Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Parents + Schools + Students + Businesses = a Phenomenal Partnership

Parents + Schools + Students + Businesses = a Phenomenal Partnership
Darrel Hammon

Some time ago, I visited with a high school principal who told me parents were not generally supportive of their children in school. By that he meant, I suspect, that they did not come to school to help their children as much as he would have liked them to.

Part of the challenge is parents are busy. In many families, both parents work and are unable to spend the amount of time they wish to be with their child at school. Granted, some junior and high school students would rather have their parents stay as far away as possible from the school as possible.

So, how can businesses help? 

Former Secretary of Labor, Lynn Martin, once wrote: “Are the schools and workplaces in my community adequately preparing the workers of today and tomorrow? If not, what am I going to do about it?” 

I have a few ideas.

Continue your vigorous participation as business supporting education. Historically, businesses have been wonderful supporters of education at all levels. Your donations—real money or “things” from your businesses—have been extremely helpful in extending the school’s budget. Without some of you, schools would not be able to function as well as they do. Although money is important, students need to understand there is a direct correlation between work and school.
Become mentors to students. Students are your labor pool. They work for you after school, on weekends, and during the summer. What a prime opportunity for you as a business leader to help them understand the importance of school as it relates to work. Additionally, you may want to hire an intern periodically to learn the trappings of your business. Not only do you get an extra set of hands, you also are helping students learn valuable workplace and leadership skills they will carry with them to other jobs and situations. Plus, you are simultaneously connecting education to real work experiences. Also, if students do not have the basic skills, it is going to be difficult for them to become your workers of the future.

Provide time for your employees to participate in school activities. Often many school activities are held during the school day, hence during the working day. Many parents complain they have no time to be with their children or participate in their children’s school activities. My philosophy has always been: “Make time.” But I have also said to parents: “Convince your boss you will be a better employee if you are involved in the education of your children. Whether he or she believes you or not is beside the point.” Who are the best teachers or trainers of children? Parents! Research has shown that parents are children’s most important teachers. Thus, involved parents will result in young people doing better in school and employees who are better workers.

Become involved in what many school districts call “Taste of Teaching.” All of you possess certain skills and experiences students need to hear about and learn from. Think about what it would be like if you went to classrooms and share with them about what it takes to be successful like you are. What you are doing is demonstrating to students that education is important, that it is relevant to the real world. Every school I know about would love to have business leaders become involved in teaching. If you don’t feel comfortable talking about your business in front of students, let me know. I’ll provide a “business inservice” in how to present your message. If your school does not have a program such as “taste of teaching,” then visit with the principal and powers that be and convince them this would be a good thing because it is.

I have held this philosophy for years: “We can spend as much money as we want on K-12 education, but students still have to go home.” Shouldn’t they go home where the parents are positively involved in education, either helping out at school, attending some sort of school/lifelong learning activity themselves, or being involved as business educators? 

Bottom line is this: Children do better in school when their parents are providing a positive role model by being a part of schools and their activities, and I am not just saying attend the basketball or football games. I mean, attend the spelling bees, debate tournaments, speech and drama meets, business simulations, plays, and other academic activities.

In essence, businesses can also play an ever-increasing important and integral role in helping parents fulfill their responsibilities as teachers of their children. Imagine what businesses can do if they go to the classroom and participate in connecting school to work. Helping teachers help their students understand that learning is a real-world/workplace concept is an incredible service you could provide.

Just think, your future employees are sitting today’s classrooms. You might as well help train them now while they are still in school. It’s less expensive in the long run.

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