BACK to SCHOOL!
A parent’s report card: What’s your grade?
By Cheri Alphonse Hayes, Ed.S.
Shirley Lanham Elementary
It is one week into the school year and the children are settling into their routines at school. Many parents have already immersed themselves in the school community. Most importantly, they are talking to teachers, asking questions, lending a helpful hand, and making a difference right now. Did you attend your child’s school Sneak Peak last week? Have you met your child’s teacher? Will you be present at Open House? Make it a point to be there. Hear the teacher’s expectations firsthand. Know the consequences for late or missed assignments. Be sure to get a Parent Handbook or ask for the web address where it can be found online. Ask yourself the following questions:
1. What is my child currently learning, studying, homework assignment or project?
2. Are the teacher’s and/or school’s goals aligned with my goals for my child’s academic success?
3. What are my child’s academic strengths and weaknesses?
4. Is my child a social butterfly, a bully or a loner?
5. Does the school have my most recent contact information?
6. When is the next school event? Is my presence required?
7. When does the School Advisory Committee meet?
8. The last School Board meeting I attended was on ______________?
9. My child’s favorite teacher is __________because _________?
10. I support my child’s school’s PTA/PTO!
Yes or No
These are just simple questions to determine your level of involvement in your child’s education. When s/he was in preschool, you probably attended most, if not all functions at school. Now they are in elementary, junior high or high school, are you as involved? If you can honestly answer eight or more of these questions, you are on the right track and have a great handle on your child’s academic career. If you answered five to seven of these questions with great confidence, there are simple ways to become more involved, even without leaving the comfort of your home. Finally, if you answered one to four questions, you are not alone. Across the globe, schools are challenged every day in establishing active parental involvement groups within their buildings. Parents are busy. Parents are shy. Parents don’t feel welcomed. Some parents believe it’s the school’s job to do it all.
What do you think? Remember, above all, YOU are your child’s first teacher and will always be. Before your child entered the school building, there were endless hours of reciting the alphabet, counting, singing, reading books, talking, asking questions and many more activities. These are all teachable moments that parents create every day without realizing the power in their hands. As a nation, academically, we are challenged! It’s time to step up and create a community of world-class learners who want to be successful and want great things in life for themselves and their communities.
Joyce L. Epstein, Ph.D. Director of the Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships and the National Network of Partnership Schools (NNPS), Principal Research Scientist, and Research Professor of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University encourages parents and schools to collaborate in educating children simply through Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork as a way to build the home-school partnership and keep parents involved. Furthermore, Dr. Epstein, along other researchers, developed the Keys to Successful Partnerships: Six Types of Involvement to boost parental involvement across the nation.
Type I - Parenting: where everyone takes off their “labels” and collaborate to help parents cope as well as learn various approaches to parenting. Schools also are of parent of this type of involvement as they can serve as facilitators, mentors, or provide the space for workshops so local agencies can reach all parents in the community.
Type II – Communicating: there is no room for open communication if the school does not have all your most recent updated contact information and you do not have the contact information of your child’s teacher(s), school, principal, nurse, counselor, cafeteria manager, or librarian. You would be surprised to know how much these people really know about your child. An open flow of communication is the easiest way to get most current information about schools’ current events and inform the school of your child’s needs. If an open-door policy is not an option at your child’s school, phone calls, emails, and text messaging may work. Bottom line, being “private” is not an option when it comes to your child’s education.
Type III – Volunteering: this two-way street should be open at all times. You do not always have to volunteer in your child’s classroom. Try other teachers, offices, and the cafeteria. Is there a better way to get to know a teacher first-hand? In fact, you may not be required to assist during school hours. There may be take home projects you can complete in the evenings, right at home. There is not a school in existence that cannot use additional hands, bodies, and/or brains. If your school tells you there are no volunteer opportunities available in the building, ask to volunteer in their district office. The opportunities are endless!
