Written by Jessica Cleary, Psychologist
Your child’s classroom teacher will spend an enormous amount of time with your child – much of your child’s waking hours during the week will be with his or her teacher. The relationships between teacher, parent and child will affect your child’s level of happiness over the school year, so it’s important so start off on a positive note and continue to work together with your child’s best interests at heart.
1. First introductions
The first week of school is a very hectic time for teachers who are busy getting to know new students, are planning for the year, and are meeting many parents. Before school on the first day is not the time to corner the teacher and give a run down of your child’s academic history and personal accomplishments. However, make a connection in those first few days by introducing yourself and ask if you could meet at a mutually convenient time to introduce yourself further.
In the meantime a short letter to the teacher helps him or her get to know your child. You could list your child’s strength and interests, your goals and hopes for the coming year, and your contact details. It’s a good idea to hold off on the negative stuff (unless it is significant). Highlighting that “Susie can be cheeky” or “Max can be a bit of a terror at times” is probably going to influence the teacher’s first impression of your child. Highlight the positives and the essentials, and you are off to a good start.
2. Keep that communication going
Communicate regularly throughout the year. It is important for teachers to know if there are circumstances at home that may affect your child’s behaviour at school. This could be parental separation, a family member’s illness, or even something exciting like a new baby or upcoming holiday.
Regular, ongoing communication is essential – don’t rely on the few parent-teacher interviews as a way to connect. Let the teacher know when everything is going right throughout the year – when your child comes home bubbly and beaming with happiness, when your child is enjoying homework projects, when your child tells fun stories about the day. A little note of appreciation can make a teacher’s day (especially if it’s been a challenging one).
3. Dealing with conflict
If little Lochie comes home saying how his teacher yelled at him in front of everyone, empathise with his feelings (“gee, that must have felt pretty bad, huh?”) but try and retain a neutral stance until you have more information. Don’t approach the teacher all guns blazing (which sets the stage for conflict). Instead, find a way to ask the teacher if everything is ok. You never know – the teacher may have had a really tough day or something might be going on in the teacher’s personal life. Teachers are humans first and being supportive is likely to generate the best outcomes for your child.
Related content: School's here...and so is Separation Anxiety:
8 Tips for Parents of Clingy Kids
4. Helping out in class
Enormous insight into your child’s learning experience is gained by helping out in the classroom. Offering an hour or two here and there is a nice way to stay connected with what’s happening in the learning environment and to show your child that you and the teacher are working as a team. Even if you can’t come in during the day, you can still offer to help out. You could ask for a job to do at home (e.g., put together a classroom display) and work on it alongside your child while they do homework, or drop in some craft supplies to the class for an upcoming project.
If you and the teacher are a team then your child is likely to feel more secure and safe at school and home. By being positive and supportive throughout the year the teacher is likely to be more responsive and helpful when you raise concerns. If we are on the same page as our teachers then our children do better.
Have a great school year!