The school yard behind my house is already buzzing with playful children these days. School is in session here, and it will be starting soon in your neck of the woods. Yikes! Right?
Since my youngest child will be beginning her second year of college, I no longer experience the stress of “facing a school year.” But I remember well the desire to kick the year off well, stay the course, help my child succeed, and make it through to the end…with my sanity intact.
Are you aiming to guide your child through a successful school year? Are you looking at the school calendar and all those forms you have to complete and the sweet note from the teacher (or the syllabuses from the high school teachers) and hoping against all hopes that this year will go smoothly…for your child, for you and even for your child’s instructors?
Today I thought I’d give a few suggestions for how to navigate your child’s school year like a winning parent…the teacher’s pet parent, if you will. Not that I’m suggesting you make it your goal to literally be the teacher’s favorite parent. But I’d like to offer a few tips for coming alongside your child’s instructors so that they can accomplish their mission of educating your son or daughter.
Both of my parents were educators. My mom taught high school English, coached girls’ basketball, taught drama, and then later finished her career with over 20 years of teaching 5th and 6th graders. My dad taught high school industrial arts and then had a long career as an assistant principal on the high school level. And trust me, they had plenty to say about the role of parents in children’s education. I heard it all as I grew up. But it wasn’t until I became a parent myself that I really valued what they had to say about parenting a student and working alongside teachers.
So here are a few of the tested and true pointers my mom and dad taught me about being the kind of parent that teachers can count on and work with. I first heard them while they were talking with other teachers on the telephone, over a Tab in the teachers’ lounge, or at dinner, but later I found out my parents knew what they were talking about.
How to be the Teacher’s Pet (Parent)
- Send a healthy student to school – My mom could always tell if a child had not gotten enough sleep the night before or had not eaten breakfast. I know it’s tough with our packed schedules these days, but parents must ensure that their children get a full night’s sleep, eat a protein packed breakfast, and get plenty of outdoor exercise in the afternoons. A healthy child is prepped for learning!
- Let your child know your high expectations – You don’t necessarily need to expect that all of your children will make straight A’s, but parents do set the bar. Don’t make the teacher the “bad guy.” You insist that your children turn in assignments on time, study adequately to make good grades, tell you about long term projects early enough, treat the teacher with respect, and stay out of the principal’s office. And let your child know you will dole out consequences if your expectations are ignored. We took away t.v. privileges, computer time, car keys, anticipated events, and cell phones if necessary. (It wasn’t necessary often!)
- Be on time – I know it sounds basic, but I’m surprised at how many parents, especially at private schools (my children attended two private schools and several public schools) think it’s ok to get their children to school “a little” late. Not only does your student actually miss important announcements and even teaching time when they are tardy, but they also get their day off to the wrong start. Plus, being late is just disrespectful.
- Call the teacher…quick! – Don’t wait until a situation with your child is “out of hand” or beyond hope before you contact the teacher. Call for a parent/teacher conference as soon as you feel that things have gotten on the wrong path. Explain your perception of the situation, but also listen to the teacher’s viewpoint. I still contend that most teachers want your child to succeed.
- Partner with the teacher – I always tried to see my children’s teachers as partners in raising them well. Granted, not all of those teachers behaved like qualified partners. But I tried to view them that way from the beginning and as long as possible. In other words, I gave them the benefit of the doubt. I considered myself and my husband to be at the helm, but we treated the teachers like they were working with us to accomplish great things in my kids’ lives. Perspective sets the tone!
- Always listen to the teacher – My husband and I requested our share of parent/teacher conferences and I must admit, there were times when he had to hold me back because I got my mama bear claws up! But I always tried to listen to the teacher’s perspective before I assumed my children had told me the “whole story.” I would remember my mom complaining about mothers who always assumed their children were perfect angels. I didn’t want to be one of those foolish mothers. I wanted to be a wise woman and an equally wise mom.
- Teach your child at home – I know you’re tired and you don’t feel especially qualified to help with all subjects, but you’ve just got to sit down to the homework table occasionally. The other day when my daughter told me she was glad to be through with spelling tests and other daily or weekly homework assignments, I reminded her that she was through only until she had children of her own. As parents, we have homework! That’s just part of the job. I’m not suggesting you do the homework. I never, ever did. But I certainly held up my share of flash cards, called out spelling words, listened to memory verses, checked math work, read with my children, helped them do research, and reviewed study sheets.
- Appreciate the teachers – For the first couple of years of our children’s education, my husband and I even invited their teachers to our home for dinner…and they came! We wanted to treat them like important people, not just those folks who babysit our kids during the day. You can also send a small gift on Teacher Appreciation Day or Christmas, volunteer in the classroom (if permitted), go on field trips, send notes of gratitude, and speak to your child’s teacher when you see them at school, in the store, or at a school event.
Well, I think I’ve offered enough of my advice on this matter. I was no perfect parent, and, as I suggested, I probably even got on the wrong side of a few teachers! But I knew that cooperating with and partnering with my children’s instructors was key to their success in school.
Please share! What do you do to help your child’s teacher succeed in his or her mission? We’d all love to know!
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