How Parents Can Partner with Schools to Help Kids Succeed

“Teamwork makes the dream work,” as the saying goes. That turns out that it’s true, especially when it comes to your child’s education. We got some expert advice on how parents can best partner with schools to help their little learners succeed. (And fear not, running the school fundraiser was not mentioned!)

Outside the British International School of Chicago Lincoln Park every day, regardless of the weather, Principal Ed Pearce greets students and parents. Even a 30-second conversation can be a great way to establish a positive relationship between home and school, fostering a strong community feel in the process, he says.

The experts all agreed that mornings are an opportunity to both socialize with staff and students and also to model the shared values found at both home and school, whether that’s a polite good morning, a kind compliment or holding the door open for others.

Tameka Ray, director of Sonnets Academy in the South Loop, agrees that parent partnership with school starts first thing in the morning. “The first step is arriving ready to go each day,” says Ray, who notes that it is a big help to teachers.

Morning interactions are a great way to set the tone for the day. “It’s incredibly important for parents to be positive,” according to Ray, who notes that parental attitude influences even the youngest of children.

Sharing information from home is also important. “When parents are as transparent as possible, it lets the staff know how best to relate to the child,” Ray says.

Pearce notes that personalized learning is hugely important, but school “can only achieve that if we work with parents, who understand how their children learn best.” Sharing that information and insight with teachers can be hugely beneficial.

In addition, show an active interest in your child’s schoolwork, urges Ulf Hennig, head of German at the German International School Chicago. He says that includes “asking meaningful questions, supporting a positive homework routine and checking their bags daily.”

He stresses that parents should not feel pressure “as we are aware of the busy nature of families’ lives” but rather they should know that small acts of involvement can make a big difference.

That can be putting a sign in the yard, talking about the school with friends and colleagues, volunteering to chaperone a field trip, attending an event on the weekend, or yes, even fundraising, he says. The German International School has even developed “effortless fundraising.”

Schools often try to recognize that not every family has the same schedule by hosting events not only during the school day but also on evenings and weekends.

Science & Arts Academy in Des Plaines takes it a step further by providing recordings for parents who can’t make it in person. Watching it with your child when schedules permit is a great way to send a message to your child that you care about what happens at school even when you cannot be on site.

A large part of that is finding a school where parents feel comfortable. “Parents are understandably focused on finding the right educational fit for their child, but we also emphasize the importance of parents finding the right fit for them as well,” says Tim Costello, of Science & Arts Academy.

“Parents are the primary educators of their children, and the partnership between home and school is strengthened through mutual trust, respect and child-centered focus,” he says.

This article appeared in the November 2019 special school advertising section.

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