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