Treisataylor Parents

The problem that I would like to explore is one that I have struggled with since I have gotten back into teaching the past 3 years. I would like to explore the issue of parent involvement in their child’s education. I’m not even talking about having the parents come into my K classroom, although it would be nice, I just want them to work with their child at home on what we are doing at school. I get frustrated when I send home a letter and flashcards with a child and ask the parents to work with them every night. When I see no improvement after a month I ask the child if mommy has been helping them at home with this and they haven’t even seen the cards at home.

I believe this fits into the cultural framework as it has to do with not only the culture at home but also the communication between school and home. Two of the items that Posner mentioned in his frameworks article that were identified in highly effective elementary schools were parental involvement and a sense of community. I believe that this also fits within the personal framework in that teachers need to be willing to effectively communicate with parents while also being respectful of their backgrounds. This is a tough balance.

One of the possible causes of this problem is the parents don’t feel comfortable or welcome in the elementary school environment. There may not be a feeling of open communication between the teacher and the parent. This needs to be communicated verbally and non-verbally at the beginning of the school year during the open house. Another possible cause may be that the parent doesn’t feel like they know how to help their child succeed at school. I think that both the teacher and the parent can do a better job of working together as a team to do what is best for the child.

I am excited to do some research to find new ways to involve the parents and motivate them to help their child succeed in school and get the most out of their education.

UPDATE
Some of the questions I will be exploring are:

What are the benefits of parental involvement?
Why aren’t parents more involved in their childs education?
What can we, as teachers, do to encourage parental involvement?
Are there programs out there that work better than others to get parents into the schools?

I did find this list that I really liked on a document from the Michigan department of education.

Three major factors of parental involvement in the education of their children:
1. Parents’ beliefs about what is important, necessary and permissible for them to do with and on behalf of their children;
2. The extent to which parents believe that they can have a positive influence on their children’s education; and
3. Parents’ perceptions that their children and school want them to be involved.
I think this is a good start.

UPDATE #2
As I am 3/4 of the way through my paper I have found some interesting new ways to look at this problem. Alfie Kohn's article on homework was a real eye-opener for me and made me realize that this is could be contributing to the lack of parental support. If teachers are sending home hours of homework every single night and both parents are working or it is a single-parent home I could see how the parents could start resenting the teacher for this. As teachers we need to make sure the homework is relevant and useful to support the lessons they learned that day.

I also found an article that talks about redefining parental involvement to include even the smallest things. We need to realize that there are other ways for a parent to be involved besides coming into our classroom to help. I also believe that parents need to feel welcome at our schools and we need to have open lines of communication between the teacher/school and the parent.

This same article talked about the schools seeking to have a better understanding of the lives of those that the school serves. We need to know where our kids are coming from and what type of background these kids and families have. We shouldn't be too quick to judge! Just because we've never met 'little Johnny's' mom doesn't mean that she doesn't love him and want the best education for him.

Where have all the parents gone? A critical analysis of parental involvement

Treisa Taylor
NAU ECI 696
Dr. Jeff Bloom

Teaching is a demanding, complex profession. There are so many issues that affect teachers in their classrooms. Demands are getting more and more arduous from many different levels; local, state, and federal authorities. Things would be so much easier if there were someone else on the teacher’s side to help them in the challenging task of delivering the best education to their students. There is another very valuable member of this team who also has the best in mind for the student. That team member is the parent. When I talk about the parent, I am using the term to mean the main caregivers at home with the child the majority of the time. The parent can be an incredibly valuable asset and team member in educating their child. How do we, as teachers, get that team member on board to help deliver the best education possible for ‘little Johnny’? This is what will be explored in this paper. There are several questions to answer. What are the benefits of parental involvement? Why aren’t parents more involved in their child’s education? What can we, as teachers, do to encourage parental involvement? Are there programs out there that work better than others to get parents into the schools?

As a teacher of students in their very first year of school I am amazed at the lack of involvement from the parents of my students. There are some parents who read to their child every night and practice the alphabet and the sounds that their child is working on at school. Some parents even find time to come regularly into the classroom to help with whatever is needed for the teacher on that particular day. However, the majority of the parents in my class are seen only at the beginning of the school year and at parent-teacher conferences twice a year. When I send work home for their child to do, I don’t see evidence of this being done. Parental involvement has been shown to decline as the students get older so this is a discouraging start in kindergarten (Pryor, 2009).

