Friday, February 6, 2015

Being involved at school

Back to school last week
We are now in our final year of all children at the same school. It’s been a great seven years of concentrating on relationships in one place and  we now know many students, parents, teachers and staff.

There are many ways to be involved in a school, but as with all things, no-one can or should do everything.  Each year we reassess how we can be involved. I talked about it a couple of years ago, but haven’t for a while. 

It’s worth mentioning that we consider it a ‘joint involvement’ and make the decision as a couple. Sometimes Husband will be more involved with a school team or on council, which means I have less time to help; sometimes it’s the other way around. As every decision you make impacts the whole family, we make sure we consider these things together.

As we start another year, these are some of the things we try to do.

1. Get to know their teachers

This has been a priority each year. Our children’s teachers have all been excellent and I have always felt we were 'on the same page' when dealing with any issues that arose. We try to get to know them personally, ask about their families, weekends, etc, so that not every conversation we had was about our child.

I have come to realise that this is not what parents generally do. Each year, teachers have thanked us for being so supportive of them and the class. We just thought we were taking an interest, but apparently it stands out.

2. Figure out how to be involved in the school community

Over the years we have been involved in various ways: sports committees, Governing Council, sports team coaching, listening to reading, testing students at times tables, going on excursions and hosting get-to-know-you events for class parents. I have found that most years I commit to more than I can manage and end up feeling guilty about pulling out of something.

In the past I have listened to reading, but I no longer sign up to do this straight away.  Quite frankly, after years of listening to reading, I am a bit over it, last year I offered to test times-tables for one of the older classes, that was much more fun!

Our school has had a change of all senior leadership in the last 12 months and I did spend time last year trying to meet them, be supportive and make connections so that we have develop those relationships. I will need to do the same this year.

I always try to get to know the staff in the front office by name, and again being a friendly cheerful face with no agenda appears to be a refreshing change!

3. Get to know the children at school

In the years that I did go into the classroom, for reading or times-tables, the main benefit was meeting all the children and that they all know whose mum I was. I was able to understand some of the class dynamics a little more, and I could encourage certain friendships.

As the kids get older and I have done less of this, I don’t get to know the kids in class as well anymore. Although really, once you meet them in Reception (Kindergarten) or Year 1, you still know who they are for the next 7 years!

Sometimes, an excursion has helped fill in this knowledge gap a little.

4. Get to know the parents and families of the children in the class

This is easier in the first few years of school, but gets much harder later. We have almost finished meeting new parents in class now, with the kids in Years 7, 4 and 2. Not many parents are in classrooms regularly anymore, including us.

The main way we now get to know parents is by being involved with sporting teams. We know all the kids who play soccer and their families, and are now getting to know a lot of netball families. That has been great and we are very thankful for that opportunity.

5. Pray for the school

Obviously we pray for the school, students, teachers and families personally.

We have had a prayer group on and off over the last 7 years. The most exciting thing to come from that was our gingerbread event last year. We are hoping to do the same this year and keep building connections across the school.

We have loved being involved in a school community. It takes time and effort, but it is certainty worth it – both for our kids, for us and hopefully, for the people we meet and support along the way.

(If you want to read more about school involvement and our potential roles in a school community, I found the book Going Public very helpful a few years ago)

1 comment:

Naomi B said...

Hi Wendy - interesting read - as I grew up in a small country town of 200-300 people - everyone knew everyone at school!!!

My parents were also friends with the teachers outside of school as -being a small community & teachers being part of that you saw the teachers on the weekend at sport eg tennis, football, hockey and church too if they were Christian.

Parents would always send in a lot of garden produce in to the teachers - fruit, veggies, flowers and eggs. Lucky them!

Its sad to read that not all parents takes an interest in the teachers - but I guess in some ways a reflection of society today where people expect from teachers rather than being grateful that their kids can even go to school.

Thanks for your reflections!