Thursday, September 1, 2016

Helping parents support their children through school

| Guest post from Dr. Keith Look, Superintendent, Danville Independent Schools |

This August, my oldest child began Kindergarten. In my twenty plus years of public education experience, I have hired and fired, hugged and restrained, and cheered and cried in some of the most challenging settings. Yet at this moment, I feel more prepared to revamp instruction and assessment than I did to tell my child good-bye on that first day (and likely the second, the third, and . . .).

Granted, I feel confident in my child’s Kindergarten readiness. But what about in third grade when his friend tells him to try this new “candy?” What about in 6th grade when he decides he is “not doing the work of that math teacher?” What about in 10th grade when he would prefer an “A” in the easy class as opposed to the C+ in its harder version? And what about all the other conversations I have coached parents through as a teacher and administrator but now, all of the sudden, realize apply to my child?!!?

As a professional in and student of the industry, I am the lucky one. I will have the networks and resources to get answers I need, but the average parent may not. So much attention is given understandably to new parents and early childhood educational experiences. As children grow older, information and support plummet. We wonder why parent engagement falters after elementary school. Maybe the answer is obvious. Maybe it is because we do not teach parents how to be “good education parents” at the myriad of stages across all of K-12.

The Danville Schools’ Good Education Parent initiative aims to make parents safe in their vulnerability when it comes to supporting their children through school. There must be space for all of us to help each other figure it out. Race, class, and all other official demarcations that divide us are irrelevant when it comes to understanding how to discipline the 7th grade student who decides to put everyone’s gym clothes in the locker room shower. The only person you want to hear from is another parent who says, “Let me tell you what I did when my daughter . . .”

It is time to begin the conversation anew. It is time to admit our own vulnerabilities and anxieties in order to help the next parent know his/her child is going to be okay. Perhaps more importantly, it is time to empower parents to know that they are not insane, weak, or ineffective for struggling to drop off their Kindergartner, discipline their 7th grader, or help their sophomore become proud of his/her talents and abilities.

The Danville Schools is proud to claim this work and make this charge—for ourselves and all other districts in the state. Start the conversation. Initiate the storytelling. Help me – as well as all the rest of us who are reaching new grades, schools, and milestones with our children for the first time – to be a good education parent in your district and community.

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