Getting involved at school helps your child, and builds your relationship with the teachers.
Help your child settle in
Some schools are very open to parents and carers staying with their children while they settle in at school. Some schools are less open to this. But don’t be afraid to ask, if it would help your child.
When each of Uncle Henry’s girls started school, he would come in and stay with them for a couple of hours at the beginning of each day, to help them settle in. This also helped him get to know the girls’ teachers and all the staff. It helped them to build a relationship and stay in touch throughout the year.
“What I used to do, I’d take them to school and I’d stay there with them. I done that for a fortnight. So they wouldn’t be frightened. Teachers don’t mind. They’re doing their work. Can’t watch over them all.” – Uncle Henry
Rodney and Suzanna have always spent time helping their younger son settle in at school. Suzanna even went on the school bus with her son, until he got used to it.
“The first school was the autism school. That worked well. But we always involved ourselves in what happened. Even with them picking him up. At first I would go on the bus. And then slowly slowly he went on his own on the bus.” – Suzanna
Get involved in the school
Aunty Faye has reared up many children, and has also been a Koorie education worker for many years. She says that if a child is having a hard time at school, it can help if the parent or carer helps out in class for a bit. It gives you a chance to see what’s going on, and to talk to the teacher or the aide.
“Always look at an alternative, and say – ‘Can I come in and read with the children?’ That might do something. I don’t know. But you try all these little things first. But then if they don’t work, there should be an aide. You go and talk to them. She or he may put you on the right track.” – Aunty Faye
Some parents or carers might want to start by just observing a class, maybe even to suss out if it’s the right place for their child. Many fathers who are culturally strong will let the mother take on the role, as it’s seen as women’s business. Dads tend to engage more after they feel comfortable being in the classroom, and know that their child is being seen as equal, as was the case for Rodney.
Rodney and Suzanna chose a school for their young son with many Aboriginal students, especially after their older boy experienced a lot of racism at school. Even so, at first they felt like some parents made assumptions about them.
“Some of the parents just looked at us, sort of, ‘Oh yeah, now they’re just going to drop off the child here, and they will take off.’ But then they saw the way that we were.
At first they didn’t know how to approach Rodney, because he wasn’t talking, he wasn’t, ‘Hey, how are you?’ and shake hands and all this. So they didn’t speak to us. But then they saw our involvement in the school, and the Indigenous studies, and then they sort of came around.”
Build a relationship with school in different ways
Sometimes, parents and carers might not be able to come along to events and meetings at school. This can happen for lots of different reasons. Sometimes, schools might think it means that families are not interested in their children’s education.
If you find it hard to get along to school events and meetings, it can be helpful to let the school know, and maybe suggest other ways that you might be able to keep in touch.
There are many ways of building a relationship with the school. In many communities, families and school staff might have contact through their local community. Families might see their child’s teachers in the town, or at sporting events. It’s good to acknowledge people in these situations, as it helps build better rapport and relationships between the teachers, the child and their family members.