Teaching, like parenting, can be a thankless job. It’s also a calling. Like us, teachers spend their days answering questions, quelling fears, wiping noses, and helping students discover who they want to be.
They expose children to the world, and inspire them to believe in themselves.
Just as we have issues with our kids at home, teachers may have issues with them in the classroom. And we all know how our kids can be completely different with others than they are with us. As both a teacher and an educator, I offer these 10 tips on forming an amazing parent-teacher partnership.
1. Show Up
Whether it’s meet and greets, back to school nights, or another school event, show up. The classroom teacher is working longer hours to be there for parents. As a teacher, it was always nice to put names with faces, and I appreciated the parents who showed up. It existed as the first building block in developing a working partnership.
Before issues arise, approach the teacher and establish a positive communication strategy that works for both of you. Create realistic communication goals; while the teacher likely won’t have time to send a daily progress report, a weekly or monthly summary is much more doable. Consider discussing the following to develop positive communication:
- Identify each party’s preferred methods of communication
- Identify the best times to communicate
- Identify the worst times to communicate
- Discuss alternative communication options such as online gradebooks for grade monitoring
- Discuss issues that should be communicated immediately
3. Don’t Take it Personally
Remember that your child’s decisions at school are not a direct reflection on you as their parent. Sometimes students will make bad decisions, and these decisions can become important learning opportunities. Likewise, an issue within the classroom likely doesn’t reflect the teacher’s abilities either. Consider an issue as an opportunity for improvement.
4. Believe in Bad Days
We all have bad days. You’ll have bad days, your student will have bad days, and the teacher will have bad days. Everyone is human after all. Having bad days doesn’t mean the individual is a bad person; it simply means that the day went askew.
So if the teacher calls about the day, simply listen and talk about it; brainstorm how the situation could be better handled next time. Ask the teacher what support you can offer, and offer suggestions to the teacher relevant to your student. If it’s an issue you’ve struggled with at home, suggest some positive options that have worked for your household.
Remember: teachers deal with 20 students, each who may react to an issue differently. Don’t be afraid to share the strategies that worked for you; on the flipside, the teacher may be able to suggest some great options as well.
5. Lead with the Good Stuff
If you need to discuss an issue with the teacher, lead with the good stuff. No one enjoys being put on the spot. Begin conversations with what you child enjoys about the class, or something he or she was excited about. Then transition to the issue at hand. Avoid creating a confrontational situation by acknowledging what’s been going well before delving into the issue at hand.
6. Support the Teacher
Odds are if the teacher contacts you, it’s out of concern for your student. Teachers strive to maintain an inclusive, cohesive learning environment. To do this, they must manage a variety of personalities, academic levels, and home lives. Supporting the teacher means coming to him or her with an open mind and really listening.
7. Be Goal-Oriented
Communicate with a goal in mind. Whether a meeting is called by the parent or teacher, the party should have a clear goal in mind. Teachers may have a better solution to accomplish the goal at hand, as it’s likely they’ve experienced a similar issue previously. Be ready to offer ideas and concrete suggestions for improvement.
8. Acknowledge the Positive
Everyone loves warm fuzzies! Teachers often take the time to acknowledge the positive—don’t hesitate to acknowledge the positives for the teacher. A quick email about a lesson that went above and beyond or a note acknowledging the effort the teacher’s put in sending weekly email updates can go a long way. Copy the teacher’s supervisor if you can to let him or her know about the great work. Individuals are always more willing to listen if they feel their work has been acknowledged.
9. Know When to Back Off
It’s important to let your student and teacher form their own relationship. It’s an important life skill for our children to learn to deal with different personalities. Allow your child the opportunity to navigate this particular life experience. Then, if he or she needs help, reach out to the teacher. Avoid constantly checking up or nit-picking, especially when it comes to grades. A grade can fluctuate greatly over several days depending upon the assignments. Make it a point to check in every two weeks or so instead of on a daily basis.
10. Be Honest
As a parent, you know your child better than anyone else. Offer your expertise in your child’s strengths and weaknesses. And most importantly, be honest with yourself. Your student isn’t perfect; he or she will likely make mistakes, and should accept the consequences. If students forget to complete an assignment, it should be marked late without debate. School is a safer place to make mistakes than the workplace! Learning good organization, time management, communication, and teamwork are all important life skills beyond the textbook material.
Amazing parent-teacher relationships won’t happen overnight, but they will happen one positive interaction at a time. Be proactive rather than reactive when helping your student become academically successful.