“[Parent involvement] does have an impact and the kids need to know that the parents care.” – Traci Dean
Your involvement in your student’s school is SO much more important than you might realize! In this episode, we chat with Traci Dean about the impact of parental involvement, the benefits kids reap from it, and SO much more! Tune in to hear more and see below for a full list of topics covered.
Key Topics Covered in This Episode:
- A little background on Traci and who she is
- Her story of how she got involved in her kid’s school’s and useful tips on how you can get involved as a parent
- How the pandemic has affected parent involvement
- The benefits the students reap from having engaged parents
- Chatting with Traci’s daughter about her mom’s involvement
- How just showing up to the first meeting can change everything
Connect with the hosts:
Allison: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to Learning Reimagined. I am Allison Dampier and with me as always is Sandy Gamba good afternoon, Sandy.
Sandy: Hi Allison.
Allison: How are
Sandy: I’m doing great. I am so excited for today’s podcast.
Allison: If you could take energy and put it into a bottle. This is our guest today. We are going to be talking with Tracy Dean, who is a parental involvement specialist. She’s made a career of it. She has been on pto, pta, boosters, whatever you call it, of the school for about 15 years. Wow. It’s insane to me how she’s just been involved from the time her child was in kindergarten all the way through high school, and we’re just gonna sit here and pick her brain about.
How can parents become, be so involved with their students education and what does that look like? So our expert today is Tracy Dean. Tracy Dean, welcome to Learning Reimagined.
Traci Dean: Oh, thank you for having me.
You [00:01:00] just hear the excitement!
Allison: So, Tracy, tell us you have two kids and your oldest is now a sophomore in college.
A lot of parents kind of look at it like, Oh yes, in elementary school I’ll be involved, but come middle school and high school parents are taking a step back. And you have just, you’ve completely bid at the forefront of their education and their school.
So how have you accomplished that and how does that look to your kids? Like how has it affected your relationship with your.
Well, you know, when after Western Guard, I, I just love being involved so much and just being part of the school and
the teachers. Wester guard, just for our listeners, is the elementary school that Tracy’s kids attended.
Traci Dean: Yes. So then when they started going to middle school, you know, middle school is when your kids really start to detach from you. They are hormones knock into. Like tenfold and they completely don’t want to have you around or want anything to do with you. And the communication is less. And I just thought if I can stay involved in the school and the staff, then I think that [00:02:00] will help our relationship and.
Then they’ll just have to be around me because I’m gonna be around all the time. , that’s what I did. And then, you know, the greatest thing that I’ve heard from actually Taylor, my daughter, who’s gonna be a junior, she said that she loves me being on the parent club boosters. PTO because I do have relationships with the teachers, and she kind of got special treatment like, Oh, your mom is she 16?
Oh, you know, And so, I mean, I’m sure she’s still got in trouble, but maybe she didn’t get in as much trouble. I don’t know.
Allison: The parents are that teachers had a little grace with her cause of you.
Traci Dean: But, so that was really refreshing for me to hear and really rewarding because, you know, I don’t know if I’m annoying them or irritating them, not that I care, but that was just good to know that yeah, they enjoy me being at the school and having involvement and me knowing the teachers, I think is a, is a huge benefit to them.
Sandy: that you brought that part up because that you have a rapport. You’re [00:03:00] inside their school, you can see what activities are happening. They’re all relatable, so you can bring those conversations home, and that was just so insightful and you had that since the very beginning of. You know, then
Allison: kindergarten all the way through to high school.
Traci Dean: Yeah. And probably unr. Maybe I’ll be a parent at
Allison: unr . I was gonna ask, how are you doing with the college now? What are you, what are you doing there?
Something will start. I d know. That is hilarious. That is so funny. Now, for a lot of parents, you know, it’s very easy to be involved at elementary level. There’s so many opportunities to volunteer for field trips. Be a room mom. Come into the class to help read with kids. There’s so many opportunities, but in the middle school and high school level, it’s not there.
So what type of suggestions do you have for our parents? Not everybody can run out and be PTO president, but what else can they do to get involved at those levels? You
Traci Dean: know, I would just suggest going to all the meetings they [00:04:00] have, you know, one meeting every month. It’s the same time, it’s the same part of the week.
