Thursday, October 23, 2008
This BlogBlast post will be a rant on two of the most dreaded words (to me) in the English language: "parental involvement."
We hear about parental involvement everywhere these days, but my frustration with the words have to do with how they seem to mean something different to everyone who utters them.
Parental involvement, to me, should mean that the parents care about their child getting a quality education. Parental involvement should mean that the parent provides a proper environment at home for reinforcing learning in the school. Parental involvement should mean taking an active interest in what's happening at their child's school, and when possible, participating.
Unfortunately, it seems some teachers, principals, and others think it means a variety of other things.
Parental involvement can mean that you buddy up to the staff while your children are still in diapers, and donate as much time and money as possible to help such staff overlook things like neighborhood boundaries. Parental involvement can mean that parents do the art projects for their kindergarten student. Parental involvement can mean not questioning any activity, fundraiser, or methodology and simply nodding your head in agreement. Parental involvement can mean seeing how many neighbors, friends, family members, and co-workers you can get to buy wrapping paper and cookie dough so that your child can get the prize they want for selling an obscene amount of unnecessary cookie dough (that ends up in the workplace freezer to waste space for a seemingly endless amount of months).
I recently wrote a very long email to the National PTA about their own involvement - or lack thereof - in creating a stronger sense of community between teachers and parents.
There's so much blame these days - it's the parents' fault, it's the kids, it's the administration, NCLB, the teachers - and I'm sure this post could come across as a rant against school personnel.
It's really not meant to be. It's a rant about how we are doing a disservice if we don't learn how to work together on this thing.
Everyone's made mistakes, everyone's to blame, everyone needs to come together now.
The National PTA blew me off, and this does not make me happy.
The PTA is supposed to be an organization whose main purpose is to bring all interested parties together to do what we all can do to provide a quality education for our children.
The PTA is still stuck in the '50's. It believes that there should be a parent available at 8:30 in the morning for PTA meetings. It believes that the best way to fundraise is to make private organizations richer off of our children, while we should be happy with a cut of the profits.
It does not recognize that over 70% of parents work. Not only that, but our income is less than that of our counterparts from twenty years ago. We simply do not have the funds to donate every month in the specific ways that they prefer. We do not have all day to bake for a bake sale, or endless hours to make copies for the teachers. We do not have all night to teach our children how to do their homework. We do not always know how to handle our children when they refuse to do their homework, or don't show up to class. We need help. We need support. Instead, we're simply asked to give more time and more money.
I realize that everyone is overworked these days, but I don't think that schools, for the most part, appreciate that the same applies to the parents, too.
Having said all that, we do want to do our part. We just can't always do it in the ways that our PTA wants.
We can ask our teachers for what their direct needs are for the classroom. I have no qualms about picking up another box of kleenex or crayons while I'm at the grocery store. I can afford that, and it's something that will have a direct, positive impact on my child's classroom.
We can support fundraisers where the funds go directly to the school. DonorsChoose.org is an excellent website for that purpose. However, there are also home-grown fundraisers that can be done without making national organizations (like Scholastic) richer. We can hold jog-a-thons and read-a-thons, where our children benefit from the exercise and reading and the school gets all the proceeds.
My older daughter's school held a carnival where the kids ran the entire event with the help of staff. They had carnival games and food. The kids worked in shifts, and the whole family had fun. The only thing I would recommend for this next year would be to raise the prices. They could've charged more than the twenty-five cents per ticket.
My youngest daughter's school also approaches local businesses to support their local school. At the "rock concert" they hosted for their Arts programs, a local restaurant donated 50% of the profits to the school. A number of the local businesses provided prizes for the raffle. All of the teachers came and participated to make it a true school community event.
Education should be a community activity. From local professionals sharing their expertise on Career Days to parents and teachers working together to figure out how they can all work together to provide all the best opportunities for the children to succeed, and ensuring that every child believes they can do it. We - as a community, as a country - cannot afford to lose another child.
Got a BlogBlast for Education post? I can't wait to read it!!