The second week of school has started. School supplies are purchased, new routines are being established. You know who your child’s teachers are, maybe you’ve even toured the school or had a meet-and-greet day. Now what? What’s your plan for staying connected to your child’s educational progress this year? What kind of partnership will you form with your child’s teacher?
While you don’t need to be at the school during the entire school day, hovering over your child’s shoulder, you also don’t want to entrust your child’s education totally to a teacher or school, waving goodbye in the morning, happy to have another adult be in charge of your child for the next seven hours. The best kind of partnership lies somewhere in between those two extremes.
The State of Parent-Teacher Partnerships
“10 Things Parents and Teachers Want Each Other to Know”, shed light on the sad state of the parent-teacher partnership in too many of our schools these days. Parents and teachers just don’t see eye to eye on much these days.
Our PTAs and PTOs are far too heavy on the Ps (parents) and far too light on the Ts (teachers). In contrast, very few Ps ever sit on any meaningful committees at the school level where many Ts are seated at the table.
And yet, the Ps and the Ts have a shared responsibility for a child’s education.
How do we get the Ps and the Ts back on the same page, engaged together in trusting relationships where both are working to educate a child? How will you start that meaningful trusting relationship with your child’s teacher?
It might just be easier than you think.
Okay, I know what some of you are thinking: I’ve tried. They don’t want me to be a part of my child’s education. I can’t even get the teacher to return a phone call. The teacher won’t make time for a meeting. I get nothing from the school, even when I ask for information about my child’s progress. Believe me, I’ve been there. What do you think drove me to public education advocacy in the first place?
Regardless of your past experience, this is a new school year, so let’s start again.
Let your child’s teacher know that you are interested in whatever news, good or bad, the teacher may have to share. And if bad news comes, keep an open mind.
Ask your child’s teacher how often the teacher will communicate with you about your child’s academic progress. And be willing to gently remind the teacher if communication doesn’t arrive on time.
Read everything the teacher gives you. Yes, even the student handbook that is full of unfamiliar language and uses too small of a font. And be willing to ask questions if you don’t understand something you’ve read.
Keep good records of your communications with your child’s teacher, including dates and notes of what was discussed. This isn’t so you can pull a “gotcha” if the teacher isn’t able to follow through with a promise, but rather to help you remember what was discussed if disagreements arise.
Let the teacher see your investment in your child’s education. Offer your help to your child’s teacher. And follow through with that offer when the teacher asks. Not everyone can be a room parent, but everyone can do something to help out during the school year. If your child’s teacher has not had a good experience with parents being available to help, the teacher may resist your offer at first. Be sincere and honest about what type of help you can give, but give something.
One Thing I Wish Teachers Knew About Parents
I have amassed a pretty long list of things I wish teachers knew about parents, but this pretty succinctly says it all:
“Parents do not give up their children to strangers lightly. They wait in uncertain anticipation for an expression of awareness and interest in their children that is as genuine as their own.” – Dorothy H. Cohen, The Learning Child, “Beyond the Home to School and Community,” (1972).
These first few steps should help start a meaningful partnership with your child’s teacher. There’s a whole lot more to maintaining and strengthening that partnership. Stick around if you want to learn more. [Yep, another multi-part series in the works.]