Sometimes your child will breeze through school, and at other times they may struggle. Some years your child will get a teacher they adore, and another year they may end up with a personality clash. It happens. It’s a part of life. And as a parent, your first instinct is naturally to protect your child. However, the parent-teacher partnership is important to maintain for the success of your child. It is important that we find a way to ensure we can all get along.
Here in North Carolina, most schools are half-way through the first 9-weeks. It’s the time of year for parent conferences. Teachers are seeing which students are struggling and which need greater challenge. They will be circling the wagons and seeking ways to get the parents involved. With this in mind, here are some things you can do to ensure you get along with your child’s teacher:
1. Make contact. Teachers like to see parents taking an active role in their children’s education, and this involvement benefits the children as well. Come out to back-to-school night. Attend PTA meetings and school plays. Meet the teacher for parent conferences. Chaperone a field trip if your schedule will allow it. At the very least, make a phone or send an email to introduce yourself and let the teacher know you are interested and want to be informed, and what the best way is to keep in touch with you. This also gives you the opportunity to inform the teacher of your child’s needs. Does he need to sit closer to the front? Are you concerned that a classmate was a distraction in the past? You can save the teacher a lot of time and trouble by sharing what you know about your child.
2. Keep the teacher informed. When things happen at home, the children carry it with them to school. A death in the family, a lost pet, an illness, changes in the home-life situation all can lead to problems at school. Even if your child seems to be fine at home, it is important to notify the teacher just in case something upsets them during the day. Teachers are understanding and genuinely want to see your child succeed. If being extra sensitive or giving less homework would help, they will usually oblige without hesitation. If it is a confidential situation, please make sure you tell the teacher, but if she is unaware of a problem, she cannot help.
3. Treat the teacher as you would like to be treated. Teachers are people too! If you talk calmly, they will respond in kind. If you have a question, ask them, but do so in a timely manner. Many teachers share their personal phone numbers, but this is not so that you can call them late at night to ask about homework. Teachers have families and personal lives, too. Also keep in mind that during the school day, the teacher is working with her students. It would be difficult for her to stop teaching and leave her students to answer a phone call about your child’s grade on their book report. It is often more effective to send a note or email, and allow the teacher the opportunity to get back to you with a response at her earliest convenience.
4. Be reasonable. If you have a concern, begin by talking to the teacher. If you are unable to come to an acceptable solution, tell the teacher that you would like to meet with her administrator. Set up a meeting with yourself, the teacher, the administrator, and include the child if appropriate. It is unfair, and can make a situation worse, if you blindside the teacher by simply showing up, or by going over her head to the Principal without giving her a chance to explain the situation. As perfect as your child may be, it is not unlikely that their perception could be skewed in some situations.
5. Be considerate. Teachers often bend over backwards for their students. If they’ve extended a deadline, stayed after school to work with your child, gave up their lunch break to reteach a math objective, or showed up to your child’s soccer game, please take the time to say thank you. Notice paper on sale? Pick up an extra pack to send to the teacher. You may not realize it, but most teachers buy the paper, pencils, crayons, and other classroom supplies your child needs with their own money. Send in a bottle of hand sanitizer or a box of Kleenex during cold and flu season. Call the principal just to say she’s doing a good job with your child. Just letting your teacher know she is appreciated can rejuvenate her and brighten her day. She didn’t go into teaching for the great pay, she did it to make a difference in the lives of our children.