Type IV – Learning at Home: brings us back to being our child’s first teacher. Get involved with homework. Find out the current standards your child is being introduced to at school. Dissect the curriculum to get a better understanding of what exactly is being taught. Ask questions. Again, ask questions. We do not have all the answers. Ask for help when it’s needed to help your child achieve success. Schools can also create and share learning opportunities for parents and children to complete at home. Extend the classroom experience. Take your child on a field trip to enhance their learning. Some museums are free. Read with your child. Forget their age! Make it happen… The competition among their peers and with students nationwide has to be challenged. Students do not feel this particular aspect of rivalry until they apply for college admission, scholarships, awards, and grants. Be an advocate for your child and influence some decisions that are made at school with your involvement.
Type V – Decision-Making: stop talking and put that energy into something positive. Most parents have no idea when decisions are being made at their child’s school, but feel the after effects and wonder why they didn’t know. You don’t know because you weren’t there! The PTA/PTO is just one way to get involved in decision-making. Ask your administrator about School Advisory Council/Committee, School Governance, and School Board positions and meetings. Build strength in numbers and create a group of active parents who can represent you and your child’s school when needed.
Type VI – Collaborating with the Community: the community is not limited to students, teachers, and parents within the school. The community refers to all stakeholders who are working in the best interest of the students’ and school’s success. This opens the door to businesses and local agencies that are willing to partner with schools to promote health, wealth, happiness, learning and success for all.
So, how’s report card looking? Are you a proud active parent who works towards the success of your child, school, and community? What will you do differently moving forward to achieve this? No one expects change to occur overnight. However, your mindset should be the first thing to adjust when making changes. Open your mind and know this is not just another task to overflow your plate. Understand it’s an effort towards progress that your child will be able to reap the rewards.
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
– Alvin Toffler
Epstein, et. al. 2009. School, Family, and Community Partnerships: Your Handbook for Action, Third Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.
Tips for communicating with schools
Knowing who does what in your child’s school – and figuring out the best ways to communicate with school staff – can help you to be effective in supporting your child’s success.
Sometimes you’ll want to talk to the school to address problems or express concerns. A good rule of thumb is to start with the person closest to your concern. For instance, if your child does not seem to have homework, it makes sense to ask the teacher for an explanation. If you don’t get an adequate response, try contacting the principal.
Sometimes you may want to call someone at the school about a highly emotional issue, such as a conflict your child may be having with another child. As a general rule, avoid calling when angry. Remember that no matter how the situation may feel, school personnel do want to work with parents to resolve problems.
At the start of each school year, gather the information in the list below; keep it on hand so that when issues arise you can go straight to the right person. Some of the information below can be found on a school’s website; other details you can learn by contacting the school itself.
• School telephone number and school secretary name
• PTO president name, telephone number and email address
• School newsletter frequency
• Principal email address
• School website URL
• Teacher email addresses and voice mail telephone numbers, if available
DODEA administrators share new (school) year’s resolutions
Much like the start of a fresh new calendar year, the start of a brand new school year brings the opportunity to begin anew. With the lessons learned of the prior year in the rearview mirror, plans for the upcoming session take focus. DODEA administrators around the Pacific are no exception, and a few of them shared their resolutions for the newly-begun 2017-18 school year.
“My resolution for this school year is to hit the ground learning, to be an active listener, to observe – and even more importantly – to honor the great work, efforts, and teaching and learning that has taken and will continue to take place in the school. I want us to also look at the strengths and seek opportunities where we can continue to excel.”
– Principal at Bob Hope Primary School and the 2017 DoDEA Principal of the Year – Elementary
“As we ring in SY 2017-18, my resolution is to know every single student’s name, along with knowing at least one thing about them. The work we do is really rooted in having strong relationships and mentoring students, and as the Principal, my goal is to know every single one of our 825 students!”
– Principal at Kadena High School
“We will continue to strive for excellence with the opening of nine brand new schools in the Pacific to support 21st century learning for our students. In addition, we will enhance cultural awareness by strengthening partnerships with our host nations.”
Ms. Lois J. Rapp
– Director DoDEA Pacific
“Create a school were students are energized, excited, and inspired to come to school each and every day, and we will do this through the use of technology and 21st century skills, guided by our college and career ready standards.”
– Principal at Amelia Earhart Intermediate School
“Continue to be the lead learner with my faculty as we implement 21st century skills to support our college and career ready standards. In addition, will are committed to transition into the new DoDEA Comprehensive Assessment System (CAS), something that will provide real time data to our educators to track student performance.”