Elementary is Tuesday nights. High school is Wednesday and. Middle school is Thursday and it’s usually the same time once a, you know, once a month. And I would just rec, highly recommend just going to those meetings and just getting involved. And then you’ll know, you know, if there’s any volunteer work that you can do.
And somebody always has some kind of a fundraiser they need help with. And that was just the best way because if you don’t go to the meetings, then you kind of rely on an email to come through. and that doesn’t always normally come through. Or if you know the president or you know the VP or you know someone on the board and you wanna get involved, you can email them and just say, Hey, you know, can I just stay on the forefront?
I’d love to volunteer for this event. I’m free at these hours, and, and just volunteer every, you know, at events that you can.
Allison: So there are opportunities, it sounds like from what you’re saying, there’s ample opportunities at all levels, not just elementary. For sure.
Traci Dean: You know it does dropped [00:05:00] off quite a bit for middle school.
There. We did that coupon book, fundraiser, you know, we needed tons of help distributing. Mm-hmm. , counting money getting prizes to teachers and staff. So that was and kids too, you know, at lunchtime you could go at lunch and collect money and, and then high school, you know from McQueen, that McQueen Craft Fair.
The biggest thing we have, it’s a huge money maker. We make about $50,000. It’s our only fundraiser we have, and it raises money for the entire school all year long. That’s mm-hmm. . So, and there’s a lot of volunteer work that is so needed for the craft fair. Mm-hmm. . So I would just say go to some meetings and you know, if you don’t like ’em, then maybe contact somebody that you
Allison: do like and Dunno.
And then on their list, another . Exactly. Another thing I know some parents do if their student is really involved in a specific activity, be it band or sports, they get involved. In something more specific and volunteer their time there rather than in the general, you know, [00:06:00] PTO situation.
Traci Dean: Yeah. You know, that’s another great thing about high school.
There’s so many boosters. There’s a football boosters, the soccer boosters, I mean every sport baseball because they all need to raise money for their,
Allison: Mm-hmm. , their athlete.
Traci Dean: Mm-hmm. . And there’s so many more ways to get involved in high school for sure.
Allison: And that, that’s fantastic because. All the research is showing that parent involvement and engagement in education prior to Covid was on the decline, and there is a direct link to parent parental involvement and student success.
So it is concerning that there’s less involvement. But now with covid, I think parents had to take a far more active role in their students education. So do you think what we’ve gone through the past 18 months is going to increase your parent participation at schools? That’s a great
Traci Dean: question. I would think so because now I think they see that getting involved with your kids’ education, whether it be helping with ’em with homework or school
Allison: or grades.
Traci Dean: It, it does have an impact [00:07:00] and I think that the kids need to know that the parents care. Mm-hmm. and people complain about it for sure. But
Allison: absolutely. It’s good for that. It is. I, I remember when I was in high school, my mom would always tell me, you know, I have eyes in the back of my. and I, it, it just was crazy is because she was always involved in the school, even when she wasn’t there.
She was somehow there because of the people that she met and knew and everybody kept, you know, kept tabs on all of the kids of those involved parents. And so I remember coming, I, the one time I ever cut class I swear I cut class once, just once, just one, just one time. And I don’t know who saw me, but I got home from school.
My mom said, How was the mall? And I freaked out. I’m like, You would have the mall, what you’re talking about. And somebody had seen me and I, cause I, I did it on a day that I knew my mom was gonna be out of town or I don’t remember what it was, but I knew she couldn’t catch me, but she still caught me, you know?
And she did. And so I was always afraid [00:08:00] after that to ever do anything wrong because, you know, my mom had eyes every. And not to, I was a bad kid or anything, but you know, just that fear. Not that we wanna parent with fear, of course, but there is a little bit of fear in, in keeping our kids, you know, straight and narrow.
Absolutely helps. Absolutely. I’ll take whatever I can in high school. That’s right. . .
Sandy: It’s great though, because not only were you, Tracy, were you bonding with the, building a rapport with the teachers, but like Allison said, you’re meeting other parents. Mm-hmm. . So it’s like it takes a village. It does. And then
Traci Dean: you
Sandy: can lean on one another and, and really just, For, for the betterment of the whole high school
Traci Dean: community or middle school community.
