How to build a relationship with your child's school when you're in the military
If you have pre K-12 children, you most likely want to feel a connection with your children's school. You want to know the teachers; understand what's going on in class; and know how to interpret the art projects involving macaroni and glue, which is an interpretation of a Picasso painting. How could you have missed that? Even if you relocate often or are temporarily deployed, there are ways you can build a relationship with the school and your child's teachers to help your child perform as well as possible. Your relationship with the school will demonstrate to your child and the school's staff the importance you attach to education.
The following tips can help you build a strong relationship with your child's school:
Meet the teacher. Allowing your child's teacher to put a face with your name is a great way to show your investment in your child's education. The teacher will know who they're sending notes home to and you'll know who your child is complaining about when they think they have too much homework.
Learn the school policies. Even though you'll likely be flooded with paperwork and information during your child's first week, do your best to stay on top of all the little details. Don't forget to check the depths of your child's backpack for lost forms and keep all relevant information handy in case you need it. You'll be glad to have all the resources at your disposal if something unexpected comes up, like a snow day or special event.
Attend events. Speaking of events, try to attend as many as possible. Even though you're busy and your couch probably seems much more appealing than a school auditorium — especially after a long day — showing up is important. Being present at back-to-school nights, open houses and school fairs can help both you and your child feel more connected to the school.
Volunteer. There are dozens of ways to give your time to your child's school, so it's just a matter of finding a way to volunteer that suits your schedule. You can be a chaperone to a school event, help coach a sport's team or organize a fundraiser. The school's website will likely have a list of volunteering options, but when in doubt, just ask. And don't worry — you can still volunteer even if you're deployed. Offer to be email pen pals with the classroom, or visit as a guest speaker via video conferencing or a social media platform.
Join the parent/teacher group. Even simply attending PTA/PTO meetings can be a great way to stay in the loop about what's happening at the school and how you can get involved. And if there isn't a parent/teacher group at your child's school, don't let that stop you — get a few parents together and start one yourself.
Attend school board meetings. When it comes to your child's education, you probably have some pretty strong opinions. Well, what are you waiting for? Get up on that soapbox and make your voice heard. Become a regular presence at school board meetings and don't hesitate to share your concerns or compliments about the school district.
Your family may relocate frequently, or be in the middle of a deployment, but that doesn't mean you can't still be a part of your community. Your child's school is a great place to put down roots, but — like any good gardener — sometimes you just have to dig a little deeper to truly feel grounded.
For more military family resources, visit www.militaryonesource.mil.