The Power of Parent Support

When I was student teaching, I had the idealistic view that teaching alone was the most powerful way to influence the success of students.

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Although research shows that teacher expectations significantly affect the success of students in a classroom setting, I don’t believe we can overemphasis the power of a parent’s influence in shaping how children learn.

Ruby Payne*, in her research for Framework For Understanding Poverty, identifies 8 essential resources that students must have to experience significant success in school:
1. Financial resources
2. Emotional resources
3. Mental ability and acquired skills
4. Spiritual guidance or purpose
5. Physical health and mobility
6. Support systems, i.e. friends, family, and available backup resources
7. Relationships/Role Models
8. Knowledge of hidden rules (knowing unspoken cues and habits of a group).
*Check out my interview with Ruby Payne.

Although each of these resources is vital, I have come to deeply respect the influence of a child’s family as one of the most significant. This doesn’t mean children without those supports are doomed to failure. But it does mean those with parental support have huge advantages.

As I have transitioned from the classroom to school leadership, the power of good parents has become even more apparent.

A few years ago, we suffered the loss of a student in a tragic car wreck. Not only were our teachers sensitive and supportive but also our parents responded with an outpouring of support as well.

We had encouraging emails and phone calls from parents who offered help and prayers, moms and dads who reached out with condolences to hurting family members, and volunteers from our faith-based community who shared meals. In short, the parental response reminded us that we were not just a school but also a community.

I could tell more stories of the ways parents support our students, but let me just mention a few more examples:
• Band parents who give up their weekends to load buses, trucks, make sandwiches, and sew flags.
• Athletic boosters who grill burgers, provide snacks for practices, and help set-up and teardown for events.
• Generous choir parents who donate time, make pumpkin rolls for fundraisers, and raise money for trips to concerts and festivals.
• Moms, dads, or grandparents who volunteer to help monitor students during state-mandated testing.
• Parents who donate backpacks of snacks and food for students identified as a children who may be at-risk of missing a meal.
• Volunteers painting our parking lots, picking up trash after games, building benches for our bus stops, or laying concrete for new ramps or sidewalks for the fine arts building.
• FFA parents who chaperone trips to county fairs or haul animals to shows.

With all the negative media attention that schools receive, sometimes we simply forget to thank the unsung heroes whose partnerships make our schools so successful. So on behalf of school leaders, I’d like to say thanks to all our amazing parents, grandparents, guardians and community supporters…

Thank you for all the flipped pancakes at fundraisers, the donated school supplies, the generous teacher grants, the bags of groceries you send during holiday food drives, and the many other ways you sacrifice and give. Thank you for attending their events, patting them on the back, checking their grades, and attending parent-teacher conferences.

Without our supportive parents, we would be so limited in the ways we could teach students. With your partnership, we have the additional resources, supervision, service, and care that help our students not only to find success but also to thrive in their school experience.

But most of all, parents entrust us with their most precious treasures–incredible young people. Hopefully, the return on that investment finds us good stewards with them in helping students to learn, grow, and thrive.

Now It’s Your Turn
It’s so encouraging when our parents take time to show appreciation to our educators and teachers. What are some ways you can reach out to encourage them? Pass this post along as one way to let them know you appreciate their support.

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker