Thursday, January 13, 2011

September Meeting Notes: Panel Discussion with PPS and PTAs

Special thanks to our PTA moms: Amy and Rebecca and also to our Portland Public Schools reps: Judy Brennan and Nancy Hauth!

There are some great materials on this page, including a calendar of activities to do before kindergarten and also, the ABCs of Kindergarten.  Great stuff!

Question 1 – How to start getting involved at your school
  • Be very specific with the teacher about wanting to be involved
    • Be open to the teachers style and what that teacher needs; focus on learning achievement
    • Don’t be afraid to ask how to do things or asked to shadow a more experienced volunteer
  • You can volunteer for other things as well
    • Cafeteria or library – ask the office about what they need
    • Kindergarten round-up always needs volunteers and it will get you plugged in early
    • Room parent – kids love it!
  • PTA is a great place to be involved on committees and get to know other parents
    • Each school is different but PTA generally focuses on fundraising, e.g. events, books for library, support artists-in-residence – budges vary depending on the schools
    • Sometimes it’s best for committees if working parents pair up with stay-at-home parents to spread work and time
  • Site Council – governance with staff and teachers; there are usually 2-3 parent positions
  • Anecdotally, there is not much difference between working and non-working parents
  • Get to know parents of students in upper grades – helps you navigate the school, teachers, etc.
  • Keep yourself grounded in achievement and learning for your child and other children in the classroom
 Question 2 – Communicating with your child
  • If your teacher sends out weekly communications, then you can use that to ask lead-in questions of your child
    • You have to pretend you are the talk show host and they are the guest
    • Be open to teacher’s communication style
  • Facebook parents in the PTA or in your child’s class – get to know them
  • In Portland, the Parent Assist tool is being revamped and will be a good online tool
 Question 3 – What about before/after school care
  • Many schools have programs but you need to inquire early and often because space is limited
    • Ask about this at Kindergarten Round-Up
    • When you meet teachers, administrators or other parents ask them what questions you should be asking.
  • There are other programs, not specific to the school, that are good alternatives – YMCA is an example
  • Multnomah County Child Care Resource and Referral can help you find a good program
  • When you start interview programs for your child be “business-like” about it.  Figure out what you need most to make your schedule and life work and focus on those things.
 Question 4 – What is the best way to work with the principle
  • Always start with the teacher.
  • If you have worked with the teacher, send an email or letter to both the principle and teacher about what happened. 
    • Be diplomatic
    • Focus on the issue
    • Keep written communication for a record
  • The principle and/or vice principle is usually at the PTA meetings, so you can chat with them then
  • Don’t wait until you are really upset or until you have to say “We’ve been having trouble all year long.”  Address things right away so you can be level-headed and get it resolved before it becomes a big problem.
  • Try to act like your child is an employee and you are addressing a concern with their manager.  Don’t be in “mom mode”, be a business woman.
 Last words of advice
  • You are your child’s 1st teacher.  Be open with them and set a good example of how to deal with difficult or frustrating situations.
  • Give yourself credit – this is hard
  • Maintain a good sense of humor
  • Pick your battle wisely – think if this is really worth the anxiety
  • Always speak positively about school, tell your child about your good school experiences
  • Keep an open mind about the teacher – they may not be your favorite but they may be doing a great job teaching your child. 
  • Practice opening lunches before school starts (some kids have trouble with juice boxes, containers, etc.)
  • Remember that many teachers are also working parents

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