As a parent, you can be meaningfully involved in your children's school, giving you an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your kids and help them and their peers to succeed in school and life.
Here are some specific ways that you can be involved in your school. (In order to develop this list, I interviewed a 25-year teacher and mother, who happens to be married to me. Thanks honey.)
Start on day one
Bring kids to school on the first day of the year and take the opportunity to meet the teacher (at least while your kids are in grade school).
Join the PTA
Don't just join the PTA, really get involved. Join a committee or run for office and make a point to make a difference.
Serve as room parent
Every elementary school class has a parent volunteer who takes charge of planning in-class social activities. If you love to plan birthday parties, this job is for you.
Volunteer to teach reading or math
Every class has students who are falling behind the class; just a few hours each week can get them back on grade level and succeeding with their peers.
Chaperone a field trip
Kids love field trips; teachers, not so much. Teachers will always want some parents to help wrangle the kids to avoid embarrassing or tragic problems.
Volunteer behind the scenes
When my son was in kindergarten, I volunteered to help the teacher cut out shapes, laminate materials, prepare arts and crafts activities, assemble bulletin boards and whatever else she needed. It was great to be in the classroom like a fly on the wall watching my son; neither of us has forgotten that time.
Teach something special
You may have a special skill that would be helpful in class. One parent volunteered, in my wife's class, to teach Portuguese to the class once each week.
Most schools have a variety of ways to reach out to parents, from the reader board outside the building to a website, and notes home carried (unreliably) by the students. Make sure you know how to find out what's going on to keep in touch.
Even as your kids get older and you can no longer help with homework, be sure you know due dates for assignments and help your kids to stay on task.
Attend "Back to school night."
Each year, most schools have an evening where parents, and sometimes students, are invited to visit the school to meet the teacher and learn about the plans for the year. Treat this night as a can't-miss event.
Be prepared for parent-teacher conferences
When you have the opportunity to sit down face-to-face with your students' teachers, take full advantage. Talk to your students about how they are doing before you go. Know their concerns and be prepared to address them constructively with your teacher. Don't make things worse for your kids by being disrespectful.
Keep school events on your calendar
Attend as many school concerts, parties and parades as you can. Your kids keep track of what you see and what you miss.
Be a booster
As your kids get older, be sure to support the school. Attend the school play, even if your students aren't in it. Go to the football games and cheer for your team - even if your son isn't the quarterback.
Never miss an award
Along the way, you'll be invited to attend award ceremonies. They may not seem important to you, but chances are, they are important to your children. Don't miss an awards ceremony. Ever.
With these few tips for being involved in your students' schools, you can be a model parent who builds a lasting relationship of trust with your kids and help them to be more successful, too.