Question from a Reader

Dear Jay,

        My wife and I were absorbed in our careers and didnít even marry until we were in our mid-thirties. We didnít have friends with kids and were away from the school scene. Now in our forties, we have a daughter in kindergarten. It is surprising to see how elementary schools have changed since we were students. Most puzzling is the expectation of parent involvement in the classroom. Can you explain this to us?

RCH, Palo Alto

Dear RCH,

        Yes, you have made an astute observation. Many schools expect that parents will participate to some degree in the classroom. (Note: I am aware of one local school that expressly requests that parents not be involved in classroom activities.) While I am not sure how this has come to be the case, I can tell you that it has many benefits for the students and their families. Some of these benefits are:

  • Children see that their parents value their education because they are physically there themselves. This means you are "walking your walk" instead of just "talking your talk."
  •  An additional adult in the classroom means that some children who need attention can get it, since the teacher can be in only one place at a time.
  • An additional escort on a field trip contributes to the safety of the class, since it means another pair of eyes looking out for the children.
  • And for the benefit of those parents who are working for employers who are not eager to share their employees with schools, there are many jobs that parents can do that are not part of the school day:
    • Sit on the PTA or School Site Council, which meet regularly in oversight of the school and its events. Inquire at your school about these or other committees that would welcome your participation.
    • Help plan an event coming up at the school.
    • Ask the teacher if there are jobs that can be taken home and then brought back completed for the use of the class. This can give your child the sense that she has helped in doing something for her classmates.
Do you have a question for your child's teacher concerning your child's education? Chances are the answers are in Teach Your Children Well: A Teacher's Advice for Parents. Order it today from or your favorite bookseller.

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