Parents are key to student success: Parent Academy starts this week

Posted 9/16/19

It was lunch hour at Vinson-Bynum Elementary School and DaNiya Harvey’s birthday.

That was enough to bring DaNiya’s mother, Courtney Bland, out to school to share a meal with her fourth grade …

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Parents are key to student success: Parent Academy starts this week

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It was lunch hour at Vinson-Bynum Elementary School and DaNiya Harvey’s birthday.

That was enough to bring DaNiya’s mother, Courtney Bland, out to school to share a meal with her fourth grade daughter.

“I always come for birthdays or make random little visits,” Bland said.

“When she’s here, it tells me that she is thinking about me,” DaNiya said.

Educators say more parental involvement is what many children need. That participation begins as soon as a newborn comes home from the hospital with reading.


“Reading is the key to success,” said Robin May, executive director for federal programs at Wilson County Schools. “Reading impacts every part of our life. So reading to children early helps build their curiosity about how the world around them works, and it really helps them to start building vocabulary too.”

Educators often see deficits in vocabulary when children come to school.

“You can definitely tell a difference between the children that have been read to and the children that have not in terms of the breadth of their vocabulary,” May said. “If you start them reading early, it develops that love of reading early on, and if a parent values reading, then it motivates the child to continue reading. Reading from the time they come home from the hospital until the time they start school is critical.”


“One of the biggest transitions for children is the structure of the school environment,” May said. “If parents can begin to provide some structure within the home environment just establishing daily routines, getting dressed in the morning, cleaning up after themselves after lunch, bathtime routines, bedtime routines and specifically having a routine of some family reading time, whether that’s reading with your child before they go to bed or at some other set time of the day. Any type of structure in the home will help children deal with that structure when they get to school.”


Having a well-behaved child in school is often a matter of managing emotions.

If a child makes a bad decision or handles a situation incorrectly, a parent can talk to the child about what some other options would have been for handling that situation.

This is especially important if the child is upset or doesn’t get his way or is angry.

“Young children, when they get upset, are very prone to throw a tantrum,” May said.

Parents should sit and talk with children about their emotions and ask why they threw that toy across the room, getting them to verbally tell the parent why they did that.

May said appropriate behavior is not something that preschool-age children learn on their own.

“They have to be coached through that,” May said. “It starts with talking with your child about what those expectations are.”

“Those types of things will help them function better in a school environment too,” May said. “The other thing with the behavior piece is the children need to be praised when they are doing a good job, and they need to be redirected and given alternatives when they are not doing what they are supposed to do.”


For older students in middle school and high school, parents need to take a more active role in making sure their children are making good choices and staying on a productive, healthy path as they negotiate school and increasingly complex social interactions with other students.

“Conversation with your child is so critically important to stay connected to what is going on in school and just in their life in general, particularly for keeping a gauge on your child from a social and emotional perspective,” May said.

According to May’s experience, families who set education as a topic of conversation and a priority produce children who are successful.

“What matters to the adults who are around you matters to you when you are a child,” May said. “I think conversations are a way to keep a check, to be present and to guide your children in the right direction. Without those daily conversations and that daily family time, you may completely miss things that are going on in their life.”

Just a small conversation may clue in a parent about an area for concern and prompt the parent to provide additional or more focused support for the child.


Cheryl Wilson, associate superintendent for Wilson County Schools, said one of the 21st century skills embedded in the curriculum is societal responsibility.

“We need to work with our students on that societal responsibility,” Wilson said.“It can be as simple as when they are lining up to go to the bathroom. It’s the societal responsibility of getting in line, and we don’t all have to be pushing and shoving to get there.”

Societal responsibility is practiced when motorists drive 55 mph rather than 75 mph and giving a road repair crew, police officer or firefighter wide berth and a slow pass, taking precautions to ensure safety.

“Societal responsibility deals with the sharing and getting along with others,” Wilson said. “Societal responsibility encompasses so many more things than just those two words.”

Societal responsibility is something parents can best convey to their children by practicing it themselves and offering a good example for children to learn from.

“I thing parents really need to be a part in that,” Wilson said. “It’s not going to cost any money. Any parent can work with their child on that.”


Wilson said when parents chronically bring their children late to school, they are setting them up to develop a bad habit when the time comes for the child to get and keep a job.

Parents should not have the attitude that it will be all right if children miss the first 30 minutes of school, she said.

“I am not just talking about absences,” Wilson said. “There are times when that is necessary. A child is sick. They may have a doctor’s appointment that they cannot change at any other time.”

“Attendance is extremely important, and that is one way that a parent can help,” Wilson said. “When I say attendance, I am talking about absences. I’m talking about tardies and I am talking about early checkouts. When a parent or anyone assumes that being out of school is OK, it’s not.”


Wilson County Schools has a Parent Academy to help parents help their children be successful students.

May said the purpose of Parent Academy sessions is to build relationships with parents in the community and to equip parents to assist their children at home.

“We value parents as a partner in the education process,” May said.

Parents should be given the opportunity to learn about the things happening in their child’s school. They should also be provided with resources to use with their children at home so that learning doesn’t stop when school is dismissed.

“In almost every case when we host a Parent Academy session, there is some type of take-home materials so that whatever strategies are shared in the session can be continued at home with the children,” May said.

The first Parent Academy session are this week.

Language Connections is 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Vinson-Bynum Elementary School; Math and Technology Success is 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24, at Darden Middle School; and Parent Resources is 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8, at Wells Elementary School.

Sessions titled “Raising Children Who Love to Read, English Learner Curriculum Showcase,” for second-third grade transition night, and “Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten” will be held early next year.

A range of Parent Academy sessions will be held at elementary and middle schools throughout the fall. For details on each, visit www.wilsonschoolsnc.net or pick up a Parent Academy booklet at the central office at 113 N.E. Tarboro St. in downtown Wilson or the office at your child’s school.