The benefits of parental involvement have been well researched and documented. Some of those benefits include improved attendance, better behavior in school, and the completion of their homework. Overall the parents’ involvement enhances the student’s academic success (Pryor, 2009). Pryor states, “Students whose parents are involved in their education perform better in school regardless of parental education, or family structure, or income level” (Pryor, 2009). In the School Community Journal, Smith points out that “Many educators believe that creating a community of families, students, teachers, and school administrators provides additional support for children’s learning” (Smith, 2006). She also concludes that higher level of involvement by parents relates to higher academic success for their students. Despite these benefits we continue to see a lack of help from the home front with low-income parents being the least present in their student’s life. I’m not saying that poor, minority or immigrant families do not value education, they do. “What they lack, however, is a sense of control over their children’s experiences and successes. They feel powerless or unable to promote and encourage their children’s education. As a result, they are somewhat removed from their children’s school and schooling” (Training, 1994). The Manitoba Department of Education adds to this list several other benefits of having high parental involvement: greater student motivation, enhanced parental self-worth and self-confidence, lower drop out rates, more effective academic and social programs, and improved working environments for educators (Training, 1994).

This problem of lack of parental involvement fits into the cultural framework of education (Posner, 2004). The culture of the home is involved in this issue as well as the culture of the school. Posner states that one of the aspects of the culture of elementary schools that helped to make a school “effective” was that of parental involvement and support (Posner, 2004). In Jane Smith’s article she also talks about the culture involving low-income children who are at risk for lower academic achievement (Smith, 2006). Since the parents of these low socioeconomic families are not involved, then the children fall farther and farther behind in academics. So part of our job as teachers is to help all parents feel that their involvement can make a difference in their child’s education.

The issue of parental involvement also fits into the personal framework of education since it has to do with the relationship between the teacher and the parents. If the parents don’t feel welcome in the classroom they likely will not approach or support their child’s teacher. Another article in the School Community Journal states, “Researchers have demonstrated that parent involvement for school-aged children is most influenced by classroom teachers, yet home-school partnerships are often complicated by differing expectations between teachers and families about their roles in children’s education” (Hindin, 2010) Therefore, teachers need to work on communicating an openness in their classroom so that the parents can feel comfortable in talking about any questions or problems they may be having with their child or the teacher. The teacher also needs to clearly communicate their expectations to the parents so they will know exactly how they can help their child.

There are many factors that keep parents from becoming involved in their child’s education. The Michigan department of education published a list of some of the major factors of parental involvement in the education of their children (Education, 2001). This list includes: 1) Parents’ beliefs about what is important, necessary and permissible for them to do with and on behalf of their children; 2) The extent to which parents believe that they can have a positive influence on their children’s education; and 3) Parents’ perceptions that their children and school want them to be involved. These are very valid points that need to be addressed by the classroom teacher as well as the administrator of the school. At the beginning of the school year the teacher needs to start off by communicating a feeling of teamwork and openness with the parents on behalf of the child. The principal of the school can do his part by being present on the campus and making sure he is visible to the parents and the students and not someone who lives in their ‘ivory tower’ and is unreachable. The principal at my school is usually on the playground in the mornings when the parents are bringing their child to school so they have a chance to see him and talk to him outside of his office. I believe this helps the positive perception that the school wants the parents to be involved and feel welcome.

What about the amount of homework that is sent home and time that the parent and child have to complete it together? This can be a real deterrent to any parent who is expected to sit and help their child with homework every night and barely has time when they get home to get dinner fixed and get their child into bed. Is this homework really necessary? Teachers need to evaluate if they are expecting too much from the student and their parents. Alfie Kohn states in his article about homework “Parents who watch a torrent of busywork spill out of their children’s backpacks wish they could help teachers understand how the cons overwhelmingly outweigh the pros” (Kohn, 2007). He goes on to say that the amount of homework needs to be reduced and should not be a daily assignment. Also, the homework needs to be worthwhile and have purpose, not just homework to have homework. Countless studies have shown that there is no correlation between more homework and higher test scores (Kohn, 2007). If teachers will reflect on the purpose or quality and the quantity of the homework then maybe they would get more cooperation from the parents in completing the assignments.

How can teachers encourage involvement from the parents of their students? In a case study conducted by Jane Smith at an elementary school in the Pacific Northwest she studied a very successful program and made recommendations based on her findings (Smith, 2006). One of the things she recommended was for the schools to seek for a better understanding of the lives of those that the school serves. One can do this through input of neighbors and interested agency representatives. Teachers need to re-evaluate their assumptions based on lack of contact with the parents or lack of help with homework. We need to look at the whole picture and learn more about the situation before we make a judgment. “Parents’ work obligations, lifestyles, cultural backgrounds, values, needs, interests, and strengths need to be accommodated in school expectations of their participation” (Training, 1994). Smith also states, “Educators, with a clear understanding of the lives of their school families, ought to encourage the emergence of a definition of parental involvement which would recognize a broad array of parental behaviors intended to support academic success. In low-income schools, there is a need to acknowledge and encourage even the smallest efforts made by parents to support their children’s education” (Smith, 2006). Teachers need to redefine their definition of parental involvement. It may be as simple as a parent talking to the teacher when they drop their child off in the morning or pick them up after school.

