The Parent-Teacher Connection
By Dr. Kenneth Shore
A key component of a child’s academic success is a close working relationship between teacher and parent. By forging a partnership founded on mutual respect, open communication, and an understanding of each other’s pressures and constraints, you and the teacher can help address issues before they become larger problems.
Communication between parent and teacher helps keep each informed of key information regarding your child. You may find it useful to know about the teacher’s academic expectations, homework routines, testing policies, and grading criteria. Teachers also need information from you to help them work with your child and understand his educational needs. Your child’s teacher will benefit from knowing his physical and psychological needs, his interests or talents which she may want to highlight, and school-related programs in which he is participating (for example, tutoring or counseling).
If your child has a medical problem, for example, help the teacher understand the related behaviors she may see in the classroom and the implications for instruction. You should also let the teacher know of events at home that may influence your child’s school performance, including the illness or death of a family member, a divorce or separation, remarriage, the birth of a sibling, even the death of a pet. There is no need to go into detail or violate your family’s privacy. The point is to give the teacher information which will enable her to be more sensitive to your child. You may also want to inform the teacher of areas of sensitivity for your child, for example, his self-consciousness about his speech impediment or his absent father. Knowing his vulnerable spots allows the teacher to be more understanding and perhaps avoid embarrassing situations.
Parents are also entitled to some consideration from teachers. You have the right to expect that teachers will apprise you of any problems with your child, will consider your views and suggestions, will respond to your concerns in a timely manner, and will be sympathetic to your family’s special circumstances. Many parents do not expect teachers to be sensitive to their concerns and consequently may not share them. Keep in mind, however, that many teachers are also parents and may have had similar experiences. Most will be understanding and make an effort to be accommodating.
Many schools schedule parent-teacher conferences once or twice a year. You can also e-mail the teacher or contact her prior to the regular conference. Teachers can often be hard to track down. You can enhance your chances of catching the teacher if you call 15 minutes or so before or after school or find out the teacher’s free period from the school secretary.
If you are not sure whether your concern merits a teacher contact, err on the side of calling. Teachers are frustrated when parents don’t express concerns to them since many are easily resolved. At the same time, do not contact the teacher for every single concern. Teachers can become aggravated with parents who seek them out daily about the smallest of matters. Let common sense be your guide.