Back-to-school

It’s a pretty forceful and inevitable call to action every year for all involved…
Retail wants your school pound for uniforms, stationery, clothes and new tech to slide into new bags.
For teachers, it’s the transition between the last bits of pre-term planning, getting the classroom looking like an inspiring learning zone, lamenting the end of the hols (and the occasional freedom to drink wine (sssh!) in the day), and doing your first register with your new class.
The pupils? Nerves, fear, excitement, last-minute clamouring for new ‘stuff’ (see above), seeing old friends, making new, and getting down to the business of learning. A bit like starting a new job really.
Oh, hang on, none of this would be happening without parents. Pushed down the list, harassed, relieved? and ready to drop them off, meet up occasionally with the school (depending on your wanted level of involvement) and wait for the rounds of results.
What if you don’t want to be ‘just’ a chauffeur, cash-cow, shoulder to cry on, chef, home tutor and recipient of good/bad news? BACK TO SCHOOL could mean more for you, if you wanted to be even more actively involved in your child’s school life.
Maybe there’s a few questions to ask yourself first: volunteer
How well do you know the staff at your school?
What do you really want to ask or say to teachers?
Do you know how your school is handling the national curriculum changes?
Are you always up-to-date with what/how your child is learning?
Do you want to find out more about policies, and behind-the-scenes activities?
How long do you spend at the gate in the morning?
Does school info pass by you by sometimes?
Are you ‘just’ a parent, or do you work as well?
Do you enjoy meeting other parents? (Outside of the park or local artisan coffee shop)
There’s lots of different ways you can contribute to school life if you want to. Remember, you don’t have to! It’s not a competition, BUT, if you did? You, your children and the school would be enriched further in different ways.
Become a school governor – The paperwork is daunting, and it can feel ‘corporate’ at times, but after a while, you gain a deeper understanding of the school, how it works, and realise that it is more like a business than you think; answering to different stakeholders, but ultimately, being dedicated to the learning and welfare of the children. I’ve been a governor for 9 years now, and have learnt lots of transferrable skills (minute-taking, chairing meetings, regular training and data analysis). It gives a real sense of pride as well.

gov bodyUse your skillsets and Volunteer – it may be a dirty word if you’re young, hungry and looking for ways to boost your CV (unscrupulously for free in a lot of cases) but if you’re an Accountant? Gardener? Baker? Copywriter? Marketing genius? Organisational whizz? Sewing superhero? If you’re good at something, or deeply knowledgeable about a subject, see how it can translate into an asset for the school. You might even become a minor celeb in the children’s eyes!
Join the PTA – whatever the parent body is called, whether it’s a PTA, or ‘friends’ of the school, you’ll get to make a difference and meet new friends (just like your children!).
Meet the staff – Take the time to know who does what; from the lunch operatives, to school nurse, front-line staff to governing body, and of course, class teacher to the deputy/head. It will make a lot more sense when your child is chucking names at you in the evening, and of course, it may make end-of-year present buying a little bit more personal! (Although wine and chocs will pretty much always do).
Try and catch your class teacher/deputy/head in the morning, and schedule an appointment to dig a little deeper into what topics are coming up, school trips, share your questions and concerns. It will make parent’s evening a lot smoother and less frantic. If you show more of an interest and, ahem, aren’t too pushy, it will probably mean a lot to who you’re speaking to, that you want to be more involved.
So, a few things to think of. It’s not compulsory like homework. You won’t be tested on your child’s school life. You might even catch a bit more gossip. Who knows how you’ll benefit. But, if you do decide you want to help? Be confident, get involved, and you might get more out of it than you ever realised.