Set the Foundation for Success

College & Career Readiness, Parent & Family Engagement | 08/31/2016

Lauren Atterbery Cesar
Louisiana Educator

Lauren is an experienced classroom educator and a mother

Establishing a Good Relationship with Your Child’s Teacher

Summer is over, and you’re sending your precious children off to school. Now you’re entrusting them into care of the teachers and school staff that will see them for over seven hours a day for the next 180 days. If you’re anything like me, you wish you could sew little cameras into their backpacks in order to watch and experience every moment of their day right along with them. However, for lots of reasons, that is not an option.

Instead we find ourselves settling for the one-word answers to the questions like, “How was your day?” and, “What did you do?” Even getting that much is like pulling teeth. The only time that you might hear more than just answers like ‘fine’ or ‘nothing’, is when something has gone wrong. At that point, you can expect an earful!

How can you avoid going from fine to DEFCON five in the blink of an eye? The best way to pave the road to success for your child during the school year is to establish a good, supportive relationship with your child’s teacher.

How do you do that?

  1. Reach out first. We live in a busy world where sometimes the thought of stopping what we are doing to send an email can be harrowing. Taking a few minutes to introduce yourself can be a powerful tool for your child and your child’s educational success. Make sure your child’s teacher has a means to contact you any time that they need to. I had a wonderful parent last school year that made it clear to me on the first day of school that she was only an email away, and she made good on the promise. If she didn’t hear from me, she emailed me once every two weeks just to check in. When parents keep in touch, it’s easier to communicate any range of information like when your child is struggling, or when they do something great!
  2. Get Technological. Many teachers utilize tools for their classroom like Blackboard or Remind to let you know exactly what is happening at school. They update their Blackboard sites with contact information, classroom handouts, and websites to help students practice their skills. Teachers send text reminders through Remind to let you know when something is due. You just have to sign up to receive these messages. Many parishes use tools like A+ Grades or other online grading systems that allow you to check your child’s grade in real time, as soon as the teacher enters it. A guardian of three students that I have taught is a prime example of how keeping up to date with these tools supports the student and helps them achieve academic success. This guardian checks the websites on a daily basis, and sends her children with printed out grade sheets with notes on them that I sign. It keeps the students accountable for all of their work, and makes my job easier. It also keeps me on my toes!
  3. Be Approachable, not Defensive. From time to time, you have to go to school for a conference to meet one or even all of your child’s teachers. Usually it is because your child is having a little trouble in school. I have seen in equal amounts two polar opposite conference scenarios. The first scenario is the dream conference where you put on your smile, come in, and find that the teachers are helpful and you are able to work together to come up with a game plan to help your child. After this conference you leave feeling good about your child’s education. The second kind of conference happens when you put on your suit of armor before you leave the house and come in ready for battle. Usually, nothing good gets accomplished in this conference. I am a mother, so believe me, I know how it feels when your child is telling you that he or she is being treated unfairly. Everything inside of you screams with the need to find justice for your sweet baby.Before you channel Joan of Arc or William Wallace, take a deep breath and a step back. We are all fighting the same battle, and we really aren’t on opposite sides. We just might have different perspectives. It is possible that children act differently at school than they do at home, and it is possible that a teacher has made a mistake or been misunderstood. The best way to maintain a good relationship for the benefit of your child is to remain approachable and open to communication.
  4. Share Ways to Help. When you share with the teacher ways that have worked to help your child in the past, it makes the teacher’s job easier and lets your child know how invested you are in their education. My second year teaching I had a brilliant student who was diagnosed with dyslexia and dysgraphia. I had no idea what dysgraphia was, and I didn’t really know how to help a student with either diagnoses. I did some research, but my best resource was the child’s mother. She made flash cards for me to use to help her son study that were color coded. She also gave me resources to use when he struggled on anything. I soon found myself calling her before I planned my lessons so that I could integrate her ideas for the whole class! Her son made an “A” in my class, and it was because his mom didn’t hesitate to share helpful information with me.

 

Of all of these ways to create a good, meaningful relationship with your child’s teacher, the common thread is communication. Positively communicating with teachers at your child’s school increases the chances that your child has at a successful academic future. 

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