Traci Dean: Yeah. It’s such important So, so sideways, so quickly, you know, in Absolutely.
Allison: So sideways. Yeah. The middle school years are, are really concern high school. I think the kids kind of find their, their group or their, you know, some [00:09:00] place to get involved. But middle school is the age where kids Really kind of can lose it easily.
I, when I was in the classroom, when I was teaching in the classroom, I would always recommend to my sixth grade parents a book. And it was called, Yes, My Teenager is Crazy. And it’s not a joke. , it is a real book. It’s probably outdated now cuz that was quite a bit ago. But the facts are, they remain, you know, the, the, your students at that age level.
They are more peer influence than they are parental influence. And so it’s really important for parents to be keen on that. Know who your kids are hanging out with and, and know where they’re spending their time. In the elementary levels, you know, they’re in a classroom with 30 kids, you know, 29 of them.
You, you know the kids, you can see where they’re going. You, you go to the parties with them, you set up the play dates. Middle school, you start to detach a little bit and it’s very easy for the kids to get in with a, a bad. You know, it’s, And one of the key points in that book, yes, my teenager is [00:10:00] crazy, is that kids will go wherever they’re pooled the strongest.
So there’s such a innate need to belong to a group. that kids will go, that they, they just need to, you know, in fifth grade they belong to room 12. They were in room 12 and that was their teacher. That’s what, you know, that was their group. When you go in the middle school, they, they become a number, you know, they’re one of 26, 20, you know, 260 kids for Mr.
Frank’s class. They don’t have that belonging anymore. And so, Humans need to belong. And these kids will go wherever they, you know, wherever they’re pooled. And that was one of the key t key tips that I got from that book that I would always share with my parents. Be aware of who’s pulling on your kid.
You know, you wanna know where they’re going and, and Tracy, with you being involved in the pto, you, you know the kids, you know the teachers and they know you. So they can always say, Hey, I’m noticing some weird behavior about, you know, what’s going on here. Or, [00:11:00] I’ve noticed that your son is spending more time with this, you know, whatever it happens to be.
But it just helps keep you engaged. Yeah. The
Traci Dean: so important. Yeah, I know them and they feel comfortable telling me, and I’ll ask them, you know mm-hmm. , what’s going on with my kid? You know, and they, Yes. Because we have that rapport and we know each other. Then it’s, it’s just that communication’s easier too.
Allison: Yeah. And, and it is vital. Children with engaged parents are more likely to earn higher grades and higher test scores. They’re more likely to graduate from high school and attend postsecondary education. They develop self-confidence and motivation in the classroom, and they have better social skills and classroom behavior, All of that by parents becoming a little bit more engaged.
What that You’re saying there’s a chance. There’s a chance. There’s a chance. Yes. , Your kids are doing just fine. You know, it would’ve been. . [00:12:00] It would’ve been very interesting to have your daughter on to hear her comments too and see what she thinks about, you know, having you involved. I’ve asked my own kids and while they don’t want me out there coaching their soccer team, they’re happy that I’m there.
You know, they’re, they don’t want me in charge of the, the team or, you know, their activity, but they’re happy that I’m present. You know, they’re happy that I volunteer. They, they like, Yeah. And, and while when I was in high school, I would be like, Oh, here comes my mom again. Oh, here comes my mom As an adult, looking back, it was so important.
It showed that my mom really was invested in me and my brothers and, and my sister too, I guess. But really mostly involved, invested with me, but , but mainly, but, but it, it just, it meant so much. Just to know that your parents are there, even though it might frustrate you to see them all the time deep inside, you know, you know what they’re showing up, you know?
And [00:13:00] that’s, that’s pretty cool. So parents who are out there,
Traci Dean: Say that again. Taylor’s here. Do you want me to
Allison: go get her? That would be awesome. Yeah. Bring her. Hi, . Hello. Welcome, Taylor, or yes, Taylor Dean. Welcome to the podcast. How are you? Sweet. Oh, I’m good. How are you? ? We are interviewing your mom and talking about parental involvement throughout high school and middle school, and you are in a very unique position cuz you have never been to school without your mom being PTO president.
