We do not have a PTO at my school. Two out of our last three PAC (Parent Advisory Council) meetings have had fewer than six parents in attendance. And, during our most recent parent conference day less than half of our students’ parents attended. Do I wish that these events were better attended? Absolutely! But, do I think that the low attendance at these events indicates that my students’ parents do not take their children’s education seriously? Absolutely not!
While parent involvement is often measured by meeting attendance, fundraising dollars or numbers of parent volunteers, I have begun to realize that there are many other ways that parents and guardians support their children that often go unnoticed.
Every morning we have at least ten or more parents walk their children to class. Most schools have a drop-off point. We don’t. We feel that allowing a parent to walk their child to class helps us build trust with the parent while at the same time allowing that child the chance to enjoy another precious minute or two with their parent. Those minutes add up over the span of a school year.
On any given day I may meet with two or three parents in my office to discuss issues and/or concerns they have about their child’s educational experience. The meetings aren’t planned, and other than signing in when they enter the building, I do not put the parent’s name on a list to give them credit for coming in. Yet, it is during these candid, informal conversations, that I learn the most about the students that I see every day. And, it is during these meetings that I realize how much my students’ parents care about their children.
When parents aren’t able to come in to the building, they call instead. I receive at least one or two phone calls a day from student’s parents. Some of them end well and some of them don’t, but every one of them involves a passionate parent that is genuinely concerned about some aspect of their child’s school experience. What more could I ask?
What about the student who calls his parent because he is worried about getting his new tennis shoes dirty at recess? And, so his mom brings his shoes in just before he goes outside. Or the parent who rushes to bring his daughter’s flute to school before class starts because she forgot it was band day and she’ll get a zero if she doesn’t have it. Once again these small gestures of support go undocumented, but they don’t go unnoticed. At least not anymore!
Just last week I had a parent come in to school before the day had started just to turn in his son’s homework because he was home sick. This quick event took less than a minute. It was not recorded on a list and the parent did not go down to his son’s classroom. But he came in, for his son, and it mattered! It is these types of small gestures that take place every day that show me that my students’ parents support their children.
When I stop and take a moment to reflect on what I think the ideal parent would do to support their child, I would like to think that ideal parent is me. But, then it hits me that I have only attended one parent conference meeting, zero PAC meetings and have not volunteered at my daughter’s school for a single event. Never mind the fact that my wife teaches at my daughter’s school, I could do more.
Would I like to see the attendance at our PAC meetings and parent conferences increase? Absolutely! Do I think that the low attendance at these events indicates a lack of support or interest? No way! I know better because I know that there are many different ways that parents support their children every day that go unnoticed.
And, by the way, at our PAC meeting last week we had over twenty parents in attendance. Why, because we offered incentives to their children if they attended. One more thing: the meeting was at 2:30 in the afternoon.
Remember it’s not always about the bake-sale. Parents have different ways of supporting their children. Take notice of the small gestures this week and you will begin to see just how supportive your children’s parents really are.