P.S. 43 Jonas Bronck
BRONX NY 10454 Map
P.S. 43 Jonas Bronck
PS 43's parent coordinator, Lourdes Rodriguez, has lots of good ideas about how to get parents in her South Bronx elementary school engaged in their children's education, and her efforts seem to be paying off. The school has about 15 parent volunteers working in the classrooms, the library, the schoolyard and the cafeteria on a regular basis, and others who are willing to go on class trips.
But Rodriguez wants to do more than just get parents to volunteer. She also wants them to understand that they can help their children do well in school by reading aloud to them, by taking them to the library or the park, or simply by making sure they do their homework. "Parent involvement isn't just about getting the parents into the school," Rodriguez said. "It's about getting parents to work with their children, making sure their child gets to school on time."
Rodriguez offers math and literacy workshops for parents on Saturdays, as well as fun "bonding" activities like parent-child art workshops. She passes out subway maps to encourage parents -- many of whom rarely leave the neighborhood -- to visit places like Central Park in Manhattan. She draws up lists of free and low-cost activities that can also be educational, such as collecting leaves in the park. She takes parents on walking tours of their neighborhood, showing new immigrants, many of whom speak Spanish, everything from the local supermarket to the public library. "If the parent doesn't know where the library is the child will never go," she said. And she has a good relationship with parents precisely because of her position in the school. "I'm not a threat to them because I'm not a teacher and I'm not the administration," she said.
Like many schools in poor neighborhoods, PS 43 struggles with low levels of academic achievement. Assistant Principal Iris Rivera, who gave me my tour, has worked for several years to introduce teachers to the "readers and writers" workshop method, in which children learn to read from children's literature rather than textbooks, but the new methods haven't taken root. Many seasoned teachers have been reluctant to give up their tried-and-true approaches. Newer teachers are more open to the workshop methods, but are still struggling to perfect their craft. One class on each grade is "bilingual" and the day of our visit most of the instruction appeared to be in Spanish. Rivera said she would like to introduce a "dual language" program in which half the instruction is in English and half is in Spanish.
After school: The After School Corporation (TASC) and East Side Settlement House sponsor an after-school program each day until 5:30 p.m. (Clara Hemphill, May 2004)