A successful relationship with your child’s teacher can have a positive impact on learning
By Maria Wilcox
Raise your hand if the start of the school year makes you want to head for the hills and not turn back until November when things have settled down, routines have been established, and your child is happy and thriving in their new classroom.
New or unfamiliar situations are overwhelming and challenging for parents and kids. The good news is that by adequately preparing ourselves for this transition and remembering a few pointers, teachers and parents can work together and ensure a smooth start to the school year for everyone!
By now we know that strong, collaborative parent and teacher partnerships are critical for meeting the needs of students. Communication, mutual understanding, and a good rapport can make resolving tough situations while engaging in challenging conversations much easier, helping us maintain focus on our purpose, student success.
Whether your child is starting school in a totally new environment this year or returning to a familiar room and routine, the following ideas can take the school year from daunting and impossible to positive and successful.
- Get to know one another. Remember when you were a kid and would see your teacher at the grocery store? It was hard to believe that they existed outside of school. In our fast-paced world, it is easy to be abrupt and to the point in our conversations, making it imperative to share information or ask for something as succinctly and directly as possible. Challenge yourself to slow down occasionally. Ask the teacher how he or she is doing, what is happening in their lives, or even what their favorite coffee drink is. This small effort helps break barriers and lets teachers know you value them not only as your child’s teacher but also as a human being.
- Open the lines of communication. Something I always did as a teacher was ask parents their preferred way of communication for day-to-day needs. Was a work schedule something to consider when calling a cell phone or is email the best way to get in touch during the afternoon? Then I always knew how to contact parents of students. Ask your child’s teacher what works best for him/her. Is email most appropriate or would they prefer you leave a voicemail during school hours? Find out and going forward, communicate with them that way. Busy schedules often leave every second of the day accounted for; establishing and following to communication protocols with your child’s teacher will help them respond to you in a timely manner.
- Be a partner in learning. In the grand scheme of life, school goes by very quickly. The skills and abilities that are developed during these years will be with the student long past the time they spend in the classroom. As a parent, working with your child to generalize or further develop what they are learning at school is invaluable. Ask your child’s teacher what you can work on at home and how. Or if there’s something you do as a family and want to help your child learn, their teacher may have ideas for how to teach that skill. Rethink’s Transition Curriculum has a number of different skills that can be utilized by parents or caregivers in the home environment.
- Share success. There is no greater joy than seeing a child succeed at something they have been working really hard toward. Whether it is tying their shoe or graduating high school, teachers want to cheer students on as much as you do. Including teachers in these moments can help bridge the home and school divide and build relationship between teachers, parents, and students that will last.
A relationship with a child’s teacher is most valuable when it can be fostered during their time in school. We rely on teachers to provide education and care for our students for a relatively large portion of their everyday lives. A positive, collaborative relationship will not only make the difficult task of transitioning to another school year much easier, but will also support your child further down the road by helping them build a support network of their own. I hope that these ideas spark some thought for you and ways to continue building a positive relationship with your child’s teacher and school.