By Smarty Guest Blogger Rachel Spector
Two years ago, during the application process, I picked my daughter up from her 3rd grade “buddy visit” at Providence Day School. When she got into the car, I cautiously asked her how her day went and with a huge grin she began, “It was the best day ever! The cafeteria is awesome, the kids were great, we heard a cool story and look at the picture I made!” She continued to tell me detail after detail about her day and ended with what I had been hoping to hear. She exclaimed, “I love it here!”
PDS was a new school for both of my children. As the end of their first year approached, I thought about the incredible bond they were developing with their new school community. Through thousands of hours and the gamut of experiences, PDS was becoming a partner in helping my children become their best “selves.” At the same time, I began to wonder what my relationship was to this new community that had become such a big part of my family life?
My outlook on this parent-school relationship became similar to making a new friend. I quickly realized just like building the foundations of a friendship, a strong parent-school partnership started with good communication, collaboration, being supportive, trusting, and sharing in experiences.
I often find myself agreeing with the adage, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I have two kids who are very different. As a result, I have found it very helpful to create a “mini village” each year for each child. For example, at the start of the school year I request a brief meeting or create an email exchange with my child’s current teacher and former teacher to see if there is any valuable information that can be shared. The more information the teachers have, the more they can strategize on how to get the best out of my children’s day.
I have found that making small contributions of time has kept me in the loop with my children and the community of people beyond the classroom. Volunteering in the library every other week or agreeing to serve as “day of” help for an event is an easy way to make faces on campus more familiar and to connect with new people.
If your child has something that needs to be addressed, be his or her strongest advocate and ask the questions that need to be asked. Look to your school’s internal and external network of resources to address issues. At PDS, the depth of resources and experience of faculty and staff is unparalleled. The willingness to work with parents to solve problems speaks volumes about how much the community is vested in children and their success.
A truly productive partnership involves mutual trust between parents and the school leadership and teachers. Trust the school process and be supportive of your child failing or their “first attempt at learning.” I have come to learn that school is a place that will let my child fall, but will also give them the tools to get back up. School is an incredible and safe setting for teaching and learning opportunities, so allow the process to happen.
Try to take advantage of at least one school social event a year (a play, a party, a sporting event, etc.). I find having a conversation with someone I haven’t met is interesting and enriches the fabric of my parent-school experience. Often, staff members are also parents of children at school making the community that much stronger. I believe that attendance and participation at school events has an extraordinary impact on overall camaraderie.
Upon reflection, making new friends takes time, effort and energy by both parties. A good parent-school relationship serves to promote the long-term success of your children, while ensuring a wonderful parent experience at the same time. Look to turn a “new friend” into an “old friend” over the years with your school community, so that it becomes more than just a place where you send your children every day.
Rachel Spector is a 2nd year parent at Providence Day School and the VP of New Business Development, Diversified Marketing Group