Christians at times spend more time worrying about what they aren’t allowed to do in the public arena than actually doing the things they are allowed to do to impact various aspects of culture. This can be particularly true in public schools where educators and administrators may appear to brush off parental concerns. The truth is that a subset of parents has always had a huge influence on teachers and staff at our public schools. Some are Christians and some aren’t. They all, however, take advantage of every opportunity they can to put them in a position to be heard when they feel it is important.
So what secret do these parents hold? They have learned that supporting the teachers and administration in ways those people value, builds relationships. Those relationships can provide other opportunities to question or influence various policy decisions.
Here are some great ways to support the teachers and staff at your children’s school(s).
- Get involved in the PTA and other parent organizations like booster clubs. Yes, it means extra work and more meetings, but when a group of parents bands together, they can sometimes achieve more than an individual parent could. When our daughter was in elementary school, the county cut funding for their daily German classes. The parents worked as a group to raise money to fund the positions and the county relented.
- Volunteer to be a “room parent”. The position is more than planning parties. Some teachers take advantage of supportive room parents and use them as a sounding board or offer them other opportunities to engage with students.
- Volunteer for ketchup mom, carpool lane dad or any other volunteer positions at the school. Yes, the jobs are mundane and boring for the most part, but it shows you are willing to invest in the school. Plus you often get to see the various teachers and administrators doing their jobs when most parents aren’t there. You can learn a lot about people by watching how they interact with students.
- Ask for prayer requests in your interactions with faculty and staff. Public prayer may not be allowed in schools, but nothing prevents you from telling a teacher that you are praying for him or her and asking if there are any specific requests. You would be surprised how many will gratefully tell you a request. Even those who don’t believe in God understand the sentiment behind your offer. If you do it consistently, you may be surprised to have teachers track you down to give you a prayer request. In our daughter’s elementary school, a group of moms met at a church in the community weekly to pray for our kids, their teachers and classmates, and the school as a whole.
- Reading time. This is not available at every school, but many elementary schools have a parent come in to read a picture book to their child’s class. While you can’t get by with reading stories from the Bible in most schools, we were able to bring in books like Berenstain Bears that encourage godly behavior and attitudes.
- Break-room treats. This is your chance to finally see the inside of a teachers’ lounge! Seriously though, finding excuses to drop by an occasional batch of cookies or some other treat lets everyone know you are thinking about them as people.
- Volunteer to tutor. This is not ideal for everyone, but if you do have the gift of teaching, many teachers would love to have free tutors for struggling students. Be aware though that some teachers use tutoring for extra income, so don’t be offended if they reject your offer.
- Participate in county or statewide curricula reviews. This varies from place to place, but some school systems allow parents to review potential new textbooks. It’s time consuming and tedious perhaps, but even if your feedback is ignored, you will be more aware of any problematic material before it is taught to your children as “truth”.
- Volunteer for any school system committees that include parents. There may not be many, but if you do your volunteer job well, you will earn the respect of system wide employees who impact the bigger decisions for all of the schools in a district.
- Run for school board. Okay, this one is for the truly passionate and those gifted in politics and diplomacy, but this is the one place where your voice will be heard – even if it isn’t heeded.
If you work outside of the home, you may think this article doesn’t apply to you. The truth is that many parents with full time jobs make the time to get involved. Ask teachers for projects you can do at home at night – like cutting out things they need or other flexible tasks. Many schools have meetings at night so more parents can attend. Schools also often have weekend work days to make improvements in their landscaping. (If not, why not volunteer to organize such a day?)
Yes, all of this takes a lot of extra time and effort. It is not about manipulating people or situations, but rather accurately and consistently reflecting God’s love to people who are often criticized by parents. Also remember, this can be a ministry in and of itself….. where you can point faculty, staff and students to God in perhaps subtle, but entirely legal ways.