Having taught public school, private school, home school tutorials, and one-on-one, I’ve seen it all. There will always be discipline problems and tired kids and non-interest (not everyone loves a good John Donne poem). But one key to a child’s success both socially and behaviorally is the relationship between the teacher and the parents.
Yet this is often one of the hardest relationships to keep positive. If you let it, it can become the cog in the wheel.
It’s an odd thing really, because parents want the same thing teachers want – for their child to learn something. They want their child to come out at the end of the year more informed than they were at the start. We all want that, but sometimes the parent-teacher relationship hits a pothole and causes more conflict than resolution. But it doesn’t have to. There are steps you can take now, when you are in the beginning stages of that new year, to build a productive working relationship.
1 | Communicate
It will make it much easier on you, your kids, and their teacher if you name your concerns up front. Does your child have trouble sitting still? Is English the least favorite subject? Is the afterschool sport starting up in a month? Is your child an auditory rather than visual learner? Just lay it out there. The more information they have on your child the better. The same goes for when you have concerns later in the year. Please, please talk to the teacher if you think the homework is too heavy or your child is struggling with statistics in math or the heavy description in Faulkner. It’s always more productive to call or email the teacher rather than spin yourself in circles at home.
2 | …but not too much
Communication is key in clarifying the goals for everyone involved in the triad that is parent/teacher/kid. But, there is such a thing as too much. Once you make your concerns known, give it time. Your child and their teacher are still learning each other and ultimately, it is the teacher who sees them in the classroom and knows what adjustments need to be made. Multiple calls and email a week will not push things along. Say your piece and then see how it plays out and come back to it in a few weeks if nothing gets resolved.
3 | Do your end of the job
The teacher can only be responsible for the learning in the classroom. It’s up to your child and you to make time for learning at home. Set aside specific times for homework. Place clear parameters on extracurricular activities. Over-commitment happens to all of us, but we can at least help pare it down for our kids.
4 | …but not your kid’s
We teachers always know when parents do their kid’s homework. Honestly, it doesn’t do anybody any good. You already know algebra (or used to), but your child doesn’t and needs to work through it. Homework is practice. Let them practice. You can do your part to set up a quiet space and a time to make it happen, but the learning needs to be theirs.
5 | Show up
If you have a child in elementary school, chances are there will be plenty of opportunities to volunteer, for field trips or fundraisers or parent nights. The best way to get to know your kid’s teacher is to spend time with them. And if you have a kid in middle or high school, go to the parent-teacher conferences and the open houses. It’s an easy way to put a face to an email and connect with that teacher face-to-face.
6 | …but only if you want to
If you’re like me and can’t bake a batch of cookies to save your life or there’s no chance you’ll get to that field trip on time, don’t worry about it. It’s not worth making yourself miserable over and you don’t have to do everything. Pick one event and do that. Same with the teacher-conferences. If you have to work late or are already attending a meeting for your other child, schedule something at a later date. It’s not worth making yourself frantic over.
The parent-teacher dynamic can be a productive one, if you approach it like any working relationship. It just needs a little finesse.