Does Your Classroom Have School Smarts?

I’m a proud Californian: In my professional career working with children with learning disabilities, foster youth and migrant families and communities, as well as in my personal calling as a PTA member and volunteer, I’m honored to witness the strength of our state’s diverse students and families every single day.

Back-to-school night at Grapeland Elementary School PTA in Etiwanda, CA.

Back-to-school night at Grapeland Elementary School PTA in Etiwanda, CA.

I’ve learned so many things as a Golden State resident as well as a PTA member, but perhaps the most important is that – no matter what your income, education level or cultural background is – your loving, active and supportive role as your child’s first and lifelong teacher is truly key to student success.

And helping engage all families in our children’s schools and communities is PTA’s number-one priority—and has been for more than a century. With more than a quarter of California residents coming from other countries and half of our state’s 9 million children with at least one immigrant parent,* our diversity is not a “challenge” to be checked off a list or a “barrier” to be overcome—it is what makes all of us, working together for our children and all children, stronger.

 Family engagement event at Manuel Hernandez Elementary School PTA in Visalia, CA.


Family engagement event at Manuel Hernandez Elementary School PTA in Visalia, CA.

That’s why I’m also extremely proud of how our state’s amazing PTAs are engaging and empowering families throughout California and offering insights for the rest of the nation. From local multicultural celebrations and school English-learner advocacy to implementation of the award-winning School Smarts Parent Engagement Program, PTAs are welcoming and engaging all families to speak for every child with one voice.

There are many things that you—and all families—can do to strengthen your student’s success, wherever you’re from and wherever you live. When it comes to being powerful teachers and advocates for the success of our children and all children, “Yes, we can!”

SIX WAYS ALL FAMILIES CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR STUDENT SUCCESS

  1. Model positive parenting and support learning at home. Create a home environment that supports learning by establishing a quiet place for homework, setting a regular time for studying. Know your teacher’s homework policy and how to monitor and discuss schoolwork at home. Engage in conversations with your child about college and careers.
  2. Learn more about your child’s school and communicate with educators. Attend Back-to-School Night and Parent-Teacher Conferences. Find out how to take advantage of your school’s translation and interpretation services and advocate for materials and information to be made available in a variety of languages. Make time to read newsletters, notices and memos from the school.
  3. Help out at school or join PTA. Look at ways to volunteer in the classroom or other ways you can help prepare or organize classroom materials at home. Find out about participating in school organizations, initiatives and school committees such as PTA, School Site Council or English Learner Advisory Committees (ELAC). And remember, just joining PTA shows you support your child and school.
  4. Engage in the decision-making, leadership and advocacy efforts at your school. Learn about and participate in the various school, district or community decision-making bodies. Parent input is critical. Consider taking on a leadership role in speaking up for all children – at your PTA, at the school and beyond.
  5. Be familiar with what your child will be expected to learn and how he or she will be assessed as part of the new state standards. Attend meetings and/or read more about the new standards and how they will help prepare students for the future. Talk to your child’s teachers to understand how learning will look different in the classroom and how you can best support your child.
  6. Take advantage of community resources. Ask your school about free or low-cost community health, cultural and social support programs. Find out about after-school enrichment programs, tutoring and free library programs that are available to you and your family.
Vietnamese-speaking parents celebrate graduation from California State PTA’s School Smarts Parent Engagement Program in Alameda Unified School District.

Vietnamese-speaking parents celebrate graduation from California State PTA’s School Smarts Parent Engagement Program in Alameda Unified School District.

A diverse group of parents gather to learn how to support their children’s education at the Paularino Elementary School PTA meeting in Costa Mesa, CA.

A diverse group of parents gather to learn how to support their children’s education at the Paularino Elementary School PTA meeting in Costa Mesa, CA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adapted from Joyce Epstein’s model for family and community partnerships as part of the California State PTA School Smarts Parent Engagement Program.

*Public Policy Institute of California – Immigrants in California

California State PTA President Justine Fischer has been deeply involved in providing training and outreach to thousands of parents across the state to help them engage in their children’s education.

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