is available, yet a need exists, recommend my participation and my leadership. If my schedule doesn’t permit my involvement, and I must decline, it feels good to know that you thought of me.
Parents Want Information
- Tell me the philosophy of the school, the channels of authority and the general goals of each subject.
- Tell me the best times to call upon teachers, the names of the staff and their contact numbers and/or email addresses.
- Send me a weekly or monthly newsletter which lists school events, community resources and enrichment programs.
- I need to learn strategies to use with my child when dealing with alcohol and drug prevention, video games, TV programs, peer pressure and study skills.
- I would appreciate family education workshops, websites or videos to learn about communicating with teens, how to motivate children to study, curfews and family rules, college applications and homework help.
Parents Want Teacher Contact
- I would like my child’s teachers to let me know when and where I can call them.
- Because I work, I need school meetings scheduled during evenings and weekends[even if virtually].
- Let me know what my child is studying and please tell me that includes studying about people who look like him.
- I want to meet with teachers at least once per month, not only at conference times.
- Keep communication clear, brief and relatively simple-not too technical, and do remember my language preferences.
Parents Want to Help
- Give me specific ideas about how to complement what my child is learning in school or to strengthen skills.
- What can I do to help with homework?
- I need to know what teachers expect at each grade level in emotional, social and cognitive areas of growth.
- If a problem arises with schoolwork, notify me immediately, not after weeks.
- What are your expectations for my child?
- I would like a family attendance day so I can understand his classes better.
Parents Want Teachers to Love and Support Their Child
- Do something that makes my child feel good about himself everyday.
- Make rules clear and don’t tolerate inappropriate behavior, but be compassionate. Don’t embarrass my child in the presence of his peers.
- Relax when students are acting normally.
- Remind yourself that you are an important influence in my child’s life.
- If I complain about something, don’t take it personally.
- Avoid stereotyping my child. Seek to understand my child, and see him as a unique and special individual. My child is special to me.
- Praise my child for good effort.
- Care about my child, similar to the way you would want a teacher to care about your own.
- When you discipline my child, please be fair. Remember he is still a child whose job is to learn every day.
- Don’t preach to my child, try to reach my child in order to teach my child.
- Always look for ways to set my child up for success and in every possible way.
- If there is anything that you may not understand about my child or his behavior, please consult me when you can. Together, we can achieve amazing breakthroughs.
While educators, parents and children are contemplating what the next school year will look like, there remains key areas of concern among parents. Planning for a better more exciting year of learning and teaching and parenting is the objective, and mindfulness is key in all goals. The process by which our goals are strategized and implemented, in practice, will define the climate and culture of school settings. Include parent and student input.
When schools place children and families first, the entire year will go more smoothly for everyone. Administrators and teaching staff do their best jobs when they have established meaningful relationships and are partnering with the families of their students. Every parent wishes the best for their child, wants to know that they are succeeding at all learning tasks and that their children are safe, supported and encouraged-not out of duty, but out of an authentic love of what teachers do and with a clear picture of whom they’re doing it.
We acknowledge that ‘black lives matter’. Now, let them see who we are and our sincerity to include them, value them and push them forward with their existing strengths. Parents understand their child’s strengths, and when allying with them educators can better engage and build on those strengths. Every child and every parent has incredible and too often untapped or unacknowledged gifts to contribute, no matter their race, income, circumstance or cultural background. The purpose of educators at school is to identify them and provide opportunities for realization of their potential at every learning stage.
Overall, parents want to know that educators are open, fair, compassionate and that you can maintain that ‘light’ in their child’s eyes each day they come home from school. They want their child to be encouraged, not discouraged by being in your classrooms five days each week. They would love it if their child came home from school everyday and couldn’t wait to tell them what they learned. Parents don’t want to feel like they are optional or just accessories to learning; they want to feel that they are a necessary link in the learning process and that they are your co-teachers, even though not inside of the classroom with you. Parents and families just want to know that schools really care for their child, and that every action and decision is in the best interest of their child. Is that too much to ask for?
P.S.: No cops, more counselors! It’s about trauma and troubles, not truancy!