Building Parent-Teacher Partnerships

    7 Keys to Success

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    I have just begun my twelfth year as an English teacher. I spent two years at a private school, seven at a public school, and two at a school for students who are gifted in the arts. I see my teaching job as a privilege. I have the opportunity to impact young lives every day of my life, and I do not take it for granted. I aim to help my students improve their reading, writing, and speaking skills each year. And even if they don’t make great strides in English, I hope to teach them a little about life and how to treat other people. I believe I am making an impact; that’s how I keep going.

    Becoming a parent several years ago made me a more sympathetic teacher. I have found the reverse to be true as well: Teaching makes me a better, more understanding parent. And because I wear both hats, I know exactly how important it is to establish and maintain a positive relationship with my child’s teacher. So much can be accomplished when parents and teachers work together to support a student.

    As the 2017-18 academic year is underway, there is no better time than now to introduce yourself to your child’s teacher(s) and foster a relationship that will be beneficial for all of you. Here are some ways to help the school year go more smoothly:

    1. Meet the teacher.

    Most schools host a back-to-school night early in the academic year. If your kids are in elementary school, you probably attended it last month. No matter your kids’ ages, this is a great way to find out the teacher’s grading procedures and classroom policies. You are also putting a face to a name and opening the door for positive communication throughout the year. It is helpful for you, your student, and the teacher if your first interaction is an upbeat one.

    2. Offer to help.

    There are so many ways to offer
    your support and become more involved. Offering to chaperone a field trip or assist with a class party is incredibly helpful at the elementary level. Sending supplies such as tissues or dry erase markers is a great way to support your child’s secondary teacher. We are always running out of these necessary items in the classroom, and we often use our own funds to replenish our supplies.

    3. Opt for emails over phone calls.

    Unless it’s an urgent matter, contact your child’s teacher through email instead of a phone call. Teachers receive very few breaks throughout the day, and it is often difficult to find a private place to make a call. I have left school on a couple of occasions and realized on my way out that I forgot to return a call, and I had to wait until the next day to contact that parent. Emails, however, are incredibly convenient and can be returned between classes or from home.

    4. Sign up for group messages.

    If your child’s teacher has a website or uses a text messaging app, sign up. I use an app called Remind to communicate with my students and parents, and I can send texts without anyone’s phone number being exchanged. This enables me to communicate quickly with my classes to remind them of assignment deadlines and upcoming quizzes and tests. Plus, parents can receive messages and stay in the know without their student knowing they signed up!

    5. Be realistic about your child.

    It is important to have realistic expectations about your child’s abilities and behavior. No child is perfect, and certain situations and peers can influence behavior – especially negative behavior. So, just because Johnny has never thrown an item across the room before, doesn’t mean it can’t happen. In terms of academics, even the best students have bad days and can score poorly on an assignment. It is important to accept the low score and move past it. Unrealistic expectations from a parent can be very damaging to a child.

    6. Give the teacher a chance to resolve problems.

    If you have a concern, allow the teacher the opportunity to fix the problem before going above him/her. Send an email, make a phone call, or schedule a conference with the teacher to resolve the issue. Of course, there are exceptions and times when administration must be involved, but if it’s a classroom problem that the teacher can address, allow him or her to do so.

    7. Thank your child’s teacher.

    Tell the teacher if you appreciate something he or she is doing. If your child enjoyed a particular lesson or if she is having an especially good year, let the teacher know. I keep thank-you notes from parents and students in my desk drawer. They are some of my most treasured possessions, and they keep me motivated on the most overwhelming days.

    Parental support helps our task feel less daunting and makes a huge impact in and out of the classroom. We are working towards the same goal: the success of your child. Together, we can make this year the best one yet!

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    “Real Mom” Melissa Face lives in Prince George County with her husband and two young children. She is an English instructor at the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School for the Arts and Technology in Petersburg. Her essays have been published in local and national magazines, as well as in nineteen volumes of “Chicken Soup for the Soul.”