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5 Things Your Kid's Teacher Needs from You


WebMD Feature from "Redbook" Magazine

By Amy  C. Balfour

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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.

1. Engagement

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.

2. Trust

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.

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