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Family Ties: Beyond Open House –

By Jenna Vandenberg

Whether you have a five year old about to start kindergarten or a senior who’s counting down the days until graduation, the best way to make sure your child succeeds in school is to keep parents, teachers and students communicating effectively. Good habits of interaction should be introduced early in elementary school and carried on and improved upon through high school to help keep your son or daughter on track for a fulfilling and successful education at all levels.

Elementary School

At the elementary level, tech savvy teachers are forgoing printed newsletters in favor of a teacher website, often called a “wiki.” These can be checked daily for spelling words, links to online math games, field trip information and picture dates. If your child’s teacher doesn’t have a website, look for a weekly newsletter or homework sheet and display it prominently at home.

If you have a concern or question not addressed on the teacher’s wiki or newsletter, get in touch with them. All teachers welcome parent communication, but each will have their own preference. Some may swear by email, while others don’t take a seat at their computers until students are long gone. Many prefer a phone call or text message, while others would rather you send a note with your child so they can get back to you at a convenient time. With all these options, your first conversation with your child’s teacher should inquire about the preferred method of contact.

Middle School

Parent communication often drops off at the middle school level, right when it should be picking up. Don’t let the fact that your child has six or seven teachers stop you from getting to know each of them. Ask them about grading, homework and your child’s academic and social performance in class. Once teachers have met you personally, they are more likely to invest a little extra time in your child, which is very important at the middle school level to prevent kids getting lost in the shuffle. Wait until November or December to schedule a meeting. At this point, all the teachers should know your child well and there should be plenty of time to address any problem.

If your child is having behavioral challenges, consider spending a day shadowing him or her from class to class. Shadowing not only gives you insight into struggles your child may be having, but it also sends a clear message that you take their education seriously. The embarrassment factor is usually enough to shape up any unruly middle school student. Be sure to check in with the school in advance for permission and stop by the office for a visitor’s pass.

High School

Are you willing to serve on the PTSA, sit on a panel to critique student presentations, talk about your job during career day, help during school celebrations or present specialized information to classes? If so, let the principal and the front office know. Volunteers are more common at the elementary level, but it’s even more important for parents to stay involved during high school. This will help put you in good graces with your son or daughter’s principal and counselors – the very people who will be writing your child letters of recommendation for colleges and jobs.

Regarding your college bound high schooler, know that even the most well behaved students skip class. Schools attempt to curb this behavior by having a phone system that automatically notifies families of a child’s absence so they can keep track of just how much school their child is missing. Students are well aware of this fact, however, and go to great lengths to file an incorrect number or have the calls directed to their own cell phone. Stay one step ahead of your child by contacting the school to ensure the number on file is your own work or cell number.

For additional support, the Clark County School District provides a service known as ParentLink, where you can see all of your child’s classes, attendance data and grades. You can obtain a login and password from your child’s school and access ParentLink via www.ccsd.net.

Talking About School

Making school a subject of conversation at home is the best way to reinforce the learning process. Don’t accept a blanket response of “fine” when asking your child about his or her day. Find out what books the class is reading, what science experiments were done and what debates have been taking place in social studies. And don’t glaze over when the conversation turns to math! If you don’t remember quadratic equations (let alone how to solve them), have your child explain them. These simple talks can help make lessons meaningful and school more relevant.

Between buying school supplies, setting up homework space and packing lunches, September can be just as busy for parents as it is for students. Give your family time to settle back into those school routines, but be sure to meaningfully engage with teachers before November or December. Attending open house and parent teacher conferences are great first steps, but keeping the lines of communication open all year is essential to your child’s success in school.     

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