Modesto parents share, learn at school involvement conference

10/21/2013 5:39 PM

10/21/2013 8:50 PM

At a conference to encourage more parental involvement in schools, participants got a crash course in helping their children. In workshops on specific concerns, the parents also found themselves helping one another.

Parents Make a Difference drew about 350 parents and children Saturday, another in a series of Modesto City Schools community events to raise parent awareness and encourage kids to set their sights on college and vocational programs.

Organizer Jorge Perez said the next event will be College: Making it Happen for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders at 5:30p.m. Thursday in the Mark Twain Junior High gym.

Saturday’s session began with general tips for parents on making school more successful: Be involved, communicate with your child’s teacher, encourage good study habits, talk with your children about their goals.

Speaker Isaias Rumayor urged parents to consider their own goals. “If you want to get your diploma, enhance your skills, there are still options for you. It’s never too late to become a student yourself,” he said.

Then parents headed out to share concerns about mental health issues, asthma, gangs and drug abuse, and to learn about Common Core curriculum and roles for parents in school committees.

At the mental health workshop, led by José Tijerina, parents said community attitudes make problems worse. “You feel like an outcast,” said one mom.

“They treat you like there’s something wrong with your child and why aren’t you controlling that?” said another woman.

“Like it’s your fault,” a grandmother finished.

A clinical social worker, Tijerina works on a mental health project instituted by Modesto City Schools at Kirschen, Marshall and Franklin elementary schools and Mark Twain Junior High.

A common problem he sees in schools is the insistence that children sit still and quiet for long periods, he said. “Kids learn in different ways. We learn by moving, by interacting, by touching things,” he said.

One tearful mother said her 9-year-old is deeply depressed but his teacher sees him as lazy because he doesn’t finish his work. She’s tried to get him help, but fears it’s taking too long.

Another woman said her parents and brothers had mental health problems and she was concerned their children, maybe even her children, would have them, too.

Tijerina offered information and referral help, but the most supportive part of the session appeared to be hearing that other families had similar problems.

Most of the parents listening at the asthma session had children with occasional problems and hoped they would grow out of it. Not likely, Saida Sanchez said, but the condition can be managed so the kids can do sports and everything else.

The problem is widespread in the Valley, she said, but underreported. “Doctors were very cautious about the diagnosis because it’s a chronic illness that would have made it hard to get insurance. It would be a pre-existing condition,” Sanchez said. That changed under the Affordable Care Act, which bars denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.

In the Common Core session, Gabriela Ramirez talked about how teaching will change. “Children will learn in a different way, with realistic scenarios,” she said. Instead of a page of hypothetical problems, children will be asked to figure out real-world situations.

“It’s more logical, more difficult,” she said. “But we want our students to be ready to deal with real life.”

At the session on school governance, Lupe Robles said she adapted the workshop to parental needs. “Parents really wanted to know how to advocate for their students,” she said.

One woman asked about helping her student with geometry, and the parents provided the ideas, she said. Among the answers: Set a routine; use YouTube videos; and write a note to the teacher for help with problems that didn’t work.

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