- Community members can support schools a number of ways. They can Adopt-a-School, provide snack packs, gift cards, prayers, donations, reading time, angel trees, lunches, handwritten notes, and other donations.
- Social media can be a tool that community members use to support their local schools.
Community Members Supporting Schools
Community members have expressed concern that schools are failing communities and that the school system is no longer providing students with a quality education. Without much proof and often based on rumor, community members’ Facebook posts ridicule teachers and administrators and have caused several educators to consider leaving the profession. In the Bible, Jesus was asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” (Mark 12:28) “The most important one,” answered Jesus… “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (v. 29-30) The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (v. 31).
The local schools are the ‘neighbor’ that Jesus referred to in Mark 12:28-31. Prior to the pandemic, several community members invested in teachers, principals, and students. Adopt-A-School, eating lunch with your grandchild, or volunteering to read a book to a classroom of elementary students was easier. During the pandemic, several school districts prohibited parents and volunteers from entering schools. Over the past two years, the inability to volunteer has frustrated some community members and has made it difficult to serve.
Over the past two years, society has become more divided.
Mask mandates, vaccination clinics, political issues, school closing for onsite learning, and social distancing have all created tension and frustration in communities across the United States. School Board meetings have become a battleground, rather than a public forum for suggesting ways to support teaching and learning. Across the United States, school board members have been threatened and superintendents have been fired during this tumultuous point in history.
It is troublesome to believe that some community members have decided to make schools their political cause. Rather than offering support and random acts of kindness, some community members have formed rallies and have denounced their local schools. In a time when our nation needs healing, the last thing students need to see is division between adults in the community and anger-filled speeches at school board meetings.
The political rhetoric that suggests schools are hurting children and schools are part of society’s moral decay does nothing to uplift the educators and students who are also experiencing a pandemic. Emotions are high in communities and casting the first stone at the school does more harm than good. Are there some low-performing schools? Yes. Do some school districts have policies that frustrate community members? Yes. Do some schools struggle to find quality teachers, bus drivers, custodians, principals, and counselors? Yes. What can church and community members do to support schools?Teachers and administrators are working hard to prepare students for the next grade level and for life. In a time of division and frustration, your small effort could be the light for public servants. Click To Tweet
11 Ways Community Members Can Support Schools
Recently, my mom’s church group adopted an elementary school. The school is one of the few with an inactive PTO. The teachers were not receiving free lunch, SONIC drinks, gift cards, or encouraging notes like teachers in other schools. If each person in a small group wrote a note to ten teachers, you may be able to offer encouragement to teachers who will then influence and inspire the youth in your community. In order to Adopt-a-School, contact a principal or superintendent and ask if your small group can provide encouragement to staff throughout the school year.
Several students depend on the school’s breakfast and lunch program for their meals. Community members could provide fruit, bottled water, and healthy snacks in backpacks for students. Most principals would be able to coordinate a Weekend Snack Pack program, if one is not already in place. This may be expensive for one person to fund, but if a group of community members dedicated their efforts towards one school, students could receive nourishment throughout the weekend and this would have an impact on their ability to learn.
Staff appreciate gift cards and this is yet another way community members could show their love and appreciation for teachers and staff who have answered the call to serve their community. A gift card for coffee, gas, fast food, or school supplies would be easy to purchase. The amount of the gift card does not matter. By taking time to say thank you, you are acknowledging the work of teachers and staff during the pandemic. Several community members may own businesses and may be willing to donate some gift cards (i.e., nail salon, restaurant, or oil change).
Pray for the Superintendent
Most superintendents open their email on a Monday morning to read about their poor leadership or how unhappy a parent is with their recent decision. Imagine if the superintendent in your community opened his or her email and found a word of encouragement. What if a small group at a church or community members took turns sending short notes and letting the superintendent know that he or she is in their prayers? This option is free and it is worth considering. Even if the superintendent is not a religious person, it would be a nice change of pace to receive an encouraging email from a community member.
