Teachers Turn Up for STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

 

This post is part of a series authored by local PTA leaders sharing their stories as STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night Giveaway winners. These real-world experiences shed light on how an individual PTA planned and hosted their event with lessons learned and practical advice.

 

Our local PTA had a problem: We needed a way to get our teachers involved in our PTA events. Thankfully, we heard about the National PTA STEM + Families Game Nights and thought it presented a perfect opportunity! We were fortunate to win a bundle of ~50 ThinkFun games during the 2017-2018 school year.

Our goal for the school year was to get our school community out and interacting, and winning the games was a perfect opportunity to have a fun, low-cost community night. This game night was definitely a winner and we’ll be hosting it again this year! Here are a few of the biggest lessons we learned.

Getting Teachers Excited Gets Students Excited

We believe one of the best decisions we made about running the event was asking our teachers to sign up to run the games. The teachers who participated learned the game prior to the event and ran the tables to teach the participants how to play. In exchange, the teachers received a classroom set (four copies) of the game they chose. Teachers also encouraged their kids to come to the event to play games.

Event Marketing

In addition to event marketing via teacher excitement, we advertised the event by sending home flyers and creating huge colorful dice and large dominoes out of donated boxes. These large colorful game props caught the eye of parents as they dropped their kids off and served as a great reminder as the event approached.

Attendance, Prizes and Favorites

Overall, we had around 250 people in attendance at the event. It was very fulfilling and encouraging to see the full room at the event. Families moved from table to table to play games—if kids got bored they could move on, and if they were having fun they could play the same game all night! All event participants (adults and children) filled out an event survey and the surveys filled out by the children were used as a drawing entry to win the extra games. There were a few favorite games among our attendees—Clue Master, Gravity Maze, and Math Dice. The enthusiasm of the teachers running the tables definitely drove the interest levels in the games!

Overall Costs

For the event, we chose to offer pizza slices and water for sale. Our overall costs were recovered through families buying the pizza and water, but we did overbuy pizzas and were giving away whole pizzas by the end of the night.

Conclusions

Fun PTA events don’t need to be extravagant or complicated. Often a simple event can be the most fun. Remember that along the way there can be hiccups like extra pizza remaining or that a few game pieces go missing, but one of the most important parts of running a successful PTA event is the feeling that the participants walk away with afterward—a feeling of being included and supported in a vibrant, diverse, and active community.

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About the Guest Contributor, Amy Jorde: Amy Jorde is the PTA President at Pearl Zanker Elementary School in Milpitas, California.

Disclosure: ThinkFun is a Supporting Sponsor of National PTA’s STEM + Families initiative. The local PTA spotlighted in this blog was a winner of the 2017-2018 STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night Giveaway and received a bundle of ThinkFun games. The author was not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are his/her own.

 

 

Family Game Night, Anyone? With STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night

This post is part of a series authored by local PTA leaders sharing their stories as STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night Giveaway winners. These real-world experiences shed light on how an individual PTA planned and hosted their event with lessons learned and practical advice.

 

Curtsinger Elementary School PTA had a problem. We wanted to give our families bonding time and grow our membership, but it was becoming harder to grab families’ attention for evening programs. So, we sent out a quick survey to our families. We discovered a desire for more info about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). But how could we make that fun for kids? The National PTA had the answer. We saw an opportunity for a ThinkFun Game Night grant, so we applied and thankfully received 48 games.

Our local PTA members got together with the school librarian and counselor and came up with a plan to cater to all our students, Kindergarten to fifth-grade. To entice more families to come, we announced six STEM game giveaways. Then, our counselor contacted the high school to recruit student volunteers to help facilitate the game stations. We divided the gym into sections and created game stations for each grade level. We were ready to have some good old-fashioned fun.

Or so we thought! We had such an overwhelming turnout that the librarian had to provide additional board games to ensure that all students were engaged. We were so pleased to give our families the STEM programming they desperately wanted.

