How to work with teachers for the benefit of your child

A child's skills and motivations play a large role in determining how well they're doing in school. With this in mind, last week I discussed several ways you can help your child become organized with their schoolwork at home. However, this is only half of the equation for a successful student: good school organization means good communication skills with educators.

It is crucial to your child's success to build a relationship with their teacher. Sadly, and too often, parents only hear from their child's teacher when things are not going well. Teachers are harried, and at times overwhelmed, with a never-ending list of responsibilities.

Let's talk

Rather than wait for the teacher to initiate contact with you, why not be the first to communicate? Now is the perfect time to do so. Set up a meeting with your child's teacher and talk about their expectations, yours, and your child's learning style. Establish the way that you will communicate with each other, whether by phone, email, or letter.

Such meetings set at the beginning of the school year are also a great opportunity to double-check on school supply needs at this time. Afterwards, follow up with a thank-you note or email. These actions will do wonders for starting the school year off on the right foot.

Pitch in

Many parents volunteer in the classroom, which is a great way to boost the parent-teacher relationship. This time is invaluable to teachers, and it also provides the parents an opportunity to observe their child in the classroom. However, for many working parents volunteering is not possible.

But don't let this stop you from doing some hands-on work. Find out if there are other ways you can help out by working on after school projects or assisting with field trips and other classroom needs. One group of parents I know helped a second grade teacher friend of mine improve her classroom by building a loft in her classroom over the weekend.

Other parents lend their expertise in their profession by coming into the classroom on occasion to talk about their job, to share a skill, or simply to spend an hour once a month reading to the kids. Even though your child might roll their eyes in embarrassment, your presence means a lot to them, and to your child's teacher.

Heading off problems

Ultimately, the goal for the parents is to have a relationship with the teacher to improve their child's learning experiences. This is especially important when the child develops a dislike for a teacher, which in turn impacts the child's school performance.

When there are problems, parents need to be persistent in asking constructive questions to improve the learning experiences for their child. As an educator, I can speak from practice that no teacher likes to be harangued or pressured to raise a child's grade in the absence of constructive dialogue.

With this in mind, teachers tend to get defensive when parents are argumentative and accusatory, instantly siding with their child and assuming the teacher is guilty at the onset. Learn to wait, collect the facts, and then meet with the child's teacher for a face-to-face dialogue. Conduct the meeting the way you would any other professional encounter, and strive to keep your emotions at bay.

Before the meeting, think of several possible solutions to the problem and, if appropriate, discuss them with your child ahead of time. Then go into the meeting armed with directness and diplomacy.

Assume that the educator really does want what is best for your child, as do you, and communicate these expectations with the teacher. Be sure to express appreciation for the teacher's efforts when working with your child. Then, firmly and calmly discuss the problem and possible solutions. You will be amazed at the results!

Ultimately getting ready for school is not just about the physical preparation of buying school clothes and supplies. More importantly it is about the mental preparation, both your child's and yours. Developing your child's organizational skills and establishing a positive relationship with their teacher at the start of the school year will boost your child's school smarts, which is a great investment in their future.

Southeast Seattle resident Mary Sanford may be reached via[[In-content Ad]]