Deidra Smith said her daughter would often come home and ask her for help with her third-grade homework.
But when she sat down to help her daughter, she didn’t remember learning the subject matter the way her daughter was being taught.
“I’m confused on it because it’s not done the same way it was when I went to school,” Smith said.
Smith’s situation with her daughter wasn’t unique among the parents in her daughter’s Creech Road Elementary third-grade class, taught by Laura Abernethy and Lesea Davis. There were other parents too who wanted to help their children with their homework, but just needed some reminding of how to do the work again.
“I’m terrible at math,” Josephine Grant, a mother of a Creech Road third-grader, laughed.
So Abernethy and her co teacher Davis were talking earlier this fall and came up with a plan to host what they call “First Thursdays.”
During the first Thursdays of each month after school and after work, Abernethy and Davis go over the lessons they will teach the children for the month and show the parents what and how they will teach the subject. If parents have questions about something, then they ask as if they are in class.
“Our communication with the parents is better,” Abernethy said of the benefits of the First Thursdays. “We really feel like we have that sense of community, and their kids are putting in a lot of effort in class.”
Creech Road Principal Seydric Williams said when Abernethy originally came to him with the idea, he told them to make sure it was informative, and make sure it accommodated the parents well. Some parents don’t get off work until the evenings, he said, and then must pick up their kids before getting them something to eat.
First Thursday starts at 6 p.m. sharp, and Abernethy and Davis made sure to bring food to each one. For parents that may work at night, they invite parents to come during the day.
“It’s probably been even more than I thought it would be as far as parent turnout,” Williams said. “And the number of parents who have supported her by bringing items and things like that. So I’m very much an advocate for it, but I wanted to make sure (they) were doing it the right way to make sure parents would be involved.”
Williams hopes that the initiative spreads to other teachers and becomes something they can offer to more parents and students in the school.
Last Thursday, about 10 parents showed up to the First Thursday of the new year to learn about area and perimeter. It was the upcoming unit her students would be learning this month. Smith, the third-grade mom, said the two teachers’ intiative to help parents help children has helped her tremendously.
“I was thinking back to when I was in the third grade,” Smith said. “But now I’m able to help her get the correct answers. Not what I think is correct, but what the teacher and the state says is correct for the test.”
News of what Abernethy and Davis had spread all the way to upper echelon of state government. State superintendent June Atkinson came to check out the parent tutoring session. She watched and mingled with students and parents throughout the hour-long learning session.
She said she liked the fact that it was during a good time for parents.
“I just think about my mother who, when I was growing up, never came to school,” Atkinson said. “It wasn’t that she wasn’t interested in coming to school, but she had to work during the day.”
“I think this is a model for all our schools in North Carolina,” she added. “It really is a model about how parents can become engaged in their (children’s) learning.”