As the night progressed, it was a little chaotic with most of us not knowing how to play the new games, but thankfully we had several math and science teachers there playing and learning the games with students. In the end it was perfect, because we gave all the games to the library and the teachers could check out the games at any point throughout the rest of the year.

One of the teachers stated, “I cannot say enough great things about the programs you bring to our school. I can tell that you put a lot of thought into the programs, making sure that they are educational, yet fun, and most of all engaging for the students.”

In addition to the ThinkFun Family Game Night programming, we were also able to incorporate a parent education night during the event. Our guest speaker gave us practical tools to handle the stresses in today’s society and upcoming standardized tests. We had a great response from parents saying they had no idea they were adding stress to their kiddos and they were grateful for the tips and words of encouragement.

So, this all being said, get creative with your event! This didn’t cost us a dime! Will we do another Game Night? Absolutely! This year we are adding a sponsor from our community that has fun coding games for the kids. If you’re going big…why not have real Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots?

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About the Guest Contributor, Aliina Plunk: Aliina Plunk is the PTA President at Curtsinger Elementary School in Frisco, Texas.

Disclosure: ThinkFun is a Supporting Sponsor of National PTA’s STEM + Families initiative. The local PTA spotlighted in this blog was a winner of the 2017-2018 STEM + Families ThinkFun Game Night Giveaway and received a bundle of ThinkFun games. The author was not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are his/her own.

Inspiring the Next Generative of Digital Innovators

Technology is a powerful tool that is undeniably changing the foundation of education. Schools around the world are increasingly harnessing its reach to improve the educational experiences of their students. Some parents and teachers may wonder if this is the right learning path for their students, especially at the elementary levels. Below, we’ve addressed five reasons why leveraging technology can be beneficial to all students.

  1. Personalized Education Experience

Technology can innovate, grow, and expand access to personalized education tools. Using laptops and tablets, students can choose between educational videos, games or articles that best suit their abilities and interests. Educational apps and programs cover a wide range of subjects from music to digital design. With a plethora of learning options, every student can discover and develop his or her niche.

  1. Bringing the Classroom Home

By removing barriers to learning, technology connects students and teachers with educational content wherever they are. Many primary schools are assigning students tablets or laptops to take home. Mobilized learning is a great opportunity for students to continue their learning outside of the classroom, at their own pace.

  1. Preparing Students for the Future

The days of four classic subjects of study are over. Today, students should establish hard skills early-on to be competitive in the tech-driven workforce. As the tech industry continues to expand, students can take advantage of its offerings now and begin preparing for the jobs of the future by mastering technical applications.

  1. Engaging Today’s Students

Interactive materials help students stay engaged while learning and investing in these technologies can help shape the future of education. As part of its Aspire Accelerator program, AT&T supports organizations using tech to promote student success beyond the classroom. New educational online programs that are creatively designed can foster fun while exposing kids to practical skills. For example, as part of Aspire Accelerator’s 2018 Class, the start-up Unruly Studios seeks to revolutionize learning by combining STEM education with physical play. Through its programmable device that kids control, it integrates coding skills with recess-style games.

  1. Developing Communication Skills

Strong online communication skills can be the key to a successful future. By engaging in technology at a young age, students will grow up immersed in practical 21st century skills like writing emails and collaborating with teams through online chat options.

The benefits of incorporating technology into students’ educational paths can be endless, and ensuring students can engage with innovative educational options is crucial.  To help with that engagement,  AT&T is bringing affordable internet access to low-income  families through  Access from AT&T,  a discounted internet service for qualifying low-income households across AT&T’s 21 wireline footprint.[1] With increased access, students can finish school and feel confident they are ready to thrive in the digital world.

Technology can break down barriers, including those in education. The ability for students to keep learning shouldn’t end in the classroom. With technology, it doesn’t have to.

 

[1] To qualify for the program, at least one household resident must participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In California only, households receiving social security income (SSI) also may qualify. Other conditions may apply, click here to learn more.

