Child's Growth and Learning - Nurture Future Citizens
Created by Neetu Ralhan Updated on Jun 04, 2013
“Dear parent, Aryan will not be attending the games periods in the coming week due to an incident that happened today. Please ask him for details.” A diary note, signed by the school head.
Returning home from an exhausting day at work to something like this was the final straw. Without giving herself time to think, Siya called out to her 12 year old and demanded an explanation, rather a confession of the mess he had made at school, yet again.
Aryan, scared that Siya will hold him responsible, stood mum waiting for the storm to pass even as Siya continued to scold him for being reckless and irresponsible. Frustrated with not being able to keep in touch with the school due to her long working hours, Siya could not help but crib about the school’s inadequacies in dealing with issues on their own.
In all of this, she failed to notice that beneath the signature, the academic head had scribbled her contact number. A few hours later Aryan shared bits from the incident and pestered her to call the school since he did not want to miss his sports coaching.
The next morning, as Siya dialed the number, preparing in her mind the things she would say to win the argument, she was in for a pleasant surprise. The lady at the other end was unexpectedly calm and invited her for a quick meeting at the school.
With the guilt of having missed the last two PTMs riding on her back, she agreed to drop in at the school at 12. What followed was a heart-to-heart conversation lasting close to an hour. The incident that had caused so much anxiety was a physical altercation between Aryan and a classmate, a typical boys' fight stemming out of bruised egos. As a team, the two ladies along with the class teacher devised ways to solve behavioral issues and decided that fortnightly updates will be sent to Siya about her child's progress. Also, learning that Siya was an experienced voice and accent trainer at a leading bank, the principal invited her to conduct a Communication Training Series for Senior Children. A win-win for all.
Today schools are more open to constructive feedback and suggestions than in the past when our parents used to have limited access to the teachers and a trip to the school would happen only if it was really unavoidable. Many parents are keen to create a positive connection with their child's school and are willing to make the effort to establish a healthy and open relationship with the institution. A positive and open dialogue rather than a tug and pull which may result in bitter feelings and compromise the child's learning experience.
Why is it Important to Build a Healthy Collaboration with Your Child’s School?
“Nobody wants to play with me”. When Priya learned that her somewhat shy 7 year old was being left out in the morning sports coaching at her school, she decided to do something concrete about it. She landed at the school and said she would like to volunteer as an assistant to the sports coach. To her delight, the school was more than happy to have an extra helping hand. Thus, for a good six months, she went to the school every morning at 7 am, participated in the games and encouraged her child to proactively choose partners and participate in group activities.
In a week’s time, the transformation began to show. The little girl was so confident and proud that her mum was there that she pushed herself to perform better at the sport. Slowly other children wanted to partner with her because she was now an asset for the team. Priya’s efforts not only improved the child’s confidence and team spirit, her immunity and stamina also got much better.
The rewards of positive engagement with your child’s school are aplenty. Volunteering has emerged as a powerful tool for parents who want to witness their child's learning from close quarters. Some positive outcomes that may motivate you to contribute your time and effort in volunteer roles at the school are:
- Confidence building - Watching her parents take interest in the school's activities gives a positive boost to the child's confidence.
- Role model – By involving themselves with the school, parents become active role models of community participation and value building. Parents' enthusiasm is bound to rub off on the child.
- Social issues - Parents’ participation can help schools in combating issues such as tobacco use, bullying, peer pressure, drug abuse and other problems. You can plan awareness sessions on seemingly taboo issues such as sex education.
- Support system - By staying involved, parents can create a conducive environment where children feel free to discuss problems without fear of being judged. Based on your interest / expertise, you may offer to support student counseling initiatives in the school.
- Bonding - The biggest reward of all is the opportunity to witness beautiful aspects of your child’s personality in varied situations. This has been seen to help parents gather a better understanding of the child's personality.
- Academic performance - Research shows that children of involved parents perform better in academics as they feel supported in their endeavors.
There are several ways parents can actively participate in their child's education and other experiences at school.
Parent-Teacher Meeting (PTM)
A Parent-Teacher Meeting is an opportunity to connect with individuals who are making an important contribution to your child’s life and perhaps playing an active role in shaping the person that s/he is going to become. It is a window to the other side - how your child behaves and deals with situations when you are not around. At several occasions, I myself have discovered some really fascinating (and sometimes unnerving) bits about my child.
With time one learns that a PTM is not just about asking questions, it is equally important for us parents to be able to listen to the teacher patiently. Also, it helps not to turn defensive when the teacher points out issues (behavioral or academic) that need to be addressed on the home front.
Taking a list of the things you want to discuss helps gear the meeting in the right direction. It helps to prioritize things that you want to discuss at length. In my own experience, I have to constantly remind myself that there are other equally anxious parents waiting in line.
And there have been times when I have carried a long list of questions that I thought would require a debate or end up in an argument, but were patiently addressed by the teachers who, for our benefit, are trained to handle anxious parents.
Giving Feedback / Voicing your Woes
While earlier walking in to meet the school administration was perhaps the only way to communicate, today there are various channels through which you can convey your dissatisfaction regarding a certain matter, such as the almanac (school diary), email, feedback drop box at the school, phone call to the teachers, online and offline feedback forms and social media.
Interestingly, we have a tendency to reach out to the school only when we are unhappy about something. I have done that myself when my child was younger. However, through the years I have learnt that once in a while, we can use the same communication tools to convey our appreciation for the teachers or the school at large.
For example, feeling overwhelmed by the radical changes that have recently taken place in my child’s school, I figured that the easiest and the most effective way to convey my appreciation to the teachers was to send a diary note. The teachers were equally overwhelmed and reverted saying that the genuine praise motivated them to do better.
Volunteering / Lending a Helping Hand
For parents who wish to participate in the school's activities, there are plenty of opportunities and many schools even invite parents to volunteer for certain events. Since many of these events are organized over the weekend, working parents can also join in as per their convenience. Here are some ways you can offer support to your child’s school:
- Assistance on the Sports day
- Help organize Science Fairs
- Accompany students on Field Trips
- Volunteer for Picnics and Excursions
- Help organize Fund Raisers and community events
- Assist in Art festivals
- Volunteer to night stay during Night Camps
- Offer to assist children with special needs
- Contribute content for school magazine, media coverage etc.
Apart from the above, you may also share your own unique ideas with the school, such as:
- Organize career guidance sessions for senior classes, share your experience and expertise from your field of work.
Offer to volunteer for an activity the school does not usually organize – technical workshops, theater, reading sessions, culinary (chocolate-making, cake making etc).
Offering to arrange off-beat events such as:
- Dialogue between the City Councilor and students
- Dialogue between students and key social helpers to sensitize students towards our social support system
- Sessions on tricky issues such as child sexual abuse, bullying in school, and dealing with peer pressure / exam stress by perhaps sharing your own experience
Parents’ Groups – Teaming Up For Positive Change
You can connect with other like-minded parents and form a parent’s group wherein periodical meetings may be held to discuss and collate constructive feedback, improvement suggestions that may be presented to the school. Parents have found that this is a great platform to share best practices and / or problems with fellow parents.
However, the true spirit of any parents’ group lies in creating a healthy dialogue with the school. Many times, being a harbinger of complaints and criticism of the school’s policies robs parents' associations of their original purpose.
Since schooling is such an important part of our children's lives, making friends with the school can be a great way to involve ourselves in the child's growth and learning. When the intent at both ends is to nurture future citizens, partnership is anytime better than working in isolation, you may agree.
Please share your views in comments.