Parental involvement plays a pivotal role in a child’s education, and schools can play an important role in engaging parents. When it is purposeful, meaningful and ongoing there can be so many positive impacts for children, families, teachers and school administration. As a Los Angeles mom who's pretty involved at my children's schools, I sat with Susana Cuevas, a local district school administrator, parent, and former teacher, and asked her what can parents do to start and stay engaged with their kids' schools. Susan, you're a working mom and you're involved with your children's school. How do you manage to do that and get other parents on board? As a former school site administrator and mom of two, parent engagement is not an easy topic to discuss. As an administrator you want parents to actively participate in workshops, parent council meetings, and if possible volunteer at the school a few times a week, but the reality is that you get a core group of moms and if you’re lucky one or two dads that you can count on to attend. When do you see parents come out? When we had our Halloween parade, winter program, spring recital, Open House, and Back to School Night, parent turnout was triple what it was at these other activities for parents. Why do you think that is? I couldn’t understand why, until I became a mom. As a working parent, taking time off to attend workshops and council meetings—especially when they're held during the day—is not an easy thing to do. I have to make sure that I don’t have a work meeting or presentation to attend so that I can participate at my son’s school events. When I was a school site administrator, it was worse because most of the events I scheduled for my students' parents were on the same days that my son’s school scheduled their events. I can understand how that can be challenging. How do you manage it? How do I do both? I can’t. I had to come to terms with this as did my boys. I am lucky that my husband is self-employed so his schedule allows him the flexibility to attend a lot of these events. While they are glad that their dad is there, I know that they want me to participate as well. I remember one time, my son’s class put on a play. My husband went to see it the first day and said my son did a really great job. I was so proud of him and wished I had been able to see him. He then came to me excited and said, “Mom, I know you’re working and it’s hard for you to take time off but we are doing the play again at 8:30a.m. and 12:00p.m. Do you think your boss will let you come see me?” It just broke my heart! I told him I would see what I could do but no promises. He responded with, “I know mom, but maybe you can come.” I decided to surprise him, and I took my lunch break to surprise him and went to his play. He was so happy to see me as was I to be there. My lunch break was a bit longer than expected, but it was well worth it to see the smile on my son’s face when he saw me. So as an administrator, I no longer strive to have 100, 75 or even 50 percent parent participation at workshops, meetings, etc. because I realize that it is not a realistic expectation. Schools should be thankful that they have a core group of parents at the school to help represent those of us who can’t be there. Most working parents are not going to be able to attend all events nor should school site administrators expect parents to do so. Be thankful that you have that core group of parents at the school site that is there to help and represent those of us who can’t be there. As a parent, I am learning to participate and support my boys’ schools by doing things from home such as cutting paper, putting together booklets or by donating things whenever I am asked. To me this is parent engagement, doing what you can when you can and when you can, to show your children and the school that you care.
An original version of this post appeared on the Huffington Post as Positive Parent Engagement: Tips From A School Administrator.
Photo courtesy of Republic.
Lisette Medina Duarte was appointed by former Supervisor Gloria Molina as co-chair to the State Council on Developmental Disabilities (formerly known as Area Board 10) to represent the 1st Supervisorial District. In addition to serving as co-chair, Lisette is a senior coordinator in the field operations, west division of the Southern California chapter of