I have to be honest. Parents were often one of the most difficult and frustrating parts of teaching. And now…I AM a parent. Yikes. The many frustrating experiences my colleagues and I have had with parents is one of the reasons why I wanted to start this blog. I relish in the opportunity to provide parents with some inside information in order to make everyone’s lives easier.
A strong parent/teacher relationship is crucial. If you want your child’s teacher to be honest and candid, she is going to need to trust you. There were many parents who I did not trust because of the way they treated me and other staff members. I simply did not feel comfortable with them. Because I didn’t feel comfortable with them, it was easier for me to avoid any potential conflict. Yes, your son had behavioral incidents I would normally mention, and no, I am not going to mention them because it wouldn’t be considered constructive and I would be attacked instead. Ugh. I do not want to relive the crazy.
However, there were parents who followed the below tips and ended up creating trusting and comfortable relationships. With those parents I would feel comfortable emailing frequently and giving a great deal of feedback at conferences or over the phone. This allowed us to work together as team to solve any issues. Understanding and respecting each other as two important individuals in their child’s life ALWAYS lead to better outcomes for that child. That is exactly what we all want. We all want the very best for the kids.
Here’s how to get there…
1. Read, Read, Read
Parents may or may not realize, but teachers spend a great deal of time writing up newsletters and other updates to keep parents in the loop. PLEASE read these. You don’t need to memorize them or hang them on the wall in a gold frame; just read them once. Usually they are important. Sometimes they update you with what your child is learning (important); sometimes they remind you of important dates such as an upcoming field trip (important). I can’t tell you how frustrating it is when I get an email from a parent asking me something that was already answered in the newsletter or a group email. It’s frustrating because, unfortunately it’s not just them, and I need to answer the same email five times (I could be using that time to prep awesome lessons!), and it’s also frustrating because it shows me that they don’t care about my time or the things I do for them. It simply leaves a bad taste in my mouth and affects my comfort level.
Many emails and notes are exchanged between parents and teachers. It is important to try your best to respond promptly and kindly. It’s similar to #1. Every parent gives off a vibe. A super sweet and kind email versus a terse or rude email makes a differences. That’s not to say you can’t ever be upset or concerned about anything, but I challenge you to check those emotions the very best you can. Every problem is best solved between respectful and kind human beings.
3. Ask Questions – Don’t Accuse
Ugh. Every year. Every. Dang. Year. That one spicy parent. “So and so is bulling my kid. How dare you let this happen? You better stop this right away!” Um, yeah. This certainly does not make me want to work with you to solve this problem. Now, imagine instead, that parent emails and says, “Sally came home today and mentioned that Bob was teasing her all day. She is feeling very upset. Have you noticed anything going on with Bob and Sally? Do you have any ideas for how we can help Sally to feel more comfortable?” Heck yeah I have ideas. And you bet I am going to figure this out immediately and deal with Bob if this proves to be true. Parents and teachers are partners. We work together to make sure your children are safe, happy and educated. But just like in the real world, kids have problems at school. They have people they don’t get along with, they have fights and sometimes they are bullied (that could be a whole other blog post). As a parent you need to expect that issues will arise at school. The way you approach it is important and it definitely affects the outcome. That’s not to say that the problem is ignored because you sent a nasty email. It will still be dealt with. But can we come up with the very best solution if their are accusations and bad feelings? Probably not. Respect each other. Be kind to each other.
4. Ask If They Need Anything
I love these parents. It doesn’t take much to make a teacher happy. “Do you need any extra post-it notes? I bought some extra hand sanitizer and tissues for the classroom. Would you like some help setting up for back-to-school night?” Help. Help us. We need help. Okay, that sounds a little crazy, but sometimes things get a little crazy! Even if the teacher says she doesn’t need anything, she will be warmed by the offer. Remember that trust and comfort we keep talking about? Yup, this helps for sure.
Throughout the school year there are many holidays and events. It made me feel so loved and appreciated to receive a card during these times. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, teacher appreciation week, the last day of school. It warmed my heart. Seriously. Some parents send gift cards and lovely gifts as well. Of course, we enjoy that too. But quite honestly, a card with a sweet note meant so much. I especially loved it when the parent wrote a nice note in a store bought card and inside the card was also a handmade card from the student. I would actually save these and tape them to the wall behind my desk. They meant a lot to me. It showed me the wonderful relationship I formed with the family and it made me want to work even harder for them each day.
If nothing else, hopefully this list will inspire you to focus on respect, kindness and partnership when working with your child’s teacher 🙂
Talk to you soon for the Sunday Seven!