Teachers are not the only educators that can be involved in seeking out the parents and finding ways to show the importance of involvement in education. Administrators can play a big part in this process. The Department of Education in Manitoba pointed out that “Staff training also needs to be made available as information about family types and processes, parental roles in education, and effective working relationships with parents. Training also allows colleagues to work together and “brainstorm” with administrators” (Training, 1994). This paper goes on to talk about an in-service where teachers learned things such as “how to empathize with parents, recognize their strengths, make the most of parent-teacher conferences, and find creative ways to involve parents in school activities” (Training, 1994). If teachers were supported in this way by their school and district administrators then they wouldn’t feel as if they were fighting this battle alone. It’s a great topic for teacher in-service and collaboration to talk about methods or ideas that other teachers have used that have worked well for them. The Manitoba Department of Education has made a list of possible topics for such a training: 1) ways of providing information and advice to parents in writing, by telephone, during home visits, at parent-teacher conferences and workshops, 2) methods of helping parents encourage their children’s progress in each school goal and subject, 3) ways parents can help children make successful transitions across school levels, and 4) techniques for helping families prepare their children for taking tests (Training, 1994) The principals and superintendents need to realize that parent involvement can have an over-reaching positive affect and will make for better schools as well as better communities.

There have been many discussions at my school with the other kindergarten teachers as to how we can encourage parents and help them to realize how important they are as a member of their child’s education team. Several ideas have come out of this that we will try to implement this year. The first idea is to get a comprehensive list of parents’ email addresses where available and use it to send out reminders, newsletters and even ideas for things to work on at home. Basically this will improve the communication between home and school and hopefully create a more open feeling between the parent and the teacher. The parents should feel that their comments and questions are welcomed and that they can work together with the teacher to resolve any issues or problems that come up. Another idea that was suggested was that more time would be spent at parent-teacher conferences. We meet with the parents twice a year and we could spend time focusing on the things the parent can do at home to help their child succeed with the specific standards and skills that we are working on during the upcoming quarter in the classroom. As stated earlier many parents just don’t know specific ways to help their child do better in school. If teachers will give them a list or copies of activities that they can do with their child to improve their academic success then they will feel more capable as parents and partners in this educational journey. The last idea that was mentioned was to have a Kindergarten Parents night and invite only the parents. At this meeting each teacher would hold a workshop on different skills that the kindergarten student would need to learn during the year and the best ways to teach these skills. The parents would then rotate around to each teacher to learn four different areas in which they can help their child and ways to work with them to succeed in these areas. This would empower the parents of kindergarten students to know the best way to help their child as they are taking their first steps on their educational path.

I have also gathered ideas from other teachers at other schools. At Dorothy Stinson school in Safford, the music teacher, Mrs. Dana Doshier, helps the children prepare a musical Grandparents day program. Two or three classes from each grade level, K-6, perform in the morning on one of three days. After the performance the parents and grandparents are invited to bring a picnic lunch and sit on the playground with the students and eat and enjoy their company. This has been a highly successful program for many years and I believe this helps parents and grandparents feel more comfortable on campus. Other schools and teachers have done grandparents day programs in various ways. There have also been special days where just the mother or just the father has been invited into the classroom to watch a program and eat with their child. Some teachers have also had a cultural night where they invite the students and parents to bring items and food that represent their cultural heritage. All of these programs can help members of the family feel comfortable and welcome on their child’s school campus.

Parental involvement has many benefits to the student in the classroom- a fact that is well documented. There are many reasons why parents are not more involved in their child’s education. As teachers, we need to learn about our student’s and parent’s backgrounds to try to develop a program that will reach out to those parents and help them become more involved. There are many ways that this can be done but there isn’t one way that will work for every school and every teacher. We also shouldn’t be so quick to judge when we see a lack of involvement. The first priority should be making the parents feel like they are part of a team with the teacher to help their child be a successful student. Teachers also need to re-define their definition of involvement and celebrate the small things that parents do. Yet teachers have to realize that even after all they can do, there are still parents who will be unreachable and uninvolved and teachers have to try to make up the difference. When parents are reached and recruited as a partner with the teacher, great things can happen in the classroom and in a child’s life.

References
Education, M. D. (2001). What Research says about Parent Involvement in Children's Education. Retrieved 6 24, 2011, from Michigan Department of Education: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/Final_Parent_Involvement_Fact_Sheet_14732_7.pdf
Hindin, A. (2010). Linking Home and School: Teacher Candidates' Beliefs and Experiences. The School Community Journal , 73-90.
Kohn, A. (2007). Rethinking Homework. Principal .
Posner, G. J. (2004). Analyzing the Curriculum. Boston: McGraw Hill.
Pryor, B. P. (2009). What will teachers do to involve parents in Education. Journal of Educational Research & Policy Studies , 45-59.
Smith, J. G. (2006). Parental Involvement in Education among Low-Income Families: A Case stuy. School Community Journal , 43-56.
Training, M. D. (1994). An Education of Value for at risk students: Possibilities for Practice. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

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