Anthony Tucker, assistant principal of Learning Through Play pre-K center in the South Bronx, is working to better integrate fathers into the school building as part of a bigger initiative: to fight stereotypes and increase the desire to read in his students. Since kids tend to emulate what they see more than what they are told, having dads come to the classroom to read make reading more desirable for them as well, Chalkbeat reports.
With parent involvement oftentimes meaning PTA moms, Tucker's work aims to show dads that they're also valued as a part of their child’s education. Another plus is bringing in more adult figures who resemble the students — with a fully black and Hispanic student body, bringing in dads gives students someone who they can look up to, as well as someone who looks like them.
- Parents are sometimes resistant to classroom participation because of their own negative experiences at school, or because of work or scheduling conflicts, Tucker told Chalkbeat. However, through understanding and making connections with the school community, dads can improve their own child’s classroom experience through their participation — even if they have to get a little creative to be present.
The benefits of parental involvement in a child’s education are undeniable. However, getting parents involved in the school community can be a challenge. Busy parents can be too tied up in their work and other schedules to make time to be a bigger piece of their child's education. Some feel isolated from the school community — for reasons that could include infrequent outreach, hard-to-understand policies or a lack of accessibility for parents who don't speak English well — and unsure of how to talk to school officials.
There are other social challenges that can disrupt normal parental engagement in school matters. Divorce, for example, can have an impact on parental involvement. The increase in foster care situations also creates special challenges for students, and school staff must be especially sensitive and understanding of these situations. And other factors, such as past traumatic experiences at their own schools, may discourage parents from becoming involved. Because of these situations, teachers and school leaders have to find an appropriate balance that encourages parent involvement without pushing too hard.
Administrators and teachers can take action to increase the likelihood of robust parental involvement. Connecting with parents during initial registration, class meetings and through periodic newsletters can help establish what methods are best for communicating with that parent during the school year. A host of recent technology tools make parental engagement easier than ever before, though officials have to be conscious of the group of parents who may either not have access to Internet or know how to use these tools.
Providing a welcoming environment and clear expectations is also important. Though teachers have the right to expect parents to take an interest in their child, not every parent has the same amount of time or ability to get involved. Offering a range of options, though, can help parents realize there are ways they can take a bigger role — either at home or at school — without having to assume major responsibilities or time commitments. And once a parent begins to get involved, they're more likely to have a vested interest in their student's success.