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Partnering with your older child's teacher

How (and why) you should play a key role in your kid's school success.

By GreatSchools Staff

If teaching was show business, then your child’s teacher would get star billing. But don’t forget about the other major player whose role in your child’s education can help make it a smash success: Yes, you, the parent.

When parents and educators co-star in children’s big show – a.k.a. school – everybody benefits: The teachers who can count on the support of active and involved parents, the parents who stays connected to their kids and school, and, most important, the children whose parents and teachers are working in tandem.

Educational research bears out the fact that academic achievement, attitude, and attendance improve measurably when parents are involved in their children’s schooling.

Staying in touch with your child’s teachers gets harder once your kids leave elementary school. Suddenly it’s not just one teacher to deal with, but a cast of thousands (at least it feels that way). Not to mention that your child’s probably not thrilled at the idea of you prowling the halls of her school. At the same time, now’s one of the more important times to stay in touch with your child’s school. These can be turbulent years for kids, and a parent’s support is crucial. Here’s how to stay in touch with the teacher - and be an active partner in your child’s education.

Get to school

Even if you think you know the ropes by now, go to the school’s back-to-school nights. You’ll get a chance to meet each teacher and get a sense of what the year’s workload will be. Offer to help in the office or the cafeteria or to chaperone field trips and other outside events. Your help sends the message to teachers and your child that you value the school and the work they do. It also gives you an inside look at how the school runs and lets you get to know the staff.

Communicate

Ask each teacher how she prefers to communicate. Get her phone and email – and don’t be shy about using them when needed. Also, find out if the teacher posts homework or other assignments on the web. If she does, check often to make sure your child is on track. Finally, most schools have email lists for parents. Call the office to see if your school has one and how to join. Parent email lists are a valuable way for parents to learn about school events and workshops. It is also a way to meet other parents and share resources.

Do what you can

While middle and high school teachers ask for less in-classroom help than in elementary school, let them know how and when you are available to help with special projects or outings. If you are unable to volunteer in the school, ask teachers or PTO representations on how you can help at home: Call other parents to tell them about school-related activities, edit the school newsletter, or make educational materials for teachers. If you are bilingual, help translate school materials or interpret for non-English speaking parents in your school. The support you offer strengthens your connection to the school and your child's teachers.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

10/28/2010:
"I have 5 grandchildren in the clarksville school system. But I live in Baton Rouge, La. I am very much concern about my children education. How can I get involved? "
09/8/2010:
"Truly great ideas. The challenge we face as career professionals and dedicated parents is finding the time to do these tips even to the extent written! Never mind Shakespeare - that would be a luxury vacation for us! Can you offer suggestions for parents who leave before the bus and get home past dinner? We have twins who are very good middle school students. Our philosophy has always been to provide strength from home in the form of self-education, self-dependence and self-reliance with an assist from us. We are trying to teach our kids that Donna Reed and Father Knows Best were great concepts that are impossible to sustain for some people in this new world. Our community is well off and most Mom's don't work. Since we don't have that lifestyle (and btw some of these Mom's take their role to the 'hover' and over-involvement extreme)I would feel remiss in teaching my kids that this is reality. Sometimes we feel we are prejudiced against by teachers, administration and! other parents because we don't subscribe to their 'norm'. I think teachers and administration should consider two-income homes more often and make more allowances and opportunities for US. That would be a great way to start since we are always stretched to find a way to fit in. It would be great if you could provide guidance to parents and teachers alike to help parents like ourselves who make dinner with their overcoats on or volunteer for the no-show jobs at the PTO meetings because we are at a corporate office! Somehow - our kids have got to know that just because we aren't there for every physical opportunity doesn't mean we are not there for them for the long haul - which is really where it counts."
09/3/2010:
"This is a wonderful article. I will definitely try this."
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