It is important for parents to know what is happening at their children’s school, and in the classroom, because it is precisely in those locations where their children will spend much of their lives. Once children leave home and enter the classroom, they come under the influence of teachers, principals, administrators, coaches, and other students. It is extremely important for parents to know as much as they can about to what their children are exposed.
Any parent concerned about the quality of his or her children’s education is interested in how the school those children attend is managed and resourced, and how their children’s teachers respond to questions from the parents as well as from the students. Absent a willingness to remain engaged with the school, a parent’s ability to influence the direction of the child’s education and to address issues or problems that may be having a negative influence on their children is minimal. Such issues as class size – an increasing problem in many public school districts – the number of hours devoted to athletics, the arts, and library visits, the quality of the food served in the cafeteria, the school district’s requirements with regard to reading lists, and more are central to children’s education and well-being. How problem students, for example, bullies, are handled by the school’s administrators has a direct bearing on how many parents feel about sending their children to a particular school. How responsive the school’s principal is to comments and suggestions by parents can influence how parents view the school and the quality of education their children receive. All of these issues and question can only be answered through sustained commitment to remaining involved in the school.
Most parents want to know what their children’s classroom are like, and attend orientation meetings at the beginning of school years to meet the children’s teachers and to have an opportunity to ask questions regarding issues of concern, including how much individual attention each student receives – again, an increasingly pressing issue for many parents given the growth in class sizes – and whether their children will be able to socialize with established friends during the course of the day. With class sizes growing beyond manageable proportions, many schools are increasingly dependent upon parent volunteers to help tutor students one-on-one and to act as monitors in the cafeteria and on the playground.
Parents who are most willing, and able, to devote time to their children’s school often join the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) and/or choose to run for a position on the school’s board (in the case of private schools). It is through these bodies that concerns regarding systemic problems at a school can be addressed, while individual consultations with teachers can help resolve or explain problems specific to the classroom. It is up to the parents, though, to prioritize school issues – admittedly not always easy for many families, especially when both parents are working.