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Tim Durnin: Student, Parent Involvement at the Heart of Children’s Success

Meeting with teachers and administrators can help ensure a valuable educational experience

The longer children are in school, the greater amount of time they will spend there. How they interact in the school environment is critical to every child’s development both intellectually and socially. In this final column on parenting, I will offer my ideas for engaging teachers and administrators as well as the significance of children’s involvements both in and out of school.

Meeting with Teachers and Administrators

First, when problems arise, children should be encouraged to do what they can to solve the problem. Parents should support them in talking to the teacher, expressing their feelings and finding a resolution before the parent gets involved. A vast majority of problems in the classroom will be solved this way. In addition to addressing the issue, it teaches the child to begin to take responsibility and to have the courage to talk to adults when there is a perceived problem.

At some point, parental involvement will become necessary in the course of every student’s tenure in the school system. Here are three tips to successful teacher conferences.

Begin with the understanding that the parent, the teacher and the school all want what is best for the child. These words should be spoken to initiate every parent/teacher encounter.

The second action should be to clearly state the purpose of the meeting and desired outcomes. It may be difficult to do this, but stay on track as to the purpose and outcomes. Too often these meetings degrade into an attack on the teacher that is not at all related to the issues being addressed. A final note on this: The most often heard refrain from students doing poorly is, “The teacher doesn’t like me.” This is rarely the case. Trust that personal feelings are probably not at the root of the problem.

My final point in this regard is to remember that there are very few bad teachers in our classrooms. If there is a bad teacher, the principal most certainly knows. Be kind in your interactions, and respect the tenure and expertise of the educators involved. This is not to suggest they will always be right, but sometimes letting them think they are is the best course of action.

And my final words on this: Please cut the new teacher some slack. We really do want him or her to stick around.

Strong Indicators of Future Success

I have taught thousands of kids in a broad spectrum of educational settings. Some very clear themes emerge as to what translates into future success. First and foremost, be the parent at the Open House, be the parent at Back to School Night and be the parent at every parent-teacher conference from first grade through 12th. It is that simple.

Secondly, I cannot overstate the significance of students being involved in the life of the school and participating in extracurricular activities. Students who are involved in athletics, the arts, 4-H, Future Farmers of America, clubs and organizations, and student government invariably fare better in college and the world beyond college.

It doesn’t matter if the activity is sponsored by the school or not. What matters is that students are part of something bigger than they are and that they can recognize and appreciate their contributions to the larger whole. It also instills discipline and organizational skills as they prioritize and organize their lives around school and their activities. The most successful students I have had were also the most involved.

In closing, let me thank the educators, coaches and moderators for your tireless work in providing these opportunities for our children. It makes all the difference today and will for many decades to come. And to all the parents and grandparents, good luck and Godspeed.

— Tim Durnin is a father and husband. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for comments, discussion, criticism, suggestions and story ideas.

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