By Sherece Williams
I was just thinking today… “What happened to the good ole days when kids and parents sat at the kitchen table doing homework?” I could be wrong, but everything now seems so fast-paced and priorities are lost in the shuffle of extra jobs, extracurricular activities, and social lives. With so many kids being raised by single parents, an additional job is needed, which leaves little to no time for the kids. I often hear kids say mom is not home and no one is there to help with homework. Sometimes kids are diligent enough to persevere but more often those kids’ education fall by the wayside. Most kids are not responsible enough to go home and do an assignment with little or no help. A parent or guardian is needed to ensure tasks are being completed and studying is being done.
I teach second grade in a low economic area, where parental involvement is little to none. At the beginning of every school year, I send home a welcome letter that briefly tells who I am and my expectations of my class for the upcoming school year. Also included in that letter is my email address and personal cell phone number to allow parents to contact me as needed for any additional concerns. A lot of teachers say, “ I don’t give my number out. I don’t like being bothered after hours.” Here’s the thing; I’m not bothered. So few use my number that it isn’t an inconvenience. Occasionally, I get a parent calling with “cause my child told me you or why you gave my baby this grade?!” Seldom do I get calls from concerned parents wanting to know about an assignment or wanting to know if they can come to class to help out. Parents need to know what goes on in the school and what’s going on in their child’s class.
Parental involvement is a crucial component in the educational process. Ensuring academic success in most kids is necessary. Having a relationship with your child’s teacher is a good start. Teachers are often able to recognize things parents miss, both academically and socially. This opens the door to more opportunities and fewer things being ignored or falling by the wayside.
One year, I had a boy who was an only child being raised by a single mom. At the beginning of the year, his mom came to me and introduced herself. She told me about her job in the healthcare field and who would pick her child up since she worked long hours. Mom stayed in contact with me to make sure her son was on track. After school, the child was being picked up and cared for by an elderly relative. The relative seemed to be in good health mentally and physically but moved a little slower at times. She did her best assisting with assignments, etc., but here’s where the problem came in. There were some older cousins that visited too. Those cousins were saying things that a seven-year-old should not hear. Needless to say, the boy absorbed it all and brought back to school. Soon the other students in my class would tell me things he would say or do. I questioned the child and he initially denied it. After I talked to him, he admitted where he learned this behavior. Having had prior conversations with his mom, I was comfortable with telling her about the incident. Had we not established this relationship, it could have gone a couple of different ways, none being favorable. Because we had an open dialogue, we were able to fix the problem before it got out of hand. This is just a mild case of how being involved without being present was effective.
I could tell you several cases of situations that got out of control because parents weren’t involved. Being involved doesn’t mean you have to give up your job and volunteer daily. Start with talking to your child’s teacher regularly. Simple things like telling your child’s teacher when you are running late to pick up or if someone else is picking up helps. Also updating information (cell phone number, address, work number), as soon as possible can eliminate unneeded confusion.
I know in many cases kids can get things tangled and twisted. Reaching out to your child’s teacher is a quick, easy way to get things straight. Most teachers are parents as well, and we understand the struggle. Let us know what’s going on and maybe we can help or even get you some help. As the old folks would say, “A closed mouth don’t get fed.” You never know what assistance your child’s teacher can give.