The year Lori’s oldest son Max was in my first grade classroom, she often came to work one on one with children, assist in projects, or partner read. Since she had an infant, she would bring a car seat with her little one strapped in to sleep while she helped out or just spent time in the room. Max loved school that year and blossomed in every way.
A few weeks into Max’s second grade year, Lori stopped by after school one day to ask me a question. There at the classroom door, her eyes filled with tears as she said, “What should I do? I want to be part of Max’s school world this year, but the teacher said she really doesn’t have a place for parents in the classroom.” Sometimes it isn’t easy to get into your child’s classroom.
As a teacher, I found an occasional over-zealous parent who secretly wanted to watch my every move and scope out other children, but most parents just really want to be informed and included in their child’s school life. Classrooms are better when parents are welcome.
How classrooms benefit from parental involvement
- Children feel more secure and thrive.
- Learning needs are more readily addressed.
- Parents have a more realistic view of their child.
- Teachers have a lighter work load.
- Schools find partners in the community.
- Everyone wins.
The reason many classroom doors are hard to pry open boils down to fear: Fear from teachers that they will be criticized, that parents will get their feelings hurt, that children will be distracted, that gossip will be spread, or that the work load will become heavier. Parents can make a difference if they hope to find a “Welcome to School” sign up at school.
How parents create open classroom doors
- When germs get the teacher sick, send a card or baked good.
- When there’s a chance to talk about the teacher, be positive.
- When you’re at school, respect the teacher’s time.
- When you visit, be a pleasure, not a burden.
- When your child is near, enjoy, but don’t dote.
- When there’s a special topic, offer specific skills or resources.
- When chaperones are needed for field trips, be willing.
- When you observe the teacher & other students, be confidential.
- When you know about classroom challenges, be a praying parent.
- When the doors are open, go in! Start out by:
- Putting your best foot forward: send in paperwork and fees asap.
- Sending in requested supplies. In cold season, send more tissues!
- Volunteering when a request goes out for a room parent.
- Being there if Back to School night is offered.
- Asking the teacher how you can be of help & support.
Remember that the teacher has a challenging job to do. Their planning time is critical; when students are there, the teacher’s attention is vital. Be flexible and productive, and make arrangements to leave smaller children at home so your presence isn’t a distraction (unless you have a sleeping babe like Lori or an easy toddler the teacher welcomes). Be a helpful, quiet “worker bee” in the room, but don’t interfere or interrupt.
A teacher is also “a person” with personal needs and circumstances of their own. When you have the chance, and you will, choose to first give your teacher grace and to speak well of them, even when it’s hard. Model respect before your child, and the teacher will be blessed. You may enjoy the sweetness of a parent-teacher friendship, but most of all, just be the teacher’s cheerleader and helper to make it possible for them to be the very best teacher for your child they can be.
Parents are a rich resource to make classroom environments better. Moms do well to study being the kind of parent every teacher hopes and prays for when the classroom door opens on the first day of school.
If you’re a teacher, what makes a parent welcome in your room?
If you’re a parent, how have you been able to participate at school?
By Julie Sanders at Come Have a Peace
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