Tips for parents working to create a successful school year

What can busy families do to help make this a great year for their youngsters? Elk River and other area leaders offered several suggestions.

Terry Bizal, principal at Elk River High School, would recommend a collaborative discussion (home and school) in the following areas:

•Attendance — attend on a daily basis; this is a life skill.

•Participation — get involved in at least one extra or co-curricular activity or club activity. Being connected to the school will increase your percentage of graduating.

•Start and end strong — progressive academic progress throughout the entire year.

•Future begins now — begin to discuss career opportunities with an eye to the future.

Roman Pierskalla, principal at Rogers High School, wrote, “Parents and schools need to work together to provide students the best education possible. Parents need to trust what the school is doing and support us. Parents should be actively involved in their student’s education. Be seen at school events, attend parent-teacher conferences and contact either your teachers or your child’s counselor if you have questions or concerns. Almost every student will at sometime get into trouble. It is what the student learns from dealing with the situation that is important.”

Marco Voce, principal at Zimmerman High School, “would advise parents to communicate daily with their child about their day at school and what happened. I would encourage parents to stay in contact with their child’s teachers (phone, email or parent portal). Last advice I can give is to have parents monitor their child’s peer group to make sure that it is the most positive group to be hanging out with.”

Linda Madsen, superintendent of Forest Lake Schools suggested that families “contact staff sooner rather than later with a potential concern or question to avoid or lessen frustration and miscommunication.” 

Jane Morken, interim principal at Caledonia Elementary, wrote that “parents can help by making sure their language is positive and accepting of all children regardless of race, religion, ability, etc. If parents do not think their children feel they belong, contact the school right away. The school and parents can team up and make a plan to help the individual child.” 

John Phelps, principal at Blaine High School, recommended, “Don’t ask if they have homework, ask if you can see what they have been doing in class. Ask your student to teach you what they learned today. You might already know the material but by teaching you they are learning it better.”

Jerry Hansen, Milaca district superintendent, shared advice based on something his mother did. “When I would mention an upcoming test, project or paper, she would write it on her personal calendar. Later in the week, at dinner or in the car, she would ask how the project was coming along, if she could read the rough draft, or how studying for the test was going. I never did figure out how she knew and remembered what my assignments were and it kept me on my toes.” 

These ideas can save time and help produce a more satisfying, successful year for families, students and schools. — Joe Nathan (Editor’s note: Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher and administrator, directs the Center for School Change at Macalester College. He welcomes reactions, [email protected].)