As all summers seem to do, this one has gone fast and school will begin again soon. The beginning of the school year is a good time for parents to consider their involvement in their children’s education. It is relatively easy to stay involved in elementary school as young children are usually eager to share school notices, projects, and assignments with mom and dad. But as parents of teenagers know, that eagerness to share with parents dwindles or disappears the older the child gets.
Parental involvement, however, enhances student success. Parents who ask questions about classes, who attend school functions, and who communicate with teachers and administrators as needed, demonstrate to their students that education is important.
Parental involvement should begin with Back-to-School-Night, which is held within the first two weeks of school. Pay attention at Back-to-School-Night. Learn your student’s teachers’ names and keep a copy of your student’s schedule. Most teachers hand out the course syllabus and general dates of importance: tests, projects, etc. You learn what is expected of your student and how he will be graded. Such knowledge alerts you to the right time to ask, “So, what are you doing in history right now?”
You also leave Back-to-School-Night with information about online tools to track your student’s grades and attendance, the best way to contact teachers, and what resources are available to help a struggling student. Be careful, however, not to hover over your teenager—the more she learns to manage her own time, schedule, and priorities, the more likely she will be successful when she leaves home for college or whatever she does after high school. A few strategically timed questions—When did you say that algebra test was?—is usually enough to get her to realize she’d better hit the books.
A little later in the semester, parents definitely should attend parent-teacher conferences. Even though waiting in line to talk with a teacher is time-consuming, teachers appreciate parents who show the interest to attend and parents learn—maybe for the first time—how things are going in class. Parent-teacher conferences are the time to ask questions, takes notes, and arrange for future or longer discussions with the teacher and/or the student. Information that is revealed during the conferences provides good talking points—both positive and areas for improvement. Students realize that these conferences build a parent-teacher coalition whose goal is to help the student succeed.
Another way parents can stay involved is to volunteer in the school. You may have done this during your child’s elementary years, but parent volunteers are just as welcomed and needed in middle and high school. Volunteering keeps you connected to teachers and staff, and makes your involvement highly visible.
Parental involvement is fundamental in student success. Be visible in your involvement, ready to guide and offer suggestions, but never take over. Whether he verbalizes it or not, your student will realize you consider his education important enough to be involved and interested.
P. Carol Jones is the author of “Toward College Success: Is Your Teenager Ready, Willing, and Able.” Visit www.towardcollegesuccess.com to read excerpts and to follow her blog. Ferah Aziz is a college coach with launchphase2. Visit www. launchphase2.com/ or call 720-340-8111 to learn more about coaching for college bound students, and success coaching for college students.