I have been on both sides of the parent/teacher conference table. I understand what the every day concerns are as a teacher and as a mom. I put together a list to help us as parents to communicate with our children’s teachers.
Here are my TOP FIVE TIPS for developing a good relationship with your child’s teacher:
1. Be pro-active in your communication, but allow a day or two for a response.
Teachers are busy! In addition to the traditional school hours, there are other tasks to be done. Papers must be graded, professional development trainings must be attended, and future lessons must be planned. If your child is progressing well and the teacher is sending a newsletter to update you on what is happening in class, then you probably will not hear from the teacher again until you have a scheduled meeting, such as back to school night or a conference. It is a good idea to send an email to “check in” or if you have a question, but understand that you may have to wait a day or more for a response. Casual emails should be limited to two or three times a month.
2. Ask what they need
Chances are you have something great to offer, and you might not even know it! Ask if there are specific classroom needs, such as hand sanitizer, extra pencils, or playground equipment for recess. You may be able to donate some gently used books to the classroom library or pick up a few jump ropes from the dollar store. Although they may be too gracious to tell you, teachers usually appreciate classroom supplies more than small trinkets, mugs, or candles if you are giving a gift. (You can check out my holiday gift guide for teachers for more ideas.)
3. Seek clarification
There may be a time when your child comes home upset about something that happened in school. Maybe she got a poor grade or thought something was unfair. Talk directly to the teacher before involving the administration or other parents. Many times these issues are misunderstandings that can be resolved quickly with just a phone call or email.
4. Understand that fair is not always equal
Just as every child must be parented differently, every child must be taught differently. It may not seem fair that your child got a different consequence than another for the same offense, but teachers know things about other children’s circumstances that you may not. It might not seem fair that the teacher extended the science fair deadline for Johnny, but marked down Susie’s project for being late, but she may have done that because Johnny’s mom was in the hospital or his family was evicted from their home. Try to keep an open mind.
5. Keep a business relationship, at least until June.
Unless you were friends long before your child entered the classroom, it’s best not to socialize with your child’s teacher outside of school functions. Becoming drinking buddies or even Facebook friends can muddy the waters and lead to awkward, embarrassing, and inappropriate situations for the adults as well as the children. It is easier to keep hold of your emotions concerning your child’s academic career and feel confident addressing your concerns during the parent/teacher conference when the person seated across from you has not seen your karaoke moves. If you absolutely love your child’s teacher and you are in the market for a new karaoke partner, a personal friendship can be explored after the school year is over.
These tips originally appeared in a 2012 article I wrote for Examiner.com.
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