By Sharmon Carrington
PRIDE Education Columnist
After enjoying a relatively hot and dry summer, academic programs have just begun in schools, colleges and universities, and parents and students must continue to be vigilant in every aspect of the educational journey.
Parents must fully engage in the preparation of their children’s return to the classroom, not only in the purchase of new clothing and shoes, but also in the school’s curriculum and the choice of courses which would serve their children well in today’s global economy.
Too often parents do not find it necessary to participate in this choice, and they relinquish this responsibility to their children’s teachers and guidance counsellors, who may not specifically have the child’s best interest at heart.
At least one week before the beginning of the school year, it is imperative that parents sit and have a meaningful conversation with their children, to get a sense of their plans for the school year, and their expectations of themselves and to assist them in setting academic and career goals, as well as advising them of their parents’ expectations of them.
This is the time when certain disciplinary attitudes regarding study habits, recreation and curfew guidelines should also be discussed. In the case of younger children, parents should set bed time and television guidelines.
I will now focus on parent engagement.
During the first week of school, parents of both elementary and secondary school students should get to know their children’s teachers. It is the right thing to do, since their children spend most of their school day with the teachers.
They should also get to know the principals and other parents in the school community.
My previous experience with the parent-teacher associations and school councils, demonstrates that the contributions of parents and guardians in these types of fora are greatly valued by the schools and their boards. Research tells us that when families are engaged with their children’s life and learning at school, student participation and, subsequently, achievement improves.
Parents who have computer access should visit the websites of their district school boards and access the resources that are available to help their children, and in the process, assist other parents with acquiring this information.
School officials know the difference that engaged parents and guardians make to the students’ success. Therefore, the more often that teachers and school officials see parents positively and respectfully engaging with them, the more interest they show in your children, so, make your presence felt.
It is unproductive to allow parent-teacher interviews to be the first and only source of parent engagement. Parents must make special efforts to communicate with teachers, either by taking the time to send a note or make a call.
The current age of technology presents other ways to facilitate parent engagement. Schools now use websites and agendas to promote and inform families about classroom and school activities, and most schools encourage families to have productive open communications with teachers. They cultivate effective partnerships between parents and teachers in order to increase student participation and success.
School Community Councils (SCC) provide a strategic communication link for schools, communities and families. If parents are really interested in their children’s education, they would make the time to get involved in these councils, or solicit assistance of a family member to represent them, if due to work responsibilities or illness, it is not possible for them to do so personally.
Information on the SCC s could be had by contacting the Superintendent of Education in your school district. Some school boards maintain an administrative office for parent engagement, which may be accessed by calling or writing the school board.
What could be more important to parenthood, than continually demonstrating interest in your children’s well-being and future, hence the importance of their education?
Many years ago, during the time that my children were attending school, teachers complained that Black parents seldom got involved in school activities, as well as parent-teacher interviews. It was always upsetting for me to hear this, whenever I attended a school council or parent-teacher meeting, but black parents continued to prove this fact by their continued absence.
Today, a number of years later, in discussions with current and retired teachers both black and white, I am hearing the same complaint.
It is time for Black parents to step up and get involved in their children’s education. Many Black parents sacrifice their children’s education for their own social activities.
Perhaps, we, as Black parents, should take a page from the books of the other ethnic communities, whose children are excelling in every aspect of education, including volunteerism.
Black educators have noticed and are discussing this situation, and many of them see it as a dilemma, since they have a front row seat to school activities and parent engagement.
Black parents need to know that their lackadaisical attitude towards engaging with teacher and school is the most efficient way to promote their children’s failure to succeed, and subsequently heading for the poverty line.
I am aware of those sterling efforts of several Black parents who are really involved, and are doing everything in their power to ensure the academic success of their children, and I applaud them.
However, they are in the minority because the majority of us are not doing so. It would be great if we could see more examples of these involved black parents who refuse to allow their children to fall behind.
This would certainly increase the opportunities for our Black children to compete in today’s very competitive employment market, allowing them to lift themselves out of the stream of poverty that seems to be following us.
It is important that our children be taught the difference between poverty and prosperity at an early age, and throughout their educational journey. It is my opinion that this has to begin with every aspect of parent engagement.
Sharmon Carrington, a retired federal government human resources executive, is the President of the Central High School Alumni Association-Toronto Chapter. She and her husband, Victor, are co-recipients of the African Canadian Achievement Awards (ACAA) Excellence in Parenting award.