Navigating the Parent/Teacher Relationship: 10 Tips from Both Sides of the Classroom Door

My oldest son wasn’t in school long before I realized just how hard today’s teachers work.

As a student, I’d always respected my teachers and appreciated what they did, but it wasn’t until I sent my own child off to school that I truly came to understand it.

Until my son started school I also didn’t grasp how much work was required of parents to stay informed about what was happening in the classroom.

One of the most difficult parts of the job of both teachers and parents is keeping the lines of communication open to best meet children’s needs.

I’ve asked 5 experienced teachers and 5 parents to give us their tips for doing just that. I hope they’re helpful to you!

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  • Teacher Tip #1: Keep it in Perspective 1 of 10
    Teacher Tip #1: Keep it in Perspective
    It's important for parents to know that teachers have a busy workload. Last year I had over 150 students, so individual and consistent feedback for each student was really difficult. Sometimes, a class update is enough to let parents know what students have been learning on and what they're working on next.
    Lacy Stroessner, High School Journalism Teacher
  • Teacher Tip #2: Establish a Relationship from the Start 2 of 10
    Teacher Tip #2: Establish a Relationship from the Start
    I think one of the most important things parents and teachers can do is establish a relationship at the beginning of the year. Teachers can use e-mail, newsletters and occasional phone calls home, and parents can use e-mail, open houses, meet the teacher nights and parent-teacher conferences to get to know each other and the expectations for the year. When I had problems with students, I felt better knowing I had already made an effort to communicate with the parents in some way. No one wants to hear something negative about his or her child the first time they meet a teacher!
    Angela Amman, Former Middle School Teacher
  • Teacher Tip #3: Use Multiple Communication Channels 3 of 10
    Teacher Tip #3: Use Multiple Communication Channels
    First I send a weekly email with a snapshot of my planbook for the upcoming week, and I also send a good number of written communication home with students. Thirdly, our grade book and attendance are all online for parents to look at any time they want. Our email addresses are linked there so parents can email teachers from the gradebook program. I also have a school Twitter and Facebook profile just for communication with parents and students. I post big due dates there and tweet out reminders about papers and tests. I also post review sites and helpful things I find. And of course I make good old fashioned phone calls when necessary.

    Because I am SO available, I find that parents really take advantage of all the online ways and I am rarely on the phone anymore. It also alleviates and excuses parents or students want to make for not "knowing" about something. My transparency and availability put the responsibility back on parents/students for the success of the student.
    Katie Sluiter, Junior High and High School English and Spanish Teacher
  • Teacher Tip #4: Be Realistic 4 of 10
    Teacher Tip #4: Be Realistic
    I think the most important thing for parents to remember is that they only have their children to worry about however, teachers have many more (25-30 in elementary or 100+ in middle school). We would love to give a full report of their student's accomplishments every week but it is just not feasible. We not only have to teach we also have to plan lessons, grade papers, create materials, make copies, attend meetings, and complete professional development before, during, and after the "school day". We aren't sitting at our desks checking emails or able to take a phone call whenever it is convenient for the parents we are trying to engage their children in learning it sometimes takes us up to 24 hours to respond.
    Susan, Middle School Teacher
  • Teacher Tip #5: Remember that We’re a Team 5 of 10
    Teacher Tip #5: Remember that We're a Team
    Teachers are human and there are three sides to every story: mine, your child's, and the truth. I try to be as impartial as I can but I'm human, too. One of the biggest things teachers wish for from parents is respect. Respect of us as people and teachers. If you hear something, talk to us. Teachers need to remember that parents are trusting us with their most precious possession. Not all of us remember that. Too often it turns into us against them. We really are a team and want to be. We want to work together to help your child succeed. Honestly, parent involvement is the deciding factor in the success of your child. We bust our butts and try, but we need your back up.
    Sarah, former teacher
  • Parent Tip #1: Use the Tools the Teacher Gives You 6 of 10
    Parent Tip #1: Use the Tools the Teacher Gives You
    For my son who's in Kindergarten they've implemented a communications folder that is to be kept in their backpack at all times. We can send notes, questions, concerns etc and the teachers check it first thing in the a.m. and his teacher ALWAYS addresses any communication I have by either talking to me immediately when I pick him up or contacting me by phone. Granted she's a fantastic teacher so that probably has a lot to do with it.
    January Soden
  • Parent Tip #2: Don’t Be Afraid to Reach Out 7 of 10
    Parent Tip #2: Don't Be Afraid to Reach Out
    We have a daily folder, but my sons teacher also gave us her contact info - personal and work email and phone numbers. We have emailed back and forth several times and it works great. I also have my daughters' teachers email - this seems to work great for us.
    Kim Connor
  • Parent Tip #3: Just Be Nice 8 of 10
    Parent Tip #3: Just Be Nice
    Shower the teachers with love and kindness. It's the right thing to do, but it also means they'll have positive feelings toward you and be more readily available for all kinds of communication. That's not cynical; it's just human nature. And our teachers are so egregiously overworked and under compensated (in many more ways than just dollars), a little love goes a long way.
    Jenny Hobson
  • Parent Tip #4: Be Present 9 of 10
    Parent Tip #4: Be Present
    In my experience being present in the school and reaching out to communicate when we have needed help. I communicate at the teacher's preference - some years that has been email, others it has been phone or text. I don't care how we talk just as long as we can when we need to.
    Nichole Sergent
  • Parent Tip #5: Use the Proper Channels 10 of 10
    Parent Tip #5: Use the Proper Channels
    As a parent, I think it's best to contact their student's teacher when they feel necessary. There is no reason to go above their head - to an administrator or principal. 99% of classroom issues can be resolved between the parent and teacher.
    Lacy Stroessner

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