A friend posed this question: “In your 41 years of service as an educator, have you met parents who are supportive partners in your schools?”
My thoughts immediately went to the encouraging letter from a pupil’s parents. It read: “We write to thank you for Melissa’s six years at your school. It ended on a high note in 2009 when she broke the school’s PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination) records. She attributed her outstanding results to all her beloved school teachers.
“The encouragement that Melissa received from your dedicated teachers have made her believe in herself and spurred her to challenge her own limitations again and again. More than anything else, we would like to thank you for the fun that Melissa had during her time at your school. Your school is a holistic neighbourhood school focused on making each heartland child a dazzling diamond.”
I felt encouraged and affirmed that the school was on the right track. It reinforced my belief that I was touching young lives and making a difference. But I was also mindful of the parents’ unstinting support that played a big part.
They had full confidence in the teachers, provided constructive feedback, supervised their child’s homework and came for meet-the-parents sessions to work closely with the teachers.
The former minister for education, Mr Heng Swee Keat, repeatedly brought up the importance of the partnership between teachers and parents in the Ministry of Education‘s Work Plan Seminar in September, an important yearly meeting for educators in Singapore.
For our children to thrive, it is essential for parents to be supportive partners in the school.
If a teacher’s dedication and passion have touched you, how about showing your appreciation through a note or a word of thanks?
This small gesture goes a long way in cheering on teachers and school leaders. It motivates them to do better in their task of developing the full potential of a student.
When providing constructive feedback, use a collaborative tone and approach, focus on the problem rather than the person and solve it together as partners.
I regularly ask teachers how they would like parents to support them. On the top of their wish list is the hope that parents will trust them and believe that they want the best for their students. In addition, they cited some great things that supportive parents are doing:
MAKING TIME TO BOND
Talking to our children regularly makes us aware of what they are experiencing in school and their lives. This is achieved not just by asking about their homework or spelling.
Ask open-ended questions that make it possible for the child to share his or her successes, failures and anxieties. This creates the opportunity for us to encourage, assure and show our interest in our children’s lives.
READING TO THEM
This is a proven method of learning, so the love and habit of reading is the foundation for academic success. Reading is the best way to do well in any language subject.
In the case of English, when children do not read, not only does it affect their grades for the language, it also affects their performance in maths (such as in problem sums) and science because they cannot understand the question or content.
Storybooks are also a great tool for teaching our children about values and morals. Moreover, most of the challenges a child faces at different developmental stages are probably captured in a storybook.
Reading this together facilitates a discussion between the parent and the child. This enables the parent to help the child, as well as strengthen their bond.
If the children are in primary school, support the teachers by ensuring that they do their part at home, such as learning their spelling or multiplication tables.
NURTURING THEIR CHARACTER
Support the school’s holistic approach by encouraging your children to participate in co-curricular activities (CCAs). Make sure they do their part, such as by practising music instruments if they are in the band or in Chinese orchestra.
JOINING PARENT SUPPORT GROUPS
By joining a Parent Support Group (PSG), you will go beyond supporting your own child and contribute to a larger group of pupils in the school. Parent volunteers also have the opportunity of building rapport with teachers.
South View Primary School benefited from a strong partnership with the PSG. For example, the parents worked with Tamil teachers and organised cultural events and learning journeys to share about Indian dance and music, reinforcing the pupils’ learning and piquing their interest in the language.
Parent volunteers and teachers also started the football CCA. Despite not having a professional coach, the team clinched the title of National Soccer Champion within three years. It is a testament to what we can achieve with strong support from a PSG.
We are all here to build the next generation. Parents and schools are key building blocks, so let us work hand in hand, strengthen this partnership and support each other as we help our children to be confident and useful citizens of tomorrow.
A version of this story first appeared in The Straits Times.
(More ideas for getting involved in this Oprah.com article.)
Jenny Yeo was former principal of Kheng Cheng School, Radin Mas Primary School and South View Primary School. She is now a lead associate focusing on partnerships and engagement in the engagement and research division of the Ministry of Education.