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Parent-teacher Partnership

A new school year is upon us. As much as it’s a time for students to turn over a new leaf and start the year off right, it’s a time for parents to start the year off right…with the teacher.

Consider this – if you were looking at yourself through the eyes of your child’s teacher, what would you see?

Would you see the parent who volunteers for the holiday party and shows up on time, ready with snacks and decorations? Or, would you see the parent who shows up 15 minutes late without the promised juice boxes?

Would you see the parent who vows to proofread the next history paper in an effort to help the student raise the grade from a C- to an A because you know that your child has the potential? Or, would you see the parent who demands that the teacher raise the grade because the paper is “A quality” as written?

Your child’s relationship with a teacher will be one of the most important relationships in his or her childhood. After all, children and their teacher are together 6 hours/day, 5 days/week for 9 months. There might just be days when your child spends more time with the teacher than with you.

Your child’s teacher can be a tremendous advocate for him or her. He or she may be the person in whom your child confides with personal problems, or who someday writes your child’s letters of recommendation for college. A teacher may be the person who helps build your child’s self-esteem and realize his true potential.  A good teacher’s influence endures far beyond that day’s lesson or the walls of the classroom.

But, the parent-teacher relationship may not always be so rosy. The teacher may see behaviors or attitudes popping up in the classroom that you have never seen your child display. When surrounded with 25 other children who are entertainers, jokesters or Chatty Cathy’s, your little angel might just take on a new persona in the classroom. Every child wants to fit in; and, children are often smart enough to know to keep the shenanigans away from the watchful eye of a parent who has the power to take away a phone, tablet or television. If the teacher says there is a problem, there’s a pretty good chance of a problem.

Most teachers are willing to set up a time to talk; but, give them the courtesy of not popping in unannounced. Instead, schedule a time and give the teacher some idea of what you’d like to discuss, so he or she has time to gather grades or report on specific areas. When appropriate, bring your child to a meeting with the teacher; the story you hear at home may be a little different from reality. Be polite and respectful to the teacher. If your child hears you disrespecting the teacher, it may make him feel privileged to do the same.

Be sure to attend parent/teacher conferences. I was surprised to hear from our high school principal a few years ago that only 10% of parents attended our school’s P/T conferences.

If you fall into a pattern of making excuses when your child is young, that pattern may continue well beyond high school. Would you call your 30-year old’s employer to say, “I’m sorry, Johnny couldn’t come in to work today because he was up late watching a baseball game?” Hopefully not. I had a college roommate whose father in New Jersey called her college advisor every time she didn’t show up in class for an exam. She ended up on academic probation, and eventually, back home in New Jersey.

Help your child build a strong work ethic by helping him or her to be on time and prepared for class – no excuses. Don’t procrastinate – power outages, sicknesses and empty ink cartridges happen. It’s pretty hard to use the “no electricity” excuse when the assignment was given 3 weeks ago.

Parents can also do things at home to foster a learner. Turn off the screens and let your child see you reading newspapers, magazines, novels, religious books and biographies. When the TV is on, spend time watching learning shows together. Whether your child’s interest lies in sharks, roller coasters, the English monarchy or American history, you’re bound to find a reputable show about it. Foster your child’s creative skills by designing flashcards to expand math skills or foreign language vocabulary. Establish morning and evening routines to avoid last minute frenzies as your child is running for the bus. And, don’t forget breakfast.

At the core of the parent-teacher relationship is trust. That is, trust that the teacher will do his or her very best to educate your child, and that the parent will do his or her very best to reinforce the lessons at home.

This might just be the best year ever.