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By Celia Jaffe, President, California State PTA

The Crucial Bond Between Parents and Teachers Is Essential for Students’ Well-Being

“I appreciate and admire more than I can say the true calling that brings wonderful people into the teaching profession.”

Did you know that 2020 is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission? The one made famous by the Tom Hanks movie with the oft-quoted line “Houston, we have a problem.” Well, this pandemic is certainly a problem. 2020 is definitely a year that will be remembered, in the world generally and in education particularly. Like those astronauts, our flight path has altered, and it takes all our coordinated efforts to bring us through safely.

California State PTA President Celia Jaffe

The bond and partnership between parents/caregivers and teachers in service of all our state’s children has never been more crucial than now. As we go “back to school” with most students likely not actually going to school, strong lines of communication and unity of purpose between home and school will be the basis for success in public education. Our combined voices are powerful on issues of health and safety protocols at schools, adequate funding for public education during COVID-19, and science-based decision-making during changing, challenging conditions.

From California State PTA to the smallest of our local school PTA units, PTA leaders and members collaborate, cooperate and communicate with teachers constantly. Schools that are closely tied in with their community have more successful students because of that valuable partnership. Knowing about a student’s home life gives a teacher insight into how to relate to that young person. Similarly, when parents are aware of school expectations, policies and communication channels, they are better equipped to support their child’s education. Add supportive local businesses and neighbors and you have a whole community looking out for the well-being of its children and supporting their education.

In advocacy, the partnership of PTA parents and teachers for education funding has been powerful in the past, and we hope it will be this fall. For several years, equity in education and racial justice issues have been a growing focus in PTA, as one of the founding members of the California Equity Leadership Alliance. The ballot measure in November on affirmative action [Proposition 16] is another shared issue.

Recently our PTA statewide association adopted a resolution — written last fall by a local PTA unit —that commits to advocate for increased funding for and education about chronic disease and injury prevention. California children who grow up in poverty, especially disproportionately impacted children of color, are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases and to have increased risk for chronic health conditions such as asthma and obesity into adulthood. Increased rates of illness and future risk for chronic disease among children create a financial burden for families, schools and the state, but prevention funding has been shown to make a difference.

In addition to praising all the great local partnerships and mutual advocacy work that PTA and CTA have shared over the years, I do not want to miss conveying a more personal message. I appreciate and admire more than I can say the true calling that brings wonderful people into the teaching profession. In any given year, the loving care and professional dedication teachers bring to their classrooms daily is amazing. My children learned from exemplary humans in California public schools, as did I, and our lives are better for that.

In the extraordinary year of 2020, the “Houston, we have a problem” year, I add to my well of gratitude because we are all operating in a changed world. Teachers and parents know both the difficulty and the importance of “getting it right” in these conditions while continuing to make learning happen. My thanks to each and every one of you for what you do. You mean the world to all our children.