Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Parenting and Public Schools Performance Improvement Plan

The Big Girl Chronicles:  Parenting and Public Schools Performance Improvement Plan (pt 4)

You’ve gotten your child acclimated to a new school district and secured a place in the school’s parent organization.  With a plan for academic success as to how you and your school can work together to provide the best educational opportunities available, you would think that things would go smoothly.  But… and there’s always that word tagging along no matter what you do… now comes another task.  As the academic year progresses, extracurricular activities become another role that you and your child must manage together. 

The role of extracurricular activities in your child’s academic career should not be underestimated.   As a whole, academics and extracurricular activities go hand in hand in shaping your child’s views about life, how to manage difficult situations, teamwork and healthy competition.  Also, your child will reflect upon the experiences (s)he has had throughout his or her education when making decisions in adulthood.  There’s no problem as long as your child makes the team.  But, what happens when (s)he doesn’t?  And as a parent, how do you help to make sure that your child’s desire to do more and participate in school clubs and organizations continues to build character and shape ideal citizens rather than destroy self esteem?    

If your child’s school district is willing to do all that is reasonably possible to assist in meeting the potential of each child, they will likely have pieced together some alternatives that can expand the range of programs, clubs, organizations, competitive sports and other extracurricular activities available for students to participate.  I’ve noticed that some schools have “A” and “B” teams for sports so that more children get the opportunity to play.  If that’s something that your child’s school hasn’t done consider suggesting it as an option.  The “A” and “B” concept can also be expanded to include cheerleading, dance and others. 

Should your school district not offer  an option similar to the “A” and “B” concept, there are some community organizations and churches sponsor youth sports organizations where your child is guaranteed to play for a small fee.  These organizations also do a range of competitive sports in addition to cheerleading, dance and other activities comparable to those in schools.  If there is no resource like this available in your area you can get with other parents who have children that didn’t make the cut and contact www.upward.org to get information about how to organize one in your area. 

Because recruitment and tryouts typically happen around the same time each year, why not get with other parents with children who hope to compete and organize an informal “summer camp” with someone who can help them practice and learn the basics?  The added confidence and experience could be just the edge needed to produce a better outcome for the next time. 

Consider alternatives like Boy/Girl Scouts to satisfy your child’s need to be included in activities outside of school.  It’s considerably less expensive than Youth Sports Organizations that are managed by community organizations and churches.  And when lead properly they provide valuable character and skill-building opportunities that will help shape ideal citizens. 

Honestly, there is only so much that school can do.  As much as your child’s school would like to take every child under their wing, when it comes to extracurricular activities and competitive sports the school wants to be represented well by the best there is.  Unfortunately, that might leave your child a spectator rather than a participant.  However, like most parents you’re likely not willing to accept that.  I’ve spoken with parents who have expressed disappointment at how schools manage recruitment and tryouts of extracurricular activities to the point that the parent withdraws their participation from all school organizations.  Although I empathize with their frustration, I also realize that trying to effect change from the outside looking in is limiting.  If there is more that can be done to encourage schools to be more inclusive of those students who continuously get sidelined, you’re going to have to opt for fight rather than flight.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Parenting and Public Schools Performance Improvement Plan

The Big Girl Chronicles:  Parenting and Public Schools Performance Improvement Plan (pt 3)

Among the most effective of ways to enhance your child’s academic experience is in joining your child’s school PTO.  Trying to find an active part can seem a little intimidating at first, but after joining you can review the projects and discuss with the members where you think your help would be most effective. If your child’s school PTO is wanting to beef up their projects, some activities that could be helpful include the following:

1)    During Nutrition Week when children learn about healthy living and eating habits, suggest that the school nutritionist consider allowing a day or week where the kids can plan the school menu.  This is a great way for kids to integrate what they’ve learned into everyday life.

2)    As a fundraiser for things like school beautification and other interests not entirely funded by the education budget, suggest that parents and kids lend their talents to donate and host a sale or auction.  Whether it’s a coupon for a free or discounted activity such as hairstyling or even babysitting, every little bit can be helpful.  You can make a “family night” of it by providing brown bag goodies and inviting families out for inexpensive games and activities.

