Sonja Martens, volunteer programs manager for Albuquerque Public Schools, said even parents who work full time have opportunities to stay involved in their child’s education. Parents, she said, have to rethink the way they see themselves engaging with their child’s education and that it doesn’t necessarily mean going to school and volunteering in the classroom.
“There are lots of ways even busy parents can get involved,” she said. “Parents should consider using their own skills and finding their own niche. What do you like to do? What is your thing?”
According to the Great Schools website, parent involvement has been linked to academic success.
Jane Walker was a stay-at-home mom and has been a longtime volunteer at Corrales Elementary where her son, now a junior at Cibola High, and daughter, who will be a sixth-grader at Sandia Prep, both attended. Before becoming a parent, she was a teacher for 15 years. She returned to college two years ago to get her degree in administration and is now an administrative intern at Taylor Middle School.
“I understand how families can feel disconnected,” she said. “But there are ways, and just think of the message you are sending. The takeaway (to being involved) for your children is that mom and dad think school is important.”
Martens said being proactive by opening lines of communication at the beginning of each school year is important. Parents should reach out to teachers and administrators with either a phone call or an email letting them know they are accessible and interested not only in being involved, but also in being kept up to date.
“Learn what your children are doing every day,” she said. “Ask questions about what they are learning.”
Walker said how those conversations are handled is key – children are bombarded by things all day and may feel put on the spot with questions like “What did you do today?”
“Set aside some down time to sit with your children and talk about your day,” she said. “Then ask them specific questions like ‘What was the big news today?'”
Walker said technology has made it much easier to keep tabs on what is happening with a child at school day to day. Parents can sign up for services that allow them to view things like grades, absences, tardies and sometimes even classroom assignments. APS’ version of this is i-Parent, which is available for many of its high schools and middle schools. Parents can sign up at www.aps.edu/students-parents/iparent.
Visiting school websites to keep up on current events is another way to get involved. Parents should also read up on school policies and the curriculum, as well as sign up for the school newsletter.
Busy and working parents can still volunteer, Martens said, in numerous ways. Some suggestions are supporting classroom events and celebrations by sending in supplies or food, working on special projects at home, setting up and cleaning up for special events, which are usually before or after school, and helping with fundraising. Walker said most teachers plan field trips months in advance, giving busy parents time to adjust their schedules and volunteer as chaperones.
Martens said parents can even go so far as advocating politically for their children by talking to local lawmakers about any concerns they have.
“Ask teachers if there is anything you can do at home as well,” she said. “And be realistic about your schedule. Can you spare at least 30 minutes one day a week?”
Even busy parents can lend a hand with their child’s schooling