Q. I work full-time. At the beginning of every school year, I am plagued by guilt because I feel I just don’t have the time to commit to my son’s elementary classroom. Can you suggest things I can do to help out at school or how to organize my time?

A. The correlation between parent participation and student achievement is obvious. I have read  decades of research that shows when parents are involved in their child’s education students have:

  • Higher test scores
  • Better school attendance
  • Increased motivation
  • Better self-esteem
  • Decreased use of drugs and alcohol
  • Lower suspension rates

Yet, after I mark off the days for fall break, Martin Luther King Jr. day, President’s day, César Chavez day, spring break, teacher work days and teacher conferences for three different schools, I ask myself, “How in the world will I fit in my share of field trips, classroom helping days, teacher appreciation, PTA meetings, and sharpening those pencils?”

After the overwhelm subsides, I simply commit and create my parent involvement constitution list for 2011-2012. My strategy involves creating a “Parent Involvement Constitution.” You might try to do the same.

Laura Barr’s Parent Involvement Constitution

  • I will send an e-mail to each teacher letting her/him know that I have a full-time job.  Are there projects he/she can give me on a Friday that I can complete over the weekend?
  • I will honor my teacher’s “open door” policy and come in to the room at my convenience offering my services.
  • I will sign up for one field trip per child, for the year.
  • I will continue to buy “the optional” items on the “classroom items needed list.”
  • I will read all teacher and school communications. (Totals to over 200-500 e-mails a year.)
  • I will sign up for conferences promptly and not be late or miss a conference. (Sorry Ms. Edson L)
  • I will surprise each of my children two times this school year with a Subway sandwich and eat with them in the lunchroom.
  • I will pack them healthy, wholesome lunches and snacks.
  • I will support my children at home with a time and place to do homework.
  • I will read a chapter book out loud to my children three nights of the week.
  • I will volunteer for the school auction event. (But not be on a committee.)
  • I will attend two PTA meetings a year.
  • I will limit screen time so my children don’t get mushy brains.
  • I will buy the biggest, yummiest cake from Whole Foods for the teacher appreciation lunch. (At three different schools, with four different teachers.)
  • I will model literacy for my children by reading the newspaper, books and novels in front of them.
  • I will show interest in my child’s learning, asking them effective questions.
  • I will play games with my children that involve strategy and math skills.  (They always beat me!)
  • I will bring Starbucks cards to my teachers and always show gratitude for their hard work.

There is no doubt that volunteering in a child’s classroom is helpful.

However, the most valuable support a parent can give a teacher is to be an involved in your child’s education both at school and at home. Ultimately, the best support a parent can give a teacher is to send a child to school, who is responsible, kind, independent and curious.

Good luck in writing your own Parent Involvement Constitution!  Please share it as a comment here, and at e-merging.org.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.