5 Things Your Kid's Teacher Needs from You
By Amy C. Balfour
The best way to ensure your child has a successful school year? Cultivate
a positive relationship with her teacher.
Sneakers are tied, cowlicks are tamed, and a morning snack is tucked safely
inside the backpack. Your smiling, well-scrubbed child seems happy, poised, and
ready to meet his teacher. The question is, are you? Should you mention that
patch of poison ivy creeping up his elbow? What about those medical forms —
admit that you lost them? And what if your boss calls while you're powwowing —
should you take the call? It's no wonder you're nervous: Your kid's teacher is
the one person who spends almost as much time with your child as you do, so you
want to make a positive connection. Apples, shmapples — there are five core
values that will make or break your bond with your kid's teacher. Here's how to
understand and maximize them.
It may sound obvious, but participating in your kid's education, even
minimally, can do wonders. "Children whose parents are involved with their
education generally tend to be less disruptive in class," says Reg Weaver,
president of the National Education Association. Your involvement also shows
the teacher that you support her role in educating your child.
How engaged should you be? First and foremost, be sure that your child makes
homework a daily priority — over sports and clubs. "Teachers see the
completion of homework as the number one factor in making a child's academic
life easier from kindergarten through college," says Marcia Maloni, Ph.D.,
a psychologist in Pittsburgh who specializes in parent/teacher relations. Also,
don't skip the school's open house, even if it's your kid's third or fourth
year there. "Parents probably think these events are boring," says
Maloni, "but you'll learn what's required of your child, what the school's
resources are, and what opportunities are available." Another great way to
make an impact is to attend a few PTA meetings. "I work with our PTA to
plan programs and to see what teachers' needs are," says mom Leigh
Casarotti, 36, of Richmond, VA. "I'm participating in my daughter's
education in a positive way and I think that her teachers feel like I'm on
their side." Too busy for the PTA? "Even a small contribution to the
classroom goes a long way," says Molly Baker, an elementary school teacher
in York, SC. Ask the teacher if there's something she can use, such as tissues,
pencils, erasers, or crayons.
Teachers have a deep appreciation for parents who really listen to their
opinions and consider their expertise, especially when it comes to bad news.
You don't want to believe that your child would ever push another child
on purpose, but that might be exactly what happened. "Teachers witness
behavior and social interactions that parents often don't see," says Nancy
Martin, a preschool teacher in San Mateo, CA.
If the teacher's telling you something about your kid that's upsetting, keep
your cool. "A lot of parents' knee-jerk reaction to negative news about
their kid is to call the principal or show up at the school angry, but that's
the wrong thing to do," says Edward Reid, an elementary school counselor in
Worcester County, MD. "Most teachers want to work with you, but calling the
principal — their boss — first sends the message that you don't really trust
them." In fact, Kennon McDonough, a school consultant to San Francisco Bay
Area preschools, recommends actually thanking the teacher for sharing upsetting
news. "While it's hard to take, it is additional information that may help
your kid in the long run," she says. And even if you don't ultimately agree
with the teacher's opinion, you'll have increased her trust in you simply by
listening and considering what she's shared with you.