5 Tips Every Parent Should Know to Take Charge of Your Child’s Education

It seems in kindergarten, the majority of parents flock to their child’s school. There are never-ending holiday parties, assemblies, awards banquets, back to school nights and conferences. As children progress through school, those visits tend to decrease. And while for kindergarten, this is a must, that need never really dies out. Think of it as a privilege. Once your kids are in college, you often lose access to their teachers and even their school. Take advantage of the resource now.

As a high school teacher, I see a huge drop off in parent participation. It makes sense. Your children are becoming more and more independent. We adopt a “they can handle it on their own” attitude. But this is not always true.

I am going into my 12th year of teaching and boy have the students changed since I began and especially since I was in school. Children, especially the older ones, think they are in charge. They think they have all the answers. Is this possibly because parents have faded more and more out of the picture? At my school, we have two sets of scheduled conferences a year. I typically teach around a hundred kids per year and typically have around four scheduled conferences per session. That’s on a good year. And the worst part about this, is these are typically conferences with parents of kids that are doing well in my class. Don’t get me wrong. I love meeting with these parents. In fact, I encourage you to attend conferences regardless of how your child is doing in class. If they are doing well, isn’t it nice to hear that from the teacher? Plus, their grade might not reveal the whole story. After all, what does an A or a B really mean? We shouldn’t let grades define our children. But with that said, if your child is earning a C or below, a conference is a must. A C is average. A C means improvement is needed. It should be a red flag. With modern technology, most parents have access to students’ grades on a regular basis, but if you never make contact, then you are saying that it is okay for your child to be defined by letters and numbers.

You may be thinking that it is the teacher’s job to communicate with the parents. And you are right. Teachers should make every effort to communicate with the parents, especially if there is a problem. However, there are few things to keep in mind. First, teachers are human. We get overworked, overwhelmed, and overlook things just like the average person. Secondly, you know your child best. There may be something going on at home that the teacher would benefit from knowing about. You have to be your child’s main advocate. And thirdly, not all teachers are created equal. While I’d like to think it’s not the case, just as with any profession, there are going to be some teachers that simply aren’t the best at what they do. And if your child falls into one of these classrooms, it may go unnoticed if you don’t take an active role. ­­

So, how can you take charge of your child’s education?  How can you help your child’s teacher be an even better one? A few tricks could make all the difference.

  1. Get to know your child’s teachers. Don’t contact them on a daily basis, but let them know you want to play a role. Let them know you care. I can’t speak for all teachers, but I love meeting my students’ parents. It helps me understand them and helps me serve them better.
  2. Go to conferences regardless of how your child is doing. It shows your child you care and that education is important to you. Plus, you might hear some things that can help your child, that make you smile, or that make you one proud mama or daddy. Is that such a bad thing?
  3. Remember that all children are different. Don’t accuse teachers of unfairness for treating children differently. Some students may have a special need that requires differentiation. Also, the fact that a teacher is differentiating instruction to best meet the needs of each child in the classroom is a huge bonus, not a negative.
  4. Follow up on your child’s homework. Now you know your children. Many kids, by the time they are in high school or even middle school, are responsible enough to get the job done, but definitely not all. And asking is not always enough. I have made this mistake so many times to only find out at bed time that there was something forgotten. And, here is the English teacher coming out in me, remember that assigned reading is actual homework. Some kids think if it isn’t written, it isn’t important. Encourage your children to actually complete their reading assignments. In this digital age, reading is more important than ever. The percentage of students who actually read the novels they are assigned seems to decrease each year in my classes. I repeatedly tell them that they are only hurting themselves. And not just their grade. They are missing out on some of the classics that unite our culture, as well as the benefits that come from reading: enhanced vocabulary, memory, creativity etc.
  5. Teach your kids that education is important no matter what path they hope to follow. Even if they plan to go straight into the work force, school is important. Every class your child takes has some relevance to their future, even if it’s simply to expand their horizons. If you take education seriously, most likely, your child will too.

Your child spends over six hours a day in the presence of teachers. That’s a huge amount of time. It’s the parents’ job to help ensure that that time is the best it can be. I have never had a student with visibly active parents fail my class. I can try and push and encourage a struggling student and often I win the battle, but sometimes a parent’s encouragement and discipline is needed. “It takes a village to raise a child” has never rung truer. But the parents need to be the leaders of that village.


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