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The importance of parent-teacher relationships and how to have them
Your child’s education does not end when the last school bell rings. Rather, it continues at home with you, the parent. Parents take the baton from teachers once school lets out; it becomes their responsibility to make sure the learning continues. This is why the relationship between parents and teachers is very important--they are partners. They have to be on the same page and have trust in each other.
Education researchers S.L. Christenson and S.M. Sheridan wrote in School and families: Creating essential connections for learning (2001):
Both parents and teachers have an important role to play; their roles do not replace but rather complement and reinforce the other’s role, thus providing the student with a consistent message about reading and learning. Thinking of parents and teachers as “partners” refers to this mutual effort toward a shared goal. It also implies shared responsibility of parents and teachers for supporting students as learners.
It is best when parents know what teachers are doing in the classroom and teachers know what attention parents are providing at home. This way they reinforce the same teaching practices and habits that will boost the child’s learning and self-esteem. It is a lot more collaborative when both parties are on the same page.
Here are a few ways parents can make sure they keep their bond strong with their child’s teachers:
1. Set expectations from the beginning
Even before meeting the new teacher or sending your kid off to school, you need to go in with the right mindset. This means to decide on what you expect from the teacher and the school year, as well as what the teacher can expect from you and your child.
You could let the teacher know your child has a hard time coming out of their shell, but you hope that they will become more expressive by the end of the year. You could let the teacher know you work multiple jobs but are generally free for night events. You and the teacher should be on the same page--and it helps if you have a clear vision of this page going in.
2. Attend parent-teacher meetings
Try your best to go to all parent-teacher conferences, meetings, and events. By attending frequently and punctually, you show respect for the teacher and prove that you take your child’s education seriously. This is also the perfect opportunity to discuss successes, challenges, and other important information.
3. Communicate clearly and thoroughly
Ask questions to understand the classroom environment. You can ask teachers about how they handle issues and talk to children, as well as what they expect from students and parents alike. You can listen to the teacher’s concerns as well as raise your own. Ask for the best way to contact the teacher outside of conferences.
4. Show your appreciation and respect
Show that you respect and appreciate teachers. Write them thoughtful cards or get them appropriate gifts. Compliment them on any progress that you see or explain what seems to be working well for your child.
However, do not act too chummy; there should be boundaries as it is a professional relationship. Never vent, either. If you have concerns, phrase them constructively. If you give the right attention to the teacher, they will do the same toward your child. Think of how you treat the teacher as the way you want the teacher to treat your child.
5. Maintain your child’s positive opinion
Children are quick to pick up on things. Be wary of how you speak to and about their teacher when your child is within hearing distance. This may negatively affect their view of their teacher, which could then affect their behavior in the classroom. This negative view might even be passed along to your teacher, intentionally or not. Either way, behave respectfully even away from the teacher’s eye.
6. Collaboration is key
Working together with your child’s teacher can bring about great things, especially if your child is struggling in certain areas. You can create plans with the teacher to address challenges observed in the classroom and once they are in place, check if they have helped in any way. This is a partnership, so rather than telling the teacher what to do or only working on said problems at home, you want to make sure both sides are on the same page and in agreement with the next steps to take.
Listen with an open mind to the teacher’s suggestions. Feel free to give your own input. Also, update your teacher on how the child behaves or studies at home and what you have been doing to help. Remember, communication is key to collaboration.
7. Create a comfortable environment
Another thing you can do is to speak more personally rather than directly. This means you should put more of an emphasis on how you are feeling or doing than what the teacher is doing so as to avoid putting them on the defense. Instead of saying, “You did not tell me how my son is doing on his homework,” you can say, “I would love to know how my son is doing on his homework.”
There is a greater sense of engagement this way. It will make the teacher feel more comfortable about relaying news, updating you, and addressing any issues, which then opens you up to knowing everything that is going on in your child’s school life.
Keeping all of these tips in mind, you will be able to nurture a strong and mutually respectful relationship with your child’s teachers. By communicating openly and politely, you will be opening doors for your child’s education. Think of teachers as your child’s mentors and your partners striving for a common goal.
Do you have any tips you want to share with other parents?