Why Parent Involvement at the High School Level Is Important
Check out the fall calendars of the parents/guardians of school age kids. You are bound to see postings about back-to-school night, meet the teacher events, and parent-teacher conferences on the calendar. And the majority of parents will make every effort to attend. Yet as students reach high school, attendance lessens. Typically, parents feel little or even no need to be involved with their children’s teachers.
The drop off in parent teacher engagement is understandable and healthy. After all, the goal is to raise children who can self-advocate and stand on their own. However, a complete withdraw from teacher interaction may be going too far.
In fact, some interaction between teachers and parents/guardians is healthy and helpful.
A teacher’s job involves communicating with parents/guardians. When a teacher does make contact, the purpose is often to gain understanding and insight.
“When a teacher reaches out, whether it’s for something positive or negative, and a parent takes it the way it’s meant be taken, the teacher feels supported and that they have a partner,” says Amy Bewley. An administrator at the Academy for Science and Design (grades 6-12) and parent of three, Bewley adds, “Teachers are also more likely to communicate with those parents/guardians who they know will be receptive.”
Tangela Walker-Craft a former high school teacher and current blogger, appreciated when parents reached out. “Engaged parents and guardians made my job easier, and I appreciated that they were working with me. It felt like we were part of a team.”
“If a parent made healthy contact and they were supportive, I might be more inclined to reach out sooner if I have a question with what is going on,” says Charissa West, a mommy blogger and former high school teacher. “If I have no relationship with the parent, I might wait till I have more information before reaching out.”
Communication and Performance
For parents/guardians of high school aged children, the following conversation is probably very familiar.
Parent: How was school today?
Parent: What did you do today in school?
While not every day is eventful, things are certainly happening regularly. High school-aged children are generally not good reporters of daily school happenings with their parents. In this scenario, parental contact with the teacher can be helpful.
“When a parent/guardian is in contact with the teacher, they may get to know details, have a clear understanding of what’s going in class, and recognize teacher expectations,” says Bewley. “This is helpful when you have a child who doesn’t communicate much other than ‘okay’ when asked questions.”
Good communication between teacher and parent can influence the child’s behavior. “When students knew that mom or dad was in contact with me and I could easily reach out, they were more likely to stay on task and less likely to be discipline problems,” says Walker-Craft.
A teacher’s performance can also benefit from parental contact. Bewley notes that there are times when a teacher has unrealistic expectations. “If a teacher hears from multiple parents about an assignment that took hours and was causing stress,” says Bewley, “the teacher will recognize that something was amiss and make a change.
The Right Amount of Contact
Determining the right amount of contact to have with your child’s teachers can be challenging, and the level of contact necessary will fluctuate. While it can be tricky, finding a good balance is important.
“There’s a difference between being involved and being in control,” says West. “Some parents retain control, which can be damaging.” She adds high school is a good time for children to be proactive since it’s a safe environment. When children move on to higher education (if they do), they will be more prepared to handle interactions with their teachers independently.
Excessive contact can be damaging in multiple ways. “Some parents want to help too much, and they make a nuisance of themselves, which embarrasses their children,” says Walker-Craft. “If parents/guardians don’t stay respect boundaries, it can be hard to manage a situation such as if a kid isn’t performing well in class.”
“When parents constantly question the teacher,” says Bewley, “it can be hard to separate the kid from the parent.”
Devising a system of when to get involved may be helpful. Bewley gives an example, “If your child doesn’t understand why they received a grade on a test, they can approach the teacher first. If they do not get a response, the parent/guardian can step in.” So, parents can step in when there is a clear need that their child has not been able to handle.
The Bottom Line
High school is a time of learning and growth for students and their parents/guardians. Understanding roles and figuring out boundaries can be hard. “It is important parents take a step back, but not take their hands off the wheel completely,” says West.
Parents/guardians communicating with teachers is beneficial for the child. However, the goal is for the student to take the lead more particularly as they advance through the high school years.
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