Well, it may be a little ambitious to say we are “post-COVID,” but I think we can all agree that this school year is a vast improvement over the 2020-21 school year. For the most part, in-person learning is back, and schools all across the country have done what schools always do – they adapt and overcome.
Regardless of the challenges facing us, one thing remains constant. Our kids need our support and encouragement at school and at home, possibly now more than ever.
There have always been barriers to achieving successful family engagement in general, and it seems there are even more barriers to achieving successful male engagement specifically. Some of those challenges are real and some are imagined, but both can be overcome with some of the same strategies and considerations.
In order to better understand how things have changed since COVID, and what some schools are doing to adapt, I wanted to talk with someone who has spent a few years being heavily involved and committed to increasing male engagement at the local and state levels.
James Strickland is a husband, father, and business owner. He and his wife Georgia have three children attending school at Katy ISD in Katy, Texas. Georgia is also a business owner and serves as Texas PTA Vice President Membership.
Katy ISD is a large school district with 70 schools and almost 89,000 students. In his role as the WATCH D.O.G.S. TOP DOG Extraordinaire, James has provided training and support for many of the 54 registered WATCH D.O.G.S. schools in Katy as well as regularly serving as a volunteer himself. Additionally, his role as Texas PTA Male Engagement Liaison has expanded his efforts and influence across the state.
During our conversation, James reiterated that he felt the most important thing a volunteer could do in this day and age is have their priorities in line. If your primary goal is to serve the kids and the school, then you will need to abide by whatever guidelines your school has provided.
The teachers and the administrators have tough jobs under the best of circumstances, and navigating the ever-challenging and ever-changing COVID protocols only make their jobs more difficult.
Please understand that no matter what guidelines the school district or the principal have in place, someone will disagree with them. Don’t volunteer unless you are willing to follow the current school protocols.
James said that Katy ISD made it easy for their parent volunteers to keep up with the current guidelines because they have several helpful links on their website. There you can see the current number of active cases in the school district, self report if you have tested positive, schedule a COVID test if you have symptoms or have had direct exposure, and view the school district’s complete plan for returning back to school safely.
We looked at a dozen school district websites from across the country, and every single one had information regarding COVID and the school’s current COVID protocols.
Many parents may not realize that their school district has provided excellent resources that will be vital to understanding the expectations of a volunteer. Be sure to utilize the COVID protocol information your district has provided and contact your principal’s office with any questions prior to volunteering.
Here are just a few do’s and don’ts for you to consider as a school volunteer, especially during these challenging times.
- Always know the current volunteer guidelines of your district and school. Especially regarding COVID, but also in general too.
- Understand that your superintendent, principal, and teachers have the best interest of your student in mind, and every decision and rule they make is in serious consideration of their safety.
- Have empathy for your superintendent, principal, and teachers, and don’t make their jobs even more difficult.
- Agree to follow the prescribed COVID guidelines when you volunteer.
- Always set a good example for the kids. Be cheerful and encouraging. We hear from educators regularly that the current situation is adding additional stress to many students. Your influence can make a huge difference in the quality of their school day.
- Thank every person who works at the school when you have the opportunity. Certainly, the teachers and the principal, but also the secretary, school nurse, cafeteria staff, and custodians. Showing appreciation will make a huge difference.
- Remember that family engagement at school begins at home. Make time every day to ask your child about school. Be aware of their social and academic successes and challenges.
- Remember that the teachers and principal are your partners in your child’s education. Having a good relationship with them will make everything flow a little easier and contribute to the best possible outcomes for your child.
- Make volunteering a priority. Regular volunteers are some of the busiest people we know, and they always have somewhere else they could be, they just made the time to help others.
- Underestimate the power of simply showing up and asking how you can help.
The bottom line: we can continue to experience robust and effective family and community engagement in our schools, as long as we work together and keep the best interest of the kids in mind.
Our kids deserve the best educational conditions we can provide, and the support of the moms, dads and grandparents will make a huge contribution to a positive and productive learning environment. Make the commitment to volunteer today.
Eric Snow is the president and co-founder of WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students).
This article was originally published by National PTA.