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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

How schools can help parents

September 17, 2013

I read an article in Slate last week called Parents Left Behind that resonated with me. The author writes of her back-to-school night experience: "The evening passed in a blur of acronyms, test names, and emendations to last year's system." Then I experienced my own first middle-school back to school night, and left feeling a little "behind" myself. New initiatives, "project-based" learning assignments, and the use of new technology in schools means parents have to work harder than ever to support their kids at the homework table.

Setting off on the right foot this school year, here are four requests to teachers that might connect parents and schools:

  1. Send home a textbook or examples you've done together in class that are like the problems students are being asked to do for homework. Students (and parents) need a model to turn to; without one we're floundering.
  2. Double-check your expectations for home-based projects. Are you assigning outings or experiences that will be difficult for your families? Many families have busy work schedules and weekends are precious hours for catching up on family time and housework. When possible, build in alternatives to assignments and give families lots of time before the due date.
  3. Assess the ease of Internet access for your families. Many teachers are posting videos and putting assignments on class blogs. That's no problem for families with constant and fast Internet access. But for other families, those requirements mean finding a way to access the Internet, and on busy weeknights, it just might not happen.
  4. Keep in touch with us. Find some method of communication that isn't too burdensome for you and use it, frequently. Close communication will help us understand what's going on, and help us be proactive participants in our child's schooling.

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"To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark." — Victor Hugo, Les Miserables