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What Your Child’s Teacher Wishes You Knew

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Foster two-way communication with the teacher. Parents need to attend parent-teacher conferences not only to learn about what is going on at school but also to communicate what is going on at home.

With the school year well under way, teachers are wishing that parents really knew what they can do to improve to improve their child’s overall learning experience and performance. Over and over again, teachers see parents making the same mistakes and wish that they could just bend the parent’s ear for a few minutes—as a friend, but as a professional friend. Teachers can provide the viewpoint of a friend who deals with 25 or more students every day.

Teachers are professionals who are dedicated to seeing each child succeed—on the individual child’s terms. It’s about the child, not Mommy or Daddy. Maybe you are an overachiever, but your child isn’t. Or perhaps the child tries to be perfect and gets very frustrated when she makes mistakes. Maybe she didn’t do her homework or study for a test. Mistakes have consequences, but don’t worry. Mistakes are a part of the game, and students learn from their mistakes.

Foster two-way communication with the teacher. Parents need to attend parent-teacher conferences not only to learn about what is going on at school but also to communicate what is going on at home. Has one parent lost his or her job? Are the parents beginning divorce proceedings? Is a beloved grandparent dying? All this information helps the teacher understand your student and helps her cope with it at school.

Some schools have folders that go home with the students with notes for parents and assignments. Others have embraced emails and social media. Follow the teacher on Twitter, watch the posts on Facebook; shoot off an email if you have questions and be sure to include your child’s first and last names. This is especially important if you and your child have different names. It may be hours before a teacher can check her email, but she will get back to you.

     Homework and at-home projects are important. Seriously. As soon as a major project is announced, help your child establish a schedule and see that the child stays on track. If there is a choice of projects, let the child choose the one she likes. Establish a quiet, clutter-free homework area, offer suggestions, provide the supplies, and let the child do her own project. Otherwise, the teacher has no clue as to whether or not the child understood the concepts involved in the assignment.

     Manners are important. Children who say “Thank you” after a class, help other children, and clean up after themselves stand out in the classroom, says Donna Raskin, a first-grade teacher and parent. And where do children learn manners? From their parents, of course. Schools help, but parents are the child’s role models and first teachers. Todd Sentell, the educator and writer known as the Dixie Diarist, says, “If a child has great manners, I’ll give you some of the credit. If your child is rude and defiant and disrespectful, you get all the credit for those.”

     Learn how to praise the child. Praise effort and not being “smart.” Children whose work is appreciated are more likely to accept challenges and tackle tough problems. Everyone can make an effort, but intelligence is innate and fixed.

When you have a complaint, take it up with the teacher first. No one likes to be called on the carpet. Teachers make mistakes, just like anyone else. If something is bothering you or upsetting your student, talk it out face to face with the teacher. Teachers are trained to receive feedback and appreciate having issues discussed with them. Long-time educator Kyle Redford says, “I want to know if I have unintentionally hurt your child’s feelings, made an insensitive assumption or executed a flawed decision. Perhaps he reports that I don’t like him.” Respectful feedback from parents is welcomed by most teachers.

It takes a village. Educator and tutor Ryan Goggans of believes that students need support at home as well as in the classroom. Support the child at home by creating a calm morning before shooing her out the door. Clothes laid out the night before, the backpack ready to go, and homework checked and in the backpack make this transition easier. In the afternoon, give the child your undivided attention for 10 to15 minutes and let her talk about her day.

     Teachers like to be appreciated. Teachers put in long hours before and after school, on weekends and holidays. Teachers frequently purchase supplies out of their own meager funds to make up for limited school budgets. Teachers often find themselves between their students, parents and administrators. It’s tough trying to find a balance that satisfies everyone. “Teachers” includes the coaches, before- and after-school personnel, advisors, support staff, school bus drivers, etc. Everyone has a role in making the school day productive for students. Encourage your student to send hand-made cards or small, nonfattening gifts for the holidays. Teachers do appreciate them, but won’t take it personally if your child doesn’t give a gift.