The smell of education is in the air. Parents have bought uniforms. School supplies are packed up and ready to go. Teachers have completed their beginning of the year requirements, decorated their classrooms and have received finalized student rolls. Students are fully aware that summer break is shortly coming to an end.

As the new school year comes upon us, the goal is to have the most efficient and successful year possible. To achieve that, I believe that a fundamental commitment to education by both parents and teachers is of the utmost importance. Our children need to be provided the tools for them to progress in life when they become of age.

Sure, we all have optimism when it comes to these goals, but I’m talking about a recommitted zeal to the development of our children’s foundation, an intentional acceptance that more work needs to be done and a pledge that better home to school partnerships are at the forefront of our short and long term plans. I have listed some ideas that I believe would go a long way to making not only this school year better but could change the course of education moving forward.

Tips for Parents:

Make your presence known!

There is no one who will speak up for your children or represent them better than you. It is vitally important for your to learn how to advocate for your child and become an educational activist! Follow this link to see tips on how to be an effective advocate for your child:

10 Ways to Be an Effective Advocate for Your Child at School

You should clearly state what you envision academically to your child. It is said that attitude is everything and studies have shown that students are 81% more likely to finish high school when parents express high hopes and solid expectations. Introduce yourself to everyone in your child’s school building from the Head of School to the custodian, they should all know your name.

Stay involved in your child’s education

You, a relative or a close family friend should be actively checking homework and assisting your child with their lessons away from school. Encourage reading and actively engage in reading with your child. It will increase their skills as well as give them a greater interest in their own education and school

Check for all information coming from the school(letters in backpack, text, email, voicemail and the school’s Parent Portal)

Know Your rights (and your child’s)

Learn about what rights you have as parents:

15 rights parents have in public schools

As well as the rights of your children at school:

Student Rights at School: Six Things You Need To Know

Review the information with your children and remember that knowledge is power.

Tips for Educators:

Encourage and support parental efforts

Engaged parents have a right to advocate for their kids. Make sure to give them your support and the partnership will make educating children more efficient. Be an extension of home, reinforcing a positive attitude and reminding students of the hopes and expectations expressed by their parents

The families that you serve should be aware of everyone who may service children in their school. They should also have access if requested to any information on any person employed or contracted with the school.

As families set new goals give them the support to make those goals possible

Realize that students have unique support systems that come in many shapes and forms. Knowledge and understanding of each family’s circumstances goes a long way in educating each student properly. A family’s encouragement and engagement with homework and reading may depend solely on their personal abilities. This doesn’t mean they are not involved, but they may be limited in their effectiveness, assist them if necessary. Make yourself available. I know emails create a paper trail but nothing is more inviting and comforting as a phone call or face to face meeting

Be allies to parents on this education journey

Let parents know that they and their children have rights. Trust goes a long way in establishing great partnerships

The elements I have listed are essential and vital to making education outcomes more efficient for all parties involved. I know for a fact that most of these elements are not unfamiliar to us, but I believe that we have collectively taken them for granted. But now complacency must end. We must get back to the time when we took pride in taking care of our neighbor, when we handled business and when we went the extra mile to get the job done.

The success of our kids and our future is dependent on us embracing this work. Let’s show our kids that we care more than ever, while getting back to the basics. Let’s start this new year with both optimism and a committed effort. I truly believe it’s easier than we know!

This post was written by Lamont Douglas, a father, blogger and educational activist in Louisiana. An earlier version of the post ran on Medium. Photo by @FreedomTumZ via Twenty20