“Mrs. K why are you in our school again?” The speaker was my daughter’s kindergarten colleague, Alissa. I had been quietly shelving books in the school’s Media Center (once known as their Library) on one of my regular rotations as a “Media Helper.” I didn’t blame Alissa for her question. I’m at the school a lot. “I’m here because I can be,” I replied. But it’s more than that.
When my first child was in Kindergarten I missed him more than I ever thought I would. I volunteered for anything that would bring me into the school to see him, even securing a position as a Playground Assistant at the same school (an “oops” on the part of the principal who wasn’t supposed to hire someone with a child at that school) so I could get a glimpse of Junior. I got to know the teachers and staff. They, in turn, would pass on tidbits of info about Junior like who he was playing with on the playground, what he was doing during indoor recess, whether he’d finished his lunch, etc. I liked being a part of his life even when he wasn’t home. Turns out, I was doing the right thing.
According to educators, a child with parents who are involved in the school and the kid’s education is more likely to get better grades. He/she is less likely to become involved with drugs and underage sex. That child has increased motivation and self-esteem with lower rates of suspension and fewer instances of violent behavior (source: www.michigan.gov/documents/Final_Parent_Involvement_Fact_Sheet_14732_7.pdf). Moreover, according to educators family participation in education is twice as predictive of students’ academic success as family socioeconomic status. Those are compelling reasons for me to have a presence in the school.
While the greater picture this paints is amazing and not to be discounted, I primarily volunteer to be in school for “the look”: the fraction of a second acknowledgement my daughter gives me when she sees me during the school day. The fleeting glimpse in her eye, not seen by her friends, that says “I see you, Mom. Other mothers aren’t here, but you are. I know what you’re doing isn’t what you’d like to be doing – you’re doing it anyway because I’m important to you. I love you, too.” I won’t get that look once my daughter hits middle school because parental involvement, sadly, isn’t asked for in the upper grades where children are supposed to become more independent.
So look for me, Alissa. I’ll be on your school trip this week. I’ll be serving pizza next Tuesday. I’m coming in to be a part of your bumblebee assembly in an hour. Because I want to see my daughter as much as she wants to see me. And as long as the school asks for me, I’ll be there as much as I can.
This is an original post for Jersey Moms Blog.