The crossing guard knows who your kid hangs out with at school, do you?
That is the question posed in an Ad Council public service announcement. The ad campaign promotes parental involvement in schools.
Only one in nine working parents is actively involved in their children's school. Among all parents, that ratio is only one in four, according to the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA).
I was astonished the more I heard teachers and other school staff say how many parents today take little interest in what their kids are doing at school. If the teachers hear from parents at all, they say it may be only at parent conferences or to bail their child out of trouble. Even then, I often hear of parents not believing the child did whatever the school staff reported.
Studies show that when parents are involved in their children's education, students generally have higher grades and test scores, better attendance and self-esteem, higher graduation rates and are more likely to go to college.
I was fortunate that my parents recognized the importance of education and took an interest in what was going on at school. They always asked me about my day. They attended band and choir concerts and other activities. My mom was a room mother (do they even have those anymore?) on a few occasions. They were also willing to help with homework when I asked.
I don't know if they ever went to any PTA meetings or if they spoke with my teachers much, but I knew they cared and, probably because of that, I always had self-imposed motivation to please them. That's a huge factor in raising a child to be an independent and responsible adult.
Granted, I was among the last of the Baby Boomers whose mothers usually didn't work out of the home. The youngest in my family, I was actually envious of the kids whose moms did work and, on more than one occasion, encouraged my mom to "get a job." Now that I'm a mom myself, of course, I realize how fortunate I was to have a parent with me nearly every moment outside of the school day. And as a working mom, I certainly wish I had more time to spend with my own kids.
When our three kids first came to live with us, a little over a year before they were adopted, I worked part-time and spent some time volunteering at their school in Walker. I loved that time and, with my job just a few blocks away, I was able to run over to the school to ask questions and talk to teachers about my kids. And every chance I got, I volunteered to take photos of school activities for the newspaper where I worked.
My dad worked long hours and traveled quite a lot while I was growing up, but when he was home he was with us. He puttered around the house and, I liked to help. While we watched the Chicago Bears or the Vikings play, he taught me what little I know about football.
I especially appreciate, therefore, that my husband, Tom, is able to spend time with our kids. Since I started working in Pine River, he's taken over the majority of responsibility for communication with the school.
Parents are their children's first teacher. And, whether they want to be teachers or not, children continue to learn from everything parents do. I see too many kids learning that their parents don't really care what they do, at school and beyond.
There are so many benefits in taking more interest in children's education. Lower rates of suspension, decreased use of drugs and alcohol and fewer instances of violent behavior are a few important ones.
Involvement doesn't require an enormous time commitment or a certain level of education on the parents part, either. Parents can simply ask questions of their children. "Who did you sit with at lunch today?" "What did you do on your field trip?" "Tell me what you read about today." Be sure questions require more than a "yes" or "no" answer.
Who knows? Once parents are comfortable talking to their children about school, they might even graduate to communicating with teachers, too.
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