Minden Elementary School teachers and parents have participated in the Food for Thought program for the past three school years and will get to continue the program next year, thanks to another grant from the Smallwood Foundation, teachers said.
The program brings parents to their child’s elementary school to learn about what their child is learning, what tests are coming up and what will be expected in the classroom. The events are held throughout the school year and last two hours.
Parents get to have dinner with their children for the first part of the evening before students are taken to one of the school rooms for activities and free babysitting. The parents are taken to the library for presentations, guest speakers or to receive information from teachers, Claudia Bertolone-Smith, sixth-grade teacher, said.
Marlene Moyer, sixth-grade teacher, said that Common Core state tests have become more “rigorous” and parents need to be informed.
“Their children are working harder, the standards are getting higher and everyone needs to be on board,” she said.
Amanda Reid, mother to sixth-grader Seraima, 11, said she and her daughter have been attending the program for the past two school years.
“It helps me feel more connected to her in the classroom and to her education,” Reid said. “I get additional information about upcoming tests and how we can help that we might not have had.”
Her daughter Seraima said that the dinners are “exciting” and she is happy to be there with her friends.
“My parents learn that the teachers are trying to help us so they can trust them,” she said.
Bertolone-Smith said a lot of parents do not become involved in their child’s school because they had bad experiences with school themselves as a child or have other responsibilities at home.
“This provides a good dinner and free babysitting while the parents get to learn about what’s going on in class,” Moyer said.
Principal Ken Stoll said that he thinks there is a positive connection between a student’s grades and their parents attending Food for Thought.
“I think yes, student achievement increases because we (teachers and parents) are in lockstep with each other,” he said. “We have a lot of ‘aha moments’ with parents who say, ‘I didn’t realize these were the expectations.’”
Bertolone-Smith said the parent classes allow her to explain what is needed.
“I can explain our lingo to them so that our parent-teacher conferences make more sense,” she said. “Or I can sit down and go over writing assignments and say that the students need to accomplish x, y and z.”