Half the school year has gone by and your children must be settled in. Have you settled in, though?
Have you sometimes wished you could be like those other parents who seem friendly and are able to communicate better with teachers? Those who participate in school activities and are on the school councils?
Sounds daunting? Don’t worry, it’s not a problem of language or communication, but one of participation.
There are many other ways you can get involved in your child’s school life. It could just be a morning a week listening to kids reading, or it may be one day now and then helping out at a Working Bee or a Fundraiser or on Sports Day. You may be creative and share a story, an art or a craft at Harmony Day or Multicultural celebrations. Schools are more than happy to celebrate events like Diwali or Navratri, Eid or Easter, Baisakhi or Navroz if parents from other cultures bring in their traditions and information.
Parent participation, especially in primary school, helps a child fit in better. It increases your child’s confidence because they feel their peers and teachers understand them and their culture better, and also accept and respect it.
With a boost in confidence comes a boost in their social skills. Hopefully, this will translate to better and faster learning.
If you feel like doing more, take the lead from other parents. If they are talking of baking scones for a staff morning tea, offer to cook something too. Even mathris out of a packet are a huge hit! Be a parent helper on an excursion or stay back while your kids are training for soccer or cricket after school. Share the story of Diwali and you will see how much the kids enjoy it. Once when I said “Go ahead, ask me something about India”, one child said, “Do you get chocolate in India?” There’s so much they want to know! The look on their faces when I described kite fights from rooftops or riding pillion on a motor bike was priceless.
When other kids stopped me in the playground to say, “Can you come to my class and tell a story too”, I saw the pride in my own child’s face.
One of the things I observed was that most migrant parents didn’t sit around. They came to collect their children after training (often late) and rushed off. At least on some days, try and put off that shopping and stay, and spend some time with parents of your child’s peers. It helps! School mums and dads are a great resource and have taught me a great deal. Not only about schools, kids and parenting, but also about myself.
Other parents may also look out for your child. If there is bullying or racism in the playground, they will let you know. Or deal with the issue immediately by talking to the other child or informing the teacher on duty.
Participating at school can help you, the parent, a great deal too. If you are a new migrant, you will get used to the accent much quicker, learn the colloquial vocabulary, make new friends, and probably even get your own support group who will make suggestions about settling in and may even take care of your child after school or during holidays. You’ll learn about the school and the teachers, how funding works, why the school offers certain programs and not others. It will improve your own understanding of the education system and Australian society in general, that you may be grappling with. Your own communication skills and self-confidence will also increase.
So go for it. Get involved, and you will benefit hugely. The best way to take an interest in your child’s schooling here is not limited to help with homework or sending them to tuitions, but to participate in their school life.