A couple of years ago I wrote 5 Ways to Support Your School in which I examined the ways you can support your school financially. That article was aimed at private school graduates and discussed how they could support the school which had given them such a good start. Now let's look at how parents can get involved with their child's school.
The old standbys still exist. Helping chaperone a field trip and bringing in a plate of cookies or cupcakes are still welcomed. Mind you, these days you have to make sure that you have liability insurance for the trips and must take care to avoid ingredients that might cause an allergic reaction, such as peanuts. Once those matters have been dealt with trips and cookies are always popular.
Why get involved?
Aren't you busy enough? You have a full-time career. Your wife's job requires her to travel frequently. How on earth are you going to find time to be involved with your child's school? Practical excuses aside, you want to be involved with your child's school to show your support for the school and its programs.
This event at The Hockaday School, Dallas Texas, was made very memorable because of all the parents who attended.
I served on my youngest daughter's class parents committee. If I remember correctly, we met once a month. We were charged with raising money to buy something for the classroom. I remember baking cookies and muffins. Now, all of this doesn't sound like much but the appreciative comments from the teacher and my daughter's classmates made it really worthwhile. It was very special to have an eight-year-old hail you with a cheery "Good morning, Mr. Kennedy!" as I arrived at school to walk my daughter home.
When should you get involved?
Showing up to cheer on your child's field hockey team at her boarding school doesn't seem like much. That is until you realize that there are probably no more than eight other parents there. We both had busy professional lives. But writing ourselves out of the script so that we could attend that game at the Kent girls' school campus on Skiff Mountain meant everything to our eldest daughter. Her eyes lit up as one by one we arrived and took our places on the sidelines. I cherish those memories to this day and I am sure that she does as well. Needless to say, the school staff went out of their way to greet us with waves and big smiles. It is kind of tough to get boarding school parents to attend events mid-week. As a result, I think they liked the fact that we made the effort to be there since we did live within fairly easy driving distance. We also made sure to attend our daughter's performances in the choir and in musicals. Attending events is a very powerful way in which to support your child's school.
Where should you get involved?
Perhaps you live overseas. You have heard that your child's school is planning to attend a recruiting fair in your area in a few months. Why not email the admissions team and offer to help in some way? I am being purposefully vague about how you should help. Let the admissions staff tell you what they need you to do. Obviously, if you are bringing some prospective applicants and their parents, you can help with introductions. Then discreetly fade into the background while the admissions staff does its thing. Your gracious welcoming presence will be another wonderful way to support your school.
How should you get involved?
Sometimes your busy schedule and previous commitments will not allow you to attend events or help with a class trip. What do you do then? You contact the school and find out what the trip or event needs. Then you write a check. There will always be some students who cannot afford the trip or an item for which the committee forgot to budget. If nothing else, your generous gift will provide that badly needed financial cushion the event or trip has to have in order to be successful. Write the check and pen a short note on your informal stationery wishing everybody well. Send it off a couple of weeks before the event.
Contributions in kind are always acceptable. Perhaps you own a catering company. You could send over a couple of boxes of cookies. Maybe you work for a company that could donate goody bags or party favors. There are all sorts of ways in which you can contribute. Helping financially is another powerful way in which to get involved.
Volunteers are much appreciated at The Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Maryland.
If your school has a parents association, support it with your presence or financially. Milton Academy's Parents' Association, for example, asks parents to volunteer to drive students to community service sites. It also asks for parents to help in the library with bookbinding. There are literally no limits to how you can help. All you have to do is offer to help.
Who should get involved?
If you are a single parent and your child is off at boarding school, perhaps a relative who lives near the school could fill in for your. Having an aunt or grandparent show up at a game or other event at the school will have a tremendous impact. Children - even teenagers - love having family around.
What does it take to be involved?
Getting involved with your child's school requires you to make a commitment. Don't bite off more than you can chew. If you can only show up at one game all semester, then do that. Find some other way to show your support and involvement.
This short video illustrates how parents feel about their children's school, The Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania.
One of the most powerful ways 21st-century parents can be involved with their child's school is by using social media. Posting your own or your child's photos as well as sharing the school's posts tells your circle of friends how much the school means to you. In our parents' day, people shared news and information via the telephone. Remember when we all had a landline? Nowadays we share news and information via social media and our smartphones. I can tell you as a grandparent that nothing puts a bigger smile on my face than to see photos of my grandchildren on Facebook or in a text message. I have ten grandchildren so I smile a lot!
Getting involved with your child's school is a worthwhile endeavor. Take the first step. Ask what you can do. You will be glad that you did.
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