All hands on deck for parents
There are plenty of opportunities to get involved in your child’s school
Parents are busier than ever, but still want to be involved with their children’s education — whether it’s helping out with the school play or joining the parents’ association.
Parent involvement is a key component of the private school system, which relies on fundraising, but it’s also an opportunity to meet other parents, interact with teachers and understand what kids are learning.
Tina Bose’s three children attend Toronto French School (TFS). Back in 2003, she started volunteering as a class rep and helping out with pizza lunches.
“As I became a little more confident, and as my network within the school grew, I took on increasing levels of participation,” says Bose, now president of the TFS Parents’ Association. “There’s a range of opportunities for all parents depending on their time or skill set, or even their interests. We have a lot of parents who are both working, so we recognize that and try to cater to that.”
The parents’ association meets at different times to cater to various work schedules. It’s also revamping its website this year so parents who can’t attend have access to meeting minutes and other documents.
Class parties allow parents to get to know other parents in a more informal setting and the principal’s breakfast allows parents to discuss topics of interest to the school.
Parents can also attend various lectures on subjects ranging from the latest studying strategies to understanding how kids are using social media.
“For me, community extends not just to our geographical location but in areas with our children,” says Sandra Sullivan-Keeley, a parent at TFS. “That’s something we decided would be an impactful and good use of our time.”
Each year, a family in each class volunteers to host a parents’ welcome wine-and-cheese evening.
Sullivan-Keeley immediately got involved in the parents’ association and volunteered as a class rep, helping to keep other parents informed about school activities — such as who’s bringing the cupcakes for the Halloween party. She has since helped organize pizza lunches, chaired the fun fair and organized a gala event.
Pizza lunches, which help raise money for the school, are a great way for parents, who don’t have a lot of time, to get involved.
At Bishop Strachan School, a private school for girls, there’s even a position dedicated to this: director of community relations. Claire Reed serves as a resource for parents and acts as a liaison between the school and parents’ association.
All parents are automatically part of the parents’ association, though there are about 25 formal roles on the executive board. Parents can also get involved in a number of ways, from volunteering in the Learning Commons (which includes a library, museum and archives), to helping out with a school play, being a judge in a public speaking tournament, or driving students around on the “Trick or Eat” food drive.
“The opportunities are wide and there’s something for everybody,” says Reed. The school also offers lectures and learning events for parents; new this year is “coffee and conversation” for parents of foreign students, who want to practise their English.
BSS parents Kim Edwards and David Grant help out at a recent Harvest Games community event on campus.