It has long been a dream of mine to have grandparents in schools. As a teacher and an administrator in high school, the opportunity for me to have grandparents in my class was a joyful experience. The children could not move through the school without attracting embraces, the way a loved one draws in family members when entering a room. Children would call them “mom” or “grandma” and ask to come home with them. Grandparents would do a lot of listening to students who might not have a sympathetic adult ear at home.
Let me expound on the many reasons why it is important to have grandparents in schools. Grandparents are a powerful force for improved educational outcomes. There are so many students and more specifically African American students and other students of color who are not learning at the rate of their counterparts. Grandparents could be a great resource in assisting these students.
Grandparents can serve as a constant, reliable presence for children in need of positive adult role models. Connecting generations provides both students and grandparents with a chance to learn, share, and form a bond. Grandparents in schools can change the lives of the children. It also changes the lives of grandparents and the teachers and staff who support them. Grandparents in schools is about learning and also about service, joy, and connection.
Young children need love and grandparents are good at giving it. This is why grandparents should be recruited in schools where African American students and students of color have been getting suspended and too few have graduated.
Grandparents are reliable and passionate, and they will bring learning and love to urban classrooms. Many volunteers and educators alike have nothing but praise for the idea of having grandparents and other older people in the classroom. Grandparents can teach children to read or to read better, tutor students in mathematics, assist classroom teachers, and help with after-school programs.
When grandparents show love, it means everything to children. If children don’t feel love, they don’t feel secure. When you feel love, you feel confident and secure. When you feel confident and secure, your mind can focus on learning.
Many students in today’s schools are being raised by their grandparents. Some of these grandparents are not licensed care providers, don’t have custody or guardianship of their grandchildren, and don’t have legal standing to make decisions regarding the children’s schooling or medical care—and yet, many are the sole providers. This is another reason why we should have grandparents in the schools, since some of them are the sole contact in their homes.
Grandparents are needed in the schools because of their positive impact on students’ self-esteem, tutoring support, assistance to the teacher, recess partners, and other contributions to student learning. They add warmth and caring to the school climate. They are wonderful individuals, and this is an exceptional service that would provide them an opportunity to utilize their time in helping others in need.
Contributor Ina G. Howell serves on the Mayor’s Council on African American Elders. She is a teacher and administrator.