While some of us may fear the though of working with teachers, partnering with them is really not as frightening as we think. It can also lead to a great deal of satisfaction, knowing that we have advocated effectively for our children and formed a working relationship with their teachers.
Start right at the beginning by establishing a solid, cooperative relationship with your child’s teachers. We often wait until it’s absolutely necessary to communicate with a teacher. Unfortunately, at that point there’s no basis for a relationship and you’ll be having your initial conversation with the teacher dealing with negatives. So from the beginning of the school year, make sure to attend all important meetings, especially Open School night. This is your opportunity to introduce yourself to the teachers, let them know you want to work with them and convey the message that you always assume the teacher wants to help.
Keep your child’s teacher informed, using email if that’s acceptable or a note once in a while, especially if there’s a major issue going on at home – an ill family member or renovations that are discombobulating the household, This way, he or she will understand any changes in your child’s behavior. In fact, it’s a god idea to establish a method for checking in regularly, so in December you won’t be shocked to hear that little Suzy hasn’t yet handed in a single history assignment!
Be generous with compliments and thanks; remember, this teacher is spending a lot more time with your child each day than you do! If your child is dealing with an issue, brainstorm with the teachers sways to help and consider sharing any diagnosis with the teacher, since chances are he or she already realizes something is going on. When meeting with a teacher, define the purpose of the meeting, remain pleasant and positive and give the teacher a chance to vent a bit. Use every opportunity you can to volunteer for school activities, so your child’s teachers see that you take a genuine interest in the school.
Avoid overwhelming school personnel with phone calls and emails. If an issue arises, start the discussion with the teacher instead of going behind his or her back. Avoid getting angry, defensive, blaming or attacking: it’s not going to help your child and it tears at the fabric of any relationship – in other words, it does just the opposite of what your child needs. A bit of thought, some careful planning and a shift in mindset about avoiding teachers can put you on the road to the greatest team your child can have!
Dr. Aviva Weisbord, A’H
(This is a copy of Aviva’s notes for a support group she facilitated on this topic.)