School is back in session, and your kids aren’t the only ones who need to make a good impression with their peers and teachers. Parent teacher communication needs to get off on the right foot as well. After all, those individuals are responsible for caring for your kids and teaching them everything they need to know over the next 9 months or so. If anyone deserves your attention and respect, it’s them. As PBS reports, according to Diane Levin, Ph.D., professor of education at Wheelock College, “a positive parent-teacher relationship helps your child feel good about school and be successful in school. It demonstrates to your child that he can trust his teacher, because you do. This positive relationship makes a child feel like the important people in his life are working together.”
So instead of rushing in and out of the classroom on the first day, and instead of blaming your kids’ teachers any time something doesn’t go right, focus on building trusting, appreciative and collaborative relationships with the educators in your child’s life. Here are 8 ways to ace parent teacher communication and start the school year off on the right foot, for you and your kids.
1. Listen to the Teachers Your kids aren’t the only ones who need to pay attention to what their teachers say. You should instill a respect for authority figures (and yes, teachers are authority figures) not only by what you say, but also by demonstrating how to respect and listen to teachers yourself. If they ask you to complete a task with your kids (homework, projects, student forms, etc.) do it without question, and don’t complain about it to your kids. The idea is to show the teachers you stand behind them and you care about what they have to say.
2. Arrive Early and Prepared No one likes it when other people show up late, ultimately delaying your schedule and wasting your time. We know…it can be hard to get your kids out the door and to school on time. But it’s important not just for you and your kids, but also for the rest of the class and the teachers that you do arrive on time, and in an organized fashion. Running into the classroom 20 minutes late with one shoe missing, no homework, no change of clothes and no patience helps no one. Start your day, and your school year, on the right foot by stepping foot in the door a few minutes early and ready to go.
3. Offer to Help Teachers get overwhelmed too, and most of the time they are scrambling to make use of the resources they have (which is not much). Offer to help in any way you can. Volunteer your time, provide materials where needed, and express that you are willing to contribute any time the teacher needs you. While it’s not always about donating “stuff” for the classroom, some new arts and crafts tools or some storybooks can go a long way.
4. Give Thanks When it comes to parent teacher relationships, never forget to say thank you and tell your kids’ teachers that you are grateful for everything they do. They are educators, but they are also people and we all like to be reminded that our work is recognized and appreciated. Not only will they remember your thanks, but they’ll also be that much more motivated to work hard for your kids.
5. Be available, especially for face-to-face meetings These days so much of our communication is done via email or texting. We almost never chat on the phone, and we rarely have time for face-to-face meetings. But when it comes to your kids, it’s really important to get to know their teachers on a personal (and in person) level. Make time to visit the classroom, attend parent meetings, set up one-on-one consultations when needed, and show that you are physically and emotionally there not just for the teacher, but also for your kids.
6. Offer Honest Insights Into your Kids’ Behavior Imagine if you had to watch, teach and care for someone else’s children for 6-8 hours a day, and you knew nothing about them. It’s hard enough to get your own kids to listen to you when you know everything about them, from their favorite foods to that time they scraped their knee at the park to their irrational fear of circus clowns. Give your kids’ teachers some help—share their likes and dislikes, offer bits of insider info and give honest insights into how they learn best and what you want them to work on. Any information will help.
7. Stay on Top of your Child’s Belongings Don’t expect the teachers to keep track of what your kids have in their backpack or cubby. They have enough to focus on, most of which is more important than your kids extra socks, matchbox cars, pencil set or water bottle. Label their belongings and stay on top of what they bring to school with them each day.
8. Follow the Rules We expect our kids to follow the rules and listen to their teachers, but how can we demand that behavior of them if we don’t follow it ourselves. Teachers make classroom policies for a reason and they usually communicate those rules to parents before the school year even begins. As far as parent teacher relationships go, listen, take note, and follow the guidelines.