Guess what? As your child’s teacher, you and I have something very special in common. And no, it is not that we both have a higher than normal tolerance for cleaning snotty noses. It is that we both care so much about our kids and want nothing more for them to succeed and be happy.
So if we know this, doesn’t it make sense that we work together to ensure this hope becomes a reality? Over the course of this school year, each of us will become aware of information that the other really needs to know, whether it’s that she is overwhelmed by the amount of homework, or that he has trouble concentrating in class. It only makes sense that we work together, as a team, to get you child through another school year. Even more important is that your child is aware of this united front.
But how? On one hand, you don’t want to be a “helicopter parent”, one who is constantly hovering above. You also don’t want to be the invisible parent, the one that we know exists because we’ve seen your signature on some forms but have never actually seen your face. Knowing how you fit into your child’s education can be a little daunting so I’m to give you a few basic dos and don’ts in terms of how to be involved in school life:
DO attend curriculum nights and parent teacher interviews, even if you think you have nothing to say or hear. First of all, there maybe important information that you may have been unaware of. Second, and more importantly, it very clearly communicates to your child that you care about what she is doing in school and that you want to be involved. As a teacher, I can tell you that I’ve seen a direct link between how kids do in school, both academically and socially, and parental involvement. Every year, my colleagues and I find ourselves amazed that the parents who do show up really don’t have to and the one’s that don’t show up really should have.
DO NOT try to have a conversation with your child’s teacher when we are welcoming kids in the morning, dismissing in the afternoon, or while volunteering in the classroom or on a field trip. We value what you have to say and want to discuss it, but with 25 little bodies rushing around, it’s near impossible. We’re bound to miss hearing important information and you’re bound to feel ignored and slighted. Make an appointment so that we can sit down and talk to you with our full attention.
DO check out your child’s planner/homework folder every night. It is the primary and most important communication tool we share. It should have homework, due dates, upcoming events, and sometimes notes from us, all of which you need to be aware of. You can write notes in it for us, too, such as explaining why homework wasn’t able to get done. If its blank, it shouldn’t be; that alone is reason enough to contact your child’s teacher.
DO NOT hesitate to discuss any problems with your child’s teacher, whether school related or not. Tell us if you child comes home crying because he really studied for the math test and doesn’t understand what he did wrong. Tell us if there is something going on at home that may affect her in school. I had one mom tell me that her husband had cancer, a fact I am glad she shared with me before our unit on Terry Fox. By doing so, I was able to be more sensitive to what was going on in her life outside of school and modify some of my lessons I taught and the information I shared.
DO participate in your child’s education whenever we ask you to: play that math game we sent home, quiz her on her spelling words, read together for 20 minutes each night. Show him that you value learning and are excited about the information he has brought home. If you think that something is boring or pointless, so will she.
DON’T do your child’s homework for her. Ever. If she is struggling and can’t complete her math, stop her and wrote a note that says she was struggling and didn’t understand. If the science project is taking way too long, stop him and let us know it is taking way too long. As teachers, we are just as interested in knowing what your child doesn’t know as we are in what he does know. By helping too much with homework, we are unable to get a clear picture of your child’s learning needs.
I DO wish I could talk to you more about parent/teacher communication but I DON’T want to overwhelm you. Besides, it’s still early in the year and I am certain that if you follow the above advice, we’ll be able to figure out the rest. Together. In the words of Aesop’s Fables: United we stand, divided we fall.