Educating children is a shared responsibility. Parents and teachers must each do their part in order for children to be successful. Teachers have to meet each student’s academic and behavioral needs in the classroom. Parents must support teachers’ efforts by following through at home, supervising homework, implementing appropriate consequences and making sure their children attends school regularly.
The primary interaction between parents and teachers occurs at parent-teacher conferences. For conferences to be effective, both parties must operate under the same rules. They must come to the meeting prepared. Teachers should bring grades, test data, and any other pertinent information they have about the student. Parents need to plan for the meeting by talking with their children about any concerns, familiarizing themselves with the child’s work and developing a list of questions to ask the teacher. Both teachers and parents need to make a conscious effort to listen to one another and truly understand what the other is saying. They also must realize that each can learn from the other and each can teach the other something about the child. Most importantly, parents must come to the conference with the belief that teachers are trained professionals and treat them as such. And teachers need to understand that the parents want what is best for their child even if they go about the task inappropriately. Too often teachers are blamed for the lack of their students’ success when, in fact, student success or failure depends on the partnership between parents and teachers. Teachers tend to complain about the lack of support at home or grumble about parents not caring enough to help their children.
If parents love their children, why don’t they do more to help them by cooperating with and supporting teachers? One answer may be that many parents feel detached from the school and educational process. Many others may be doing the best they can, but lack the skills needed to deal with issues which affect their children.
Both individual school districts and the Federal Government are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of parents in the educational equation. Parent or Family Involvement Coordinators are now employed by a growing number of school districts with many positions being funded by Title I. The involvement coordinator has many roles which may include developing a more family friendly environment in the school, educating staff to communicate with parents as equal partners, and implementing programs and activities designed to engage parents in improving student success. The emergence of Parent Academies and Universities, and other parent education programs is also part of this trend. Diverse topics such as parenting skills, helping children enjoy and improve reading, cyberbullying and conferencing skills are examples of parent program offerings.
Parent education and involvement programs give parents the knowledge and skills necessary to provide more effective guidance and support for their children. The education of staff and parents facilitates the development of an effective parent-teacher partnership by fostering mutual respect and understanding, and improving the quality of communication between school and home. As a result, both teacher and parent frustrations decrease, attention focuses solely on the student, and student achievement climbs.