Start the School Year off Right: Bridging the Gap between Home and School

By Jennifer Walsh Rurak, Ed.D and Francisco Ayala

Returning back to school can be characterized by new opportunities, exciting experiences and stimulating challenges.

As parents, we often consider all of the many ways we can help promote success and assist our children with putting their best foot forward as they embark on the start of the new school year.

When contemplating keys to success, prominent attention should focus on parental involvement in children’s education, which can lead to academic achievement as well as success with social and emotional development.

While the level of parental involvement can vary as students experience different stages of their school journey, becoming involved in your child’s school life can influence success and engagement.

Consider the following ways to become involved in your child’s school experience this year:

Getting to Know You
Children spend a significant portion of their day at school and consequently they engage
frequently with the school staff.

Get to know the key figures at school in order to better understand the school experience and the interactions your child has each day. The school’s website can provide a wealth of information about the school and teachers. Take time to read the bios of your child’s teachers to learn more about their backgrounds and interests.

Additionally, plan to attend the Back to School Open House at your child’s school in order to meet teachers, administrators, and support staff face-to- face.

Homework
Commonly homework serves as a prominent link between home and school and subsequently is an excellent tool to help bridge the gap between parents and teachers. Help younger children to establish positive homework routines and use the school assignments as a means to understand and get excited about what they are learning at school. With older children and teens, make time to check in about homework and develop an understanding of the school’s homework policies and expectations.

Communicate
It is tremendously difficult for teachers and school staff to be responsive to your child’s changing needs if they are unaware of circumstances or developments that have occurred. If your child or teen is expressing stress related to school or a teacher, or if they have experienced something significant such as a move or a death, it is critical to notify the school. Additionally, a change in medication or health issues can result in behavioral changes, so it is helpful to make the school aware of these factors. The school counselor can also be a terrific resource and is able to serve as a liaison between parents and teachers.

Teaching and Learning
When parents have a sense of what their children are learning, such as topics being covered or books being read, it opens the door to shared experiences between home and school.

For instance, if your teen is reading The Great Gatsby at school, a weekend trip to a museum exhibit featuring artifacts from the 1920s will help the text come to life. If your elementary age child is learning about the solar system, finding time to stargaze and identify visible planets at home will extend their learning.

Teacher websites and newsletters can serve as wonderful resources to give parents insights about academic experiences allowing families to find ways to further explore topics and skills.

Showing your children that you are interested in what they are learning will promote higher levels of interest and engagement, and you may learn something new too!

Strategize
If a child is experiencing an academic or social challenge at school, a collaborative approach that involves the parents, teachers, and the child can promote optimal growth and success.

When challenges present, schedule time to meet and strategize with school staff to ensure a unified approach to problem solving. When children and teens receive different advice from parents and teachers, it can leave them feeling confused and defeated.

Instead, aligning approaches and proceeding as a team allows everyone to focus on supporting the child or teen in the same way, thus promoting achievement and development.

Learning Management Technology
Many schools have adopted learning management systems to assign independent work, grade assignments, and track individual student’s progress in each course. Before the start of the school year, particularly if the student is transitioning to a new school, reach out the school or your child’s teacher to determine if they will be using a learning management system, how the system will be used, and how you and your child can access the system.

Once you have access to the system, ensure you can log in, familiarize yourself with the interface, and ensure you and your child are comfortable interacting with and using the software.

Demonstrating a partnership between school and home allows students to make connections, overcome obstacles, and feel empowered as learners. When parents demonstrate an interest in their child’s academic journey it places an emphasis on the importance of learning and growing both at school and at home. Together teachers, students, and parents can work collectively to optimize the school experience and promote a lifelong hunger for learning.


Dr. Jennifer Walsh-Rurak and Francisco Ayala provide regional leadership support to the Fusion Academy schools on the East Coast. Fusion Academy is a private middle and high school that unlocks social, emotional, and academic growth in every student by utilizing an innovative, one-to- one instructional model. Fusion is a growing organization with over 40 private schools across the country which have revolutionized the way a school can serve students.

See also:

Tips on Reducing Back to School Anxiety

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