Last month, my column discussion centered on strategies for determining district of choice for families and their children. This month I will discuss strategies families should apply after enrolling their children in a school district. Important questions to address may include, but not limited to, what is the opportunity for parent and family participation with the school district? When does the participation begin? Who are the partners with parents and children? How often should this participation happen?
How can a busy family get involved? What to look for to understand children fit with school district and staff.
■ What is the opportunity for parent and family participation with the school district? Volunteer in your child’s classroom to gain an understanding of the quality of work that is being presented and examine how your child is participating in instructional activities. Does your child understand the lesson and is your child contributing ideas about the subject being taught.
How your child is utilizing the tools provided to complete the lesson is important. Is your child able to see the board is something that as parents we take for granted and do not think about.
As I think about my own experience as a child, I am reminded about the importance of “seeing the board.” As a child, I realized that I never clearly “saw” the board until about eighth grade. You see, I needed glasses, but I was such a memorizer of facts that my issue went undetected for years. Wow, I remember my very first day of wearing my new glasses and I responded to my mom, “The sky is a different blue than I thought, the trees are so green!” I walked around my neighborhood in awe just enjoying my newfound freedom called seeing.That day, I gained independence and was able to fully engage in the classroom in a more inclusive way.
■ When does the participation of the parent begin? Registration day is a very important first day for initial participation for parents. Read up on the opportunities available for your child. Read course catalogs that are available online or may be obtained in the schools’ main offices about courses, extracurricular opportunities and supplemental services available for families and children. Ask about these opportunities during registration day so that you know if your child must register for the opportunity or notify respective staff members about interest and ability.
Know whether your child needs to be assessed to participate in a particular activity or know how the selection process takes place. A second important day of participation for parents is the first day of school. Know your child’s bus route, walk your child to the location, get to know the bus driver. Accompany your children on the first day of school and help your students check in at the appropriate location. If your children are elementary students, make sure they know their name, address, and mom and dad names. A third important day for parents to participate in the school is during the first two weeks of the semester. Check in with all teachers to inquire about how your child is fitting in. This may be done before or after school or by email. Do not forget to double check as a parent that you know how to utilize the district’s student information system to check on your children’s progress.
■ Who are partners with parents and children? School districts have an army of resources to assist with shaping the progress and success of your children. Let us know how we are doing and what other services might be needed to assist your family. Tukwila School District is rich with resources. The best resource that we offer to families is our six family engagement specialists and family liaisons who are responsible for developing a close relationship with all families to help them navigate the education system in a timely and effective manner.
Principals, counselors, teachers, service personnel such as nurses and psychologists, foodservice workers, and office managers are there to support families effectively. These professionals are armed with the tools to assist families and include translators for all languages spoken in the district. They have partnered with service providers available in the local community as well as in the greater Seattle area to accommodate all needs. No need is too small or too big for the district to help. In addition, a family may wonder how does the family connect with a family engagement specialist or family liaison for assistance. The office manager in each building’s main office can share contact information with families. Additionally, business cards for all family liaisons are available in a business card holder located on the counters in the main office of all buildings.
■ How often should families participate in schools? Parents should participate as often as they can; children will appreciate as much participation from their parents as possible. Participate and support your children’s special activities, such as when they participate in a play, musical concert, sporting event, parent conferences, etc. Make sure they know you are there. Participate in PTA, Family Night activities, chaperone on field trips, volunteer during lunchtime and help out in the classroom.
■ How can a busy family get involved? There are many evening activities to participate in, please join us during this time. Get involved in planning some of the activities that you can complete away from our campuses, if time does not permit you to be here during the day. Communicate with us by digital media and keep up with district happenings through Facebook and Twitter. Send notes to teachers and other staff members by email. If you need assistance in learning how to use email and social media, please stop in to the main office and let the office manager know that you need a tutorial.
Lastly, parent participation will help you to understand the successes and struggles of your children in a timely manner and help partners make the adjustments or corrective preventive actions quickly to ensure your precious ones continue on the road to success. May you and your children enjoy their school-age years of development and please stop by my office to alert me about any of your needs or opportunities that the district may assist you with.