Well moms, it is the time of the year again, a new school year is upon you and mostly likely new teachers will be making themselves known to you. As a parent, one of the most important roles you play in your child’s life is being an active, supportive parent in their schooling. As a single mother, I had an overflowing plate of activities, but my children always knew that school was ‘numero uno’ and when it came to their behavior in the classroom they were to be respectful, on time, attentive, home work completed and not give the teacher any reason to have to say those 4 dreaded words “let’s call your mother”. Just the thought of a parent having to go to the school because their child isn’t behaving appropriately is usually enough to keep kids in line….usually. Of course, there are always those kids who parents have no interest of being involved in what’s going on in school; it’s a sad thing when a parent doesn’t care enough to be involved in their child’s education. My own children would rather you had a direct line to the boogie man (or some other such horrific monster) than to call ‘mom’ and I made sure their teachers knew it. All it took was that one phrase and the teachers would become witness to a miraculous change in their behavior. Hence, the purpose of this article is to provide some very important information on developing and maintaining a strong, open relationship with your children’s teachers for the next decade and a half of their primary school age years.
- Always go to open house, back to school night that is usually within the first quarter of the school year. This is the time for you to introduce yourself personally to the teacher(s), have a brief conversation with them and show them not only by your presence, but also by your words that you plan to be actively involved in your child’s education process. Most teachers have a sign in sheet for parents, be sure to include not just your phone number (and please moms, provide a number that also have an option to leave a message and check your messages regularly), but also an email address (again one that you check regularly). If you have a business card, provide the teacher with one.
- Walk around the classroom during open house night and familiarize yourself with your child’s work. They work hard to get their work displayed on the walls and love to have you see what they’ve done. Be generous with your praise. See the joy on your child’s face when you say how much you love what they did, even if it’s just a stick figure in art class; praise them anyway!
- Be sure you fill out the new school year parent packets the schools give out and provide your contact information accurately. Although we hope it won’t be necessary, there are those times when emergencies do happen and a parent has to be contacted or disciplinary action has to be taken that requires a phone call to mom to speak to the student counselor.
- Make it a point to attend school functions, okay perhaps not ALL functions if your work schedule makes it difficult, but at least a few of them. Show your face and introduce yourself to the counselor that your child would report to as well as the principal and vice principal. Making it a point to introduce yourself personally makes an impression on them and you’re likely to be remembered, as is your child. You would be surprised how many parents are anonymous so the ones who not only become known to these people of authority in school, but go out of their way to introduce themselves, they stick in the memory banks.
- If a teacher contacts you and has to leave a voice message or an email, respond to them within 24 hours. Be prompt and attentive letting the teacher know that you meant what you said about being actively involved in your child’s schooling. Too many parents say one thing, but are suspiciously unavailable or nonresponsive when the teacher takes the time to contact them.
- Do your best to volunteer at a couple of events throughout the year. One of the biggest frustrations with teachers is the lack of parent volunteers, or worse, parents who say they will volunteer if they have advance notice, but always seems to have something else to do every time they’re asked; even if asked months in advance. Moms, don’t offer unless you really intend to make good on your word. This also shows your children to be responsible for their words/actions and to be a young man/lady of their word as well.
- Show a united front with your child’s teacher. Kids are very smart and can be quite sneaky. Yes! Even the ‘good’ kids can be sneaky. If they know they can play parent against teacher, they will do so given the opportunity. That doesn’t mean your child is disobedient or a ‘bad kid’ (a phrase I disagree with anyway, but that is another article for another time). Just as married couples have to present a united front to their children regarding discipline, so to must you as a single parent also present a united front with the teacher(s) to your child. If, for some reason you are not in agreement with the teacher (and there are dozens of reasons this may happen, but again, that is another article), try to resolve matters calmly and preferably with an agreeable compromise. If you are unable to come to an agreement, you may have to involve the counsel, the vice principle or even the principle directly.
- Instruct your children in the appropriate way to speak to a teacher including those instances when a child has to stand up and defend him/herself to the teacher. Teaching your children diplomacy and how to handle things in a respectful manner is very important and a stepping stone to how they will relate to and deal with people in various levels of authority as they grow up. It’s sad, but so very true, that some teachers abuse their authority and the child’s trust. A child should never be afraid to speak up for themselves when an adult is mistreating them even at the threat of retaliation. A child should be secure in the knowledge that they can come to you, mom, with anything and trust you will protect them against anyone who is taking advantage of them. As I’ve always instructed my children, no matter how much they may wish it to be different, the fact is that they will always be the child and the teacher will always be an adult. When things are beyond their ability to handle, it is mom’s responsibility to defend them and protect them, whenever needed.
A local news station CBS channel 8 recently published a very informative article addressing family involvement in kids and school: http://www.cbs8.com/story/371979/family-involvement-is-important.