Donate Prom Dresses and Tuxes
Each spring, high schools host prom for students. Prom dresses, tuxes, and accessories are cost prohibitive for several families. Consider opening a place where high school students, university students, and adults can donate dresses, tuxes, shoes, and other items. A non-profit organization could coordinate this for a local high school or school district. Monetary donations could also be accepted. If community members chose to support students with these items, they may be surprised at the return on investment.
Listen to a Child Read
Several students read to a parent before they fall asleep each night. While this is true in several families, some students do not have many books in their home or their parent may not read with them. When I was an assistant principal, we hosted bankers, police officers, real estate agents, pastors, and community members to listen to a child read. This took about 30 minutes out of each person’s day and we would have students read a book to the guest. This was good practice for the students and it helped build their confidence as readers. Listening to a child read is free. It only takes a lunch break or once a week to drop by a local school. All students need to see positive role models.
Many schools host an Angel Tree at Christmas. The reality is that students have unmet needs throughout the school year. A group in the community could adopt a class or student. A school’s principal or counselor could help identify some needs that could be met. By providing support for a child, the community members could have a lifelong impact. Contact your local school to see how you can make a difference!
Haircuts for Kids
Recently, a local barber came to one of our schools. The barber provided free haircuts to boys and girls. While every student in the school did not need a free haircut, some students were thrilled with the opportunity. If a community member is a barber or works at a hair salon, this may be another way to support school students.
Serve Lunch to Staff
When I was a principal, a local pastor called me on the phone. He said, “We would like to serve your staff lunch to let them know how much we appreciate them. When would be a good date and time for our church members to serve your staff lunch?” The church members made an assembly line in our school library and made sandwiches and served chips and homemade cookies to our staff. I cannot begin to describe how this made our staff feel. Serving the community is a gesture that is often discussed in church, but rarely seen in schools. A mission trip to Africa is important, but so is serving the community.
Take time to write a thank you note to a teacher. A handwritten note is rare. I have witnessed several teachers who post handwritten notes near their desk, because it just means more than an email. During the pandemic, teachers have been under pressure to support multiple readiness levels and to help students who are struggling with the side effects of the pandemic. Teachers are focused on students between ages 5-19. Each day, teachers spend a majority of their time investing in the children and youth of a community. They provide feedback to students and offer encouraging words. It is rare that they have an adult conversation, except for during lunch and a passing period.[scroll down to keep reading]
Use Social Media to Encourage Teachers and Administrators
Social media is frequently used to criticize teachers, librarians, principals, and superintendents. We often treat teachers like the head coach of a major college football team after a loss. The second guessing and cheap shots from the peanut gallery once took place in the parking lot at schools. In today’s society, parents and community members take to social media.
Schools are not perfect and there are decisions made by teachers and staff that may not align with community norms or values. This is not a reason to criticize school educators on social media. Imagine if a group of community members shared that they are praying for school staff. Imagine if a church asked the community to join them on a prayer walk at a local school. And imagine if social media were used to recognize and honor a 1st grade teacher for serving students, rather than encouraging her to leave the profession.
Community Members as Partners
Over twenty five years ago, it was shared with me that a well-rounded child is similar to the support of a 3-legged stool. The three legs that traditionally supported a child were the family, church, and school. In some communities, the family unit is struggling or experiencing challenges due to finances, homelessness, hunger, divorce, or mental health. Several families quit attending church during the pandemic and have not returned to services with their children. This leaves the public school as the only remaining leg of the three-legged stool.
When community members criticize, condemn, and complain about the local schools, they are essentially kicking at the third leg. Teachers and administrators are working hard to prepare students for the next grade level and for life. In a time of division and frustration, your small effort could be the light for public servants.
About Steven Weber
Dr. Steven Weber is the Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning with Fayetteville Public Schools (AR). His areas of research include curriculum design, formative assessment, professional learning, and school leadership.