Moms and Dads, Time to Go Back to School! 7 Smart Ways to Build a Strong Relationship with Your Child’s Teacher

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So we might all be avoiding the “Back to School” signs, hesitant to admit summer’s coming to an end, but the fact of the matter is that it’s about time to hoist the backpacks and fill out the 1500 forms that come home the first week of school. While your child anxiously awaits to find out who his teacher is, you can start researching recipes for baked goods to find some good butter-up-the-teacher banana bread to send in the first week. And yes, the thought does count.

Before I was a parent, I was an elementary school teacher. And though I’m not terribly proud of how many times I failed to sign my daughter’s reading folder last year, I hope that my past teacher role merges well with my present parent role to build a good relationship with my children’s teachers. Why? Because I know that outside our family, the most important relationship in my child’s life right now is the one she’s building with her teacher — and if I’m passing off my child to spend seven hours a day with someone, I’m going to make darn sure that we communicate well with that someone and make that person feel appreciated.

I asked our village of teachers for a little help with these:

How do you build a good relationship with your child’s teacher early in the year?

Be Seen

The best way to support a teacher’s hard work is to show up. Teachers spend a lot of time preparing for Meet the Teacher night, curriculum presentations and conferences — and when you are enthusiastically present for these events, you’re letting your child’s teacher know that you care, that you appreciate what she does and that you’re leading the efforts we all share in educating and guiding our children.

Get to Know Them
Respect the fact that teachers have a life outside of your child and her classmates. Express interest in your teacher’s life by finding out about her family, too. One teacher friend described how, at the beginning of the year, a parent asked her to fill out a quick questionnaire that she made, requesting her favorite candy bar, restaurant, lunch choice, flowers, color and clothes shop — and used it to buy little presents throughout the year.

Establish a Good Line of Communication
Just like being seen, communicating throughout the year with your child’s teacher is important. Remember that you’re one of 20 parents, so daily voicemails, two-page emails and classroom visits are most likely too much. But never hearing from you can send the message of “I don’t care.” Pop in now and then to ask how things are going, stay current on what’s happening in the classroom by reading newsletters and communication sent home from the school, and make sure you reach out to the teacher when it comes to areas of concern, as well as recognition of good work.

Follow the Chain of Command
If you have an area of concern in your child’s classroom, deal directly with the teacher first, not the principal. Give your child’s teacher time to respond before taking the problem to an administrator. That includes cc’ing the principal on emails. Remember that the ultimate goal for everyone is for your child to learn in a positive environment and to enjoy his classroom experience. Approach problems with hopeful solutions and teacher respect before accusing or getting overly emotional. Everyone’s on the same team.

Do Your Job at Home
Your child will receive the optimum classroom learning experience if you are supporting the teacher’s work at home. Stay current with what your child is learning so that you can help with homework, encourage her efforts and acknowledge good work. Most importantly, READ! Read aloud to your child, read before bed, stock shelves and accessible areas with a variety of books. Talk about what you’re reading together, ask critical thinking questions and dig into stories with curiosity and enthusiasm. Teachers near and far will thank you!

Don’t Let Your Kids Hear You Talk Bad About Their Teachers
If you have a problem with your child’s teacher, don’t involve your child in discussions at home. Your child’s relationship with his teacher should be preserved and encouraged — and overhearing you say something negative about his teacher could affect your child’s trust, happiness and consequently, his classroom performance.

Take Care of Your Teacher
The bottom line is teachers work hard and, just like everyone else, need recognition and appreciation in the simplest of ways. I ask my daughter’s teacher on the first day of school how she likes her coffee and make it a point to randomly pick mornings throughout the year to bring her a Starbucks treat. Write appreciation notes in folders, drop off lunch now and then and remember birthdays and Teacher Appreciation week — no strings attached! My child’s happiness, comfort and excitement for seven hours a day is worth far more than some treats throughout the year — and it’s the least we can do to say thanks.

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