When parents have to work two or even three jobs at a time to make ends meet, their schedule is stretched tight. Many times they can’t be present at morning or midday parent meetings at their children’s school. I wonder if crazy work schedules often get translated into statements about a lack of parental involvement or carelessness.
I grew up in a home where my mom worked two jobs a lot of the time because we needed the money. My dad became ill when I was in middle school and passed away when I was a freshman in high school. Mom carried the entire load for the most part.
My mom only spoke Spanish, and 28 years ago or so, there were not as many Spanish-speaking teachers as there are now. Although my mom could not be present at every back-to-school night, PTA meeting or assembly, I knew that she cared.
She taught me how to count, read, write and speak in Spanish. My mom also reached out to her sister-in-law for help when she was unavailable.
My mom cared deeply about my education and well-being. She expected me to get good grades and if she could not help me with schoolwork directly, she made sure that I got help somehow.
Those report cards you see in the picture above are my elementary school report cards. I recently found them in a stash of valuable papers she has filed away. I am a grown adult, and my mom has my report cards saved. Clearly she cared, but now I wonder if teachers categorized her as an uncaring parent because she had to work, provide and could not be present at school events frequently.
My mother practiced school choice although we didn’t call it that in those days. She used a relative’s address so I could attend a school on the other side of Huntington Park, where her sister-in-law was a teacher’s assistant—she wanted me to be safe.
For middle school I attended Gage Middle School. Perhaps it wasn’t the best performing school, but at least there were no school shootings reported. My mom did what she could with the help she had at the time. My mom cared.
I think of all those educators in the present day who are quick to say that parents don’t care and don’t get involved when students are not meeting standards. Which parents are they referring to?
I take a look at my circle of friends and family, and I see nothing but parents who are fully invested in their children’s education. A few of my cousins even left the state to find better public school options with smaller classroom sizes and sense of community. Some friends send their kids to private schools, some have decided charter schools fit their needs, and most have moved out of our neighborhood and have sent their kids out of Los Angeles Unified School District.
Why? Because they care. They want something better for their children.
So when I hear educators say parents don’t care and there is no parent involvement, I can’t seem to pinpoint exactly what type of parents they are referring to other than parents who are lost themselves.
I believe that if the school consistently practices strong parent engagement, and parents feel a sense of community, parents will figure out a way to be involved or will find tía or comadre to step in for them.
Schools can make the effort to engage their parents by offering trainings on how to help their children with their homework or how to help their kids build good study habits. If trainings can be on the weekends, I’m pretty sure that plenty of parents who need the help will show up.
I recently read about Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, which hosts a yearly spring fundraiser called La Caminata: My Walk to College. This is 2 mile walk/fundraiser that promotes family involvement and good health while helping out the school.
I thought to myself how awesome and clever this parent engagement activity is. I also know that not many local schools are doing things like this. Perhaps if schools change from complaining about lack of parent involvement and get creative on how to engage parents, performance can then be impacted in a positive way.