Building an important relationship
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You and your child’s teacher are on the same team. You both have the same goal: what is best for your child. If your child is struggling while learning to read, you can be sure that her teacher is as concerned as you are.
One of the best ways to ensure that the two of you can work together toward your shared goal is to establish a positive relationship early in the school year. If you reach out to your child’s teacher before there are any problems to discuss, you will be better able to work together when problems do come up.
Here are a few ways you can reach out to your child’s teacher and build the strong relationship needed to make the two of you an unstoppable team:
- Introduce yourself — more than once! At the start of the school year, your child’s teacher will have a lot on her hands, including setting up her classroom, planning her curriculum and getting to know her students. On back-to-school night, she will be meeting dozens of new people — and probably won’t remember them all. If you can, introduce yourself again in the first few weeks of school, maybe when you’re picking your child up at the end of the day. That way, the teacher is sure to remember who you are and can also match your face with your child’s.
- Volunteer. Teachers today are often overwhelmed by all the demands made on their time. By volunteering at your child’s school, you are telling her teacher that you are willing to support her. If you can, offer to chaperone a field trip or volunteer to help out on party day. Even something as simple as sending in empty oatmeal boxes when the teacher needs them tells her that you respect the job she’s doing and are willing to help out.
- Do your part. Teachers make small requests all the time, such as asking you to sign and return forms, help your child with her spelling practice, and send in her book order. All these little requests can seem unimportant, but, by responding to them, you are telling your child’s teacher that what goes on at school matters. The respect you show her in these small ways will go far when you need to work together when there’s a problem.
- Say, “Thank you.” Teaching is a job, like any other, and teachers are paid to do that job. They don’t expect any further compensation. But teachers are people, too. They respond to expressions of gratitude. Thank your child’s teacher when she has gone the extra mile to help your child. Tell her, too, if one of her lessons or projects was especially helpful or fun for your child.
It’s conference time!
Most schools schedule regular parent-teacher conferences. This is when the teacher tells parents what’s going on in her classroom and how well each child is doing. But the word “conference” means “meeting to have a discussion.” That means communication goes both ways. You will want to hear what your child’s teacher has to say, of course, but now is the time to ask any questions you have, as well.
Preparing for your parent-teacher conference
The Harvard Family Research Center publishes a tip sheet for parents preparing for their child’s parent-teacher conference. Some of the points the center emphasizes include:
- Come prepared. Look over your child’s recent schoolwork and test scores ahead of time. Have a clear understanding of where your child seems to be struggling.
- Write a list of questions. The stress of meeting someone you don’t know well or worrying about your child’s progress can make it easy to forget some of the questions you planned to ask. Be sure to write them down. There’s space for that at the bottom of this page!
- Talk with your child beforehand. Sometimes we forget that our children have valuable ideas to share about their own learning experiences. Ask your child how she feels about school, where she’s having the most problems, and if she has any ideas that could help. You might be surprised at how insightful she is!
- Tell the teacher about your child. It’s easy to think that a child’s teacher knows all about her. After all, they spend the whole day together. But classrooms are busy places filled with lots of children. Your child’s teacher may not know that your child is an artist, for instance, or that she loves motorcycles. Telling your child’s teacher these things can help her fine-tune your child’s learning experience and make her lessons more interesting.
Questions to ask
In the space below, write down any of the questions or concerns you want to bring up with your child’s teacher. Take the list with you on conference day, and be sure to write down the teacher’s answers, as well.
After the conference
Now that you’ve met with your child’s teacher, you should have answers to your most important questions. But sometimes new information can bring up new questions. Take a moment now to write down any new questions that have come to mind since your conference. Also write down any impressions or ideas you have about your conference while they are still fresh in your mind. Be sure to note the date, as well, for future reference.
My thoughts about my parent-teacher conference:
If you find that you still have concerns that were not addressed, call your child’s school to schedule another meeting. You do not have to wait until the next scheduled parent-teacher conference to get your questions answered.
Harvard Family Research Project, “Parent-Teacher Conference Tip Sheets,” http://www.hfrp.org/var/hfrp/storage/fckeditor/File/Parent-Teacher-ConferenceTipSheet-100610.pdf