When “Parenting” magazine joined forces with the National Education Association to study the delicate bridge that unites parents and teachers, their 2012 study found that 68 percent of teachers report difficulty when dealing with parents. Meanwhile, 63 percent of parents indicated that they’d never had difficulty in dealing with teachers.
The question stemming from this research leads us to ask what we can do as parents to promote a positive relationship with the teachers who invest in the lives of our children. For elementary-age children, up to six hours of the day will be spent with one primary teacher. Even as our children emerge into upper grades and encounter dozens of different teachers, these adults will make a formidable impact on the lives of the students they teach. Parents are wise to facilitate positive relationships with the adults who will shape the lives of their children.
For seven years, I taught students with disabilities at a public high school. I experienced drastic extremes as I worked with a wide variety of parents. Some parents did all they could to build a positive relationship with me, while others seemed defensive and guarded from the beginning of the school year. The tone set at the beginning of the year generally indicated the direction of our relationship throughout the rest of the year.
Fifteen years later, I find it interesting to explore this concept from the other side of the desk. I left the classroom as a teacher in 2011. I only enter the classroom as a parent in this season of life. My hope is to form a partnership with my children’s teachers and work together for the benefit of my children.
Here are a few simple strategies that any parent can implement to foster a positive relationship with their child’s teacher:
Start on a good note
Regardless of what you’ve heard about this teacher from friends and disgruntled community members, remember that this is only one side of the story. Do the best you can to dismiss any negative comments you’ve heard about and begin the year with a clean slate.
One way to make a positive impression on a teacher who will spend large amounts of time with your child is to write a quick note about a week into the new school year. Make it short. Be friendly and upbeat. Thank the teacher for the work that went into preparing for the year, and end with something like, “We’re looking forward to a wonderful year!”
Just as it sometimes seems like we’re sending our children into an unknown world of people without recognizable faces, peering into the home-life of a student can feel the same way for a teacher. Introducing yourself before any potential issues arise is a great way to start. If there is an academic or behavioral issue down the road, you will already have a positive foundation on which to build.
Send needed supplies
This might seem obvious enough, but it seems there is a misunderstanding among many parent communities in which every parent assumes that someone else will send in the requested hand sanitizer, snacks, paper towels, or other items. Assuming that another parent probably sent the requested items often leads to basic classroom needs that remain unmet.
According to a 2015 survey of teachers by SheerID and Agile Education Marketing, K-12 teachers spend an average of $490 on their classrooms annually. When parents lessen the teacher’s load by sending requested classroom items, they partner with teachers and show support in a very tangible way.
Expect the best
In every profession, there are a wide array of personality types and individuals with different degrees of drivenness.Teaching is no different.Though our personalities – and even our personal philosophies on education – may differ drastically from those of our children’s teachers, we take a step in a positive direction when we believe the best.
Believe this teacher has your child’s best interests in mind. Believe you’re on the same team. Believe you both ultimately have the same goal: the educational success of your child.
Let go of the little things
Just as we “pick our battles” with our children, we can operate in a similar mindset when it comes to school. We are called to be our children’s biggest advocates, but there is room for considering when we need to take a stand and when it’s time to let go of something trivial.
While it might be tempting to send an email on the second day of school to address the rule about using only the school-provided pencil boxes, we’re wise to let go of issues that won’t make a major educational or emotional impact on our children.
A rule among teachers is to start the year on a positive note with parents. This way, if difficulty arises later, a positive relationship already exists. Parents who follow the same imperative take steps toward a constructive partnership that suits the best interests of their children.