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Building a Strong Bridge Between Parent and Teacher


Q. What are some things parents can do to have a good working relationship with teachers?


It's a lot easier in grade school, when there's only one, or a couple of teachers with whom to interact. But through high school, there are certain things every parent probably should do to befriend, support and encourage a teacher, not to mention demonstrate to your child how important you think it is to pay attention to school and get along with the teacher. Here are some suggestions:


   Meet the teacher and paraprofessional, ever so briefly, at an authorized time the week before school starts. Don't just drop in, because teachers are really busy that week getting ready for the children. You can call ahead and make an appointment, limiting it to five minutes so that the teacher knows it isn't going to be a Black Hole. A good school will have time set aside for parent visits, or you can call the office and find out what time might work. Just introduce yourself, say you want your child and that teacher to have a great year together, you'd welcome a call or email at any time, and you're there to help.


   Volunteer, even if you work full-time. The teacher works full-time, too, you know. Sign up to read to the kids for 20 minutes once a week, if you possibly can, or to help with room parties, field trips, straightening bookshelves, or whatever's needed. Being willing to help and present in the classroom is a huge influence on a teacher's attitude about your child in the early grades. In the later grades, ask for helpful things you can do in the evenings, at home, such as collecting project supplies, collating, stapling, preparing bulletin boards and so forth.


   Watch how you volunteer at school. Everyone's pressed for time, but the quality of your volunteer time should be devoted toward helping meet the children's needs, and having contact with teachers. You might want to pass up those very helpful, but tangential jobs, such as organizing the school carnival or gift-wrap sale. Make it a high priority to give your time to help with the learning process directly.


   Communicate through notes, especially thank-you's. You'd be surprised how boring a teacher's mail is, so a day-brightener would be much appreciated.


   Never miss conferences, Open House or big activities such as concerts, art shows and science fairs, especially if your child's teacher helped plan the event. If you and your spouse really can't be there, arrange an alternate time for a conference and send a representative, such as a grandparent, to a special event.


   If you have concerns or don't like the way things are taught, hold your fire until you feel you have a pretty strong relationship with the teacher. If you "shoot" too soon, it'll come off as an attack. Even then, follow the 80/20 rule: make sure 80% of the teacher's contact with you is positive, and less than 20% negative.


   Don't try to flatter the teacher, or suck up, but sincerely say up front, "I feel we're in this together," and "I want the best for my child and for all children; how can I help?" It will be music to that teacher's ears.

Homework: An excellent guide is the book, Helping Your Child Succeed in Public School by Cheri Fuller (Tyndale House, 1999).


By Susan Darst Williams Parental Involvement 10 2008


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