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Parental Involvement Will Not Make Schools Better: Good Teamwork Will

Calling for more parental involvement in our children’s education will not make things better in schools. It’s not about more or less engagement, but about teamwork. The team that is raising the child needs to get organized, so that everyone on the team “plays position.” Here is an example that sixth grade teacher, Susan Porter, and I came up with many years ago to define these positions. She still hands this document out to parents at “Back-to-School Night” in September. For best results with children, parents and teachers would be well advised to get together and read it together once a year.

Defining the Parent-Teacher Contract

As the teacher, I can and will:

  • care for your child and make sure she is safe
  • praise her when she deserves it
  • be on her case when it’s necessary
  • encourage her to find her strength and use it
  • challenge her to use her weakness to improve it
  • show her how to take charge of her learning
  • be there for her when she needs extra help
  • provide her with a wide variety of ideas, subjects, and activities

I cannot:

* love her as you do

* protect her from disappointment

* make sure she is happy

* make sure she is not bored

* ensure she has friends

* make sure she gets good grades

* guarantee she will get into a good high school

* give her self-respect or self-confidence or high self-esteem

* These, with the exception of the first, are what the student must do for herself.

As the parent, you can:

  • know your child for who she is
  • appreciate your child for who she is, not for who you hope she will be
  • be there to console her when she needs it
  • listen to her in such a way that she feels listened to
  • in listening, help her fight her own battles
  • enjoy her
  • delight in her
  • have fun with her
  • give her unconditional love and trust even when you don’t feel it’s justified
  • believe in her even when your feelings tell you otherwise

You should not:

  • feel guilty for your child’s disappointing achievement or “poor” performance
  • feel inadequate that you cannot respond to her every need on short notice
  • compare your child to other students
  • fight her battles for her

Supporting the genius of each child is mostly a function of good teamwork among the adults who are responsible—organizing so as to increase the authority of each child. (Except from The Genius in Every Child: Encouraging Character, Curiosity and Creativity in Children.)

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7 Responses to “Parental Involvement Will Not Make Schools Better: Good Teamwork Will”

  1. Tracy August 22, 2012 at 9:59 pm #

    How succinct! How true! Thank you, Rick, for being on the team that raised my children.

  2. Marilyn Price-Mitchell August 23, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

    Great article, Rick. I love the parent-teacher contract. And this is exactly what parent involvement is about — teamwork!

  3. Myrdin Thompson August 24, 2012 at 7:52 am #

    I agree: we are partners in this experience. Let’s connect with respect, care, concern, and consideration. Thanks!

  4. Rick August 27, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

    Yes. It has stood the test of time. Very useful in getting parents and teachers to play position.

  5. Ronnica Edmonds December 3, 2012 at 6:27 am #

    This is a great article. I love her note to her families. It’s so true. I hear people all the time faulting parents for their children’s mishap. Unfortunately, it’s not the parent’s fault all the time. The child needs to be held accountable for their actions. We are so quick to blame and point fingers! The teacher newsletter spells it out fabulously and professionally! I have observed parents doing the best they can and their child maynot have grown with self-regulation skills and can’t or just won’t control their actions. This article is well said! Love it!

  6. Ronnica Edmonds December 3, 2012 at 6:27 am #

    It is about a TEAM and there is no “I” in TEAM!

  7. Rick December 3, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

    Thank you, Ronnica. Yes. I hate how the knee-jerk reaction is to blame parents.

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