It's Back to School Time, So Now What?



The dog days of summer are ending just as quickly as Tropical Storm Emily blew through Bradenton-Sarasota. For those with school-age children, buying new school backpacks, pencils, binders and school clothes are the purchase du jour. For those who are commuting to work, morning schedules will include a few extra minutes of time to accommodate school buses are on the roadways and children are crossing in school zones. A new pace will soon set in for most if not all of us. So now what?

It’s time to get involved.

Undisputedly, parental involvement is one of the greatest predictors of student success. Many of us know this and, as such, invest very willingly in our child’s education—whether getting to know the child’s teachers, developing a partnership with your child’s school, reading alongside your child, attending parent conferences, or volunteering on a field trip. In whatever way, parental involvement makes a big difference.

As with many things in life, too much can be, well, too much. Over-involvement can also have some negative effects on the child itself. Psychologist Dr. Wendy Mogel, author of The Blessing of the Skinned Knee and The Blessing of the B-Minus, identifies ways using Jewish teachings in which parents can raise self-reliant children. This oftentimes may involve throttling back our exuberance to step in or speak up for our child when they can responsibly do so.

In our whirlwind of back-to-school shopping and re-adjusting to school zone traffic slowdowns, we tend to forget that under-involvement can also be detrimental to a child. With 52 schools in Sarasota County, not all schools have strong parental support. Not all have parent organizations and not all have booster clubs or school foundations. Not all children have someone to read with. Not all children have a role model or mentor to help shape them, and not all children have a personal advocate. A deep dose of reality is that in Sarasota County alone, over 50 percent of students are on free and reduced lunch, nearly 1,000 students are homeless each year, and more than 200 students are homeless and unaccompanied (are not in custody of a parent/guardian and have no parental/guardian support). The need is great indeed. 

If you’re a parent who recognizes and values parental involvement, consider doubling down this year. Find another child who could benefit from your support and spread your contagious zeal! If you’re a member of a strong parents’ association, find out if another school can be “adopted” that may need your support. For those of you who are empty-nesters or grandparents, reach out to Sarasota County Schools volunteer and partnership office and sign up to help. There are many ways in which students can benefit from collective volunteerism, and it all starts with you and one child.

Jennifer Vigne is president of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County.

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