Educators have spent years lobbying parents to participate in their children's schools. There are many benefits to parental cooperation, which should be fostered and celebrated. There are, however, also some concerns for which teachers should prepare. Well-meaning parents can unintentionally create havoc while helping with art projects or story time; parents can help too much with homework; and parent-teacher communication can be fraught with tension. Teachers can often steer and encourage parents toward the most productive involvement in their children's schooling simply by telling them ways they can best help.
Assisting in the Classroom
With rising student-to-teacher ratios and increasing pressure to prepare students for standardised tests, teachers are frequently overworked and underfunded. Parents who help in the classroom can provide an extra set of hands during projects and, at times, volunteer to bring in necessary supplies. However, they may not always provide appropriate role modelling or may play favourites with their own children. It is natural for a parent to want to support her own child, but sometimes that support comes at the expense of classroom discipline and a positive sense of teamwork.
Assisting with Homework
Parents find it helpful when teachers explain the purpose behind homework. While parents know that it is important to check their child's work for completeness and accuracy, they may also unintentionally interfere with the learning process. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns parents, "If the teacher is using homework to check your child's understanding of the material---thus giving the teacher an idea of what needs to be emphasised in subsequent classroom teaching sessions---your suggestions for changes and improvements on your child's paper could prove misleading."
Reinforcing Classroom Topics at Home
According to the National Education Association, "When children can make connections between what they learn in class with their lives outside of school, they become engaged and enthusiastic students." Parents who make it a priority to know what their children are learning are better prepared to relate those lessons to their children's daily lives. Teachers can assist with this through newsletters, e-mails and parent-teacher conferences. They may also need to guide parents in this process with specific recommendations for activities, books and discussion topics parents can use to reinforce material at home.
Communication Between Parents and Teachers
Parent-teacher conferences provide a way for busy parents and teachers to meet without interruption to discuss any ongoing issues. However, conferences can also become a place to criticise rather than cooperate. Arriving with a preset, or mutually agreed-upon, agenda can help both parties focus and allow them to think through issues in advance. In today's computer-driven world, parents and teachers also e-mail on a regular basis, but sometimes fail to censor their words properly. Parent or teacher frustration can manifest itself in prickly spur of the moment e-mails.
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