Fortunately, the relationship between parents and the school staff is usually quite good. In most instances teachers and principals welcome your input and your hands-on involvement in the school. Active involvement in the parent-teacher association (PTA) or parent-teacher organization (PTO) is an excellent way to provide the school with your help and input in an organized way. In these days of budgetary restraints and two-career families, a parent who is able to volunteer even an hour or two a week is much appreciated.
Some parents enjoy volunteering in the classroom, working with students at a regular time each week, perhaps helping a small group with reading, arts and crafts, or computers. If you can volunteer in your child's classroom on a weekly basis, let the teacher know early in the year, and work out a convenient time for both of you—a time when the children you will be working with are readily available and will not be out of class for a special education program or band practice.
Schools often need help preparing and serving meals or refreshments for special events. Make sure your volunteer efforts coincide with the curriculum or the philosophy of the school or the teacher. If you have agreed to bring refreshments for a class party, the teacher might want them to be healthy snacks to reinforce the nutrition education going on at school. Rather than cupcakes, the teacher might prefer a fruit platter.
Field trips and educational trips have become important means of giving children diverse experiences in the community which they can then use as springboards for writing and discussions. However, without parent chaperons, these excursions may not be possible. If you are able to volunteer, you will probably be responsible for a particular group of children. If you need lead time to plan your participation in these trips, ask the teacher for as much notice as possible.
Even if you cannot help out at your child's school very often, try to do so at least once in a while. Even participating in one activity a year—accompanying a class on a field trip or helping out backstage on the day of a talent show—can mean a lot to your youngster. It will make him feel that his activities at school matter to you.
Many parents try to attend school events of which their children are a part. However, if there is an important event in your child's school life that you simply cannot attend because of work or other commitments, try to have someone else there—a grandparent, an uncle, or a friend—who can give your youngster moral support and maybe even take pictures for you to look at later.
Some parents are getting involved in the schools in another way—namely, on the policy-making level. Many schools have "site councils," "parent advisory councils," or "Healthy School Teams," which help determine the direction of each school. Also, school boards need candidates for their seats, as well as volunteers to serve on special committees that evaluate everything from curriculum to school safety.
Occasionally, the relationship among teachers, administrators, and enthusiastic mothers or fathers becomes strained and frustrating for all parties. Whether parents are lobbying for a new program for their child's school or are trying to serve as an advocate for their own child, who might be having difficulty with a particular subject area or teacher, their input can sometimes be perceived as more disruptive than helpful, no matter how well-intentioned it may be.
To make your relationship with the school productive, show the staff respect, listen to their point of view, exhibit some flexibility, and find compromises whenever possible. Both you and the school have the same goal in mind—to educate your child—so try to work with the teacher and staff rather than assuming an adversarial stance.