3)    If your school is stumped as to how they can improve participation and increase funds, it could be a good idea to connect with a PTO that has a solid membership and history of successful fundraising and project completion for suggestions.  It might even be helpful to shadow their meetings and activities for a short time to bring fresh ideas to your school district.  

4)    Take advantage of all that social media has to offer and establish a twitter, facebook or other page to stay connected and network with not only your school district participants but others as well.  That’s the easiest way to stay with trends and share ideas. 

5)    Don’t shy from programs that offer educational incentives like BoxTops for Education and others.  The rewards that they provide simply for being more conscious of what products you purchase can only add to resources your child’s school PTO can use to make improvements. You could find that most of your members use these brands already. 

Participating in your child’s education is among the most memorable of experiences you will have.  Keeping things fun and minimizing stress makes it less of a chore and more like something to look forward to.  Although the suggestions above aren’t original, they could be tweaked or newly integrated into your child’s current school district to regain interest and improve membership in school parent organizations.  Keep it fun.  But most of all, keep the focus on creating an environment for your child that is conducive to learning and building character.  

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Parenting and Public Schools Performance Improvement Plan

The Big Girl Chronicles:  Parenting and Public Schools Performance Improvement Plan (pt 2)

Ok. So, you did it.  You managed to relocate your family to a new city.  Now comes the next of many firsts in a new area that can be equally as much a headache as it is one of the many rewards of parenting.  The next feat to which I’m referring is getting your child off successfully for the first day of school and acclimated to a new school district.  Relocating to a different area you quickly learn that things happen differently, good or bad.  But don’t get discouraged!  Depending upon where you relocated from, your experiences could prove useful to get you on the road to becoming an active participant in your new community.  This is also an opportunity to network and build relationships that could prove valuable as you settle into your new environment.  Some suggestions that can be made include the following:

Back 2 School Night

After completing the registration process, I monitored the news, school marquees and local media eagerly anticipating the announcement of some sort of back-to-school event.  There was none.  So, my children and I arrived the first day of school totally clueless about what to expect.  I stopped one of the school staff and inquired about what we should do.  Her first comment was, “Oh, you’re new,” before she tried to give instructions about where we should go.  That’s when I realized that new families must not relocate to this area often.  Then I immediately reflected upon how smoothly things went on the first day of school at the departed school district.  Something as simple as a Back 2 School Night is an opportunity that isn’t costly and has many advantages for both newcomers and existing parents and students.  Here’s why.

1)     I moved with 3 children to navigate through this new school district.  Two of them were at one school while the other had to attend a different school.  The first immediate benefit of a Back 2 School Night held for a couple hours on a day prior to the first day of school is that parents – especially those with more than one child in the school system – would have the opportunity to tour the new school and become familiar with where their child(ren) will be.  This would be tremendously helpful to ease anxiety for the new students who could already have some nervousness about attending a new school.  In my case, I had to trust that my oldest daughter who isn’t that far in age from my youngest and attends the same school could find her way so that I could hold my youngest child’s hand and help her find her teacher and classroom. 

2)    The Back 2 School Night would ease parent anxiety, especially working parents who’ll have more confidence dropping their child(ren) off on that first day without having to take time off (if you’re a working parent) during the first morning of classes to do this.

3)    Back 2 School Night is an excellent opportunity to get those school supplies delivered as well as those annoying first of the school year forms signed that usually come home during the first week or so.  You can pick up your schedule(s), student handbook(s), course syllabus and other important info then and take the opportunity to review these things with your child prior to their first day.

4)    While children can take this opportunity to meet new faces and possibly reconnect with old classmates, parents can begin to familiarize themselves with the teachers and staff. 

5)    This is the best opportunity to get first dibs on new parents as PTO and other school support program participants.  Parents that are eager to have their child(ren) make a good first impression are more likely to volunteer their time and talent for fundraisers and school functions.

Anything that can be done to minimize anxiety and make getting off to school is definitely worth the effort.  And there is no better way to welcome newcomers into your school district than to have an organized plan for the first day of school.  If this is something that isn’t done at your child’s school, perhaps giving Back 2 School Night a try could yield some positive results that will make it a staple in the annual reconvening of your child’s school district.