By Sunny P. Chico
I love that the entire month of November is dedicated to parent engagement. It brings awareness to the critical role of parents in our homes. Every day should be Parent Engagement Day, because each day a child is learning and growing. Parents need to be present and aware of what’s happening and nurture positive development.
But what does this engagement look like? Many times parents focus on what’s happening in the classroom and rely on the school to take care of the child’s needs. Parent Engagement Month reminds us that it’s not just about academic needs.
A child’s development occurs in four core areas: social, emotional, physical, and academic. In order for the child to succeed in school—and in life—he or she needs to possess strong social and emotional well-being, have his or her physical needs met, and engage in learning for cognitive development and academic success.
A teacher in a classroom cannot nurture all of those areas in a child. If the parents are engaged and understand the development of a child and how to provide support, the child will be better prepared to learn. Then the teacher can do his or her best to help the child academically. Remember that while children change teachers every year, they do not change parents. Parents must be consistently nurturing those core needs in their child.
I often hear from parents that they want to be more involved in their child’s development, but are afraid that they are doing it wrong. They think the school can do a better job with their child. But the school can’t do everything. 92 percent of a child’s life from birth through high school is spent outside the school, and much of that time is at home. Only eight percent is spent at school. Eight percent! It’s impossible for the school to do everything with only eight percent of a child’s time. But when parents are supportive of a child’s development, the teacher is most effective helping the child academically.
As a society, we depend a great deal on schools to help our children. We spend billions to educate children. If we truly want education to help our students compete in a global economy, we must rely on the parents. It’s the parents who encourage the child with homework and learning activities, guide the child to develop self-confidence and self-esteem, and nourish the child with healthy food and exercise, and yes, love.
None of this diminishes the importance of teachers. After all, if a child only spends eight percent of his or her time in school, it’s critical for the teachers to maximize that time. But for the teachers to do their best job, they need the students to arrive ready and eager to learn. And that’s part of the parents’ jobs.
So teachers, I’m calling on you to think hard about your relationship with your students’ parents during Parent Engagement Month. Have you talked to them about the importance of parent engagement? Are you asking them to pay attention to their child’s social and emotional well-being? Are you encouraging them to provide a nutritious breakfast and dinner for their kids? Are you coordinating with them to foster academic success outside of the classroom?
This is what parent engagement looks like. If every parent is dedicated to becoming an engaged parent, our children will grow up and contribute to making this the world we want to see. Let’s teach, encourage, and reward engaged parents this month and every month hereafter.