What Do Teachers Want from Parents
By Dr. Kenneth Shore
Teachers learn very quickly that they cannot go it alone in their effort to educate students and that they need help from parents. Of course, teachers want parents to monitor their child’s schoolwork and provide help where necessary, but perhaps what they want most is that parents convey respect for the teacher to their child.
And for good reason: children generally perform better in school when their parents encourage respect for the teacher’s authority and competence and when children see their parents and teacher as a united team working towards the same goals. The parents’ vote of confidence in the teacher endows her with some of their authority and enhances student responsiveness.
Practically speaking, this means supporting the teacher’s authority and decisions, speaking positively of the teacher to your child, not criticizing or second-guessing the teacher in your child’s presence, and not providing frequent excuses for his failure to meet teacher requirements. If a child feels that his parents do not respect the teacher, he is placed in the awkward position of having to choose sides. Most children resolve this dilemma by adopting their parents’ perspective. The result is that they are less likely to comply with the teacher’s requests and respond to her instruction.
This approach is fine if you genuinely support what the teacher is doing but what if you disagree with the teacher’s methods or your child is having difficulty adjusting to the teacher? Simply giving the teacher a vote of confidence may not be enough, or may not be warranted. Let your child know you understand his concerns and, if justified, that you will try to resolve the problem. But don’t promise what you can’t deliver. Some problems are unlikely to go away while others may go away on their own without your intervention.
In summary, teachers are more likely to feel supported if parents do the following:
- treat teachers with respect
- convey respect for the teacher’s authority
- not criticize the teacher in their child’s presence
- appreciate the demands and constraints of the teacher’s job
- monitor their child’s schoolwork (but not do it for him)
- understand that the teacher cannot individualize instruction for all students in all classes
- support the teacher if she takes disciplinary action
- keep the teacher informed of family events which may affect their child’s school performance
- contact the teacher with any classroom concerns before going to the principal
- not blame the teacher for school policies they dislike
As you go down this list, ask yourself how well you do each of these and whether your teacher relationship skills are in need of a tune-up. There are very practical benefits to mastering these skills: a supportive relationship with the teacher will pay large dividends if your child runs into difficulties in school.