National PTA Art Award Program Enters 50th Year


This year, we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of the National PTA Reflections program! Reflections was established in 1969 by National PTA Board member and past Colorado PTA President, Mary Lou Anderson. She was a huge advocate of arts education, and truly understood the value arts education brought to the lives of students. We’re thrilled that fifty years later, we’re continuing to further this important work!

What makes Reflections standout, unlike other awards programs, is that students from ALL grades are encouraged to explore ALL areas of the creative arts. This includes dance choreography, film production, literature, music composition, photography, and visual arts. We also offer a special artist division for students requiring special accommodations. Reflections encourages students to use their imagination and creativity to create original works inspired by the annual theme. We welcome all grades, all arts and all abilities.  This year’s theme is Heroes Around Me.

This is especially important because each art form offers unique benefits and skill-building opportunities. Reflections awards and exhibitions also support students by building their confidence and making personal connections to their school and community.

Celebrating the National PTA Reflections 50th Year

To commemorate the start of our 50th anniversary year, here are some ideas, tips and tools for encouraging all students to explore and be involved in the arts. It’s our goal this year to highlight stories of success throughout the program’s fifty years and we have a favor to ask – we want to hear from you! Please share your favorite Reflections stories with us using the hashtag #PTAReflections.

 Reflecting on this year’s theme: Heroes Around Me

It’s important to provide dedicated time and space for students to reflect on the theme. Choose a safe place where students can feel welcomed to express their thoughts, feelings and emotions about the world around them. Each reflection is unique based on individual experiences – where we live, what we do and who inspires us. And that’s what makes creative expression fun! Thinking outside the box and developing a personal voice through art.

Not only does our world influence our interpretations but the theme is also a way to see new perspectives and make new connections.

  • You can start a conversation with a group of students before/after school or lead a discussion with your family around the dinner table.
  • Teachers are also welcomed to use the theme in their classroom to engage students in their lessons or offer extended learning opportunities. Schools can also use the theme to support a grade-wide or school-wide theme.

 Promoting your Reflections Program

We encourage you to promote the theme in visible places across your school and community – Register at PTA.org/Reflections and use our toolkit to promote the theme and your local call for entries. Posters for the school lobby, community library; Video for morning announcements and enewsletters; and use the image bank to have fun creating your own fliers and invitations. Be sure to register at PTA.org/Reflections and visit your state program’s page for all rules, forms and deadlines. These are best shared on bulletin boards and displays in the school lobby, cafeteria, library or any classroom.

 Ideas for Hosting Reflections Events in School and at Home

Here are some ideas on how you can host Reflections events at your school and at home.

Hosting In School

  • Offer a Reflections Club
  • Invite the Whole Family to Your Meeting
  • Host a Family Art Night
  • Setup a Back to School Reflections Table

Hosting At Home.

  • Discover Cultural Heritage through Folk and Traditional Arts
  • Lead a Family Arts Club
  • Host a Party for Kids
  • Take a Family Field Trip

Contact to your state PTA’s Reflections program for all rules, forms and deadlines and register at PTA.org/Reflections to share your participation in the program. Questions? Reach out to your state PTA or email Info@PTA.org.

My Experience Testifying Before the Federal Commission on School Safety

As the Federal Legislative Chair for Wyoming PTA, I testified before the Federal Commission on School Safety at a listening session in August in Cheyenne, WY. 

In my testimony, I referenced National PTA’s position statements on school safety and shared my experiences as a trustee of the local school district, Laramie County School District 1. I am proud that PTA emphasizes the inclusion of all stakeholders in local safety and security decisions and that arming teachers is not the solution to gun violence in schools.

I was listening, too, as students from Denver and Albuquerque testified before the commission on what school “safety and security” means to them. They talked about the importance of feeling safe from daily verbal and physical assaults from other students, about instances where they were in despair and contemplating self-harm. They talked about putting resources into counselors and school psychologists, not arming teachers.

