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Parent Involvement Makes a Difference

April, 2009
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  Parent can do an awful a lot in terms of having an impact on how children grow up and see the world, and that is why most international schools in Beijing have parents on board nowadays.

  Those existing parent organizations provide not only a good platform for parents to make contributions to school but also long-term friendships. At the same time a great variety of information is shared, and social responsibilities are taken…

  Donna and Wendy Wendy Kwok took over the presidency of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) of the International School of Beijing (ISB) on April 17.

  Being with the PTA for more than two years, she felt that she could contribute more, as both of her children are now in the high school and she has more time for herself.

  Her plan for the coming school year is to establish clearer guidelines and procedures that are clear to not just the PTA committee, but to any parent or any teacher who may want to find out more about working in the PTA and about how funding requests are approved.

  Another thing she wants to do is to strengthen the partnership with the ISB Booster Club, because she believes school spirit is very important. The Booster Club is a volunteer organization established to promote school spirit through different activities and became part of the PTA two years ago. The club supports sports teams, Performing Arts activities, and traveling political science teams such as Model United Nations.

  For Wendy, being active with the PTA is a good way to learn new skills and develop friendships. “I’ve made tremendous friends and I think I will make more friends in the years to come. It is a huge advantage to be part of the PTA,” Wendy concluded.ISB Donna

  Her predecessor Donna Taylor agrees. “You meet friends you wouldn’t otherwise run into.”

  Donna has two sons, one first grader and another third grader. She said that she had actually gained quite a lot of experience from other mums in the PTA who have children in higher grades.

  According to Donna, the ISB PTA is comprised of an Executive Committee of 16 parents that work toward setting and implementing a strategic direction that compliments the Administration’s goals for the year. The PTA also has a General Committee that is comprised of the 16-member Executive Committee plus approximately 20 coordinators who are charged with managing various PTA offerings and events throughout the year.

  However, every parent and teacher at ISB is a member because the organization is open to everyone who either teaches or has a student at ISB.

ISB 1   Annual PTA events include International Day, the Community Potluck Dinner, Spring Fair, flu shots, the Guest Speaker Series, Newcomer’s Welcome Breakfasts, Create at PTA, Car Boot Sales and parent workshops. Student related activities that the PTA supports include the Visiting Author Series, book fairs, Scholastic Book Orders, Ice Cream Wednesdays, Graduation and various Proms and dances.

  PTA School Representatives work directly with their respective school principals, vice principals and teachers to link up with the class homeroom moms to disseminate information and be a resource link for parents.

  “I really felt that it was good for my kids to see me volunteer and give back to the community,” said Donna. She will continue support the PTA as a coordinator.

  She believes that an informed parent is better able to understand and support their child’s academic endeavors, as well as their social and extracurricular activities. “Kids do better when parents are involved. On the ISB PTA, you can be as involved as you want. From the PTA to the Booster Club, we have such a broad array of short- and long-range activities that parents can easily identify an area where they have a passion to volunteer.”

 Harrow Helen Harrow International School Beijing parent organization Friends of Harrow’s Chair Helen Wing also holds that every parent can find a way to be involved, although parents from different countries have their own styles.

  “The Korean mums, for instance, are often really brilliant cooks. You just have to mention to one of them that you would like some food, and twenty mothers turn up with lots of food. Chinese parents always come to help with academic things. And British people like sports events,” Helen said.

  She said Friends of Harrow is there to back up the children and back up the school, and to endorse what the school is doing with their children.

  “A lot of parents are feeling that the more their children feel that their parents approve of the school, the more the child is likely to invest in their education in terms of time and energy,” she said.

  To achieve this, the organization initiates and helps with a number of activities.

  This year, it set up a series called “the “Harrow critical lunch series,” where people from outside of the school were invited to talk to the children at lunch time on challenging questions. For example, a journalist came and spoke about the question “what does the credit crunch mean to me” for the children. Another time a writer of detective stories asked “how does language shape our lives.” The series became very popular among the children.

  The other interesting thing Friends of Harrow did was to set up a school debate between parents and children. As a result of this, the children themselves set up their own debate on q a regular basis.

