7 Brilliant Ways to Be Teammates With Your Child's Teacher
Hello, readers! It’s me, your friendly neighborhood preschool teacher. Today I’m going to attempt to solve a parent struggle presented to me every year, even after a child has graduated from my program. That problem is phrased in many ways, but can be summed up simply:
“How am I supposed to effectively communicate with my child’s teacher??”
As a part-time instructor in the private sector for the past six years, my situation is vastly different from the one shared by public school teachers. I have not only the luxury of fewer families to juggle but more free time to field all the burning questions my parents may have in the classroom or after hours. Overall, I’m structured differently than a public school classroom. However, I learned a great deal about how public teaching goes down from my years of college internships, and my teaching friends happily (or unhappily) divulge how relationships with student parents can be sweet or sour.
There are no guarantees that you’ll get along with every teacher your child comes across in their twelve (count ‘em: TWELVE) years of education.
Personalities don’t always mesh, and remember that it’s every teacher’s right to possess a personality just like you! You won’t always have the freedom to choose who that person will be. But it’s important to remember that your child’s teacher is there to help your child succeed. No one is in a competition here, you’re both on Team Your Kiddo and you want to see them thrive. Starting off with that mindset will help you push off initial feelings of resistance or distrust that can arise from introducing ANY new person into your child’s life. Hopefully, these tips can help you start off the school year on the right foot. We may want to resist any activity labeled “team-building exercise” (ew...trust falls), but it’ll be worth your effort.
1. Start the school year with a hello letter
Be the one to extend that first hand of greeting!! Introduce yourself, tell the teacher what you do for a living (stay-at-home mom OF COURSE COUNTS), and introduce the child they’ll be teaching. Tell their likes, dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses. What’s their favorite color? What are their fears? What are their class experiences of the past? Who is their best friend?? It all matters. And nobody knows them better than you.
Teachers want to know as much as they can about their classes, and every child in them...but we often don’t have the time to go as in-depth as we want to. We love a shortcut, so SPILL!
2. Check for weekly updates
Sometimes as adults we get into the same habit with life in general as we do with the mail and bills: NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS. If we don’t hear from our child’s teacher, things are totally fine, right?
A lot can happen in a room full of 20-30 young growing brains and budding personalities, and teaching is a lot of picking and choosing between the “developmentally appropriate/totally normal” behaviors and “probably a thing we should discuss with mom” things. And as is always the case when working with Precious Cargo, bringing these topics up in the wrong mind frame can lead to less than ideal reactions. How do you create a safe space to discuss your kiddo’s progress? Start it yourself! Shoot off an email, give them a call as the workday ends, leave them a voicemail, or even suggest teacher-parent contact apps, where each side can respond upon their availability. If all else fails, ask THEM the best way to contact them. “How’s my Jeffy doing? Any concerning behavior we can work on at home? How is he doing on homework?” It shows you care and are present to help reinforce the learning at home. Just remember…
3. Be patient with responses
On any given year, teachers get a completely different combination of little personalities to work with. Each personality adds a different element to the classroom chemistry, allowing for infinite possibilities in class volatility or inert peacefulness. It just depends on the year, the month, the week even. The response time for every instructor is not going to be the same every time and definitely is not comparable between classrooms. Sometimes I can shoot off a message in a matter of minutes, but if there’s glue or scissors involved or little Susan’s dog passed away and she needs a little extra focus? I may not see that notification until my day is over.
I promise you, we are listening. And we will get back to you. Don’t get impatient, and please don’t give up on us!
4. Show up to family events
Look, I get it. We’ve all got schedules of varying complexities. We probably didn’t get enough sleep last night. When the workday ends, we aren’t really feeling that school carnival. Hordes of shrieking kids, cheap prizes...criminally uncomfortable bleacher seats? I mean, do we have to?
Of course you don’t. At least, not all of them. But occasionally when that school event is advertised on school fliers or in your child’s homework folder, you should try and check it out. Your kids are watching you, and are learning from your example how to react to school events and being present in the building even when it’s not mandatory. Attitudes are contagious!
Also, keep in mind we teachers just spent the whole day surrounded by those shrieking, excitable goobers. And we will finish the day with them too.
5. Conferences are important!
Speaking of contagious attitudes, nothing shows your kids that you care about their school progress and helping them to succeed more than scheduling, remembering, and attending each of their school conferences.
Is it frustrating when those conferences arrive and our schedule is thrown off by more days off? Yes, it definitely is! Kids need schedule and routine, both parents and teachers know that. But let’s frame these conferences differently, as a time we get to sit down together, in the same room even, and focus on the little person we get to share. How are they succeeding? Let’s celebrate. Where do they need help? Let’s plan. And speaking of plan…
6. Teachers do not always get to pick the curriculum
One of the biggest complaints I hear from parents about their kids’ grade school experience is how ridiculous the math lessons are. How absurd reading expectations are. How inappropriate the workload is. Believe me, you are HEARD. Many many teachers agree with you, but it’s not up to them. The curriculum is mandated on a county or state level when it’s not federally mandated, and while the best schools have administrators that actively support their teachers in taking creative liberties with picking areas of focus and method of teaching...not all teachers are so lucky. So before you feel like hollering and flipping a desk about how PAINFULLY CONFUSING your child’s math homework was, remember. You’re probably not alone in that sentiment.
7. Please please PLEASE tell us if we do a good job.
This is an action EVERY TEACHER EVERYWHERE can relate to. Like in every career path, we have days where we feel so motivated. So strong, so smart, so capable, and we remember exactly how we came to education in the first place. However, such days are few in comparison to the days we go home wondering why we bother at all. The kids aren’t listening. The lessons aren’t working. The administrators are against us and SO IS THE VERY GOVERNMENT SO WHY WOULD WE BOTHER AAAAAUUUUUGH.
This feeling can be derailed so so easily by just one person saying “thank you.” Or “we appreciate the love you give our kid.” Or “your work matters.” Or “Billy loves being in your class.” It's simple, but we log it away. Every single time.
Are the teachers you coexist with always going to be phenomenal? Absolutely not. Some people just should not be in front of the classroom. Will they always be good even? I hope so, but it’s not always the case. This list is in no way conclusive, and efforts to reach out are not always matched. But you may be surprised, when you give a teacher the benefit of the doubt and signs that you care, at how great of a team you all can be. The vast majority of us believe in our students and the power they hold. We are here for them, and we are here! for! you!