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Parental Involvement Continues After Hours
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Parents with obligations during school hours can't always be visible in their child's classroom, but they can still be involved in their education.
Dr. Louise Davis, child and family development specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said many parents have limited flexibility in their schedules.
"Many parents are free to attend school-related events as they would like while others aren't able to leave the workplace," Davis said. "In some factories, jobs are threatened if a worker takes a phone call, and leaving for a school meeting can result in being fired."
Single parents often have even more constraints on their time, and many find it impossible to fit in field trips, parent-teacher meetings and classroom social events. But Davis said these parents can still be active in their child's education. It just takes a little creativity and willingness by both teacher and parent to work together.
"Talk to the teacher over the phone or write them a note to try to find a way to support them in the classroom," Davis said. "Detail why work and the family situation makes it impossible to meet the scheduled events. This lets the teacher know you're not being derelict in your duties. Offer alternative ways you can support teachers in what they are trying to accomplish that year."
Kim Baldwin teaches kindergarten at Pontotoc Elementary School. She regularly sends home projects for parents to work on with their children, and tries to involve parents in the classroom.
"Teaching kindergarten, I have always had a willing group of parents who gave much of their time to be involved in their child's first year of school," Baldwin said.
Because some parents' jobs prevent them from taking part in field trips, Baldwin has taken the class to visit parents at work. Other parents have brought projects or activities to her classroom that complement the material being studied in class.
Baldwin has still more ways to involve her students' parents.
"I take pictures throughout the year to put in a kindergarten memory book for each of my students. I sometimes have parents help put these in order, label them for each student and put them in book form to take home at the end of the school year," Baldwin said. "Parents who cannot come during school hours can work on these at home."
Davis said children can feel left out if the parent is not visible in class, especially if this is pointed out by classmates or the teacher. To prevent this, explain to the child just why the parent can't do things with the others, and what the parent has done for the class.
Being involved in the child's education goes way beyond the classroom, Davis said.
"Parental support is listening to your child, reviewing the classroom work, reading to the child and being involved on a daily basis," Davis said. "Parental involvement also means seeing the child is well-fed and dressed appropriately, and give a safe and nurturing home."
Teachers, too, carry some of the responsibility for parents being able to participate, especially in meetings. Davis suggested teachers be sensitive to parents time demands and work with their schedules. Meetings should include the whole family, with child care provided.
"Many times parents don't have anyone to watch the children or can't afford a babysitter," Davis said. "When teachers provide child care for meetings, more parents will actually be able to attend and will know the teacher is looking out for their needs."
Davis said if face-to-face meetings are impossible, telephone calls should be substituted. Teachers should be willing to flex their schedule to fit the parents' schedules, offering weekend meetings or even home visits as alternatives.
Teachers should also tell the parents the goals and expectations they have for the student that year, and suggest ways the parent can support them in these goals.