Across the state, teachers are welcoming students into their classrooms and into their hearts for another school year. Classrooms have been arranged with the addition of signs and banners to help all students feel welcome, lists of school supplies have been made available so students will have the tools they need, and lesson plans meant to engage and inspire have been written. All of these preparations have been done for an ultimate goal: preparing students to take their next steps in their academic career.

But what about the parents and caregivers? What plans are being made that are meant to engage and inspire them to take an active role in their child’s education? Have efforts been made to help them feel welcome? Have those lesson plans been written? Where is their supply list?

As a member of the Tennessee PTA Traveling team, I spent a week on the road traveling from one side of the state to the other during July providing information and education to parent leaders, PTA members, teachers and principals. In each town we visited, regardless of whether the schools were rural, suburban, or urban, all of the parents said the same things. We want to participate but are not encouraged to be at the school other than those specific times set aside for visitors. We want to have great communication, but we can’t be doing all the listening. We want to help our child at home but would like access to those resources that would help us understand what our child should be learning. We want to know more but don’t know what questions to ask, and at times, don’t know who to ask. We want to volunteer, but it needs to be meaningful. We want to be engaged and involved, but at a much deeper level than fundraising.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! It seems that parents from all walks of life across the state are still not being viewed as a crucial component in the quest for student success. While many stakeholders in education reform have been actively encouraged to participate in reform efforts, many parents and caregivers are left on the periphery wondering how to help, whom to ask, and what to do.

While I am not advocating that teachers and administrators create a specific supply list for parents, I am advocating that teachers and administrators craft and implement plans to engage all parents and caregivers with the same thought and care that is given to creating lesson plans for students. I am asking that as teachers welcome students into their classrooms and into their hearts for another school year that all parents are included and viewed as true partners in their child’s education.