– Principal Kadena Middle School
2017-18 DODEA Pacific Calendar
First Semester (88 Instructional Days)
Monday, Aug. 28
Begin First Quarter and First Semester
Monday, Sept. 4
Labor Day: Federal Holiday
Monday, Oct. 9
Columbus Day: Federal Holiday
Thursday, Nov. 2
End of First Quarter (46 days of classroom instruction)
Friday, Nov. 3
No school for students – teacher work day
Monday Nov. 6
Begin second quarter
Friday, Nov. 10
Veterans Day: Federal Holiday observed
Thursday, Nov. 23
Thanksgiving Day: Federal Holiday
Friday, Nov. 24
Friday: Recess Day
Monday, Dec. 18
Begin Winter Recess (18 December - 2 January 2017)
Monday, Dec. 25
Christmas Day: Federal Holiday
Monday, Jan. 1
New Year’s Day: Federal Holiday
Wednesday, Jan. 3
Monday, Jan. 15
Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Federal Holiday
Thursday, Jan. 25
End of Second Quarter and First Semester (42 days of classroom instruction)
Friday, Jan. 26
No school for students -- teacher work day
Second Semester (87 Instructional Days)
Monday, Jan. 29
Begin Third Quarter and Second Semester
Monday, Feb. 19
Presidents’ Day (Washington’s Birthday): Federal Holiday
Thursday, Mar. 29
End of Third Quarter (42 days of classroom instruction)
Friday, Mar. 30
No school for students -- teacher work day
Monday, April 2
Begin Spring Recess (2-6 April)
Monday, April 9
Instruction Resumes - Begin Fourth Quarter
Monday, May 28
Memorial Day: Federal Holiday
Thursday, June 14
End of Fourth Quarter and Second Semester (45 Days of classroom instruction)
Friday, June 15
No school for students -- teacher work day. Last day for non-administrative educator personnel
Student, parent tips for a successful school year
Students, this time of year newspapers and TV shows like to give parents tips about how to get you ready for school. It got us thinking, “what about the kids?” After all, you are the ones going back to school, right?
Check out these neat tips we found from experts as well as students just like you.
✓Organize your school supplies and pack your backpack the night before so you can find everything easily in the morning.
✓Pick what you will wear in advance. Pick something that looks good, is well-fitting and that leaves an impression without standing out. Make sure you know your school’s dress code, too.
✓Get some rest the night before. Go to bed earlier than usual and Wake up fifteen minutes earlier than you need to.
✓Take an extra dollar or two for emergencies.
✓If you ride a bus, bring a book or magazine to read on the way.
✓Write down important information, like your locker combination, usernames and passwords, and what time lunch is.
✓Say “hello” to kids you don’t know as well as those you do. It can help you make new friends.
✓Pay close attention to class rules and school rules. Know what is allowed and what is not.
✓Be engaged in the classroom. If you want to start off on the right foot, it’s far better to listen to your teachers, participate when they ask questions, take notes and avoid distractions.
– Source: WikiHow.com, KidsHealth.org, Kiddie Academy
✓Try to get to know as much as you can about your school in advance so you feel more in control on that first day. Go on your school’s website and look around.
✓Make a game plan with your friends. Talk to them before school starts and find out if you can go to school together. If you’re new to the school district or don’t have many friends, don’t worry! You’re not alone and you’ll quickly make friends with a positive attitude.
✓Get a school map. Keep it in your backpack until you’re familiar with your new surroundings. Use it to create a good routine for passing between classes. It can help you not be late to class and to know the best time to go to your locker.
✓If you have different classrooms for each subject, write down where you sit for each of them in your notebook. It will help you remember.
✓Be friendly to all the new students. Do the best you can to be as nice and friendly to the new students in your classes as you can. Introduce yourself, ask them about themselves, and talk about what you think of middle school, so far.
✓Start to build positive relationships with your teachers. Make a good impression by being on time. Don’t make a bad first impression by laughing too much or chattering with your friends.
– Source: WikiHow.com, KidsHealth.org, Kiddie Academy