Recently, I attended an open school night event at a public school in Brooklyn, NY as a favor to a friend who is a single mother. I can remember back when open school night was the moment of dread; my parents would meet with our teachers to discuss me – and oh boy, would they talk about me! They discussed my academic performance, social skills development, and whatever else was relevant to my human success – all in 15 minutes or less. But, when I attended public school, the fact that parents would attend these events was a given. My friends and I knew that our parents were coming.
Being a guest attendee interested in learning more about parental involvement in my neighborhood school, I walked around the school and observed. The teachers were in their traditional uniforms – dressed to receive parents, ready to deliver news, however they were gauged. The students were there as well, smiling, hoping to not be exposed for the better or worse. And then, there were the sign-in sheets.
What I observed was a parental sign-in rate that was disappointingly low. For some classes, there were three parents and for other classes, their sign-in total was five for the entire night. I was upset, because I knew that in my day, parents showed up – no matter what time, what day, or how tired they were, they showed up. They listened and listened; and as expected, they scolded us. But most importantly, the fact that our parents wanted more for us mattered to us, and we made it our mission to make our parents proud – we committed to paying it forward, as our parents did on behalf of their parents.
I was shocked by what I learned as I interviewed two senior teachers, both of whom have been teachers at this particular NYC public school for more than 15 years. The teachers were disappointed by the fact that most parents did not show up, and dually upset that their 2nd graders, in their opinion, did not care about their education. So I asked myself, “how does any teacher enter a classroom with those assertions in their heads and willingly be held responsible for optimal student development? And, more importantly, why did these teachers tell me these things?”
I say this to say that there are dedicated, yet frustrated teachers in public school systems all across the United States who face these same battles. Whether it is in California, New York, Georgia, Tennessee, Nevada or Chicago, teachers are fighting for students to be properly educated – but, the school systems need the support of the communities which they serve. School districts need parents to get involved and stay involved – Not only in the education of their child/children, but on behalf of all students.
The importance of parental involvement in the educative process of children cannot be understated, or in some instances, fully understood. Young boys and girls need their parents to be their voice and fierce warriors on their behalf, but it takes a team effort. Their voices, in unison with teachers, school administrators and local officials can ensure that we are providing a wholistic approach to educating our children and equipping them to become productive members of society. We should be tired of losing our children, and we need the village to step up.