Students from high schools with a large minority enrollment discouraged the commission from even arming law enforcement. In Wyoming, we rely on School Resource Officers onsite at our secondary schools, as trained and trusted professionals to respond to an active shooter. But the students who spoke at the listening session said they feared that more law enforcement presence in schools would lead to the targeting students of color and creation of more violence. These students want an environment free of weapons, staffed by caring and competent adults to help them deal with the violence that threatens them every day.

We must balance the need to protect students and staff in schools, but also ensure positive school discipline policies and procedures are in place so no group of students are disproportionately disciplined.  If the decision is made to have a Student Resource Officer in a school building, there must be a clearly defined memorandum of understanding, as recommended by the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), between the law enforcement agency and the school on the role of the officer.

Of course, we need to be prepared for the rare but real possibility of disaster, as we do with tornado shelters. So, we need buildings with secure access, we need school personnel and students to be prepared for all types of emergency scenarios, and we need trained SROs. But what I gained from the listening session was what makes students afraid every day and what makes them feel safe personally, so they can learn. A gun in the Social Studies teacher’s desk drawer doesn’t make them feel safe.

I also learned the value of anonymous reporting systems, we use Safe2Tell in Wyoming, because students want to be safe and will tell adults about weapons and threats they see and hear in their schools.

These things cost money, obviously, and our fear is that pressure to cut budgets will keep our schools from meeting the daily safety and security needs the students described. I think a few of the adults mentioned that fear, too.

I trust the Federal Commission on School Safety was listening and releases a report that focuses on collaborative, evidenced-based school safety best practices as recommended in the Framework for Safe and Successful Schools.

 

How Parents Can Promote Health and Wellness Under the Every Student Succeeds Act: Four Things You Can Do

 

Parents and guardians play a critical role in ensuring that schools and out-of-school time environments are healthy. Through advocating for healthy celebrations and fundraisers, serving on district and school wellness committees, and organizing before and afterschool physical activities, parents set high standards for health and wellness in their communities. Healthier Generation has many resources to help families and community members get involved, including new shareable videos on fundraising, celebrations, and rewards.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the recent reauthorization of our nation’s education law, recognizes the learning and health connection and provides opportunities for health and wellness to be more fully integrated into education policy and practice.

How does health and wellness fit into ESSA?

  • 36 states and the District of Columbia will now hold schools accountable for chronic absenteeism. While the causes of chronic absenteeism are multifold, research shows that student physical, mental, and a school’s health and wellness environment are key factors.
  • In addition to many states including chronic absenteeism in their state accountability systems, all state school report cards must now include chronic absenteeism.
  • ESSA includes a strong focus on school climate and social and emotional learning (SEL). Nutrition and physical activity have a major impact both school climate and SEL.
  • Funding designated to support the lowest performing schools can be used to support student engagement and promote healthy, safe, and supportive school environments. Based upon a comprehensive needs assessment, schools must develop a school improvement plan. Ensuring that needs assessments examine the health and wellness environment in the school is essential to this process.
  • Funding designated to provide high-quality professional development for all school staff, can be used to train school staff on the learning and health connection, as well as to provide training for health and physical education teachers and specialized instructional support personnel (school nurses, school psychologists, etc.).
  • At least 20% of the funds districts receive from the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant must be allocated to improving the safety and health of students and at least 20% to providing a well-rounded education (including health and physical education). Any school district receiving more than $30,000 from this grant program must conduct a needs assessment and use the funds to address the needs identified.

ESSA implementation is almost entirely state driven; the responsibility will be on school districts to carry out much of the work. As important voices of the community, families are in a unique position to advocate for school and afterschool to serve the whole child and meet the full spectrum of student needs.

