Quick (unrelated) thoughts: curriculum and parental involvement

I hope to write more in-depth about both of these, but for now, I want to ask/say:

1) How important is a fully fleshed out curriculum?  I mean pages and pages of “Students will be able to:” kind of curriculums.  I have a curriculum. It’s relatively detailed, but I think the whole thing, from 6-9th grade could fit on a couple of pages.  What happens in the classroom is so varied.  Some students go way beyond what I might expect, learning what they need to learn to get their projects done.  And some students do the bare minimum, perhaps not even meeting the minimum curriculum.

2) What does parental involvement really mean?  I was “involved” in my kids’ education only insofar as I generally knew what was going on with them in school.  Even when I joined the PTO, I didn’t feel like I was really doing anything to help reform the school or its curriculum.  It seems to me that all that decision-making happened at the school board level.  At my current school, there’s plenty of parental involvement, but it varies, and I don’t think of parents whom I don’t hear from as any less informed necessarily than those that are in constant contact.  For all I know, they talk about school all the time at home and just don’t see any need to communicate. On the other hand, from the standpoint of my son’s education, I feel like getting involved is a) really hard beyond conversations at home and b) somewhat intrusive.  I don’t know.  What do you think?

3 Replies to “Quick (unrelated) thoughts: curriculum and parental involvement”

  1. This is a weird one for me.

    When my daughter was in elementary school, I went to all parent-teacher conferences, helped with at least one party a year, and attended all grade level programs (and other programs she was involved in),

    In high school, though, what does an involved parent look like? I feel like parent-teacher conferences in high school are mainly for students who are having issues. In general, there aren’t the types of parties that many of us helped with when the kids are younger. I obviously still attend the programs she’s part of.

    Would my daughter’s teachers rate me as involved, minimally involved, or not involved? I think my daughter would say I was involved, but I certainly don’t know how anyone outside of the family would know that…..

  2. Really quickly back (I have to leave for a PTA meeting) curriculum — if you are teaching subject Y in grade X, surely what you teach should be aligned with what subject Y teachers in grade X+1 expect students to have previously mastered.

    It’s more of a big deal in STEM & second+ languages, but still, scope and sequence…

  3. On parent involvement, at home in the States I tend to want my demeanor with the teachers/principal to be withdrawn, because the parents in our district have a reputation for being pushy and intrusive. But I’m not really withdrawn, because my kids are still young enough to tell me a lot of what’s going on, and I do a fairly specific volunteer job (working in the leveled-reader book room) that gets me a lot of inside information on a topic that matters to me, the literacy program. And there’s a whole network of parents sharing the bits and pieces of information that they get, so there’s this divergence between my performance (“I’m hands-off, I trust you to teach my kid”) and my reality (“I’m watching everything like a hawk.”)

    I’m sure the teachers see through the performance, though. For one thing, I send (solicited) “this is what I think my child needs next year” notes to the principal each summer and “here’s what my child might need help with” letters to each teacher in the fall. That sets me down in the “hyper-alert” column right there.

    And it makes a difference that none of my kids has specific special needs.

    Our schools at home send very clear signals by about third grade that parents aren’t much needed in the classroom anymore. There are specific volunteer demands (monthly parties, trained literacy coaches, behind-the-scenes work) but the parent rota from kindergarten-Grade 2 disappears. There’s definitely a connection to the end-of-grade tests there (they start in 3d grade).

    I think parent involvement becomes incredibly kid-dependent once they hit middle/high school, although I’d throw that out the window in a heartbeat if the kid were coming home with warning-sign grades or I suspected drug/alcohol/bullying problems. Again, our district at home wouldn’t be surprised by that. But under typical circumstances, I would expect to contact teachers during the fall conferences, and then never speak to them again unless they contacted me.

    It’s hard to know how to classify some of the party-planning/sports-organizing stuff that parents do in high school. As a kid myself, I remember thinking that the parents who did that had their own social needs at stake. My parents never did any of it, but I didn’t feel like it signaled their interest in my SCHOOLING one way or another. I don’t know how the teachers felt, though.

    I’ve made a point of dropping off a few things in the school office here in Scotland, and talked to a few teachers as a result of that, and I signed up for a solicited volunteer activity once a month, but mostly I’ve been hands-off. Then again, I thought most people would volunteer, and there were precisely six names on the volunteer sheet when it came back. So I bet standards vary wildly.

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