How Do You Partner with Your Child’s Teacher?

I’m a big believer in my kids’ education, and I’m also a big advocate of partnering with my kids’ teachers. Sometimes, however, it’s a challenge to partner with a teacher.

Fortunately, I have a lot of friends who happen to be teachers. I have a sister who is a teacher, and my mother and grandmother are retired teachers, so I feel lucky to have inside information about what teachers say about working with parents. When I hear their stories, I then understand why it’s sometimes hard to partner with a teacher.

Because of budget cuts, standardized tests, and difficult situations, other parents have caused, a number of teachers have created strong policies of how they work with parents. Sometimes their ideas and policies fit with how I work with a teacher. Sometimes, however, they don’t at all. And that’s when the partnership gets tricky.

I always take time to get to know my kids’ teachers. I attend every open house and every parent-teacher conference offered. I ask questions about how each teacher would like parents involved and then I ask how I can help my child succeed in school. Sometimes teachers like parents not to be in the classroom during school hours. Sometimes teachers don’t show parents the specifics on how their children did on a test or project. That doesn’t mean the teachers don’t want parents involved. It usually means that teachers are trying to work more directly with the kids, are trying to keep kids from losing things (by not bringing everything back and forth between home and school), and are trying to get kids to take responsibility for their own education. Some are even trying to level the playing field in terms of parent involvement. Your child most likely has classmates with parents who aren’t involved at all. Some teachers try different techniques to help these kids not feel stressed about a parent who isn’t involved.

Personally, I like it when teachers encourage parents to be involved in their kids’ education at school. I like it even better when these teachers make it clear that these parents are helping all the kids in class, not just their child. I’ve seen some parents step up and become an important adult in the lives of kids who have parents who aren’t involved in their school at all.

Even though most of my kids’ teachers have been terrific, there have been some that I thought were substandard. One created a lot of grief for my teenager, and I spent hours helping my son learn how to work with a teacher who didn’t like him. (This teacher didn’t like boys in general, and I knew of other boys who transferred schools because of this teacher.) I’ve also know parents who have kids with special needs advocate to change the teaching situation so that it’s better for their child. Sometimes it’s important to stand up when education isn’t working for your child.

Now that I have one child in high school and one in college, I’ve worked with a wide variety of teachers. Most have been a pleasure to work with. A few have been more trying. But I’ve stayed involved in each of my kid’s education every step of the way. Working with a teacher most of the time instead of against the teacher can make a positive difference in your child’s education.

I’ve learned that it’s important is to know what your personal style is as a parent. Ideally, how do you like to be involved in your child’s education? How do you like to partner with your child’s teachers? Then get to know each teacher and find out how he or she likes parents to be involved. Listen closely to each teacher’s perspective. If it doesn’t fit with yours, work together to find ways to bring out the best in your child’s education.

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Sources:
1. The National PTA, www.pta.org
2. PTO Today, www.ptotoday.com
3. TeacherVision®, www.teachervision.fen.com/education-and-parents/resource/3730.html, scroll down to “Advice for Parents”

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