Here are four action steps:

  1. Find out how you can influence your state’s implementation of ESSA. Read Using Needs Assessments to Connect Learning + Health.
  2. Spread the word on how ESSA can support student health and wellness with our ESSA FAQ. You can read more about what your state included in its state plan here.
  3. Invite a community partner (like parks and recreation) to join you on your district or school wellness committee to influence ESSA implementation in the district. Wellness committees can inform district and school-level needs assessments and identify sources of health and wellness data.
  4. Invite members of your local school board to your next school, family or community event. Talk to them about ensuring that ESSA is implemented in a way that supports student health and wellness.

Sign up here to get regular updates from Healthier Generation and the Healthy Schools Campaign on how states are implementing ESSA in a way that supports student health and wellness. If you have questions or need additional resources, contact Nancy Katz or Alex Mays.

How Families Can Drive Social and Emotional Learning

Think back to the many wonderful moments of summer break as a child. Having the freedom to play, lead, think, and simply exist in your own unique way, testing your limits and sharing your imagination and ideas without the filters and regulations of the academic environment.

Now, imagine losing all of that in an instant. All of the joy. All of the freedom. All the imagination. That can be what it’s like for youth to begin the school year and shift into an environment where their social and emotional well-being is not adequately encouraged or supported.

As an active parent in the educational system for nearly two decades, I have witnessed firsthand how competing pressures on schools and educators have drawn attention away from students’ individual abilities, needs, strengths, and circumstances. It seems that the learning environment has become less focused on each student’s success and personal growth.

The time has come to place social and emotional learning back at the forefront in our schools – and it is now more important than ever.  Families, schools, and communities working together are the key to making social and emotional learning and development in school the norm for every child. That’s the central message of the Family Call to Action from the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development. Developed by parents, for parents, the Call to Action lays out what we need from our schools – and each other:

We Need Our Schools to Know and Teach the Whole Student

Schools need to move away from one-size-fits-all policies to better meet the needs of each and every student.  When a student’s comprehensive development is fully supported, they are free to build critical life skills such as responsibility, respect, teamwork, self-control, and strength in the face of adversity. They are better able to overcome intellectual and personal challenges they may face in life.

We Need to Be Partners in Our Children’s Learning

Students need to see that their families are involved and invested in their educational well-being in positive ways. This includes attending meetings, conferences, after-school activities, and supporting homework and outside enrichment opportunities. It also means engaging directly with your child about whether their social, emotional, and academic needs are being met.

Be relentless in challenging policies that stifle personal growth and well-being. Collaborate with teachers, administrative staff, and district leaders to ensure that programs and policies are tailored to  individual social and emotional needs. Demand that school leaders communicate clearly and often.

We Need a Whole Community Approach

Extend your efforts beyond the school walls and into the community. Families, local businesses, and community organizations all have a role to play in educating our children. Programs such as mentoring, career shadowing and internship opportunities, and after-school tutoring services are essential to a complete education.

We Need Schools to Integrate Social, Emotional, and Academic Growth into the School Culture and Climate

Social and emotional development takes place all day, not during a 30-minute lesson. Encourage leaders in your school to shift resources that are being used inefficiently to instead support a whole student approach to learning.

We Need to Support Adults Who Support Our Children

The teachers and staff who educate our children are essential, and they need our support. Educators need ongoing professional development and mental health support to be as effective as they can be. Parents and families should have access to learning opportunities as well.

Make Your Voice Heard! 

Sign the National Commission’s Family Call to Action to urge schools to support students’ comprehensive development, then share the sign-on message with families in your community.

Together, we can give future generations of students a solid foundation and the opportunity to practice vital skills every day to develop the self-confidence, compassion, and critical thinking needed to become the model citizens and leaders that they desire to be.


Makeba Giles is the mother of four children who attend public schools and a founding writer of FaithHealthHome.com, an online magazine featuring health, family, and current events for the positive lifestyle. She is a member of the Parent Advisory Panel for the National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development.

