Bright Ideas From Our Readers: Parent-Teacher Ties
GreatSchools readers share their insights about developing good relationships with their children's teachers.
By GreatSchools Staff
Thanks to GreatSchools' readers for sharing their experience and advice about fostering good working relationships with the teacher. Here are some of the highlights:
1. Visit the school.
Woody Allen said that "90% of life is just showing up." Many of our readers felt it was at least a powerful first step:
The most important thing is to be visible in any way possible. I have found teachers will communicate smaller details of my daughter's performance or behavior because they happened to see me that day."
This active parent volunteer concurs:
"My son is in the third grade this year. We are at a brand new school (it just opened this August)," wrote Laurie Gahan, an elementary school PTA officer. "Ever since he was in kindergarten, I have been really involved with his school. I volunteered every day. I made copies, decorated bulletin boards, laminated things...whatever his teacher needed me to do. ....
Most schools welcome volunteers with open arms. The teachers really appreciate the help. I don't know how they ever have time to make copies or anything without having volunteers. That is how I have established wonderful relationships with my son's teachers. Not all moms can volunteer as much as I do, but maybe the ones who do work might ask their child's teacher if there is anything that they can do at home to help. Like grade papers, put games together, etc...you'd be surprised at the things the teachers would send home for parents to do. But the main thing is that the teachers need the help and they really do appreciate it."
This working mom of a first-grader told how she has managed to work volunteer time into her schedule:
"I was able to build a relationship with my son's teacher by volunteering in the classroom; I am a single working mom and although the volunteer time for parents was 11:00 to 12:00, I explained that I would like to be involved and she was very accommodating and allowed "story time" to be at 8:30 on Fridays.
"It was also a great way to get to know the children that my son spent his days with!!"
2. Communicate regularly.
Taking the lead in communicating with the teacher, by email or phone, is a great way to demonstrate your interest and give the teacher valuable feedback on her teaching and your child, readers wrote.
"For me, fostering a positive parent/teacher relationship is my goal every September," Rachelle Haga wrote. "Asking questions is great, showing up at school events is wonderful, and going that extra mile proves worthwhile to all involved in the education process. I like to write the teacher little notes of feedback and appreciation. We all like a little pat on the back for all our hard work. I try to visit with the teacher about how I can be involved in the classroom in the best manner - whether it is reading a book to the class once a month or coming for lunch at school or just helping with homework and encouraging what happens in class at home too. The relationship I can establish with my children's teachers benefits all of us."
"When my child comes home I ask what he did or what happened in school," a Georgia mother wrote. "If they worked on book or did a project, I will go in and share what my child told me with his teacher, especially what he learned in class. Teachers love hearing that their children are learning and taking it back home."
Georgia dad Rick Rosenthal says parents who don't live in the same household as their children have to take extra steps to establish a relationship with the school. Here's what he advises:
"Being an out-of-town non-custodial divorced dad is entering the playing field on an uphill battle, but the field can be quickly leveled if you have established a past with other teachers your child has previously had. The word of mouth is still the best method of establishing credibility. Have the new teacher talk with your child's old teachers to find out that you are totally committed to your child and those helping to educate and raise him. Be as supportive as possible and utilize whatever means you can to 'be there' either by phone, email or in person.
"Just because you are not the custodial parent, is no reason to take a back seat. I really believe that my son's school knows that my son's daddy would do anything to help them help my son."
Some parents expressed concern or frustration that not all teachers were eager to communicate:
"I found that it's easy to strike up a relationship with them by starting off sending notes to them with my child with whatever question or comment I might have. By volunteering my time in the class or on field trips, my son's teachers knew I took his education seriously and that I wasn't just some crack-pot giving advice or asking questions.
"This approach has worked for me for three out of four of my older sons' teachers, but I'm having a hard time with this year's third-grade teacher. I've sent notes in and have had no contact from her at all. I like to know what's going on in my son's class (but I wouldn't consider myself to be an annoying busybody) so I'll keep plugging away... sometimes that's all we can do."