By Peter Quigley
There are so many ways you can engage with your children’s school in a meaningful way and add value to the learning experience.
Start with the teacher; be mindful that at the start of the school year teachers can be very busy so do not expect to be able to spend every night exchanging your life stories. Make sure you touch base regularly, ask what assistance you might be able to give in the classroom and get a good understanding of the classroom schedule and expectations so you can back up the teacher and the school program. It is also good to start getting to know other parents. More than likely your child will be interacting with this core group of children for some seven years of their primary school life and possibly for a further 6 years of secondary school. Getting to know the parents of your child’s peer group just makes life more enjoyable and often much easier. Play dates, parties and the occasional playground disagreement are all far easier to deal with when there are strong relationships in place. It is likely that you will be attending the 21st birthday parties of some of these kids; it is a long journey and one that is far more enjoyable when you connect with others in a meaningful way.
〉Make the Most of Parent Teacher Meetings
These are usually held several times a year and are the times to discuss your child’s progress at school. Be there on time, have your questions prepared, and go in with a growth mindset. Ask yourself what we can do together to assist your child to be the best they can be. Teachers will always be available to discuss your child’s progress and if you would like to meet outside of these times it usually as simple and making an appointment.
〉Create a rich Learning Environment at Home
Create a dedicated place for homework and study, minimize the clutter in this area and continually update the resources you provide in this space. Read often; do not stop reading your children stories, ever. Encourage them to read alone and build stamina in their reading and discus the books they read asking questions and getting predictions of what might happen next. Let your children try new things often. Resist the temptation to do too much for them and let them learn confidence and self-reliance through doing everyday activities at home. Many of the everyday activities in the home can become learning activities if you include your children. Get the kids to measure the ingredients of a recipe or research information for you on the NET.
Key to your ability to engage with what is going on at the school is your ability to embrace the school’s chosen means of parent communications. The days of a weekly newsletter coming home screwed up in the bottom of a school bag are quickly disappearing. These days most schools have an app, which delivers messages and updates to parents regularly. It is very frustrating for schools when parents don’t get organised and get on board with this technology. Not only will it help keep the schooling aspect of your busy life under control but also it will ensure that you always have a good idea of what is happening in the community and allow you to become involved. Many schools also have parent and student portals where parents can keep up to date with their children’s progress and growth throughout the year. Technology is providing many new opportunities for education and it is very important that you get on board early.
〉Join Parents’ Association
Do not be daunted by the thought of all of the hard work Parents’ Associations do in school. Yes, they run regular fundraisers and amazing events but primarily they have lots of fun. The Parents’ Aassociation meetings are full of passion and laughter with the focus or raising funds for the school and running events that bring a community together. The parents on these committees are really the heart and soul of a school culture. When the tasks are divided up and the workload is spread, things can really be done quickly.
〉Join School Council
If you have an interest in policy, strategic planning and being involved with the big picture goals and targets this could be the place for you to shine. Government school councils have eight meetings a year and they are a great forum to discuss the big issues and make a huge impact. Just remember School Councils are not for having input into the everyday operational decisions of the school; this is clearly the role of the principal. You will not be having influence into grade structures or what teacher your own child gets. Once again, it is another way you can build meaningful relationships with the leaders of your child’s school. As a principal, I have made many strong and lasting friendships with parents on school council.
〉Join a Subcommittee
Most school councils have a number of sub committees: Education, Facilities and Finance are some that almost every government school has. Getting involved in one of these committees lets parents with particular strengths get involved in an area where they can really be engaged. If you are a builder, a landscaper, or an architect the facilities committee might be the place for you. On the other hand you may not have the special skills related to a particular committee but you are keen committed and enthusiastic and those are characteristics that will be appreciated in any area of the school.
Even when you tick a few of the above boxes there is one very important thing to remember: what schools are looking for is positive input, people making the effort to become part of a partnership, to form lasting relationships and for our communities of learners to be the best we can be. Approach your engagement with the school in such a manner and everyone involved will be a winner.
Peter Quigley is the principal of Moorooduc Primary School.