If the idea of creating connections with the community at your child’s private school brings back memories of struggling to find a seat at the lunch table, you’re not alone. But if you can find a way in, the rewards are more than worth it. Not only does a relationship with your child’s school foster effective communication between parents and teachers, “it also allows parents to stay informed about their child’s academic progress, social development and overall well-being,” says Alanna Marks, the admissions director and a parent at Shining Mountain Waldorf School in Boulder.
The good news is, there are plenty of ways to establish relationships with the faculty, staff and fellow parents — without going too far outside your comfort zone.
Keep reading to learn how to establish those connections.
Not sure where to begin? Try connecting with the Parent Teacher Organization leader, suggests Taryn Clark, a fourth and fifth-grade teacher at Vista Ridge Academy in Erie. “They can help you get in contact with various families that are seasoned and outgoing that will be able to guide you into various social situations to foster these relationships.”
Dawn Hecox, the Upper School Director at the Dawson School in Lafayette agrees, connecting one-on-one can be a great entry point. “Find one person who seems friendly and strike up a conversation and then ask about having coffee–then follow through,” she suggests.
If you’d rather connect directly with the school, Hecox suggests reaching out directly to administrators, coaches, or teachers. “Don’t be shy about emailing,” she says.
“We love to hear from parents and will always take the time to help you find the best way to get involved and meet other families.”
Find Existing Social Opportunities
While some may feel more comfortable connecting one-on-one with other adults in the school community, others may prefer to attend school functions where they can mingle with several other parents or families over the course of an evening.
According to Nina Lopez, the Bixby School’s Head of School, such opportunities abound. “Some of the many opportunities we offer include monthly Bixby Community Builders meetings, family game nights, Early Childhood Hike, monthly community coffees, Fall Fest, Back to School Night, Spring concert and Winter community sing, monthly assemblies, Art Show, annual auction, Coffee with Nina, gardening events, Handmade Holiday Market, and more.”
Volunteering doesn’t necessarily have to mean diving headfirst into a major commitment or even committing to a weekly time slot. If you’re pressed for time or want to dip your toe in before you take the plunge, consider helping out with a one-off event that aligns with your skills and interests.
“For example, if you have a background in gardening and farming, you can plant and harvest with the second grade,” suggests Marks. “Or if you have a different cultural background, there will be opportunities to share the food and rituals of those cultures,” she adds.
Whether you chaperone a field trip or help with a Halloween celebration, “Each act of volunteerism allows the parents to view a slice of their child’s life, make friendships in the community, and feel gratitude for the many wonderful gifts that their children are receiving,” says Marks.
Regardless of how you choose to get involved in your child’s school, it’s important to see your relationship with the school as a partnership, says Watershed School’s Head of School, Timothy Breen, Ph.D. “We all bring different perspectives and expertise to the table,” he explains. And the value of parents’ perspectives can’t be overstated. According to Breen, while educators are experts in your child’s learning and development, according to Breen, “Our parents are experts on their children.” And when parents and educators team up, our kids reap the rewards.
By Pam Moore for Raised in the Rockies