So as, it’s kinda tricky actually, I don’t think, I don’t know many kids who have had that same experience. So as a, going into your junior year of high school, What has it been like to have your mom always around? Honestly,
Sandy: it’s actually kinda nice cause she’s always kind of had like an in with [00:14:00] like the administrators and my teachers and it’s honestly been really nice on me because like usually if I need something then it’s very like easy to get which is very helpful.
And it’s like kind of nice having my mom being so. Just in like involved with the school because it helps me become involved with the school, which I kind of like, like it’s fun setting up for events and whatnot. So I like it. Actually, a lot of people probably wouldn’t
Allison: expect that bug. Yeah, it really, Yeah, it is.
But does it ever bug you that your mom’s always there?
Sandy: Sometimes it’s weird seeing my mom around school or like my friends coming up to me and be like, I just saw your mom. It’s not too bad though. It doesn’t bug me too much.
Allison: your friends probably really love seeing your mom too, cuz she’s just a happy, fun person.
Sandy: Yeah, my friends love my mom actually. So it’s bonus.
Allison: Oh, that’s fantastic. So all of your parents out there listening, if [00:15:00] you were afraid to show up at school. Don’t be. Taylor loves it, so your kids will too. Taylor, thank you so much for your insight, sweetheart.
Sandy: Yeah, of course. Definitely anytime. Thank you Taylor.
Allison: Well that, that’s one thing I didn’t really expect to hear, having her allowance for that one. Yeah, you should. Absolutely. Well, what I goes a long
Traci Dean: way, .
Allison: What I find super interesting is, Your involvement has made her more involved and that’s, Yes. That is super cool. Cause great to hear. I haven’t heard
Traci Dean: that.
Sandy: isn’t that special.
Allison: Yeah, that gave me response. Yeah, it was
Traci Dean: good to hear. Yeah, I didn’t know that
Allison: either. That was pretty awesome. That’s great. That’s so fun. , that’s Sandy. Do you have any questions for it? I’m sorry.
Traci Dean: I said that’s it. I’m going to UNR two[00:16:00]
Allison: heading to the call college level
Traci Dean: Now, Tracy, it’s been so
Sandy: insightful and, and thank you for inviting Taylor because it’s just as parents out there we’re, we’re trying to provide all of these. opportunities for our students. And like Allison highlighted, it made your daughter, you know, it, it really helped her to, to give back to her high school as well, just as she sees you giving to the community and it’s a win for everyone.
Now some parents that are listening may not be able to do such a, a big commitment, but you, you were able to highlight earlier going to a meeting. And oftentimes those are in the evening and maybe even now, even available through Zoom. So you can really be on your phone, you could be anywhere and still have access to be able to help.
So there is so much for parents to do, to still get involved and, and continue that thread as, as the [00:17:00] students. Maybe even into college. , . I know that there are parents that that can and help. And then in, in any school environment, it’s very welcomed. So thank you for all that you’ve done in all those hours because it really helps us today to highlight how other parents can get involved as well.
Well, thank you
Traci Dean: for thinking of me and interviewing me and.
Allison: Yeah. That’s awesome. Thank you. I don’t, I don’t know, more of a, an expert in parental involvement than you. I mean, really you epitomized parental involvement and I, I think the biggest takeaway from Tracy here today is just show up to that first meeting.
That’s the hardest step at the high school level. If you’ve never been involved just show up for one meeting and it, it’ll really change. The rest, the rest of the year course of, of high school parenting. It’s that, it’s that first meeting that is just a little bit nerve wracking. I remember I was quite fortunate when we moved to Reno I, I said, You know, I don’t have friends here.
I’ve gotta, I’ve gotta meet somebody. I’m gonna go to a PTO meeting. And I showed [00:18:00] up to my very first meeting and I was so incredibly fortunate because I met Tracy that day and. I can’t not be involved being friends with Tracy, you know, it’s, Oh, she was very good about, can you help with this? Wanna show up for this?
Let’s do this. And just very much encouraging because they need volunteers, period. And, and PTO presidents, PTO members. They appreciate attendance and they appreciate parents stepping outta their comfort zone and just showing up. And so just take that step and, and, and show up one meeting and you’ll meet your Tracy.
You’ll, you’ll find somebody that will encourage you along and you’ll find opportunities in which you can volunteer. It doesn’t have to be a financial. Donation. It doesn’t have to be huge time commitment. It could just be as simple as, Yes, I could stuff some envelopes for you, or, Yes, I could collect these coupons, or ma you know, anything.
