Schools are living organizations that become great and stay great when the entire school community is working together. As a parent or caregiver, you are an essential part of helping your child’s school grow and thrive.
The following questions and answers offer advice on how you can help to make your child’s school the best it can be.
When and how should I talk to my child’s teacher?
Research shows that an effective partnership between teacher and caregiver can have a strong effect on a student’s performance. As soon as possible, find out the best way to communicate with your child’s teacher. Is it better to call or send an email? It’s fair for you to expect a timely response, but keep in mind that teachers are busy.
Be clear and polite and emphasize that you’re looking for ways to work together. It’s important to share questions, concerns and any information that may affect your child’s classroom performance. You’re the authority on your child, and teachers will appreciate the helpful information you can provide.
If I have concerns about my child, what’s the best way to address them?
Reach out to your child’s teacher and/or the school’s principal. Research shows that these conversations go best when you use I sentences (I’m worried that my child may be falling behind in math) rather than you sentences (You need to spend more time with my daughter on math).
Develop a list of action steps for you, your child’s teacher and any other interested parties, then set a date to follow up and evaluate your shared progress.
What are some other ways I can support my school?
Contact your school principal to find out the best ways to help. Here are a few activities they might mention:
- Organizing events
- Chaperoning field trips, school dances or after-school activities
- Helping with school cleanup days
- Raising funds or locating materials
Let your school principal know of any resources or skills you have that might help the school. For instance, could your employer be the site of a field trip? Do you have a background in the visual or performing arts? If you have criminal background and child abuse clearances and are able to volunteer during the school day, let your principal know, as this will open up other opportunities.
I’d like to have more of a voice in decisions about my school. What should I do?
Ask your principal about the best way to get involved in school governance. For District schools, you should ask school leaders if your school has a Home and School Association or a School Advisory Council. Charter or private schools may have different ways of engaging parent volunteers. Contact your child’s school directly for more information on how you can be involved.
What is a Home and School Association? How do I get involved?
A Home and School Association (HSA) is typically a group formed by parents at a public school and officially recognized by the School District of Philadelphia. Members of HSAs engage in activities such as fundraising, volunteer tutoring, planning for school events and field trips, and more. To get involved, check the school’s website or ask your principal for contact information for the Home and School president.
What is a School Advisory Council? How do I get involved?
A School Advisory Council (SAC) is a part of the formal leadership structure at a district school. SACs are peer-elected, collaborative teams composed of family members, the school principal, teachers or other school-based staff, students, and community members.
When caregivers are engaged in their student’s school, academic achievement improves. SACs provide a structure for partnerships between the school and community to be built and then implemented in an intentional, action-oriented, and accountable way.
What is a “Friends of” Group? How do I get involved?
A “Friends of” Group is a committee established to assist and benefit the specific school it is founded through. The purpose of the committee is to engage the local community with the school community, and learn from the school how the committee can best support, and collaborate with it.
You should join your school’s “Friends of” Group if you are interested in meeting other caregivers who do not yet have children in the school, or if you enjoy grant writing, pledge drives, fundraising, or community events. For more information, click here to find out if your school has a “Friends of” Group.
For More Information
The District’s Office of Family & Community Engagement oversees district-run parent engagement initiatives, including SACs.
Here are general resources on parent-teacher partnerships:
Working with Teachers and Schools Helping Your Child Achieve in School from the U.S. Department of Education
Tips for Parents on Parent-Teacher Conferences from the National Education Association
Guide to The Parent-Teacher Partnership from PBS
Looking for more information on finding a great school? See all articles here.
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