The East Durham Children’s Initiative (EDCI), the local non-profit that works within East Durham to create a continuum of services that prepare children birth through high school for college or career, recently hosted a Parent Advocate Workshop for parents of children enrolled at Y.E. Smith Elementary School.
The workshop was attended by about 40 parents who were split into two sessions, one facilitated in English and one facilitated in Spanish. EDCI Parent Advocate Carla Marlin Smith answered our Partnership Q&A to help outline how parents can best advocate for their elementary students. Thanks Carla and EDCI!
What are the primary factors that contribute to student success?
Though not the only factors that help students be successful, things such as parent involvement, teacher expectations, and student self-confidence are certainly significant. Parents can actually control these factors unlike other issues such as social economic status, race, etc.
What role(s) specifically should the parent play in their elementary student’s education?
Parents should constantly communicate with the school and develop the knowledge/skills necessary to become effective advocates for their children. Parents should be engaged and supportive; ask your child how his or her day was every day and make sure your child is doing the homework. Don’t just assume they’ll get it done.
Parents should be their child’s teacher outside of the school environment. Provide them with opportunities to learn, take advantage of free events like a trip to the museum, and read with your child even if that means reading street signs, billboards, etc.
How can parents encourage learning?
Be a good role model. If parents show that they enjoy learning, then their child will also want to be a good student. Children need to see parents reading, learning, and trying to obtain a higher education and/or occupational training.
What are two ways a parent can advocate for their child?
This may seem pretty basic, but parents need to make sure they are communicating with the school and make sure the school has their most current contact information on file. Also, parents should know what their child should be learning. The Durham Public Schools Web site includes information on what children should be learning in each grade.
What do parents say discourages them from advocating for their children?
Many parents do not recognize the wealth of knowledge they can bring to the educational partnership between the family and the school. As a result, they do not believe that they are knowledgeable enough to effectively advocate on behalf of their child. I believe a significant part of my role as an advocate is to help them overcome their fears/doubts and to turn their deficit thinking into a positive so that they can educate themselves, as well as the child. One of the most common concerns I hear is when parents say they can’t help their child with their math homework because they don’t remember 4th grade math. I tell them just how common a fear that is and that they should shift the focus. Ask your child to teach you the math lesson, not the other way around.
What resources do parents have?
The school, Parent Advocates, community organizations, churches, and other parents – who truly are each others’ greatest resource. Parents should be sharing information within their community (i.e. - when school meetings are, what your child is learning, your experiences with teachers). Consider this – while you’re busy raising your child and changing your child’s world, there’s another child out there that doesn’t have that.
Parents need to consider that their child’s education begins well before kindergarten. How can parents raise children to be good learners?
By helping children develop a basic knowledge of themselves and the world around them, parents can better prepare their children to be academically and socially prepared for school. Activities such as reading daily with their children; singing songs; helping them recognize their name; puzzles/games; trips to the park, grocery store, zoo, museums, etc.; and helping them to name objects can improve academic readiness. Also setting rules; developing routines; talking with children; discouraging negative behaviors; and allowing them to do simple choirs prepares them to interact socially in a classroom.