5 Ways to Support Your Child’s Teacher
The hot summer days have begun to get shorter, and kids are heading back to school. It’s a hopeful time of year with new challenges and possibilities. Many parents find themselves eager, yet anxious, for this new beginning for their children. They may worry about their child’s ongoing academic problems. They might be excited for a child who is doing well to go even further. Or maybe they are just unsure about how to best support their child’s education. The key to a successful year may be as simple as building a great relationship with the teacher.
Much research has shown that the parent-teacher relationship has a major influence on a student’s success. When parents and teachers have a positive rapport with one another, students are more motivated with school work and have better behavior in the classroom. Additionally, this home-school connection gives the child a sense of belonging, which also helps them in their social interactions.
Below are five suggestions for parents to build a supportive relationship with their child’s teacher:
Communication is key to any relationship, and this is no exception. Teachers are required as part of their duties to speak with parents regularly about student progress. Unfortunately, teachers have limited conference and preparation time built into their schedules. The reality is that often only the needs of the most severely struggling students get attention during this time. Many teachers wish they could initiate more conversations, but have too many demands on their time.
That isn’t to say that a teacher wouldn’t be thrilled to write a reply to a parent email asking about their student. Teachers love opportunities to brag to a parent about students’ successes. They also welcome opportunities to discuss concerns and needs for students. But often those conversations only happen if they are initiated by the parent, simply because of the demands on the teacher’s time and attention. In addition, she may be unaware of a need. Don’t be afraid to get in touch occasionally for any reason.
Teachers usually try to communicate by way of a weekly newsletter, website, or communication folder. This is a way of reaching out to more parents. Reading this information thoroughly and responding back is a good way to keep in touch. Attending parent-teacher conferences is also a great way to communicate with the teacher and lets your student know their education is important to you. Another idea is to proactively start the conversation at the beginning of the year by sending a note with information or concerns you may have about your child. Some teachers will ask for this, but if they don’t, this is something you can always do on your own.
Give the Benefit of the Doubt
Sometimes parents have a concern about something that has happened in class or with their child’s grade. They may even be frustrated or angry. This is perfectly okay, and teachers definitely want the chance to address concerns with you. What is important in these circumstances is to keep it polite and professional. When speaking to the teacher or writing an email, try to express your concerns without making accusations or demands. Remember that you and your child and the teacher will most likely need to work together all year. Therefore, you want to keep things supportive for everyone.
A wise teacher once told the parents at back-to-school night, “I’ll believe half of what your child tells me about you, if you’ll believe half of what they tell you about me!” That was a humorous way of saying that children will often exaggerate or even lie about something to avoid doing work or getting in trouble. If you have heard something about school that doesn’t sound right, don’t make assumptions. Reach out and ask politely for a better explanation. Chances are, you will come away with more understanding and can develop a plan together for dealing with the issue.
Set an Example of Respect
It wasn’t too many generations ago that teachers were held at the pinnacle of respect in the community. Their word was absolute in the classroom, and students found guilty for breaking the rules at school found themselves punished at home as well. But that respect has taken a significant decline in recent decades, as illustrated by this 2014 survey by USA Today. I repeatedly hear from veteran teachers complaining of worsening behavior from students and parents over time, and it is also commonly the main reason given for teachers who are leaving the profession early. Many say that behavior problems in the classroom are such a hindrance, they can no longer teach effectively.
Children learn most of their behaviors from their parents, usually by example. They see the way their parents act towards others, and they think that is what’s acceptable. Try to make a habit of speaking positively about the teacher, even if you personally don’t like or agree with them. Back the teacher up, whenever possible, regarding issues of discipline or grading. Point out times when you are obeying laws or rules and encourage them to do so as well.
One of the best gifts a parent can give their child is to teach them gratitude for others. Remind your child that their teacher works very hard, even before and after school hours, to get ready for class. Encourage them to give their best work, too. They can also thank their teachers occasionally with kind words, a thank-you note, or a small gift.
Understand Class Scope and Expectations
Most schools have a “Meet the Teacher” or “Back-to-School” night at the beginning of the year, and this is a great opportunity to get to know the teacher and learn about class rules. Some schools require teachers to provide a syllabus or disclosure document with important information. Be sure to read these thoroughly, and if you don’t understand something, get in touch with the teacher. Keep track of assignments and dates and help your student stay on track. This supports the teacher by reducing the task of managing assignments.
Be a Resource
Schools are always in need of more help, and parents can be a great resource. The PTA is a great place to get involved for school improvement and fundraising. Parents may also ask the teacher if they can volunteer for something in the classroom. Teachers can usually use help for small group work, prepping lesson materials, organizing classroom supplies, or sharing their expertise on a subject. Even a small effort on your part can significantly lighten the teacher’s workload. This will give them more bandwidth to provide quality learning experiences for the students.
If you don’t have a lot of time, classes are always in need of donations of supplies. Buy a couple items from the teacher’s wish list. Pick up a few packs of pencils or paper you see on sale at the store. Donate books, games, or puzzles that are in decent shape, but your kids no longer use. In addition, if you are getting rid of any household items, contact the teacher and see if she can use them at school.
By reaching out and giving support to your child’s teacher, you can build a great working relationship. Together, you can make this the best school year ever!