As an educator with 13 years of experience and a parent of two young children, I have seen both sides of the coin when it comes to education. Being both a parent and a teacher has opened my eyes to truly see the world of education and how we can educate our children to prepare them for the future.
When I think about the challenges I've faced as a parent with school-aged children and the issues I've dealt with as a teacher, I have realized that many concerns stemmed from the same seed.
Subsequently, I came up with the following tips on how to have a more successful school year as a student, parent and teacher.
Tip 1: Open Communication
Open communication is a three-way street among the teacher, parents and the child. Communicating with each other helps alleviate confusion and frustration with all parties.
Teachers should have some system in place for communicating with the parents such as weekly newsletters or a class website containing objectives being taught, upcoming events, and class reminders.
I would advise parents checking these places frequently for updated class information. Students may also have a planner or folder where their assignments are written down and also a means of communication between the teacher and the parent.
Upper elementary students should do their part by bringing their planner or folder to and from school. Parents and students should also have a time during the day to talk about their day with each other. Staying in the loop with your child keeps you informed from their point of view.
When parents and teachers communicate, I would highly suggest being clearly specific with your questions or comments and polite with your words. Remember that it is hard to respond to someone when they are “barking” at you.
Tip 2: Work As A Team
Most of us learn early in life that, when on a team of any sort, we are only as strong as our weakest player. When a part of the team fails, the whole system can shut down.
Unfortunately, it's the student who receives the negative impact when team work doesn't exist between teachers and parents. In education and at home, the common goal should be helping your child feel confident and fully prepared for a successful future. When parents and teachers work together, they are showing the child that they care about their education and well-being.
A strong team foundation with the parents and teachers must exist for the child to understand everyone is in “their” court. I have seen firsthand when teamwork was involved. The child was less likely to try and “play” both sides of the court, therefore working the teacher and parents against each other. Students can do their part by being honest with their parents and teachers about what is happening in school. Remember, parent + student + teacher = team.
Tip 3: Address Concerns Immediately
We all know about the snowball effect. A snowflake is easy to handle, but a raging, out-of-control avalanche clearly spells danger.
If a concern arises, address it sooner rather than later. That way, the concern is fresh on your mind as a parent or teacher. No one likes hearing about an issue that happened months ago and is just being brought to the forefront now.
Whether the concern is of educational or behavioral content, the parents should discuss the issue first with your child to get their point of view. Students should explain any concerns they have with their parents to alleviate any misconceptions. Afterward, clearly communicate your concern with the teacher to get their point of view. If a conference is needed, parents, teachers, and possibly the child should come to the meeting with the concern as the focus.
As a team, all parties should work together to see what is causing the problem and how the problem can be resolved. Sometimes a small concern can be diminished with an email or phone call instead of escalating into an avalanche. Remember, if in doubt always asks for clarification.
Tip 4: Offer Your Help
One of the best ways to help your child is to ask how you can be help with your child at home or in the classroom. Most teachers, especially elementary teachers, love having classroom volunteers. There are a lot of jobs to be done -- and relieving the teacher of some of these jobs will mean more engaging, small group time that she or he will have with your child.
In general, teachers want to help your child in any way that they can to be successful. I would suggest parents contact the teacher early on about any learning accommodations, not documented, that their child might need to be more successful in the classroom. Students can feel empowered and feel needed by asking their teacher how they can be of extra help in the classroom. Most teachers love volunteers and are more than happy to help. Remember, lending a helping hand goes a long way.
Tip 5: Be Open To Suggestions
Sometimes there are not enough hours in the school day to address every educational concern with every student. At school, the teacher may pull students in small, flexible groups based on a specific objectives not mastered.
After-school tutoring may be provided as well for the student. The time a teacher spends on a particular objective varies, so the key is constant exposure to the subject matter in or out of school. This is where parents come into the equation.
Students can do their part by bringing home extra practice work given to them by their teacher. And more times than not, sitting with your child at home empowers them, because they are “showing you” how to accomplish a task.
The student, your child, is ultimately teaching you a new way to think. As a parent, if you find a way that your child learns best, be sure to let the teacher know, so she can try implementing it in the classroom. Parents, students, and teachers must work together to fill in the gaps for a more successful, brighter future for the child.
These five tips I have shared will hopefully help you as parents, your child, and your teacher have a successful and memorable school year. Remember, great teachers leave a piece of their heart behind with each one of their students. Why wouldn’t we want to do everything in our power to help them grow?
About the author: Cari Montgomery lives in McKinney with her husband and two children. She is also a third-grade teacher in the Melissa ISD.