Go Back to School Thinking About Your End Game

It begins again! When’s the first PTA meeting? When is Open House? Do we have enough volunteers? Where’s the budget? Who has the membership forms? It’s easy to get lost in the chaos of preparing PTA for a new school year. Want some advice? Think about the “end game” to help you focus on what matters. It’s so much easier to get to where you want to go if you know where you want to end up!

How many young people will your PTA touch this year? How many will decide to be a writer because of the PTA assembly, shine in a PTA Reflections program, get active in a PTA fun run, or have their futures open wide during a STEM night? Start planning and counting now. When the school year ends, will your PTA be able to say it positively influenced the lives of 100% of the children in your community? Think about the excitement your PTA can generate as you work toward that goal and think about how great it will feel to achieve it.

How many families will your PTA benefit this year? How many adults will get involved in their child’s education, have fun as a family, advocate on behalf of a child, or create a healthier, safer home environment because PTA provided the opportunity and resources? Start planning and counting now. When the school year ends, wouldn’t you love to report that your PTA made a positive difference in the lives of 100% of the families of your community? Think about the partners and members you can attract as you work toward that goal and how amazing it will feel to have that type of impact on children and families.

How many community members will your PTA influence this year? What services and programs can be made available through partnerships, how many non-parent adults will be become school supporters, how many resources can become available to families, children and schools because of the relationships your PTA builds? Start planning and counting now. When the school year ends, wouldn’t it be deeply satisfying to report your PTA’s role in improving your community and increasing the support it provides to children, families and schools?

PTA’s mission is to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that movement as a member, volunteer or leader? PTA is out to change the world. How will your PTA take us all one step closer to our end game?


Deborah Walsh is the National Service Representative Manager for National PTA.

New Civil Rights Data Collection Survey Highlights Need for Improvement

CDRCThe U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently released the results of the 2013-2014 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) survey. This report features information about how students are treated at school and highlights several key issues that affect a child’s ability to learn, such as chronic absenteeism, restraint and seclusion disciplinary actions and lack of access to college resources. These three topics are important when advocating to ensure that all children receive a high-quality education.

Here are some key findings from the CRDC survey report and what National PTA is currently doing to tackle these issues:

Chronic Absenteeism Plagues Our Children’s Academic Participation

The CRDC survey reports that 18% of students are chronically absent—missing at least 10% of school days in a school year—which is likely to hurt their academic success and social development. National PTA recognizes that millions of students are missing too many school days and so signed on to a letter to the U.S. Department of Education in support of their Every Student, Every Day initiative, which addresses this issue that is threatening our children’s learning opportunities. National PTA continues to work with communities across the country to make sure our children attend school regularly.

Disproportional Instances of Restraint and Seclusion 

Restraint and seclusion is a school discipline strategy involving the involuntary confinement or physical restraint of students. The 2013-2014 CRDC data shows that this disciplinary policy disproportionally impacts students with disabilities. Students with disabilities make up 12% of all public school students but account for 67% of students subjected to restraint or seclusion. The use of inappropriate restraint and seclusion methods by untrained school personnel has resulted in the assault, injury, trauma and in some cases death, of students.

At the 2015 National PTA Annual Convention & Expo, PTA members passed a resolution to limit restraint and seclusion policies in schools. In the resolution, the National PTA calls for restraint and seclusion to only be used as a last resort in emergency situations, ensuring the safety and protection of all children.

Minority Groups Are Offered Fewer College Preparation Programs

According to the CRDC report, African American and Latino students have less access to high-level math and science courses in their schools. In schools with high enrollment of African American and Latino children, only 33% offer Calculus, compared to 56% of high schools with mainly white student populations.

National PTA recognizes the importance of offering advanced courses at schools in preparation for college and the skilled labor force. Our association continues to advocate for increasing the federal investment in education to ensure a well-rounded education for all our nation’s children. National PTA launched its STEM education and family engagement initiative in fall 2015 in collaboration with founding and presenting sponsor Bayer USA Foundation with additional support from Mathnasium to magnify the importance that a well-rounded education has on our children’s educational opportunities and future success.

