pHone calls are underused

Some school programmes aim to reach parents who do not usually participate in their children's education.

Some school programmes aim to reach parents who do not usually participate in their children's education.

Such programmes provide flexible scheduling for school events and parent-teacher conferences, inform parents about what their children are learning, and help parents create a supportive environment for children's learning at home.

Many schools have responded to the needs of working parents by scheduling conferences in the evening as well as during the day, and by scheduling school events at different times of the day throughout the year.

It is important for teachers to keep the lines of communication open. This involves not only sending regular newsletters and notes, but also obtaining information from parents. Phone calls are a greatly under-used technique for keeping in touch.

A teacher usually calls a parent to report a child's inappropriate behaviour or academic failure. But teachers can use phone calls to let parents know about positive behaviour and to get input. Parents justifiably become defensive if they think that every phone call will bring a bad report. If teachers accustom parents to receiving regular calls just for keeping in touch, it is easier to discuss problems when they occur.

Teachers need to consider families' lifestyles and cultural backgrounds when planning home activities. But, some activities can be adapted to almost any home situation. These are activities that parents or children engage in on a day-to-day basis.

Teachers can encourage parents and children to do these activities together, and can focus on the opportunities that the activities provide for learning. For example, though television viewing is a pastime for most children and adults, they do not often watch shows together. Teachers can suggest appropriate programmes and send home questions for families to discuss. This discussion can be carried over into class.

Busy parents can include children in such everyday activities as preparing a meal or grocery shopping. Teachers can also suggest that parents set aside time each day to talk with their children about school.

Parents might find this difficult if they have little idea of what occurs in school. Notes on what the children have been working on are helpful. Parents and children can discuss current events using teacher-provided questions. Teachers often suggest the activity of reading aloud to children. Reading to children is an important factor in increasing their interest and ability in reading. Teachers can also encourage children to read to parents.

In areas where children may not have many books, schools can lend books, and teachers can provide questions for parents and children to discuss.

Home activities allow parents flexibility in scheduling, provide opportunities for parents and children to spend time together, and offer a relaxed setting. To be most beneficial, home activities should be interesting and meaningful - not trivial tasks that parents and children have to "get through."

When teachers plan home activities, they often think in terms of worksheets or homework that will reinforce skills learnt in school. But parents often grow tired of the endless stream of papers to be checked and the time spent on "busywork". Another danger of home activities is the possibility that there may arise an unclear distinction of roles, with teachers expecting parents to "teach" at home. -Kids Source