Letter From a Teacher: Dear Parents — Your Expectations of Your Children’s Teachers Should Match Your Commitment as Moms and Dads

This essay originally appeared on the New York School Talks blog.

Summer is here and I’m exhausted. Teaching, while extremely rewarding, is equally as draining — sometimes more so. Every year, it becomes more and more apparent to me that a huge part of why I’m so exhausted has to do with the shortage of parental involvement in their children’s/my students’ academic lives.

Dear parents, I say this with all due respect and as a parent myself: Your expectations of teachers should match your commitment as a parent. Done and done. I know you may be a single parent who has to work more than one job. I was, too. I still work more than one job, as do many teachers to make ends meet, but that’s another post for another day.

But working multiple jobs does not exempt parents from showing up and being present where their child’s studies are concerned. There is no excuse for not attending your child’s parent-teacher conferences. I don’t care if you can’t make it! Send another family member, friend or neighbor in your stead. Teachers, students and their families must work in tandem like a well-oiled machine to support college-career readiness, access and the healing of our students’ social-emotional traumas. This must take place in meaningful and real ways.

Yet this isn’t happening, and, as a result, teachers are more overwhelmed than we have to be because the other adults in our students’ families/village of support are not pulling their weight.

Can we please stop this trend for the upcoming school year and beyond? This is a serious plea. My sustainability as a highly effective teacher depends heavily upon this paradigm shift going into effect — now! Now? Yes, now!! I know it’s summer and school is out. Take your child to the library. Help him take out a book. Read together for even five minutes a day.

The reality is that kids who excel have parents who push them. Parental involvement is a huge factor in student success. Don’t just ask them if their homework is done! Check their bookbags and see for yourself. Even if you don’t know how to do their homework with them, just holding them accountable and them knowing that someone else besides their teachers is checking up on them makes a big impact. According to a National Education Association policy brief:

“Parent, family, and community involvement in education correlates with higher academic performance and school improvement. When schools, parents, families and communities work together to support learning, students tend to earn higher grades, attend school more regularly, stay in school longer and enroll in higher-level programs. Researchers cite parent-family-community involvement as a key to addressing the school dropout crisis and note that strong school-family-community partnerships foster higher educational aspirations and more motivated students. The evidence holds true for students at both the elementary and secondary level, regardless of the parent’s education, family income or background — and the research shows parent involvement affects minority students’ academic achievement across all races.”

Here are three recommendations for parents and village members to support their school-age children:

● Get signed up with the online communications platform that your child’s school uses. Mine uses Skedula/PupilPath; others use Jupiter Grades or Power Grades. Whatever it is, please get connected. It’s the most efficient way to stay on top of your child’s academic performance and behavioral concerns and be in real-time communication with their school community.

● Check to see if any summer packets have been assigned and set aside 15 minutes each morning when your child gets that work done. Do not wait until the day before she goes back to school to hastily complete summer work. That defeats the purpose and does not lend itself to the reason the work is given in the first place: to actively combat learning loss over a summer of academic disengagement.

● Read, read and read some more! Immerse your child in a print-rich environment. Encourage him to read a variety of texts. Your library is your best friend! Take advantage of this often underused community resource. We are very fortunate in New York City to have one of the best and most extensive library systems in the world. See what’s going on at your local library and sign your child up for an activity or two — or 10!

Teachers need your support, parents. Even more so does your child. Won’t you please help us?

Vivett Dukes teaches public school in Queens, New York, and confronts the challenges faced by students and teachers of color, as well as exposing the school-to-prison pipeline.

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