It Matters: Parent Involvement

by Sabrina Gray

I have fond memories of my brother and me growing up in Denver, Colorado, with my grandmother, Ruth. We could count on our grandmother being there for us. She was a religious woman, and also mystical. For example, she had a way of always showing up at school. We never knew the time or the hour, but we knew she would just appear.

I remember a time when I was at the front of my 5th grade English class, and I could hear some snickering from behind me.   I turned around and there she was in her polyester dress, arthritis socks and nursing shoes, sitting in the back of the room, smiling and nodding her head. She didn’t care much about dressing up or appearances (unless it was church), but she did care about showing up at the school unannounced. I really worked on doing the right things in class because I never wanted the teacher to call her with a bad report. (My brother, on the other hand, did not share in the same sentiment!) Mrs. Ruth was most concerned about how her grandbabies were doing and progressing in school. I don’t remember much conversation about college, but we were encouraged to do our best and graduate from high school. Everyone in the school from the front office staff to the cafeteria workers knew my grandmother. Back then there weren’t many restrictions on allowing parents to come and check on their kids at school. Times have definitely changed, but the need for parent involvement hasn’t.

So what is a “parent?” How is “parenthood” currently defined? According to the free dictionary by Farlex a “parent” is a person who adopts a child, a person who raises a child, a guardian, a protector, a person who looks after and nurtures a child.

Traditionally, we think of parents as a mother and a father, but the new normal may be a blended family, a same sex family and/or an extended family. Whatever the case, we know that all kids need someone in their life to take a vested interest in them and their academic success. I believe that every child needs at least one person in their life that believes in them and advocates for their best interest. For me, that person was my grandmother.

It turns out that the research supports this belief. Decades of research show that when parents are involved students have:

  • Higher grades, test scores, and graduation rates,
  • Better school attendance,
  • Increased motivation, better self-esteem,
  • Lower rates of suspension,
  • Decreased use of drugs and alcohol,
  • And, fewer instances of violent behavior.

Reading with kidsParents, who read to their children, have books available, take trips, guide TV watching, and provide stimulating experiences contribute to student achievement. Family participation in education was twice as predictive of students’ academic success as family socioeconomic status. Some of the programs that called for more intensive parental involvement had effects that were 10 times more predictive of success.

Without a doubt being an involved parent is important, but what does it mean to “be involved?” How do you do it? Do you have to magically make surprise classroom appearances in your arthritis socks? Well, that probably wouldn’t hurt, but here are some additional ideas:

  • Start early – reading to your children before they can even understand the words helps to build lifelong positive associations with books and learning.
  • Volunteer your time at your child’s school
  • Join PTO or PTA
  • Attend Parent training workshops and parent involvement conferences
  • Show up for parent/teacher conferences throughout the school year
  • Set positive examples for your child – let them see you reading, studying and learning
  • Read to your child (this is worth repeating!)
  • Check their homework
  • Connect with your child’s school through any means available: email, text, blackboard messenger and social media for example
  • Keep the lines of communication open with your child through frequent conversation. Even something as simple as consistently asking “How was school today?” or “How was your day today?” is important.
  • Build a partnership with your child’s teachers. Remember…… there’s no “I” in team. It takes the parent(s) and the school working together to give your child the best possible chance to learn and thrive.
  • Have fun and be flexible! Show your child that learning is something to seek after and enjoy…not something to put off or dread.

I’m personally grateful for my grandmother’s involvement in my upbringing and her ongoing encouragement for my brother and me to do our best. Getting involved has nothing to with your age, education, or your address. It has a lot to do with giving your child the best start in life that you can.  Let’s remember it’s about our kids’ futures and improving their educational, emotional, social, and behavioral outcomes. Your involvement matters.

Sabrina GrayThis Act Locally Waco blog post was written by Sabrina Gray, current principal of Equal Opportunity Advancement Corp. (EOAC) -Waco Charter School. Sabrina graduated from Baylor University and completed her masters at Tarleton State University. She previously worked with WISD for over 21 years in many facets. Sabrina is married and has three adult children and one younger daughter in high school. Sabrina grew up with her grandmother in Denver, Colorado, and loves fishing, reading good mystery books and spending time with friends and family. If you would like to get in touch with Ms. Gray or learn more about the Waco Charter School, her email is [email protected].

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.



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