In our parents’ and grandparents’ day, teachers taught and parents parented, and aside from the odd parent-teacher meeting, never the twain would meet, like ships passing in the night. Today, parents and teachers are encouraged to be collaborators, but for busy teachers and working parents, it can be difficult to articulate the how’s of achieving mutually beneficial harmony. Here’s a few simple ways:
Become the avengers
Parents and teachers are superheroes, there’s no question. You’re both working toward the best interests of your child, so why not do it together? Look at The Avengers and Justice League: superheroes team up all the time! Don’t let your child see you as the “out” for their teacher’s assignments. Pick up the teacher’s mantle and extend their principles in your own home. If you have concerns, address them with the teacher rather than in front of your child. Don’t just communicate when something goes wrong; seek a problem-solving relationship where you can work toward helping your child together, rather than separately.
Reading time is the best time
If you don’t already, get in the habit of reading with your child. If it gets tiresome for either of you (it happens), add a “special” book to the repertoire, in addition to the required reading. Find a book on a topic you both enjoy: a sport or a pastime, an adaptation of a movie, something that bonds you together, and then create a unique shared moment between the two of you.
We love homework
Kids don’t always like doing homework, and parents don’t always understand the methodology to be able to help. But as a parent you can help your child’s teacher by supporting the homework in the home. Remove the distractions, and be a motivator. Facilitate their learning by being interested and asking questions. Letting your child explain the assignment and articulate it themselves in their own way can help them better understand what they’re learning. If your child is struggling with the assigned work, let the teacher know as soon as you notice a pattern forming. The sooner you address issues, the better.
Say you, say me
Communication is the key to helping your child’s teacher. Let a new teacher know of any learning difficulties, study habits, or even just personality quirks about your child (“She sings ALL the time,” “He is so obsessed with Minecraft® he writes stories about it”). Let them know the best method and times to reach you and if any of that information ever changes, let the teacher know. If the teacher reaches out to you, try to respond quickly. If there’s something going on at home that might affect your child’s mood in school, give the teacher a heads-up. Help them help your child by keeping the lines of communication open.
“Do be a do bee”
Volunteering your time is a practical way to help your child’s teacher. Leading a reading group or putting up bulletins or stocking supplies are all hugely helpful, but not all parents have time to give during the day. That’s okay. Perhaps you have some dressmaking skills, or you’re a keen video editor, or you’ve created a few websites in your day. There may be tangible skills that you can offer to the teacher outside of the normal workday for fund-raising events or school concerts. Is there busywork that you can do at home, like collating handouts or cutting out letters? Offering an extra pair of hands or a marketable skill can go a long way to helping your child’s teacher.
Independence is a big part of the classroom experience and one that can be reflected at home. Parental instincts can sometimes kick in too quickly (i.e., the parent quickly handles problems that could be solved by the child). Model questions like: “How would you solve this at school?” to encourage problem-solving skills. Definitely avoid the temptation to “finesse” or complete assigned work for them. Your role is to guide and advise, but be mindful that it’s not at the expense of your child’s learning experience.
Parenting can be thankless, but there are times when your child will melt your heart with a well-placed thank you or a kiss on the cheek. Teachers sometimes find themselves drowning in endless feedback about what they’re not doing or should be doing. All it can take is a heartfelt thank-you note to remind a teacher why they do what they do for your child and change their day completely. You don’t have to buy an expensive gift or lead a parade, but a thoughtful gift or expression of gratitude here and there can be just the invigoration the soul needs.
by Sharon Penny