There are so many opportunities. I think just at middle school and high school parents get very shy. [00:19:00] They, they, they take that opportunity to step back like, Woo. I volunteered throughout elementary school. I’m done out for sure. Definitely can get burnt out yet, but it’s a different level of involvement.
That’s another thing I think parents need to realize at the middle school and high school level. It’s a different level of involve involvement. When my daughters started high school, they’re like, Okay, you’ve been around so much, can you just like relax a little bit? I don’t wanna see you in my classrooms.
Don’t offer to help the teachers. You know, with my education background, that’s always my first go to. Let me help you run reading circles or whatever. Please just, we don’t want you in our c. , and I said, That’s fine. I went to the library and I said, Can I offer my services here? And so my kids didn’t, you know, I wasn’t in their classrooms, but I went to the library and I would help the librarian with whatever it happens to be.
And guess what happened? My kids came to the library to see me. You know, they still wanted that connection. You know, they might verbally say, say away, but they, they don’t, [00:20:00] you know, they don’t mean it. They need, they need. Even more so in these teen years. They really, really do. So that was Sandy and I really wanted to have an expert on today to talk about that, that need and that connection that our kids have because I think the teen years are just vital in their development and our, They still need us, even though they might be screaming at you to go away.
We know that our job is far from done . I think the teenage years are, our presence is even more necessary. , you know, it just, it’s such a huge, huge responsibility. Yeah. There’s
Traci Dean: just, Yeah. Pushing and pulling and, you know, going in different directions and, and the great thing about middle schoolers, there’s not a whole bunch of.
Thanks to volunteer for, It might be two events, you know, where elementary school, there’s something every month that you could do. So that might be a little less intimidating too. Just, you know, just pick one event in high school. There’s one event, you know, [00:21:00] so it does get less as, as the grades get higher, the events get less.
And so that might be less intimidating too, you know, you don’t have to every month. You need to be doing something. It’s just right. One thing there, one thing there, you.
Allison: Yeah, and some tips for parents, you know, show up for that PTO meeting or the booster meeting or you know, the sports or the any clubs that your kids are involved in.
If that’s not an option, go to the office and you can just say, Hey, I would love to volunteer two hours of my time every week, just so that you’re present in the environment of the school. Everybody. Our teachers are so overworked that they will welcome, you know, they will welcome any type of help that you can give.
You don’t have to be a math expert to help the math teacher. You don’t have to be a band director to help in the band. There’s just it, It’s just that fear factor I think most, for most parents is that, that fear of taking that first step. Yeah. Tracy, what words of encouragement do you have for those? I would just say, you
Traci Dean: know, I know it’s intimidating and you’re probably totally burned [00:22:00] out after, you know, elementary school, which is completely understandable, , and I mean, you know, we notice a huge decrease in volunteering.
But if you, like you said, Alison, if you just go to one meeting and find somebody that you like or ropes you in or makes you do things, then
Allison: to just makes, I think so much. Yeah.
And it’s just
Traci Dean: like banded off or you know, like I said, if you can only get to one meeting, that’s fine and you know, but maybe just put one step in front of one foot in front of the other and sometimes that’s all it takes.
Allison: That’s great words. And hopefully all the PTOs out there have at least one person like you that will get people.
I mean, you make it fun, you know? And I think. That’s something that’s really vital is in that high school level, is that you, the parents wanna have fun too. You know? So having somebody with your energy and that you, you do, you make it a good place to be. Oh, thank you Alison. So do you, I try.[00:23:00]
All right. Well Tracy, thank you so much for your time tonight. I really, we really appreciate you being an expert on our podcast and we really wanna encourage our parents out there to get involved and to take that first step. Elementary level is pretty easy to do. They’re always begging for, for involvement.
High school and middle school. You might have to seek it out a little bit, but just go show up to that meeting. It, it matters. It really does.
Sandy: Yeah. Well, thanks
Traci Dean: for having me.
Allison: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for listening to Learning Reimagined. If you are enjoying this podcast, please help us spread the word by clicking the subscribe button or share your favorite episodes with families and friends, and leave us a five star review wherever you get your podcast.