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Forging Positive Parent-Teacher Relationships

Nothing is more important than your child’s education. But it’s not going to happen by accident or by your wits alone. And it will require you to forge alliances with your child’s teacher, as well as with your child.

None of this is rocket science. But it’s stuff I didn’t get when I was “just a teacher.” My unique position as a mother and teacher has taught me these lessons. I’m sure I’ll learn much more with each school year; and I’m sure most of my future learning will come from the school of parental mistakes, as my past did. Hopefully, these tips will make your school year a little better, as you learn how to deal and forge alliances with your children and the teachers who influence the majority of their waking hours for nine months of the year.

Forge Alliances With Your Child’s Teacher(s)

1. Be on time for school the first day and every day thereafter. That means being on time for conferences, volunteering and homeroom. Punctuality tells the teacher that her schedule is important to you and that your child is serious about school. Set the clothes out and make lunches the night before, if needed.

2. Volunteer for something the first day. Tell the teacher you want to be a resource in the classroom. Learn the kid’s names as soon as possible. Lend a hand. Everyone can run copies, cut, laminate, help with parties or read with a child who needs a little extra help. Find your niche; then fill it.
3. Help your child complete homework every day. Enough said.
4. Surprise the teacher on special days (and not so special ones) with small tokens of your appreciation. Start the first day. Help your children come up with their own ways to make the teacher feel special. One of my favorite teacher gifts was a homemade decorative pointer for my charts and white board.
5. Attend school functions.

6. Compliment and encourage teachers for the good they are doing. Teachers hear few “thank yous.” A compliment puts a positive picture of your child in the mind’s eye of the teacher and set the tone for future dealings with you. If teachers feel you’re looking for the good in them, they’ll be more likely to see the good in your little cherub.
7. Don’t immediately believe everything your child tells you about problems with the teacher or other students. Half of what your child says probably stems from emotion, another fourth from point of view and the rest from truth. Get the facts as your child sees them. Then meet with the teacher privately. Follow up with the child. Finally, if you still cannot get to the whole truth of the situation, conference with the child and teacher.
8. Ask intelligent questions about what your child is/will be learning. Ask how you can help your child; and once your child has been in the classroom long enough, ask about your child’s strengths and weaknesses in the classroom. Ask about relationships too – who does your child play with on the playground? How does your child navigate difficult relationships? How well does he or she listen? What subjects need the most attention? Show a genuine interest in your child’s progress, but do it at appropriate times. Ask the teacher what is the best time and method to make contact. Then adhere to them.
9. Never undermine the teacher’s authority by speaking against the methods or personality of a teacher in front of your child. This robs your and your child’s relationship with the teacher and WILL damage the learning process at some level. Before getting critical, find the reasons behind the teacher’s actions. If children see a lack of respect for the teacher, they will see no reason to respect the teacher either and will probably give less attention to schoolwork. Send a clear message about the proper view of authority to your child whenever possible.
10. Avoid gossip. If you are tempted to engage in gossip, stay away from the workroom and teachers’ lounge. Many negative words are uttered there. If those walls could talk! You’ll pick up on a wealth of information in the workroom if you listen. Just remember, kids and teachers get unfairly labeled when gossip gets out of hand. That helps no one, and if you make a habit of gossiping, it can label you as one who cannot be trusted.

Forge Alliances With Your Child

Lest you think it’s enough to create team spirit with your child’s teacher, guess again. The power of your relationship with your child in creating a successful educational environment cannot be overestimated. Your kids need to buy in to this school thing too.

1. Follow everything on list #1.

2. Have a snack ready for your child after school and listen, listen, listen. Food can be a satisfying way to relax your child after a long day.

3. Listen creatively. You may get more information if you share first. Go with the personality of your child. For example, my daughter shares best if she’s given lots of hugs first. She’s very tactile. My son shares better if you joke and roughhouse with him first. Look for clues in your child’s facial expressions, intonation, actions and attitudes as to how the day went. Don’t take for granted that what your children say is what they’re really feeling. Listen “out of the box.”

4. Find a consistent time and place for homework that fits the personality and needs of your child. For example, Spencer, my son, prefers sitting at the kitchen table. We start homework after a snack and 30-minute rest time after school. Anything less than 30 minutes and he isn’t physically, emotionally or mentally ready to tackle homework yet. If allowed more than an hour’s rest, he’s already moved into play mode and has difficulty concentrating. Try different systems until you get one that works for your child.

5. Make learning fun! Mix up the learning after school. Use games, take turns reading, use real life experiences to teach lessons and reach your children in their area of interest. You are ultimately responsible for your child’s learning – not the teacher. No one else cares about your child’s education as much as you do, so be a part of it. Help your child learn about decision making, measuring and counting money while shopping. Teach about chemistry in the kitchen. Expose your child to history on special holidays by adding in an educational book, video or field trip. Write in fun journals about the everyday and special things you do together.

6. Give your child some quiet time every afternoon. Kids need time to themselves just as they need time with you.

7. Read in front of your child every day. Let your child see you enjoying reading and learning. It’s great if the whole family can share a time of reading. But it will require you to cut off the TV for a while.

8. Touch your child. Hug your child a lot. You may need to find out how to touch your child. For a long time, I thought Spencer didn’t like for me to touch him. I found out that he really needed my touch, but on his terms. He prefers to ease into affection first by being silly, tickling, etc. And he doesn’t like kisses, unless he initiates. Be sensitive to the tactile needs of your child. But touch. Touch stimulates learning and confidence.

9. Be your children’s greatest cheerleader. Put encouraging notes in their lunch boxes. Tell them they are special and why; and try to attach their specialness to who they are, not merely to performance.

10. Finally, I can’t stress enough how important it is to visit your child at school. Eat lunch with your kids. Spend time not just in the classroom, but one-on-one with your child. Look at your child’s art. Talk about what is important to him or her about school. It will go a long way in expressing your love for your child and your interest in your child’s education.