  “We hope to have another debate like that next year,” said Helen.

  In addition, Friends of Harrow organizes events like the autumn fair and summer barbeque, where the whole school community has a chance to get together, and it also tries to encourage the children in their community work and to set up charity projects.

  In order to carry out different activities, parent organizations have to get funds. Where does the money come from?

  Mostly, it is self-funded.YCIS parents

   According to Pia and Yang Ying, the two co-presidents of Yew Chung International School of Beijing (YCIS Beijing) Parent Organization (PO), funds needed by the PO all come from the school community itself.

  For example, the PO manages “bake sales,” where cookies and cakes cooked by parents are sold in school. Other ways include producing sweat shirts, Christmas CCDs, etc.

  There is an accountant in the PO who keeps the financial book. And the PO also informs the school of their budget.

  “All the money comes from the children and parents, and we spend this back on them,” said Yang.

  According to Pia, the PO organizes activities accordingly for the community: lessons in calligraphy, Chinese, Japanese, or Chinese painting for parents; ice cream sales, pizza parties, etc, for students; and teacher appreciation to thank the teachers by offering various foods to them.

  In addition, there are lots of social activities, such as collecting money for migrant children and earthquake.

  This year the biggest event the PO is planning is Global Community Day scheduled for May 16, which is a gathering for students, parents and teachers. There will be games, food, and sales of various kinds.

  Both Yang and Pia consult their children on the activities the PO organizes. Yang wants her Year Two son and kindergarten girl not just to focus on their classes, but also to pay attention to what happens in the school. “It’s good for the children to have some social life,” she said.

  Pia’s three children are all in the secondary school. They always give her their comments on the PO activities. For example, last year when the PO was creating a sweat shirt to remember the Olympics, Yew Chung and Year 2008, Pia did the design and got opinions from her children.

  Pia finds the work with PO very rewarding, because it is nice to set up a schedule and say “we do this” and the involvement can help the children. Plus, she and her colleagues can try to bring things to the school that are not already there.

  “I think you are only a parent once, from the days when you are expecting them, till they leave for college and then you are done. Whatever you do, you only have this time,” said Pia.

  “On one hand, it is a good model for your children. They will learn that is necessary to do social work in their life. On the other hand, you have a little bit more influence. Even in the beginning when I was not so much involved in the PO, I was more often in the school than a lot of other parents. I know a lot of things, which I would not know if I would not be in the school,” she concluded.

  Yang totally agrees: “We hope more parents become involved. Because the PO is part of the school. Even if the PO cannot decide what the school does, it is still an important part of school life, and works for the children.”BCIS Sandra

   Sandra Smith, president of the Parent Teacher Community Association (PTCA) at the Beijing City International School (BCIS), shares a similar opinion.

  From the US and having been in Beijing for one and a half years, Sandra has an 11 year old son in Grade 4 and a 14 year old daughter in Grade 8 at BCIS. She became the president several months ago when the previous president had to quit due to time constraints.

  “To a certain extent, kids like to see their parents involved in the school and know that they are here… Sometimes kids see their parents do that, and they mimic, or try to do what their parents do,” she said.

  She also believes that if parents want to make sure that their children are getting the best education they can at the school, it is important to take a part in the PTCA.

  One way of getting involved is coming to the monthly meeting and finding out what’s going on with the PTCA: how it raises money, what it can do, etc. The meeting includes the head of school, and the principals, teachers, and parents. Everyone is welcomed to attend the meeting.

  The BCIS PTCA has seven persons on its committee, including the president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer.

  There is a PTCA shop within the school, where such things as jackets, books, pencils and ice cream are sold.

  All the money collected will be paid back to the community.

  To those parents who have not been involved, Sandra said: “Become an active member in the PTCA, because it really does make a difference when you are very involved with the school…And when your kids see you as active in the school, it really makes a difference.”


By Qin Chuan

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  1. JaneRadriges
    June 14th, 2009 at 01:54 | #1

    The article is usefull for me. I..l be coming back to your blog.

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