Being in the know about what happens in their school gives you a big advantage as a parent.
In today’s fast-paced–get the kids to the next event– crazy world, the last thing you should be worried about as a dad is the quality of what is going on at school all day.
As a teacher and school administrator for 30 years, I’ve seen it all. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. I’ll be the first to admit that there are some pretty amazing things going on in some schools today, but I’ll also be the first to admit that there are still many schools where there is rampant apathy and lackluster leadership.
As a dad, you may be making some big assumptions about the overall effectiveness of your child’s school and education.
Here are 4 questions you can ask to help you gauge just exactly what is going on.
1- Is your child’s school communicating with you about their academics as well as their social and emotional interactions and development?
This is important for all ages, but for elementary and middle school-aged kids, this is critical.
Success in all three areas is crucial to their overall success. Even for middle school kids, I’ve often seen where the teacher is only interested in and only communicating academic failures when in reality, the root cause can be found in the areas of social and emotional development or challenges.
Once your teenager reaches high school, the stakes get even higher as the focus becomes graduation requirements and college or university acceptance.
Making sure that you are as informed as possible about their overall wellbeing is so important, whether you have an elementary child, a middle schooler, or a teenager.
Having a heads up about issues as they happen is far better than being totally blindsided later on.
2.- Do the teachers and administrators authentically welcome your feedback and involvement at school?
Here’s where the rubber meets the road.
Every school I’ve ever heard of has a parent involvement plan. It’s either required by their local school district or the federal government in order for the school to receive federal funding, or both.
But just because they have a “plan” doesn’t mean that a teacher or school administrator is secure enough in who they are as a person to actually welcome constructive feedback and involvement from all parents.
Believe it or not, teachers and principals are people before they are a job role.
They come to the job bringing with them their credentials and lots of training, but it’s who they are as people first that will determine how authentic they can actually be about your feedback, questions and desire to be really involved at the school.
An insecure person will be less likely to be open to your suggestions, comments or questions and may even see you as a threat to their position or authority.
If you begin to sense that this is the kind of teacher or administrator that you are dealing with, resist the urge to get confrontational; that will only make them more insecure and may potentially make the situation worse.
Start the conversation by acknowledging their professional expertise and experience and seek to make a relational connection first. This will go a long way to connecting with them on a human level and helping to diffuse their defenses.
Keep in mind that teachers and principals interact with hundreds of unhappy people every week and if you can show them that you can be rational and easy to work with, it will get you a lot further down the road to accomplishing what’s best for your kiddos.
3.- What is your school’s technology usage policy?
According to Cathy N. Davidson, co-director of the annual MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competitions, fully 65 percent of today’s grade-school kids may end up doing work that hasn’t been invented yet.
That’s a number to remember when you think about all of the technology that kids have now at their fingertips.
Many of these new jobs that we can’t even imagine are going to require your kids to be very techno savvy. And techno savvy-ness changes almost by the minute!
Many school districts are struggling to find the right balance between a) allowing internet and social media during the school day as a part of the teaching and learning process and b) the huge concern over cyber security issues.
This is a real issue. But let’s face it.
Kids pretty much come out of the womb today with a smartphone in their hands. (Maybe you even noticed that if you recently gave birth!)
It’s true that anyone born after 1980 can be considered a digital native, but the kids born after 2000 are digital natives on steroids!
According to John Palfrey, Head of School at Phillips Academy in Andover, as well as faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, “The technology should not dictate to us how we use it. We should instead ask the questions: What do we want to accomplish in the classroom? Can this technology help us? And if so, we should use it. The schools that figure out how technology informs pedagogy are going to have the most success.”
Well, there you have it.
These are great questions to consider when looking at your kids’ school or district policies and advocating for both appropriate usage and security.
4.- How strong is the emphasis on standardized testing preparation?
This is the age of “accountability” in schools.
Parents want accountability, state legislatures want accountability and our federal government wants us to measure everything that moves.
I get it.
Billions of dollars are spent annually on the education budgets both from the state and federal levels.
Someone has to be accountable for the outcomes!
But it’s been my personal experience that if teachers are adequately prepared, supported with the right resources and support, they will deliver.
Now don’t get me wrong. That’s a big if!
There are quite a few things that must be in place for teachers to teach and kids to learn. And if kids are learning the standards that are tested, all is well.
But when school leaders are nervous about the ability of the teachers to teach and kids to learn, that’s when things get all out of whack.
The pressure builds to focus on not much more than prep for the standardized tests to the expense of all of the other learning that could be going on.
I’ve seen kids have complete emotional melt downs the day of a standardized test.
I mean kids that are normally well adjusted and prepared.
It’s got to stop.
If your kids’ school appears to be putting all their eggs in the standardized assessment basket to the detriment of healthy, happy learning experiences for kids, it won’t end well for anyone.
As a dad, you only get one shot at raising your kids.
There really aren’t any do-overs once the cake comes out of the oven, so to speak.
Their critical, formative years in the school environment may or may not be what you imagined or even expected them to be, so keep your antennas up and don’t be afraid to build relationships with teachers and administrators, ask thoughtful questions, and above all, STAY INVOLVED!