While you might see your child's teacher's request for help in the classroom as just a plea to get a few extra helping hands, parental involvement is a legitimate way to help kids in multiple ways. From better school attendance to improved grades and higher motivation to succeed scholastically, involving parents in classroom activities benefits kids from toddlers to teens.
Factors in Involvement
Before improving parental involvement in the classroom, it's key to understand the factors that contribute to it. One of the top factors contributing to regular involvement at school is parental belief. According to the Michigan Department of Education, parental beliefs, in terms of classroom involvement, are the views that each parent has regarding the importance and impact of getting involved in the child's education. These may include beliefs on what is acceptable, permissible or even necessary in terms of a child's education as well as feeling comfortable going in to the classroom. Other factors that may contribute to a higher degree of classroom involvement are feelings that helping out or getting involved has a positive impact on the child, thinking that the school, or teacher, wants or needs the involvement and perceiving that the child sees parental classroom participation in a positive way.
If parents don't know that the opportunity for classroom involvement exists, it makes it all the more difficult to find willing volunteers. One simple strategy for improving parental classroom involvement is to place a public posting where families can easily see it. For families with younger children in preschool or daycare, place a sign or bulletin board note in the classroom. These parents are often in the classroom for drop off and pick up, and are more likely to see a classroom posting than parents of older kids who walk or take the bus to school. For families with older students, public postings for families, it may be best to reach the parent directly through a classroom newsletter or teacher's website.
Parents who feel more comfortable speaking with a child's teacher may have a greater willingness to help out in the classroom. While reaching out to parents is an easy way for teachers to involve families in classroom activities and opportunities, communication is a two way street. Parents who actively try to communicate with the teacher are often more 'in the know' about ways to get involved. This doesn't mean that teachers and parents must have constant daily phone calls with each other. Instead, brief conversations during drop off or pick up, chats during events such as a school open house or even emails can work as effective communication tools.
Not every mom wants to bake cookies for the school fundraiser, carry the cash box for the 5th grade book sale or hand out snacks during the preschool party. Creating a variety of opportunities for involvement can help improve the number of parents volunteering. Teachers and parents should together create a list of possible opportunities throughout the year. This may include being a chaperone on field trips, setting up for school parties, mentoring or tutoring students, reading to children, leading a club or giving a special demonstration.