Kids Need Role Models. Why Don’t We Use The Ones Right in Front of Us?

09/14/2016 03:38 pm ET
Engaged Students
Vladka Lotkina
Engaged Students

 The following guest post was written by Vlada Lotkina

As a parent, when was the last time you were invited to your child’s school to share something personal and important to you? Maybe something interesting about your cultural background or your unique skills?

The answer, most often, is never.

As an educator, don’t you wish you could figure out how to get the support you want from the parents in your school? Wouldn’t it be great to understand what parents have to and want to offer to support your curriculum? To bring the broader world into the classroom and serve as role models?

The answer, we’ve found, is yes!

This is exactly what I have personally experienced as a parent, passing over most of the opportunities to come and engage with my daughters’ class. Despite my busy schedule, I, like most parents, want to contribute and participate, but looking at the list of options between bake sale and art project, nothing got me excited and eager to join in. I am a pretty bad baker and only a slightly better artist.

One day my daughter’s teacher reached out and said: “we would love to have you join us for an activity. What would YOU like to do? Maybe an activity that will introduce your culture to the students? Or do you have a hobby or skill that you’d like to share?”

This got me thinking. I am trained in ballet and the idea of teaching the kids a couple of ballet steps got me charged up. I told the teacher my hobby, and she was excited about the opportunity. When during the activity I saw the light in my daughter’s eyes as a proud kid and unbelievable engagement from the rest of the class, the light bulb went off. We have this army of parents in our schools that are all unique, with their talents and skills, experiences and backgrounds and yet we don’t leverage them as role models for our children.

We all understand the importance of role models from our personal experiences. Educators know that family engagement is vital to a student’s success. Teachers themselves rate family support in education as the most important factor in a student’s success, ahead of their own teaching skill, according to our recent survey.

So, why are these magical moments not happening in most classrooms? Why are we not opening new realms of possibilities and role models to the children?

Well, because it is actually hard to do!

At ClassTag, we have developed a free communication and scheduling platform for teachers that provides opportunities to build personal relationships between parents and teachers as the foundation. Our goal is to turn parents into partners in the classroom, and partnership requires a solid interpersonal foundation.

When parents share their interests and skills, teachers learn more about them, and parents can connect with one another. Teachers can invite parents to the classroom to share their skills, interests and stories with the students, opening new untapped possibilities for everyone involved. Since incorporating parent interests, we have witnessed not only a quantitative boost, but a corresponding improvement in the quality of parent engagement.

Parents get a tremendous sense of value when they have an impact on children. They appreciate the recognition and the opportunity to give of themselves. Children, on the other hand, have limited exposure to diverse adult role models apart from their own parents and teachers. When children know they have a whole community behind them and that community is diverse, multi-faceted, and working together for their benefit, they have a stronger opportunity to grow and develop.

The importance of role models for children cannot be overstated. As an educator, you can use all the help you can get in helping to mold and direct children. Parents want to help if they know their contribution can make an impact and the opportunity is relevant for them. Together we can unlock meaningful real world interactions between parents, teachers and students. We can’t miss such a huge opportunity to enhance learning for our children by settling for anything less.

Vlada Lotkina is the CEO of ClassTag, a simple and powerful communication and scheduling platform that brings research-based practices to help teachers turn parents into partners and improve the quality of family support in education.

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