So, what can you do to address these issues as a PTA advocate? The first way you can help is to identify specific issues that your school faces. School data on these issues from previous years can be found at this webpage, with updated info from the current CRDC report available in August. Once identified, you and your PTA can work with the school administration to ensure all students are treated fairly and receive a high-quality education.

You can also make a difference if you:

  • Ask your school’s principal if they have a school counselor and work with him or her to ensure all students have access to counseling. Chronic absenteeism can be addressed by giving students access to a school counselor or a mentor to confide in to get to the root of the issue. Lack of access is a serious issue—over 1.6 million students attend a school where a sworn law enforcement officer is present but not a school counselor. On top of this, about 21% of schools nationwide don’t have access to any school counselors.
  • Work with the local school board to create policies and programs that emphasize the use of positive or non-aversive student behavior interventions, thereby limiting the use of restraint and seclusion on students. In addition, you can advocate for your school district to provide adequate training for all teachers, principals and school personnel on preventative interventions and alternatives to exclusionary discipline.
  •  Get involved with the local or state PTA and help districts and states draft their new education plans. College and career preparation is a focus for the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  Learn more about the law and how to get involved at PTA.org/ESSA.

Blake Altman is the government affairs intern at National PTA.

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4 Ways to Get Involved in Your Children’s Education

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This blog was originally posted on TODAY Parenting Team.

Every parent wants the best for their child and wants to be engaged in their education to support their learning and achievement.

The challenge for many parents, however, is figuring out what they can do and knowing the most effective ways to get involved.

As the president of National PTA, I have spoken to many parents who have asked, “How can I be involved in my child’s school and learning when I work a full-time job and keep a busy schedule to support my family?” As a working parent, I had the same question and concern when my children entered school.

After first getting involved, I quickly realized the importance to help my children—and all children—succeed and reach their full potential—no matter the level of involvement.

It is important to remember that involvement is different for every family and is not limited to attending meetings or participating at school.

Here are some ways to get involved:

Join PTA
Get involved with your local parent teacher association. Even if you are an on-the-go mom or dad, you will find support from other parents in PTA who have the same questions, concerns, hopes and dreams for their children. You will also be part of a dedicated network of families, educators, businesses and community leaders who are working to ensure all children receive a high-quality education. That means, even if you aren’t able to be at every meeting, you know there is a group of parents who are invested in the success of every child at your school — including yours.

Talk about school matters at home
Be interested and listen to your child. Encourage your child to talk about his/her day and express concerns. Learn about your child’sstrengths and weaknesses and what activities he/she likes and doesn’t like. Two-way communication is essential to developing an active and positive relationship and an open, ongoing dialogue is critical. Then if any issues come up at school, your child will feel more comfortable talking to you about it.

Be a partner in your child’s learning
Education is individual for each child and remains a shared responsibility. It is important to work with your child’s teacher to best support him or her. It is also essential to develop a relationship with your child’s teacher and keep in touch with him/her often. Find out the best way to contact your child’s teacher and ask for times when it would be convenient for him or her to talk. It is also important to provide teachers with the best way to contact you. Consistent communication (via email, phone, etc.) will help build relationships.

Advocate for your child
You are your child’s best advocate. It is important to be a voice for your own and every child to ensure they are treated fairly and have access to opportunities that will enable them to reach their full potential. It is also critical to advocate with local school boards and state and federal government to ensure your child’s school has the resources to provide a world class education to every student. When possible, attend school board meetings. Send e-mails and letters and make phone calls to advocate with elected officials.

The most significant type of engagement is what families do at home. Parents can monitor and support their child with his/her schoolwork and let his/her teacher or school know if there are any problems. The work families do at home that’s connected to what kids are doing in school has the biggest academic impact.

By monitoring, supporting and advocating, parents can be engaged in ways that ensure that their child has every opportunity for success.