With school starting, you can expect that there’s going to be a certain amount of chaos going on, from getting school supplies to enrolling in extracurricular activities to dealing with your child’s emotions about returning to school. Another hurdle that many parents face is worrying about their child’s new teacher. To a certain degree, your child’s success in the school year will be dependent on the relationship you as a parent have with her teacher. Here are a few tips you can use to help start the school year on the right foot with the teacher you will be entrusting the education of your child to for the next nine months.
- Look at the start of the school year from the teacher’s perspective. Though you see the return to school from a parent’s perspective, your child’s teacher may look at it from a different point of view. She is preparing to meet sometimes close to 30 new faces that she will spend the next many months teaching, molding and caring for. Being a teacher essentially means that she will become a part of the lives of many different families, and each child will have unique struggles and specific dynamics that they face both in the classroom and at home. Though her job is to teach the children during school hours, the children bring with them baggage from family life, too. Your child’s teacher has to be understanding when one of her students has parents that are fighting or separating. She has to be patient with the child who did not sleep well the night before because his sibling was sick. She has to find a way to get through to the child who is trying so hard to understand a math problem, but just can’t seem to focus. These are the many things that teachers encounter on a daily basis. So as you and your child meet the teacher for the very first time and you begin getting to know her, remember the many daily obstacles the teacher will have to navigate to educate and care for your child.
- Attend any meet the teacher days or orientations that you are able to and really listen to what is expected of your child and you. This is your chance to begin to understand how your child’s teacher operates. Parents often attend these assuming they already know what to do, but teachers hope to use these meetings as an opportunity to get every one of her students started on the right track.
- Ask thoughtful questions, but don’t take up too much of the teacher’s time with questions that you can find the answers to elsewhere. Obviously, you need to fully understand what the teacher is expecting of you and your child, but if you have been given a packet of information, search that before taking time to ask the teacher.
- Use notes and email instead of trying to ask the teacher questions at the start or end of the school day. The teacher will be thinking in a dozen different directions during drop-off and pick-up times, so this is usually not the time to ask questions. Communicating via short notes that are to the point or by email allows the teacher to respond when she has time, which can be very helpful.
- Offer to help the teacher out, whether in the classroom or in some other way. If you can physically help in class from time to time that’s great, but not all parents can do that. You can also ask if there are any other supplies that the teacher might need or want for the classroom. Instead of simply purchasing larger items for the room, you can also contact other parents in the classroom to chip in.
- Remain positive when addressing concerns you have with your child. Use “I” statements like “I needed clarification on ….” The last thing you want to do is criticize the teacher on her methods or accuse her of anything. However, sometimes poorly chosen words can seem threatening. When you use the word “I” instead of “you” it puts the focus on you and simply asks her help to solve your problem. This will put the teacher at ease and will make her more likely to be flexible and helpful.
- Frequently give her positive feedback on the things that you see run well in the class or the way she handled a particular situation. Never underestimate the need a teacher has for some positive feedback. Let the principal know when you have good things to say, too. They very often only hear the negative complaints.
- Resist the urge to assume that your child is not at fault or never misbehaves. It can be very easy to get protective of your child. Be focused instead on how to solve the problem at hand.
- Be involved in your child’s education and know what he is learning about. Do homework with your child. Read the notes that are sent home. Ask him what he is learning.
Your child’s education is important to you. The relationship you have with your child’s teacher can make a big impact on his education. Good communication can improve a challenging relationship, and it all starts with considering the teacher’s perspective.