Toward the end of summer vacation, most kids find out who they will have for a teacher for the new school year.
In elementary school years most kids have just one teacher, but as they head off to middle school they belong to a teaching team, and high school means even more individual teachers for each subject.
Let’s face it, most of us have already decided who we really hope our child will get and who we hope he won’t get. Sadly, many times this is based on hearsay by other parents and not from firsthand experience. With a brand new school year on tap, we can all start fresh and build positive and strong parent-teacher relationships that will be beneficial for our student and in truth, the whole family.
Our Gansett Moms’ Council, several of them teachers, met on the beach for a late-summer hurrah and traded tips on helpful and affirmative ways to work with your child’s teacher rather than against her. Here are our Top Ten suggestions that have worked well with our own kids.
- Don’t judge a teacher based on another parent’s bias. Just because your neighbor’s son thought his third grade teacher was way too strict and always yelled doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the case. Wait until your own child gets established in the classroom and give the teacher a fair chance. She could end up being one of your kid’s favorite, all-time teachers.
- Communicate any learning or personality issues right at the beginning of the year. Don’t assume that your child’s teacher from last year sat down and discussed your daughter’s anxiety issues when taking a test with her new teacher. If your child has a particular personality quirk or some specific learning challenge that might be unique to her, send a note or leave a message for the teacher to please call you at a convenient time so that you can quickly discuss the issues before the new year gets too far underway.
- Know the value of practicing reading at home. This advice came from two of our middle school teachers who couldn’t stress enough how important it is to have your child read each and every day—no matter what. Even if you have a kid who hates to read, get him in the habit of reading for 20 minutes every night and don’t negotiate it. Find a subject matter or genre that appeals to your picky reader and sit with him for the first five to 10 minutes if possible and let him know you will support him and his teachers all year long.
- Allow the teacher to hold your child accountable. Just like at home, teachers have to set rules and boundaries in their individual classrooms. When teachers have gone through the trouble of setting up their classroom and getting students to abide by those rules, it’s disruptive to allow one or two children to distract the rest of the students from their learning time. Be willing to sit down with the teacher if there are any incidents that involve your child and hear her side of the story. This doesn’t mean you don’t listen to your child as well, but everyone needs to be on the same page in order to have a successful learning environment.
- Help replenish classroom supplies. Budget cuts are inevitable in a host of different ways regarding school, but teachers are often left paying for many items out of their own pockets. Items like disinfectant wipes, tissues, even pencils and glue sticks are usually very welcome. At the beginning of the year, why not ask your child’s teacher for a classroom wish list of supplies and send a few things in whenever you are able.
- Speak up! Have you ever sat down with your child to help with a homework assignment and haven’t a clue how to figure out her math word problems? It happens to the best of us, but the worst thing our teacher friends say we can do is to try to figure it out and confuse the child. When in doubt, ask questions. Leave a message for your child’s teacher with the main office or send a note in explaining you’re not quite sure how you can help your student understand this particular assignment. Communication is key!
- Show appreciation when it is warranted. Personally, I have always been an advocate of saying thank you when someone in my child’s school day goes the extra mile, is perhaps more patient than most, spends extra time making sure the class really understands a difficult subject or is plain and simple an awesome teacher. This goes for teacher assistants, bus drivers and monitors, office administrators, principal and vice principals — anyone who has contact with your child that makes a difference. Show them appreciation when it’s due—they deserve it and don’t hear it often enough.
- Get involved. One of the best ways to get to know your child’s teacher or school environment in general is to attend Open Houses, PTO meetings, and when possible volunteer in the classroom or chaperone field trips. Don’t worry if you can’t make a permanent time commitment for the year—you can still be connected by communicating with the school such as by introducing yourself to the office staff the next time you drop your son off in the morning, or maybe you can come in to school to help with an involved art project. Don’t feel badly if you work full-time and can’t give the same amount of time as your neighbor. Just be in touch with your child’s teacher on a regular basis so you’ll know what’s going on in his school life.
- Keep sick children at home. If you have a child who is contagious with a fever, bad cough or worse — a stomach bug, please do the right thing and keep him home. It’s not fair to the other children, the teacher, and above all to your own child who doesn’t feel good to begin with.
10. Be considerate of everyone’s time during a parent-teacher conference. Parent-teacher conferences are vital to discussing your child’s challenges, progress, and successes. Most teachers stress during this time because they have to schedule a conference every 10 to 15 minutes and almost always, the allotted time runs over. Try to be mindful of keeping the conference strictly school related and not about how you hate the new haircut you got from the salon that the art teacher highly recommended.
These are the top 10 suggestions that our Gansett Moms’ Council has for making this your best year yet with your child’s new teacher. What are some of your suggestions for building a successful relationship, we’d love to know here in the comment section or you can e-mail our editor, Stephen Greenwell at Stephen.Greenwell@patch.com or you can e-mail me at CB091987@aol.com.
We wish everyone a very healthy, successful, and inspired new school year!
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