by Ailen Arreaza
In a couple of weeks, my son Lucas will finish up his first year of elementary school. It’s been a wonderful year and I have proudly watched him grow and adapt to life as a student. It amazes me that the tiny infant I once held in my arms can now speak confidently about invertebrates and read simple words.
He has made tons of new friends and comes home each day with elaborate tales about his classmates, children I only know by name. Yet, as summer approaches, Lucas is a little worried about how he’ll stay in touch with all the friends he’s made this year. In particular, he has concerns about whether they’ll come to his fifth birthday party in July. “How will my school friends find my house, mami?” he asks.
To be honest, I had been wondering the same thing. While Lucas spends seven hours a day surrounded by 19 other children, I know very little about them and their families. So, a few weeks ago, his class’ room parent and I decided to start a Facebook group for all the parents in the classroom. This way, we can stay in touch throughout the summer and I can invite their children to Lucas’ birthday party. The group has been a big hit and parents have been using it to share resources about summer camp and their plans for next school year. It’s something we should have thought about starting way back in August!
At ParentsTogether our mission is to foster these types of communities. We’ve talked to parents all over the country and heard over and over again how much they value parent-to-parent connections. From our national survey respondent who said she just needed a little nudge to start carpooling with her son’s best friend’s family to the mom in DC who told us about the time she knew to take her daughter to the pediatrician over a sore throat because she’d found out from another mom at the school that her kid had strep throat.
In Charlotte, we are working with schools in CMS to strengthen parent engagement and improve communication between parents at the classroom level. We are using a variety of existing tools, from texting to private social networks, to make it easy for parents to stay connected. Our hope is to create strong parent communities across the district’s elementary schools.
We want parents to have a forum where they can share resources and support, but we also know that parent engagement is crucial to student achievement, positive teacher-student relationships, and a community’s trust in its schools. Plus, we think our programs will make kids with summer birthdays, like Lucas, really really happy.