1. Attend school programs and events, and introduce yourself to the teachers and administrators.
2. Join the PTA and attend meetings whenever possible. Introduce yourself to the other parents. Participate in projects and events.
3. Learn the names of all the adults who interact with your children at school (principal, teachers, teacher assistants, librarian, school nurse, secretary, custodian, bus driver, guidance counselor, and any others.) Make a list of names and contact information. Use those names to meet and greet, every time you’re at school. Make positive comments whenever possible. Keep notes all year long about the things you and your child appreciate.
4. Communicate regularly with teachers. Be knowledgeable about your child’s progress – academic, behavioral, social. Follow up on teacher concerns (for example, going to the eye doctor).
5. Go to parent/teacher conferences, on time and prepared. Ask good questions. Give good information about your child. Listen carefully to the teacher’s information. Keep written records.
6. Eat lunch at school with your child (elementary level). Go to your child’s games, concerts, and ceremonies (elementary, middle and high). See and be seen!
7. Provide all the supplies, materials, and information the teacher needs to keep your child comfortable and safe. Keep your contact information updated.
8. Volunteer – somehow, someway. Be part of the team!
9. Send a positive note to school a few times a year, thanking a staff member for something you and your child genuinely appreciated. Those who have a positive voice in a school will get an effective response when they have a concern.
10. Express concerns in a calm, business-like, rational way. Start at the level closest to the concern (usually the classroom), and move up the chain of command from there. Focus on positive solutions to the problem. Do your homework.
11. Write a letter to the principal at the end of every year, summarizing the good things that happened and the concerns that came up during the year.
12. Expect the teachers to teach, the administrators to lead, and the students to learn. Do everything you can to support them in meeting your expectations. Be a problem-solver, not a complainer or a blamer. Expect the same from the others – including your children.
13. Remember that public schools are part of the community, and to a large extent reflect the values and expectations of that community. School boards set the priorities and policies, and school board members are elected. School staff works for the school board, and the school board works for you! Everything that happens in a school is paid for by the taxpayers. You have a voice – use it for the good of all the children in your community.
Copyright Alice Wellborn 2012